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Why Flunking Exams Is Actually a Good Thing – NYTimes.com

Very interesting quotes on the proper balance of study and practice. The article relates the idea that pre-testing (i.e. failing) primes the brain for future success by opening different neural pathways than studying a single question:answer relationship.

The quickest way to master that Shakespearean sonnet, in other words, is to spend the first third of your time memorizing it and the remaining two-thirds of the time trying to recite it from memory.

Further, it expands on the processes of remembering, studying, and guessing. Of the three, guessing is the most likely scenario to result in failure, and this failure once again inspires a fuller listing of associations to spur memory.

Retrieval — i.e. remembering — is a different mental act than straight studying; the brain is digging out a fact, together with a network of associations, which alters and enriches how that network is subsequently re-stored. But guessing is distinct from both study and retrieval. It too will reshape our mental networks by embedding unfamiliar concepts (the lend-lease program, the confirmation bias, the superego) into questions we at least partly comprehend (“Name one psychological phenomenon that skews our evaluation of evidence”). Even if the question is not entirely clear and its solution unknown, a guess will in itself begin to link the questions to possible answers. And those networks light up like Christmas lights when we hear the concepts again.

It seems clear that this linking of failure, guessing, and higher test scores — derived from more complex mental associations — may contribute more directly to creativity.

via Why Flunking Exams Is Actually a Good Thing – NYTimes.com.

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