Have you ever touched a hot iron and then pulled your hand away really quickly to avoid getting burned? Did you have to think to yourself "Gee! - this iron is hot - I better not touch it any longer because it'll probably cause a really bad burn on my hand". The answer is obviously NO! You wouldn't have had any time to think about what you should do and pulling your hand away is automatic. It's what we call a "reflex" action. It doesn't involve much, if any, thinking because by the time you think about it, it's too late.
Let's lighten up a little and investigate another situation where reflexes are important but a little thinking is involved. If you've ever played tennis, or most other ball sports, you'll know that it's important to think quickly because the ball can move very fast. However, if you just stand there and think for too long, the moment is over, the ball moves past you, and you've lost the point. The reflex was too slow.
The reason you practice so much in tennis, or any other sport, is to train your reflexes to the point where you almost don't have to think at all. When your opponent serves to you at over 100 kph you react in a millisecond and hit the ball back for a winner. Your brain virtually has no time to think about what you'll do. It happens automatically.
Now you're probably saying "what does this have to do with getting A's in my exams?" Well.. imagine that when someone hits a ball to you in a game of tennis, it's like being asked a question in the exam. Returning the ball is like giving an answer. Someone hitting the ball to you, or asking you a question in the exam, is called a stimulus. Returning the ball, or answering the exam question, is called a response.
What do we normally call the combination of a stimulus and a response? It's called a reflex. A reflex is the response to a stimulus. In the example of the hot iron, the incredible heat is the stimulus and pulling your hand away really quickly is the response. In this case the reflex doesn't have to be trained at all because the body is already programmed to react to protect itself from injury.
Some reflexes however have to be learned before they become automatic. That's why we practice our sports so much.. to train our reflexes to minimize the amount of thinking we have to do. There's so little time to think.
In exams, the same situation exists. You have a limited time (several hours) to respond (give answers) to lots of stimuli (exam questions). I invented the term "question / answer reflex" to describe this situation. Once again, as in our previous examples, if you take too long to respond to the stimulus (answer the question) then you'll probably fail at what you're doing.
Wouldn't it be a good idea to train the "question / answer reflex" so you could react much faster in the exam? Whenever a question is asked, you react at lightning speed with the answer, almost like touching a hot iron and pulling your hand away. As soon as a question is fired at you in the exam, your mental reflexes are so well trained that your answer responds immediately. You hardly even have to think. All the thinking has already been done in your pre-exam training and your answer is virtually automatic!
Doesn't it also make sense if information in exams is expected to "come out" in a question / answer format, that it should "go in" in much the same way? Would you train for a tennis match by hitting a baseball with a bat? Then why do students train for exams by highlighting and underlining notes? Wouldn't it make more sense to train for exams using the same system you use in the exam ie questions and answers?
Now go and work on your "question / answer reflex".
Robert Seiler is a graduate of two Australian universities. After below average results and a failure in his first degree, he developed his unique how to study system. After using it in his second degree he became an 'A' student, won a scholarship and the university prize. Find out more at his how to study web site.
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