Sometimes you get questions wrong on your standardized test because you don’t use the proper strategy or simply don’t know the underlying content well enough. But sometimes you get wrong answers because you make careless errors — and those can be avoided in most cases. In this episode we explore nine (9) ways that you can avoid making careless mistakes on test day, thereby increasing the number of questions you get right and boosting your overall score.
This is a long show, so here are some timing benchmarks you can use if you want to jump around or need to come back and pick up where you left off:
0:00 - Introduction
4:43 - Four reasons why you make careless errors in the first place
8:32 - Strategy #1 for avoiding careless errors
13:10 - Strategy #2 for avoiding careless errors
18:11 - Strategy #3 for avoiding careless errors
22:04 - Strategy #4 for avoiding careless errors
25:46 - Strategy #5 for avoiding careless errors
31:16 - Strategy #6 for avoiding careless errors
35:16 - Strategy #7 for avoiding careless errors
41:58 - Strategy #8 for avoiding careless errors
44:40 - Strategy #9 for avoiding careless errors
51:52 - Action Steps
Here are the books, studies, and other resources mentioned in this show.
A DOSE OF MOTIVATION
“How you do anything is how you do everything.” — T. Harv Eker
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how you do anything is how you do everything. T Harv Becker. Hello and welcome to the Dominate Test Prep podcast. I am Bread Ethridge, your host. And in this episode, I am going to tackle one of the most common questions I get from my students and my prospective students. And that is this. How can I avoid careless errors? I have been chomping at the bit for this show because ever since I launched the Dominate test prep podcast, I knew this was one of the 1st 1 of the first questions I really wanted to address because it is so, so important. Obviously, making careless errors can really hinder you and hold you back from getting the score you need on whatever standardized test you're preparing for soap. I had a bunch of guests lined up for some of the earlier episodes that I definitely had to get to, but here we are finally able to address the issue of careless errors. Now, for those of you new to the podcast at the end of every podcast episode, I do a segment called From the Mail Bag, where I feel questions that you guys submit by email. or social media direct messages, and I answer common questions. This episode is essentially an entire from the mailbag segment, answering that question of how to avoid careless errors. But I'll actually prompt us with a real question an email I recently received from Chiana, one of my G R E students, and here's what she said, she said. I looked at the questions I got wrong. So she went back and was looking at one of her practice tests, she said. I looked to the questions I got wrong this time around, and most of them were from very silly mistakes, like forgetting an absolute value or not seeing that numbers can be repeated in a combinations problem. Do you have any suggestions on how I can avoid this? I feel like I try to rush through the questions to be mindful of the time limit, but when I do that, that's when I run into the silly mistakes. This makes me think that my issue maybe with time management. Luckily, I still have four weeks until my test date to fix this problem. But any advice would be much appreciated. So does that sound familiar? My guess is If you have been studying for any length of time, that is common. Where you go back to take a practice test or you do a bar questions you go review. You're wrong answers. And you just kind of smack yourself on the forehead. Right? Oh, my gosh. Darn I I knew that, right? How often do you say? Oh, I knew how to do that. I just made a silly mistake. Well, here's the problem. Even if you knew how to do it, you don't get credit for knowing how to do it. You actually only get credit for actually getting the right answer on test day. Right? So we need to avoid these careless errors. And Chiana, I have good news for you. It's not going to take you four weeks to fix this issue for the rest of you listening. There are just a few things that you can do to really help lock in, stay focused. And I think he on actually touched on a few of the important points in her own self diagnosis. Right? Things like rushing things like time management things like not paying attention to certain keywords in her case, like absolute value signs and so forth. So she has already started to tease out some of the answer to this question. But I have some other thoughts for you as well. And cleaning up even just a few of these careless errors can be worth a significant score improvement for you on testing. So I hope you understand why I'm so excited to tackle this. I am going to fire hose you with a lot of information. In fact, here's what I have. I have nine ways that you can avoid making careless errors, and I'm going to go through all of them. That may sound like a lot like, Why do I need nine ways? Isn't there like, one way or two ways? How can I just avoid careless Ares? Well, I think you're going to see that a lot of them actually work together synergistically, so a lot of them kind of overlap and feed on each other. You don't have to implement all nine of these strategies, I would say, is your kind of listening? Think to yourself. Hey, that would work for me Or that makes a lot of sense. Hey, I really like that and take it and run with it and work with it and practice it. In some cases, I'm gonna try to make it as tangible as possible for you. Others, you might say, OK, that's kind of an interesting thought or an interesting idea. Like I said, you don't have to do all nine, but let's go through them all. Pick out the few that you want to take action on, implement them. And I know they'll make a big difference for you right now before I just dive in and start to give you the solution. Solutions don't make a lot of sense without really understanding the problem. So I actually want to take a second and let's think about and talk about why you are making careless errors in the first place. Once we know the problem, the solutions make more sense, and I think they're really four main reasons. That kind of boils down in my experience and working with thousands of students over the past decade. Plus, they're really four major reasons why you are making careless Ares. Number one is pure accident like pure carelessness. You work a problem. You get an answer. You realize the correct answer is B and you click see on the computer or like you bubble in C on the Scantron. And like I knew it, I got the right answer. But no, you don't. You don't get credit for that because you bubbled in the wrong thing. And so that may sound like an extreme case, but I have seen it before. Students have reported that to me, it's pure accident, and it may seem like like, How could there be a good solution for that? You might be surprised, and there's something I will touch on in terms of a solution to that. But that's one reason, Ah, second reason and really, um, or common reason is rushing. You're simply going too fast now. Squeamishness alert. I'm about to tell you a quick story here that may make you feel a little uncomfortable. So closure ears or I don't know, fast forward a little bit if you don't like the idea of like blood. But I was sitting next to a dad of one of the players on my kid's basketball team the other day, and he had a big bandage on his hand. I said that said what happened he said. I cut off my finger with a circular saw, All right. I probably shouldn't be laughing and like, Gasp, That's okay, The squeamishness part is over. But I said, But there's a point to this right? And I said, Well, how in the world did that happen? And he went on to kind of explain. The bottom line is he was rushing. He was working too fast. He wasn't paying attention because he was rushing to get the job done and he wasn't paying attention, and the result was catastrophic. So the good news for you is if you rush and you make a mistake on the G matter G r E r S a t, you're not gonna lose a limb. But but the idea, the underlying problem is the same, and we want to avoid that for sure. Reason Number three is a little bit less gruesome, and it is simply that you miss out on some key words or you answer the wrong question. Now that's very much tied to rushing. A lot of times, the reason we miss those keywords or we answer the wrong question. In the case of Chiana, for example, she talked about missing out or forgetting the absolute values sign. She just missed that, probably because she was going too fast. And so we want to make sure that we seize in on those important keywords and answer the question being asked. And I have some tips for you along those lines. And reason number four is maybe your dis mentally tired or you are distracted. If you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend the night before your exam, My guess is your brain isn't going to be exactly where it needs to be right. Your mind will be wandering. You'll be distracted all of those types of things on testing. Maybe you're mentally tired. You work a really long week of work, and then you show up for your exam on a Saturday morning. But you're just fried mentally because you have so much going on and and so forth, and that leads to careless errors as well. The good news is, I mentioned is that I believe there are solid solutions to address each of these major culprits, right? The reason. The problem that we're that we're facing and the reason we're making the careless heirs there are good antidotes and things that you can implement. Nine of them. In fact, nine ways to avoid making careless Ares. So with the rest of our time here, let's dive in. And as I mentioned, I'm gonna come at you fast. I'm going to give you ideas and thoughts and strategies and studies and just take note on the ones that make sense to you and see which ones help you avoid. Careless Paris. First way to avoid making careless Ares is to not be careless done today, huh? Okay, so you're probably thinking yourself. Well, I know. If it were that easy, I wouldn't be careless. I wouldn't be making careless heirs. What in the world do you mean? Well, what I really mean by that is to recognize that it is time to focus. It is go time. It is game time. And I have good news for you. The good news for you is that it will and should happen naturally. Now, I have a very practical way to help make that happen. But first, a quick story as I think a lot of you guys know I'm a big tennis player and my tennis team I play us th sanctioned tournaments and I'm in the league and our team made sectionals and that's basically like the playoffs nationally. And so we went down to Mobile, Alabama to play in the sectionals tournament and I remember in the lead up to that I was making a lot of errors. I wasn't playing very well. Now I'm one of the better players on the team. The team was counting on me. I had been playing well to help our team get to sectionals to begin with. But in my practice section sessions, in my warm up, I was hitting a lot of balls out that I usually hit in. I was actually a little bit worried about it because I was thinking to myself, Man, if this happens during like the real thing, I'm in trouble. But here's an interesting thing that happened when I stepped onto the court from my very first match, the first official sectionals match, something just like clicked. I was locked in. It's like the second I stepped across the lines onto the actual court and I knew that it was go time. I was laser focused. I was locked in. I played one of the best matches of my life. I didn't miss a thing. I was hitting every return in. I was hitting my approach shots perfectly. For those of you who don't play tennis, you have no idea what that means. But the point is, I didn't make any of those unforced errors those careless ares that I was making during my practice sessions. It just sort of happened naturally, because in Nate Lee I knew that this was different, that this was the important thing. This is what I had been training for and working for and my focus naturally heightened. And that will happen for you on test day as well. A lot of times, when you're worried about the careless airs you're making its heirs that you're making during your practice sessions. It's your practice test that you're going back and reviewing It is you're just blocks of practice problems you're doing and you go back and realize you made some careless ares and so again, a little bit of encouragement that just naturally you won't make some of those airs on testing. But I do have something tangible you could do right now to avoid being careless, and that is this. Do your best to recreate test day conditions as much as you can during your practice. Think about the quote that I opened the show with. How we do anything is how we do everything. In other words, you play like you practice now. I should have heeded my own advice. I obviously wasn't putting the same kind of pressure and importance on my practice sessions leading up to sectionals as the real thing. The good news is, I naturally kind of turned it on. You know, some of us are better at that than others, but what we can do during our practice sessions is turn off the television, put a little pressure on yourself, and here's a cool tip for you. Create a risk reward situation for your practice sessions, maybe for your practice tests for me. Maybe I could have put a little pressure on my practice matches. So when I was playing somebody just kind of for practice, we should have done something like, Hey, the loser of this practice match has to buy dinner. Okay, all of a sudden, even though technically the match doesn't really count for anything all of a sudden, if I'm gonna have to buy this guy dinner, I'm gonna lock in mentally because I don't want to have got this by dinner. Right? So what can you do? Hey, if I get such and such a score on my practice test, I will go get myself a massage. Or, you know, if I don't make more than two to careless airs during this entire block of practice problems, I will do X, y or Z, right? Or if I do, Then here's my punishment. I won't go out on Friday night with my friends. I will study extra whatever it is. Kind of that risk reward solution can help you put a little more pressure on yourself during your practice, which will help cut down on the careless ares end. Because we play how we practice, you'll be more prepared for test day as well. The second solution to avoid making careless ares is too slow your brain down and realize that you do have enough time. So this address is that common problem of rushing. Now it may sound counterintuitive to tell you to slow your brain down because it would seem like Hey, I actually need to sprint. Speed my brain up right? That's another common question I get. How do I solve problems faster? That's actually a different question and a different answer here. We're trying to avoid making careless ares that stem from rushing in. The way you do that is by slowing your brain down. You can still solve the problem quickly. My running coach used to tell me Smooth is fast. You don't have to get hyper to run faster. Running smoother sometimes helps you actually run faster. Same thing here. There's a big difference between working quickly and working. Eve likey radically and carelessly. That's what we want to avoid. Rushing leads to carelessness. Now there's a very simple drill. So here's your solution, right? How do you actually do that? How do you slow your brain down? And it comes back to realizing that you actually have more time than you may realize. I'm going to use the G Matt as an example, but whatever standardized test you're taking, hopefully you already know this by now. If not, what you want to do is figure out on average, how much time you have per question so on the G Matt Quantitative section, for example. You have, on average, two minutes per question. I'm gonna use that because it's a nice, easy round number. But if on your test you have a minute, 45 per question on average, or even a minute and 1/2 per question on average, some exams a little bit longer, a little bit less. But let's just say you have two minutes per question. At first glance, that sounds like that's not a lot of time, especially on hard math problems. And that's why you rush. And that's why you miss things. But the reality is two minutes is a lot of time. In fact, it is plenty of time and let me prove it to you. So here's a drill that I do with my students. Sometimes when I'm doing private tutoring with them all, literally do this. Live with them now. It doesn't make for good audio. It doesn't make for good radio, so I'm literally not gonna have you do it right now, although you can, uh, and that is this. Here's the drill. It's my two minutes of silence drill. So here's what I want you to do whether you do it now, If you want to press pause, go ahead and do it now or if you're driving in your car. I don't know if it would make sense to do it now. Do it when you get home, like, but do it. Don't just listen to me. Explain it. Actually do it because you need to experience it. You need to feel what it feels like when you do this drill. And here's how the drill works. You're going to set an alarm or a stopwatch, some sort of an alert for two minutes, and I want you to sit in complete silence. You can close your eyes if you want, but just sit in complete silence for two minutes. Don't look at your phone. Don't look at your computer screen. Don't look around the room literally. Just sit in silence for two minutes. Now, if you really want to make it almost like awkward stare of somebody else for two minutes, that will really give you a sense of how long two minutes is right. And get your partner, your spouse of whatever to sit across from you for two minutes and complete silence and I just want you to feel what that feels like. And here's what is going to happen. You might think like this is the weirdest thing I've ever heard. Here's what's going to happen. It will feel like a really, really long time, and then you will glance down at the clock and you will realize, Oh my gosh, it's only been like 30 seconds and then you'll look up again or close your eyes again and you'll like, sit there for a little bit longer and then more time will pass and you will feel like it has been an eternity. And if you're sitting there staring at your spouse, that will really feel like an eternity and then you look at the clock and you'll be like, Oh my gosh, it's only been like one minute by the end of the two minutes you will feel like it has been a neater Nitti, and the realization you have is it's actually a lot of time, like two minutes is plenty of time, and I have done with this this with students and they come back and they say, Oh my gosh, I totally changed my perspective on Just how much time I actually have. You will slow down. Your brain will slow down. You won't start to panic. You won't start to freak out. You won't start to rush when you get halfway through a problem and you're not sure what to do, will have a separate episode on how to get unstuck at some point on the podcast. But the point is, take a deep breath realize You know what? I have plenty of time. Stick with it. It is eye opening. No need to rush tens of thousands of people every year all over the world. Complete the amount of questions you have to do on each section in the allotted time. So can you. And it comes down to realizing that you do have enough time. And I think this drill will help. You have that realization. All right. The next point I'm gonna talk about is actually points number 34 and five. So each of the next three solutions are all variations of this same tip. And so this is a crucial one super important. And that is this. Use your scratch paper. A very famous person once said, with respect to standardized tests that he or she who uses the most scratch paper winds. Who was that person? Yours truly. Bread Ethridge. All right, so it's probably not good form to quote yourself on your own podcast. But, hey, it is my podcast, so I'll do it if I want to. But it is something I often say, because I have found it absolutely to be the case that you want to use your scratch paper. Four, In this case of the first kind of variation of the user scratch paper tip is to use it to actually do computations, right? One of the ways you might make a careless error is by trying to do math in your head. Well, actually, do the long math with long multiplication with long addition of the long subtraction on your scratch paper. So you don't forget to carry the one you know, et cetera. Now, I know some of you like, if you're taking the g r e, you can use a calculator. Fine. You can use a calculator for some of those simple arithmetic computations. But certainly if you can't use a calculator, use your scratch paper for stuff like that. But even if you can use your scratch a calculator, you want to write out formulas that you're trying to solve for, so that you don't miss parts of the formula. You want to draw figures if none are given, and I teach entire other strategies about how to draw figures and draw them to scale. And so you want to follow the rules for drawing figures. But the point is, mistakes happen when you're trying to do things in your head. And if you can't visualize what you're trying to do, sometimes the very act of drawing it out writing it out helps. You better see what you're trying to do. Visualize what you're trying to do with reading comprehension. You know, you definitely want to make note of key adjectives or the thesis of the you know the thesis sentence in the passage so that your crystal clear on the main idea. Same thing with vocabulary based questions, and I'll actually be talking about this in the later tip as well. But this idea of paying crucial attention to some of the information given and actually writing it down on your scratch paper will help you avoid those careless errors. There's a study that I read on the very well mind website, and it's a study that I saw confirmed in a number of different locations as well. That says, basically, we can only keep information in our short term memory for approximately 20 to 30 seconds. Now. That becomes a problem if you have two minutes to do a question, but you're only remembering some of the information for 20 to 30 seconds, literally. By the time you get done solving the question, you might be thinking yourself. Was it I was trying to solve for to begin with. So if you really paid attention to some of those keywords, if you wrote stuff down on your scratch paper, it can help lock in. One of the quotes from that study was that most information quote can spontaneously are spontaneously decays quite quickly. Information and short term memory is also highly susceptible to interference. Any new information that enters short term memory will quickly displace in the old information, and so you know, kind of rhetorical question. But how often does new information come into play when you're taking your standardized test? Of course, a lot like literally other things that you might see within that question, you get distracted by wrong answer choices. Maybe you're glancing around the test booklet at other questions and so forth. It can all distract our short term memory, so writing it down is a crucial way to avoid those careless ares strategy. Number four also has to do with using your scratch paper, but in a slightly different way. And here's the tip here before you press start to actually start the section. Spend a few minutes during your break to prepare your scratch paper by writing down a mock answer grid in the top right of your scratch paper. A, B C D e like vertically if you're on a test that only has four answer choices A. B C D. But the point is, you want to write maybe three, maybe four of those in the upper right. So that is your working problems. You get in the habit of physically crossing off wrong answer choices as you make those determinations. Now this may sound like a small thing, but it pays huge dividends, especially on some of those quote unquote weird question types that appear on certain standardized tests. I know on the G Matt, for example, they have that data sufficiency question format on the G r E, its quantitative comparisons where they work a little differently. But here's what's cool. There are elimination strategies that you need to employ on those questions I obviously teach them in my course. Hopefully, you're learning what kind of what the answer choices mean and what wrong answer choices mean? But let me give you an example from data sufficiency on the G man. So maybe you're evaluating statement number one. You determine that it is sufficient, and then when you look at statement number to your kind of wrestling with it, and maybe you ultimately decide that it is also sufficient. But you're still thinking about statement number one, and so you select answer choice. See now, for those of you who are studying for the G. Matt, you understand that that's not what answer choice see means that is not the correct answer. That would be a mistake and a careless mistake. Instead, here's what you should have done. After making a determination about statement number one, you determine its efficient. You physically cross off answer choices. B C and E. Now, I know that might not make sense. And if you're not studying for the G, Matt just kind of just stick with me here for a second. But the point is, I have already physically crossed off Answer choice. See, on my scratch paper. Once I made the sufficient determination about statement Number one answer choice, See, literally isn't intothe running anymore. And so even if I kind of quote unquote accidentally make that careless air after looking a statement number two thinking that it's answer choice. See, when I look up at my mock answer grid, I have already physically crossed Answer choiceseat off. So now I have the opportunity of touching myself, saying, Oh, what? Wait, what am I missing? Why have I already physically put an extra answer choice? See, I already realized something that took that out of the running. What am I missing? Okay. And it gives me the opportunity to go back, re evaluate and get the right answer and not make that careless air. Same thing with quantitative comparisons on the G r e, even things like on the S a t on the G, Matt, where you're doing sentence correction questions. Maybe one of the answer choices in that case, answer Choice A is an exact repeat of the original. If you detect an error well, that immediately tells you that answer choice A. Cannot be correct. I want you to get in the habit of physically crossing that off on your scratch paper on that mark answer grid. It may seem like a small thing, but getting in that habit will help narrow your focus. Help you avoid accidentally choosing the wrong answer. And by the way, it also There's your focus. If you end up having to guess, because now you can look at your Mark Answer grid and say, OK, I've already decided a campy right do you can't be right. Maybe answer choice E is an I catch a wrong answer. I can't quite choose between B and C, but at least I know that those are the two that I'm choosing from between. Helps you when it comes time to guess as well, the final point I want to make about using your scratch paper, but a slightly different variation. So this is Point number five is to make note on your scratch paper of key words in the question itself. Remember one of the problems, and when the reasons we make careless errors as we are rushing, we're answering the wrong question. There are almost always key words in the question itself that are the crux of the question. Whether it's verbal, whether it's math, you know, they're keywords in sentence correction questions in sentence completion, questions on the G, R E and even in math questions, I'm thinking about a sample G. Matt and G R E question. That's a sets question, right? Those event diagram questions where you have two groups of people and they overlap, and maybe we use a formula or we draw the Venn diagrams. And here's what the question says. So it gives you a whole bunch of information. And then, eventually the question asks, You know what is the least number of people that could be In both groups? That word least becomes crucial. In fact, that's the crux of the whole question. It's a very different question to ask What is the least number of people that could be in both groups? Very different question than if we ask how many people are in both groups. Now there's like a sliding scale. That word least is crucial. I would want to write it down physically on my scratch paper. Don't just look at it. Don't just think that you took note of it. Actually write it down. Remember the study I cited earlier that talked about how repetition is one of the things that keeps things in your short term memory longer? If you're studying vocabulary, if you're memorizing vocabulary, why do we repeat the words over and over and over again? Because that helps solidify them and take them from short term memory to long term memory? Well, here we're not really trying to take anything toe long term memory because you only have a couple of minutes to solve the question to begin with. But we do want to make sure we're crystal clear on the question being asked. And so in this case, we would write the word least on our scratch paper. It lengthens the time the question itself is in your short term memory. It narrows your focus. It remind you of the question you're actually trying to answer along those lines. I was recently tutoring the students and we were going over a question and he said I made the stupidest mistake. How can I avoid it? So it was a question that was basically saying, If a B and C are positive integers what is the possible range of 0 10 A. B and C? And so it was the statistics question and arrange question, but notice the important information it gave us about the variables in the question. It's that if a B and C are positive integers So you know, one of the strategies I'd like to teach in my course is to make up numbers for variables. And obviously we're gonna kind of test some different that values for A, B and C. But can we test negative numbers? No, because we're told that A, B and C are positive. Integers Can we test zero? No, because we're told that a, B and C are positive integers right? And he said, Oh my gosh, I made the stupid mistake of letting one of the variables equal zero. It can't be zero, but, like, how can I avoid that careless air? Very simply. Write it on your scratch paper and in this case, right, what they can't be so with making up numbers, I have another little acronym I used to help remind you of the types of numbers that you might make up. F O N Z F stands for fractions O stands for one and stands for negative. Number zero stands for zero R Z stands for zero. And so in this case, I would jot that down in my scratch paper. And when I read the question that says, If a B and C are positive integers boots stop right there. I have limited myself to a world of positive integers. Can they be negative? No, I'm gonna physically cross off the end. Can they be zero? No, I'm gonna physically cost cross off Z. Can they be fractions? No, it says they have to be integers physically. Cross off the f. Now I have narrowed my focus, and I have something visual on my scratch paper to ensure that when I make making up numbers for a B and C those air out of the running entirely, I won't make that careless air. So hopefully understand the importance of using your scratch paper. And I'll just say one final thing about this kind of all encompassing use of your scratch paper. The purpose of writing stuff down isn't necessarily to use that information to actually solve the question with reading comprehension. For example, I encourage my students to jot down big picture items, adjectives to kind of outline the passage a little bit, using shorthand. Of course, you don't want to spend a ton of time, and the reason I tell them to do that isn't necessarily to use that information to answer the question. It's an open book test. You can look back at the passage. We're not actually going to use this stuff. We write on a scratch paper, necessarily toe actually answer questions, but rather the purpose is to stay active during your reading because active reading helps you get right answers. Passive reading. You forget stuff. You overlook stuff. You are careless. You miss out on keywords or things that are crucial to the actual question being asked. And in some cases, like in math, you are literally missing the key word. That is the question you are supposed to be answering. So using your scratch paper, Yes, for all the reasons we just talked about, is important, But it's also important because it helps keep your brain locked in and focused, which, in and of itself will help you avoid making careless ares. Okay, 1/6 way to avoid making careless Ares is to use non traditional or what I call non standard math strategies whenever possible. Now, I hesitated. Actually mentioned this as a strategy because I don't have time to teach them in detail. They don't lend themselves very well. Toe audio on Lee. Yeah, I kind of have to show you how they work and work through examples. And in fact, I do have a few examples on my YouTube channel. I can post links in the show notes below. To those and of course, I teach the strategies in depth in my courses with exact how two's lots of examples, worksheets and so forth. Because they are so important. They're important for a lot of reasons. A lot of times they're easier for students to solve questions in a non traditional way. Rather than trying to do the traditional algebra. They're often faster. They give you a starting point, and I think one of the main benefits of these strategies is that they can help you avoid careless wrong answers. And here's how I want you to think about your standardized test and imagine that you are one of the test writers that your job is to write questions for your standardized test. So you write this math question and you come up with the right answer and you determine Okay, the correct answer is going to be 24 that will be answered. Choice. See? Okay, so but what about answer? Choice is A, B and D and maybe E. If it's a five question multiple choice test, how do you come up with those wrong answers? Because only one answer is correct. But there has to be a rhyme or reason to those other three or four wrong answer choices. Do you think the test makers just kind of picked those numbers out of a hat? No, there is a rhyme or reason to them, and a lot of times what they do is they then ask themselves, Okay, if he student, we're going to make such and such a common error if they were to do something wrong on this question, if they were to apply the formula incorrectly where they didn't know this rule. What answer might they come up with? Oh, okay. Not 24. They might come up with 36. We'll make that answer choice, eh? And so forth. And so what happens for you as a test taker? Now you are moving along. You come to this question, you're solving it. You do the incorrect thing that they anticipated you might do. And you come up with the answer 36. Now, in your mind, you're sure you got it right? Because, hey, like you didn't realize you did anything wrong, But you missed a little something. You select answer choice, eh? And you got it wrong. None the wiser that you got it wrong. By the way, you fell into one of their traps. Now, let me say this. The test makers aren't trying to trick you. They're not setting out to do. I got you trapped. You There just is just logical. It makes common sense that that's the way they would come up with some of the wrong answers. And here's the beauty of the non standard math strategies. If you come at the question from a kn alternative approach from a nontraditional approach and you do something wrong and you end up with a wrong answer. Your wrong answer is not likely to be one of their wrong answers, because you didn't do it the way the traditional way that they probably did it and foresaw you making an heir. So here's the reality. Perhaps I should frame this not necessarily, as the non standard math strategies help you avoid careless errors, but rather if you do make a careless air. If you do something wrong, you're less likely to erroneously choose the wrong answer. It gives you a second chance. It gives you the ability to say, Oh, I just came up with this answer. It's not one of their answer choices. Maybe I need to go back to the drawing board, and now you can figure out where you went wrong. You go back. Oh, you figure out what went wrong. You now have a chance to get a right answer, as opposed to trying to do with the traditional way you do something wrong, and lo and behold, you still arrive at one of their answer choices, which happens to be wrong. And here we are in the home stretch of fume or tips for you, starting with number seven point number seven Strategy number seven for avoiding making careless airs. And that is to be present. There is a quote I love. It's kind of anonymous. It's not really attributed to any one person, but it goes as follows. Be where your feet are and what that means is be present. Don't live in the past. Don't live in the future wherever you are, be there. And when you are taking your standardized test, that is where your feet are. That is where you need to be mentally emotionally locked in. As I talked about way back at the start of this podcast, don't let external thoughts creep in. I talked about how distraction can kind of creep in and cause you to make careless errors. If you're worried about a relationship problem you're having, if your cat is sick, any of those types of things can make it difficult to be present. And when I say present, I mean literally present, not even, just like they're on test day for the test you're taking, but literally the question that you are on if you are on question number 13. You can't still be thinking about question nine that gave you so much trouble. Even if that one tripped you up a little bit, maybe you had to guess. You're sure you've got it wrong? It's water under the bridge. You have to be concentrating on question number 13 that you are on right now. Even within a section, you cannot be thinking about the previous section. Leave the past in the past, there is nothing you can do about it anyway. And by the way, what you are worried about might not be accurate in the first place. So how can you stay present? I have a few thoughts for you. And the first is that realization and acknowledgement that whatever you're worried about might not actually be true. Here's a perfect example. I was talking to a student recently who was retaking his exam. In this case, he was taking the G Matt, and he was telling me that he cancelled a score at the end because he was so sure he bombed the first section, which for him was the math section. So on the G, Matt, you can choose the section he did the math section first, and he said he was just mentally kind of distraught. By the end of the math section, he was sure he was bombing it. He pretty much mentally gave up, he said. He practically guest on every one of the verbal questions, just anxious to get to the end. So he canceled his score, Go back to the drawing board and try again. But here's what happened when he got to the end on the G. Matt. They give you your unofficial score immediately as soon as you're done with the exam. And lo and behold, when his score flashed upon his screen, his quant score was kind of right on par with most of his practice tests and, by the way, was good enough for really the score. He needed to get into the business school of his choice. And yet he had sacrificed the verbal score because mentally he literally let it affect him, and he gave up and really for nothing. Lo and behold, what you think might be happening may not be the reality along those lines. Another kind of mind game. You can play with yourself, so another will tip for you is if you are still stuck in the past. If you're still distracted by a previous question, just kind of mentally tell yourself that it was experimental, and that may sound weird. You might not be aware of this, but most standardized tests. A handful of the questions don't actually count towards your official score, and I know that's annoying to hear you're like, Wait a second. I'm about to put all this mental time effort energy into answering a question that doesn't even count. Well, that's how they test new questions for future exams. And that's how they kind of test the future direction of the examined. So, yes, that's the reality. How many questions are experimental? They don't reveal that exactly, But here's how you can use it to your advantage. If you struggle with the question, just kind of tell yourself meant to leave that it doesn't count anyway, right? And then you feel good about moving on because it's not going to affect me. Now if you're saying that about, like 20 questions, okay, at that point, maybe you're missing. You're missing the boat on something. But if you do that once or twice. Hey, anything you need to tell yourself to then be able to stay locked in on the next question and the rest of the test. That's what you want to dio and finally, and this might be the most important tip to be present is to practice what is called mindfulness. Mindfulness is a concept that is popular and meditation circles, and it basically just refers to the idea of learning how to control your mind, control your emotions, control your blood pressure. Your breathing basically deal with stress in a healthy way. I've always been somebody who has been big into prayer. I pray a lot, but I had never been into traditional meditation, and I decided to give it a try. And somebody actually referred a book to me called Into the Magic Shop by Dr James Doughty. And it really kind of shifted my perspective just about mindfulness in general and meditation, and it's something I decided to practice, and it was really, really hard. In the beginning, I have to admit, like I just tried to sit in silent kind of meditation and thoughtful mindfulness for like, 10 minutes, and I couldn't do it. I mean my mind was wandering all over the place every five seconds. I would try. Okay. Still your mind deep breathe, belly, breathe Like all the things that they teach you, right and thoughts would just pop into my head. I would think about like breakfast. I would think about things that happened yesterday. I would think about my to do less for the day ahead, and I literally couldn't control my mind for more than about 5 to 10 seconds at a time. But here's what happened. With a little bit of daily practice, I could extend the amount of time that I could literally just be present with myself thinking virtually about nothing, controlling my mind, controlling my breathing, controlling my thoughts, and it then translated and continues to translate into other areas of my life. So I'm not going to say I'm the most present person in the world or I'm about to become a Buddhist monk, and I've mastered my mind and my emotions. No, but I will say that when I start to get stressed when I start to get worried when I start to get anxious, all things, by the way that can creep in and bother your emotions and affect your emotions on test day and lead to careless errors. By the way, it's all stuff that you can help bring back under control with a little bit of practice. So whether you go literally train yourself in this stuff or just read a book or just sit in quiet meditation or prayer for, you know, 5 to 10 minutes a day, I think it is something that could help help you stay present, which I guarantee will help you avoid careless errors on test day. The next tip for you point number eight to avoid careless Ares is to get better at the content. What do you actually being tested on? And the better? You know that stuff, the less likely you are to make careless Ares back to my tennis analogy that I started the whole podcast with the more I practice and the better I get it hitting a forehand, for example, the less likely I am to make an unforced air, even if I'm a little physically tired, even if I'm a little mentally tired. Even if I'm not locked into kind of game day mindset like I talked about earlier, and I'm just kind of in practice mode. Even still, my muscle memory kicks in and I am still able to hit the ball in the court Maur times. Then not, You know, I watch a lot of basketball, and I'm always amazed at how, at the end of the game, even when somebody is tired, they've been hustling. They've been in the heat of competition, and now they're at the foul line trying to hit a game winning foul shot. They're able to make that foul shot because they have practiced shooting foul shots, thousands and thousands and thousands of times to the point where it is muscle memory. Back to your standardized test, The better. You know, your multiplication tables, for example, the less likely you are to accidentally in your mind, say that eight times seven equals 63 right? Obviously it's 56 so if you didn't know that, you need to get back to your multiplication tables. But again, the point is, the better. You know your stuff, the better you will be. How do you do that? Just have to go back to the drawing board study study, study some more take my course. I'll teach it all to you. Give you lots of practice worksheets. Whatever you need to do, you need to learn the content you need to learn. The best approach is the best methodologies and strategies for each question type and then practice them until they become second nature. There's another quote I love. I know you have thrown a lot of quotes at you, but I think this one will hit home. And the quote goes as follows. Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong. There's a huge difference there. A lot of times you're just trying to figure out how to find the roots of a quadratic equation, or you're just trying to remember some of your basic grammar rules you're tryingto learn and memorize in the short term. Some vocabulary words that's just doing it. Until you I kind of finally had a little bit of a breakthrough. And, hey, I now understand this question, but now work it until literally you can do it in your sleep. You can solve those types of questions Fords and backwards. No matter what variation they throw at you, you practice until you can't get it wrong. That's building up the muscle memory that will help you avoid making careless ares. All right, here we are at the end. Point number nine, if you are still with me. Congratulations. Thank you. Hopefully you have been finding valuable and you're anxiously awaiting point number nine. I don't think it will disappoint. In fact, it might be the most important point, or certainly among the most important points. So congratulations on making it to the end. I feel like we should have a little bit of a drum roll. All right, So point number nine strategy number nine, for avoiding careless Ares is to get a good night's sleep before your exam. In other words, to address the common problem of mental fatigue, we talked about how one of the reasons you may be making careless errors is that you are tired physically or mentally, maybe even emotionally, and so that is something that you have to deal with. If you show up on test day after having just worked in 80 hour work week, it's very likely that you will not be there mentally that you will make some careless airs because you are tired, your brain is tired, and when your brain is tired, you are more likely to make those careless airs, even if you feel awake. By the way, your brain neurons might not be awake. There was a study published recently in Nature magazine, conducted at the University of Wisconsin, that looked at animals that were sleep deprived but awake but their brain cells. They found that their brain cells actually took random quote catnaps. So even though the animals were awake because they were sleep deprived, their brain cells kind of were asleep on them, unbeknownst to them, right, and it led to quote Maur lapses in judgment than in well rested animals. So it is a problem, and I have a few ways for you've kind of four thoughts as we wrap this up four ways to alleviate mental fatigue so that you show up to the exam well rested, locked in. And even though you're awake, your cells are awakened your neurons awake as well, because that's what we want to avoid. The careless airs and number one is just to get some sleep. So obviously that means trying to get a good night's sleep the night before your exam as much as possible. But it even means in the days and weeks leading into test day to scale things back a little bit. If you can get by in at all from your employer from work from your family, that will be important. You don't want to be working an 80 hour week leading into Test eight, if at all possible now along those lines. And a second way to alleviate mental fatigue is to try to reduce the number of decisions you are having to make on a daily basis in the days and weeks leading up to test day just because you're actually physically sleeping. That is helpful, certainly, but you want to help your mental fatigue as well. And that comes from scaling back, Really, the other things that you're preoccupied with in your mind. Let your mind decompress a little bit. By trying to make fewer day to day decisions in your work. I understand it can be challenging, but to the extent possible, it has been proven and shown to help alleviate mental fatigue. Ah, third point, and this is actually a fun one is to get out in nature. Ah, lot of studies speak to the importance of connecting with nature, grounding yourself as a way to rejuvenate yourself mentally, if not physically exercise is important. Exercise actually could be on this list and has shown to help restore your mental well being, but that connecting with nature part is important to an incredible degree. In fact, I want to share this with you because I thought this was very, very interesting. There was a study and all posted in the show notes as well that looked at 150 university students and their attention, and it broke up into two different groups. And here's all they did. They randomly assigned the group of students to either look at not even go out in nature, but simply look at a view like a rooftop view off a flowering meadow green roof, or to look at a bare concrete roof. So imagine you're like at work, and maybe you work in a high rise. Maybe use sit in a cubicle all day long, right? Even just going to the window and looking out. Not at a concrete roof, but the students who looked at a flowering meadow green roof that simulated nature. They made significantly lower careless errors, omission errors in the follow up testing that they did. I thought that was fascinating. So imagine how much, even more so you might be able to help recalibrate your mental well being. If you actually go outside and walk through a park, right, maybe take your shoes off, walk through some green grass the days before your exam. Hate, maybe even the morning before your exam on the way to exam as a way to help the mental fatigue and finally kind of point number four along these lines is actually take some time off the night before your official exam. This is a tip that I have long given my students, and they always appreciate it. The tendency is to feel like you need to cram that you need to continue studying up to the 11th hour, literally working practice problems. You're going to bed and looking your flash cards and and memorizing a few final vocabulary words. And maybe you even wake up the morning of the examining and you look at your notes again. And guys, your preparation should be done. If if you are not prepared by the day before your exam. That one extra day is not gonna make that much difference. Like at some point, you just need to trust your preparation. And that point is 24 hours, certainly 12 hours before your actual exam. So instead, take the afternoon off. Go to a movie that night, go out to dinner with your white wife, your husband, your significant other. Just decompress. Mentally, you will be better off for it. In fact, the benefits of enabling your brain and the synapses to fire and kind of the things that you have been studying to solidify in your mind will exceed any last minute cramming you will do and along the lines of what we've been talking about. It will also help you be more mentally alert and focused the next morning when you go to the exam center so that you avoid careless ares. So there you have it nine ways. Nine strategies for avoiding making careless errors on your standardized test, and I know it may seem like a lot, but as I said at the very beginning, you don't have to implement all nine. Just pick one or two or three that really resonated with you. Implement them, and I know it will serve you and help you get a higher score on test day. And in fact, I'd love to hear from you. Which ones did resonate with you. Send me an email post on our social media. Leave a review right? Give us that five star rating. Leave a review about this episode or any of the up other episodes would love to hear what hit home and, by the way, after the test. You know, I would love to hear that feedback as well. Way have arrived at the end of today's show to the action item portion of this episode, and I kind of feel like the entire episode has been chock full of action items. So take action on any of the nine, but within them there, too, that I kind of want to tease out very simple action items you can take. So let me kind of highlight these two. The first is if you're driving or you didn't press pause when I kind of prompted with you with this. Yet if you haven't done it, do that two minutes of silence drill that will give you that all important perspective. You need to really internalize and embrace how much time you really do have per question on your standardized test. And of course, you can modify it. If you only have, on average, one and 1/2 minutes per question, set the timer for one and 1/2 minutes. The point is you will still really fully understand just how long that is when you feel it and experience it yourself. So a very simple thing to do. Ah, powerful thing to do. And then the second action item is Go take a walk. Go Get out in nature right now. Today go walk your dog, kick your shoes off, walk across the grass and maybe do it every day between now and test day to clear your mind mentally on important way to avoid careless airs on test day as well. So with that I will leave it there. I hope you have enjoyed this episode as much as I have enjoyed delivering it to you, I'll let you get back to your studying to your mindfulness, too, avoiding carelessness and and we will see you next time on the Dominate Test prep podcast