Some people with ischemic stroke where the right side of the brain is hit, they can still perform advanced math but lose perspective on whether the answer makes sense - they lose their ‘smell test’ as to whether things make sense.

A lot of left brain / right brain writing in popular culture is garbage and has been debunked by research. We do know now that right brain thinking provides big picture insights and reality checks - a devil’s advocate. The left side of the brain clings tenaciously to what we know, and interprets the world for us. We need both to navigate this small stupid life we lead. That is why reviewing homework helps activate other parts of the brain in addition to the chance of finding errors - we use our left side to focus and our right side to question our work.

The left brainers can be a little dogmatic and egocentric, and overconfident with wrong answers. We have to be careful about our innate tendency to think we are right and our left brain drive to not change our world view. The most important thing is to try to avoid fooling yourself. Your focused mode will lean towards believing you didn’t make a mistake.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself. And you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard Feynman

Work in Groups

Working with other people focused on your topic can help too. It can help you catch mistakes in your thinking and challenge your assumptions. Friends can amplify and inspire diffuse mode creative thinking. It can also help with your career and with your education, so long as your group is serious about learning. Don’t pair up with goofballs.

Chest Tecklist or Test Checklist

Testing is a learning experience. Mini test your own recall, as that can really help you learn and retain more. This is a checklist developed by Richard Feldman so as to answer YES to the questions below:

  1. Did you make a serious effort to understand the text?
  2. Did you work with classmates on homework problems or check your solutions?
  3. Did you try to outline each homework problem before working with classmates?
  4. Did you participate in group discussions contributing ideas and asking questions?
  5. Did you consult with the instructor or teaching assistants when you were having trouble with something?
  6. Did you understand the problem solutions when they were handed in?
  7. Did you ask in class for explanations of homework problem solutions that weren’t clear to you?
  8. Did you go through your study guide carefully until you were convinced you could do everything on it?
  9. Did you attempt to outline lots of problem solutions quickly without spending time on the calculations?
  10. Did you quiz fellow students on the study guide?
  11. Did you attend and participate in the test review session?
  12. Most importantly, did you get a reasonable night’s sleep the evening prior?

Hard Start, Jump to Easy

Don’t do the easiest problems first. Try to start the hardest problems first as they take the most time. Also, you want to access diffuse mode. So, start with hard problems after a quick scan of the test. Do the hardest problem for a minute, and then move on if you get stuck. It loads the hard problem in your brain but then kicks in your diffuse mode when you switch to a different problem. Alternate between hard and easy problems. Think of it like being a chef with great time management, bouncing between dishes to use your brain more efficiently. It gets some work done on each problem, and kicks in diffuse mode so you can overcome Einstellung. You do really need to have the discipline to switch when you are stuck after a minute or two. Of course, this assumes you studied effectively.

Final Test Advice

Stress causes the body to release cortisol. Cortisol can induce panic or make people pumped - this is up to you! Try breathing exercises if the cortisol response is causing you to panic instead of turn into a test ninja. Practice breathing and get into a deep breathing pattern near the end of the test.

Some techniques are:

  1. Cover multiple choice answers before answering - see if something comes to you
  2. Try relaxing your tongue
  3. Face your fears ahead of the test
  4. Plan for an alternative / worst case scenario with career. This releases stress so you perform better.
  5. Good worry / bad worry - be sure to stay focused but not lose your mind
  6. Day prior do a review but take it easy.
  7. Double check your answers by blinking and shifting your attention
  8. Gut checks are important. Make sure your answers make sense, units of measurement make sense.
  9. Switch up how you check your answers - maybe work back to front

Try to shift your mindset from ‘I am afraid’ to ‘I am going to tear this test into pieces and eat its goddamn face’ and see your performance improve :)

Wrap. It. Up.

Metaphors and Analogies are key to learning and understanding, the more visual the better. We can enhance the development of our brain connections and chemistry through practice. We can choose to interpret the stress of a test, or our own mental limitations, as a negative, or a positive. Our minds can trick us, so be careful, and get enough sleep. Test yourself, use recall, try to understand and not just memorize.

Switch your mode of thinking from focused to diffuse. Focus on chunking and analogies. Focus on process not product, and use the Pomodoro technique.

Try to teach these ideas to others, and that is when you truly have learned something. Broaden your passion, expertise and interests, and don’t stick to the things you tend to be better at.