As a student, you are often expected to learn the content of many subjects- those of arts, sciences and languages. Indeed, it is not surprising that many students work woefully hard on trying to learn the syllabus in order to ace their exams. However, students in general tend to neglect the value of studying smart and effectively. Today, we are going to discuss the number one trap that students make when studying, and how we can successfully mitigate this problem.
So what is this trap?
This trap is most commonly known as the competence illusion. Let’s break down this term to better understand it. Competence refers to being proficient in a certain skill set or having extensive knowledge about something. Competence is something that we desire in life. Illusion, on the other hand, represents a divergence between reality and our perception. Put together, competence illusion means that we perceive ourselves to be good at something when we are actually not.
So why do we make this mistake? It’s simple. I actually don’t recall our local education system teaching us how to learn. From our primary to per-tertiary education, our schools are so focused on imparting us with a ton of knowledge, but none of learning how to learn. it is not surprising then that when we study, we tend to do things that make us feel good about ourselves, and give us confidence for assessments, even when we actually may not be so.
In fact, we tend to make this silly mistake most often while prepping for subjects that do not require rote memorization. An example will be Additional Mathematics. As a general rule of thumb, mathematics questions cannot be prepped by memorization. There are simply too many variations. Instead, we have to practice and learn the principles so that we can solve the questions.
However, more often that not, we like to revise mathematics by just reading through our notes. Let’s be clear- there’s nothing wrong about reading through our notes. However, when we only read through our notes and do not do practice questions, we tend to believe that we are better than we really are. I used to just read through my past worksheets and notes for Math, believing that I am prepared for the assessment. Yet during the actual exam, I often end up skipping many questions because I have actually not internalized the principles and techniques of solving problems. If you have a similar experience like mine, don’t be demoralized. It is not surprising that we avoid practice questions- practice is hard and reading generally just feels easier.
Now that we know more about competence illusion, it is equally important that we learn how to mitigate this issue.
The two solutions for competence illusion
The first solution should be obvious- just practise more. Whether it is your school’s practice questions, the assessment books available in the market or the worksheets that I hand out during my lessons, you need to be willing to put the work in. Persist and stretch yourself during the practice sessions- look at the answers only as a last resort and limit the number of times you can look at the answers.
The second solution is less obvious, but one that is extremely helpful. I used this quite a lot during my preparation for the SAT. When you encounter a question you’re unsure how to do during your practice session, you simply copy the question to an exercise book. Of course, you should also learn how to solve the question. When exams are approaching and it is time to revise, you can simply whip out your handy exercise book and pay more attention to the questions you used to be unsure how to do. This practice helps to ensure that we have indeed filled our knowledge gaps and it is much more effective than just flipping over our notes.
By consistently executing these two solutions, I believe you will experience much less occurrences of competence illusion. More importantly, you will also have a much better grasp over whatever subject you’re having difficulties with. As always, please feel free to leave any questions in the comment section below.
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