I’m at a fairly popular pizza place in my hometown just a few miles from the house where I grew up. I came to get some lunch and get some work done, but a few minutes ago someone walked in and I’ve been distracted ever since.
I’m pretty sure we went to high school together, and if the faintest of memories serves correct we may have even run track together for a year. I’m fairly confident about his first name, but the last name I’m associating with him would make his name the same as a popular action movie actor, so I’m pretty sure I’ve got that wrong.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling to be sitting across the room from someone you recognize incompletely. It’s slightly awkward enough to interrupt my lunch, and not familiar enough to start a conversation and reminisce for a bit.
This uncomfortable feeling is something many test-takers are familiar with. You see a problem and recognize that it’s somewhat similar to one that you’ve seen before. But what was the trick to that one? What was that one crucial step that you figured out that allowed you to unlock the problem? If you don’t remember, you’re left frustrated and second-guessing yourself.
Here’s how to avoid that feeling: treat review as an integral part of your prep process. Many students spend a great deal of time doing problems, and limit their review to checking to see whether or not they got the problems right and perhaps what the correct answer was. Sometimes someone else’s solution gets read for a particularly difficult problem, but that is rare. As they say in the infomercials, but wait, there’s more!
The crucial step in review comes after everything I’ve already listed. The last thing you have to do is work back through the problem with your fresh knowledge to make sure that you make sure you can do a similar problem in the future. Ideally, you’ll do this a couple days after you first encounter the problem. This cements the idea of the problem into your mind and ensures that the next time you see something similar you’ve got the understanding of what it will take to get it done.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to take a circuitous route to the soda machine to avoid an awkward encounter.