Is changing answers on your test a good idea?
There is a ton of data on the subject and the answer is: YES!
Do not just trust your first instinct on a test. If you answer a question but seconds later think you might know a better answer then you’re probably right.
But it’s even more important than that…
Changing your answer improves your score* but there is more to it that you’re going to want to know. You’re going to need to understand why this happens to fully appreciate its benefit.
*For the curious: Some of these studies controlled for knowing that changing your answer improves your score. That means, your score will still improve when you’re only changing it because you know changing it is smart. Students don’t go overkill and start changing right answers to wrong ones when they learning changing answers helps their score.
How does an answer change help?
Instincts are not about finding the truth. They are about survival.
Your brain doesn’t think through most stuff in life. It just uses shortcuts to fool yourself into thinking you know. (The technical term is heuristics.)
Do you remember how it felt to be learning something new like driving a car?
At first, it can be complicated. Move the gears. Check the mirrors. Hold the brakes and turn the wheel. There are hundreds of details that your brain needs to look out for. When you’re learning anything new your brain is working overtime. Now imagine how you feel doing that new thing you learned years later. It got easier, right?
Stuff gets easier because the brain starts creating shortcuts for decision making. When I’m driving, I don’t see brake lights come on in front of me and think, “Man… what are those lights for again?” I just press the brakes. It happens. I don’t think about any of it.
When you’re taking a test, heuristics are usually your first instincts.
These shortcuts are sufficient a ton of the time. (When you’re prepared they’ll usually be right. )
If you see an answer that instantly looks related to the question then your brain is going to start ringing alarm bells (“This might be it.”) The logical part of your brain hasn’t even come into the station and the conductor is screaming, “ALL ABOARD!!”
Changing your answer is letting the logical part of your brain take the wheel.
You are going to end up right more often than you end up wrong.
BUT MY EXPERIENCE SAYS OTHERWISE!?!?
Yes… my experience says otherwise too. That’s because my experience is just another heuristic. It’s a good first guess but it’s just wrong.
When you’re examining your completed tests, your brain probably has a shortcut of looking at your wrong answers (and skipping the ones you got right.) The bright red pen will direct you straight to your problem areas. That means you’re probably not getting a fair representation of your results.
When you get an answer wrong because you changed your answer, you will probably notice it. It will stand out. The bright red circle just pulls your brain in. It forces your attention to it. Since it’s a question you probably spent a minute or two on, you’ll remember why you got it wrong.
When you get an answer right because you changed your answer, the opposite happens. There are no red circles directing your attention to how awesomely smart thinking twice was. It will just slide by unnoticed while you let your eyes wander over other red marked areas you need to think about.
Your brain focuses your attention on what is needed instead of what worked perfectly as planned. It’s just another shortcut making the appreciation of changing your answer hard to notice.
When You Shouldn’t Pick A New Answer
It’s not a given that you should always change your answer though.
The research has shown some answer changing actually hurts your chances of being right.
Do not change your answer when you’ve already changed it once.
This is where you start to see a reduction in your scores.
In fact, changing your answer a second time is probably a sign that you need to focus on improving your study strategy. This is the kind of problem that student’s focusing on familiarization instead of memorization have.
Most Important Of All
If you’re regularly changing your answer then this is a blatantly obvious sign something is wrong.
Sure… you’re going to change your answers a couple times on every test.
If you’re noticing yourself get frustrated on question after question then it is a sign your study routine is completely out of whack. You need to ask yourself why your gut instinct isn’t lining up with reality? Something is wrong. (Some exceptions exist but they’re rare.)
Heuristics aren’t perfect but they shouldn’t be wrong on questions you’re properly prepared for. By the time you’re done reading the question your brain can be screaming the right answer to you. That is a sign you know the subject. Struggling to pick between two answers is a sign you’re missed something. It’s part of test-taking but too much of it is trouble
You need to improve your studying.
Some of the most common problems are using familiarization based strategies and avoiding test-taking (recall) based strategies. When you’re recognize an answer but can’t quite put your finger on whether or not it’s right, you’ll probably end up changing your answer.
Sure… changing your answer helps your chances of being right but not having to change your answer is even better. It’s more results with less stress. Here are a few articles that can help you get started improving your study routine:
Ever change your answer and get it wrong? Ever not change your answer and get it wrong? Ever change your answer from a wrong one to another wrong one? Tell your story in the comments below.
Accelerated Learning Secrets First Written About In Shakespeare’s Times Reemerging And Being Conclusively Proven In Today’s Academic Journals
Professors Karpicke of Purdue University and Roediger, III of Washington University published an incredible paper that is making waves in the top rungs of Academia.
Colleges have taken pride in their ability to train the next generation of students for decades now. By subjecting their students to intimidating reading, long and immense lectures, and rigorous and unforgiving testing, they claim to have properly trained their graduates.
But modern research methods are calling those very claims into question.
You see… what these professors have discovered (and more are joining them every day) is shaking the very foundations of academia – all of the endless hours of studying, reading books, taking notes, and listening to endless lectures… doesn’t really teach students all that much – not even preparing them for the very tests they’re using.
The exact things that colleges and many professors have been encouraging are hindering students’ abilities to learn by occupying their time with ineffective methodologies.
Effective learning isn’t rocket science either….
“Francis Bacon wrote about these effective study strategies in the 1500’s – and the research is proving that we should have been listening to the preachers of this all along,” says Aaron Richardson, founder of Smart Student Secrets, a decade old, religiously followed, website dedicated to reintroducing these strategies to modern students.
“The reality is, the average university spends 4 years lecturing a student on what they could master in 6 months or less – if they used effective strategies.”
Confronting Mr. Richardson, I grilled him on the academic defenses of our country’s historic and prestigious Universities.
R: Doesn’t the work separate the wheat from the chaff? Give them work and those that best do it are better BECAUSE they worked harder to do it. The hard work itself is the target.
A: Assuming the wheat is the people that mindlessly follow directions and don’t have better things to do with their time… sure. But I’m advocating for the creative thinkers that are willing to challenge the status quo. They’re the wheat I’m giving my tools to.
R: But colleges say your strategies help you score higher on tests but not “understand” the material in a deeper way. Any response?
A: First thing, in academia, you’re judged on your ability to pass tests and answer questions – they have no other way. By their own standards, their strategies are worse.
Second, mull on any idea for a few years longer and you’ll have a deeper understanding of it. That’s the easy part. You do it every time you take a shower. The hard part is learning enough of the component parts to be able to mull it over. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can understand it deeper.
And one more thing…
I don’t really care if they criticize because the data speaks for itself. I advocate for the data their own studies are proving. They may be able to hide the truth for a while but it’s getting out and the longer they hold out, the worse it’s going to look for them – not me.
R: Mr. Richardson you have recently published a guide outlining his effective strategies in detail. It’s called, “How To Study Happier,” and has a 4 star review from students and some reviews making some pretty impressive claims. Right?
A: I’ve dedicated my life to helping students that are like the kid I used to be. And I guarantee that my book can help you get better grades – and if you’re not 100% satisfied with the changes then I’ll refund it completely. Show me one college that will do that for you!
R: So… Mr. Richardson, I’ve heard you’ve been taking some heat from academia over your claims.
A: For legal reasons, I have to keep my mouth shut on this one. All I can say is that I can’t guarantee my content will stay available much longer. Get it now or prices will be higher for legal reasons (if I can even keep the book available.)
Now is the time to click on the link I’ll add below, fill in the boxes, and get your copy today if you’re interested.
Get your copy of How To Study Happier