The stress when studying for exams is something we have all experienced. You study your notes, pour over your text book, read and re-read flash card after flash card. You squeeze your eyes shut to try and see in your mind what’s written on the back…
You complete and repeat this process in the hope that come exam day, you’ll have all the answers stored neatly away in your mind. Once you finally feel pretty confident you know your stuff, you take a practice exam.
You click through each question with ease, expecting to see fireworks shoot from your computer once you have finished, victorious. Last question…click… and result: FAIL.
You failed the practice test…panic sets in…
“This can’t be happening, I thought I knew this, I don’t understand what went wrong, how will I ever pass, I can’t believe I’ve wasted all this time…”
The good news is, you haven’t wasted your time, you have actually perfectly positioned yourself for success.
Are You Ready to “Fail Forward?”
A recent study by U.C.L.A psychologist Elizabeth Ligon Bjork found that pretesting raised performance on the final exam by an average of ten percent. But failing a practice exam can bring feeling of defeat and doubt. If you can’t get it right on the practice exam, surely you’ll freeze come exam day, right? Not according to the psychologists.
In many studies, researchers have found that scoring incorrect answers on a pretest is actually helpful in achieving success on the final exam.
When we get the answer wrong in practice and review the correct answer after, it changes the method by which we think about and ultimately store the information.
This finding is especially true of multiple choice exams where answering incorrectly readies our minds for what could come up on exam day.
Psychologists found that traditional means of study, (read, memorize, recall, repeat), tricks our brains into a false sense of security.
Recognition is not the same as understanding
Researchers calls this perception “fluency”. We believe that because concepts and ideas make sense today, they will continue to make sense to us in the future. But passive studying does not always commit the concepts to memory.
We believe we will recall the ideas, but on exam day we fail because instead of developing an understanding of the subject, we simply tried to memorize it.
So in reality, the failed practice exam isn’t a sign that you need to study more. In fact, by pretesting yourself, you are reorganizing the test information in your brain in a way that studying alone cannot: you have learned to “fail forward.”
What You Need To Do Now
So if you're taking the NCIDQ IDFX and IDPX Exams this season– this is what you need to do in the next few weeks before your test date – make sure you thoroughly understand what's on the NCIDQ Content Areas for your exam and take a practice test.
Hopefully, this is a review for you and you've already been studying. Now is the time to put some of your knowledge to the test and see how you fare.
Listen to an excerpt from one of our NCIDQ Office Hours Sessions with Qpractice member Ariane, who shared what worked and what was a waste of time.
Here's the transcript:
Well, I thought that I only wanted to take the exams once and so I used every resource that I could find to help me study, be that Qpractice and asking questions on LinkedIn, asking questions of Lisa and Donna when I didn't understand something. But I also had a local study group and we were designers from different firms and we would get together once a week and review practice questions that we had agreed upon ahead of time.
So we all took the same practice questions, mostly from the Ballast book that we did ahead of time, and then I also did the practice exams from both Qpractice and the ones that NCIDQ has available through Prometric.
Reviewing questions with my study group was fantastic because we worked at different firms and some people knew the answers to things that I didn't know, and I knew the answers to things that they didn't know, we could visually explain things to each other. But I also connected with some other Qpractice members and we would email questions to each other, as well. So it was as many resources at my disposable that I could take advantage of and I did.
I would say one of my biggest time wasters when studying was memorization.
I think that the Qpractice exams were probably the best study tool available because you can take them over and over. They're the same length. My scores on average were a very good indicator of my scores on the actual exam. So I think I took each of them three times, and the first time I got like 60% right, and it was a throw my hands up in the air moment like, “I'm going to fail this,” but the next time I took it I think I got a 20-point boost and in the actual exam I got very similar scores.
So that was really, really helpful to go through those, and not just to take them, but then to review the ones that I got right that I wasn't sure about and see what I'd selected and why it was right. And then the ones that I got wrong I would look up and it would help me remember because just taking them and then seeing your score and then trying it again you don't really learn that information, so you have to really go back and see what you got right, what you got wrong, look at the information that you have in your scores and then look anything up that is still unclear to you. And sometimes I would ask on LinkedIn or ask Lisa or Donna directly and say, “This was unclear to me. I looked it up and here's what this said,” and so that was really helpful as well because then they could help with that follow-up.