Learning From Your Mistakes

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cycle to reach success: try, fail, try again, success

Written by Lloyd Chen

As the school year starts, many of you may be wondering, “How do I best prepare for the SAT or ACT?” This can be a daunting task as the SAT/ACT may just be the most important exam in your high school career. Luckily, other parts of your application are more important, including your academic transcript, and for some colleges, your extracurriculars, recommendations, and essays collectively weigh more. But how do you get that magic score on the SAT or ACT? 

You might think it’s about perusing every prep book on the planet, reading a ton of novels to improve comprehension, or taking dozens of practice tests. These all sound like great things to do and are certainly helpful, but just doing these things alone is not enough. Blindly reading books and taking practice tests only to have it leave your memory the next day won’t get you very far. When it comes down to it, the best way to prepare for the SAT/ACT is to learn from your mistakes. 

Mistakes can be discouraging. They tell you that you’re wrong – that you missed something. It implies you did not live up to expectations. That is one way to look at it at least. But mistakes are also a way for you to identify where you can grow. They are a compass to reorient you toward a better path when you become aware of the mistake and resolve it. No one likes to make mistakes, but if you can detach your self-worth and who you are as a person from the action of making an error (which is human by the way), you can review those errors with more acceptance. This is important because the only way to become an expert in something is the willingness to be a beginner, to be a fool who makes those errors. Do you think a master heart surgeon or musician always started that way? Did they get to where they are without any faults or ever making an error? The answer is no, of course not. They got there by starting out as a beginner, just like you, and learned from what they did wrong. 

Facing your errors may be naturally difficult, but when you are willing to examine it, not from a personal, emotional part of your self but from a higher, bird’s eye perspective to learn and move forward, you move toward mastery with less resistance. When you repeat this process again and again, over time, you enhance your paradigm, rewiring connections in your brain, unveiling new, cogent patterns consistent with the world. And through this reiteration, you become a more illuminated version of yourself. 

So, when you take that next practice test, don’t just close the book and move on with your day. Get a clear picture of why you answered a question a certain way, how to truly solve it, and how to prevent the mistake in the future. When you target your learning this way, you become more experienced in tackling the exam and get closer to reaching your potential. 

There are many approaches to studying for the SAT/ACT and a lot of ideas on how to spend your time, but facing directly toward your errors rather than shying away can only help you when you see them as opportunities for learning. This is fruitful not just to achieve your best score on the SAT/ACT but also to become the best version of yourself in life. So, try your best, fall, and pick yourself up again to move forward, and never give up. You’ll be amazed at what comes your way.

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