Friday, May 11, 2007

TWO “T’s”

I was worried. After three years hard work trying to get into Officer Candidate School, we were about to be tested to see if we had the math skills to be an Army Engineering Officer. It took me three tries to get a passing grade in high school Algebra; I knew I was in trouble. Nothing I could do but give it my best.

All our work had to be done on a single sheet of paper and that was handed in with the test. After several long hours, we all sat in the classroom waiting to hear our fate. One by one we were called into the office. Some came out smiling. Others quietly began packing their bags. Sweat was rolling down my neck as I knocked on the door.

“First the good news, you passed” the Tac Officer said without smiling. Looking at my worksheet he continued, “What I want to know is how the hell you did it?” He never let me explain my “secret” but instead I ended up on the floor doing push-ups. In the next six months I spent almost as many hours doing push-ups as marching.

There are actually two secrets. First is a technique for taking tests. The second is a way of thinking.

TESTS: There are three basic types of written tests. First is the most difficult, the essay test. It is rarely used because it is time consuming and hard to grade.
Then there is the fill in test, which while less time consuming still is not “teacher friendly” like the multiple choice test.

In multiple choice test two of the possible answers are usually ridiculous. Those two choices most often can be immediately discarded. That leaves you a 50/50 chance of guessing the right answer. Often you can work the possible answer by figuring it backwards. Take the answers given and plug them in to see which one fits. If unanswered questions are counted wrong, obviously guessing is in your best interest.

When the test begins go completely through it; skipping all the hard questions and answering all the easy ones. I mark each question number with a simple code. If I think I know the answer I place a check by the number. If I am not sure; I put a question mark. Hard questions get a box.

I use all the time allotted. I never turn in my paper early. Take care and do not over think. When guessing, your initial spontaneous guess is usually correct. When preparing for a test; getting enough sleep is just as important as studying your books.

THINKING: Most schools around the world operate on memorizing information. They then expect you to regurgitate that information on demand. You can not possibly memorize everything. So it is more important to learn how to think. Learn how to take a small bit of information and find a larger unknown. Learn logic and deductive reasoning.

The brain is sort of like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it gets. Never stop learning or being curious. Instead of listening to music all the time; watch educational television. Do you know what hyperthermia is or how to prevent it? How does a car speed-o-meter work? Can you start a fire without matches? Did you know the male seahorse gives birth, not the female? You NEVER know what bit of information will one day be useful, maybe even save your life. At the very least you will win a lot of trivia pursuit games.

To exercise your brain try these “Kojak Brain-Teasers”: The first five correct answers to my email ( get their names in the paper.

Fill in the blank spaces with the correct letters…

(NOTE: All the information you need to answer the question is provided)

Logic Problem:
Mr. and Mrs. Good and Mr. and Mrs. Smith each have different tastes in literature. One prefers history, another biography, another detective novels and another adventure stories. Of the four, only two have blue eyes, and one of those likes adventure stories best and her husband likes history best.

Mr. Good has brown eyes. What is Mrs. Good’s preference in literature?

Along with the names of the first five readers with correct answers, I will show you how to solve for the answers. Good luck.

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