What consistently ranks as a top fear? Making a mistake. Mistakes can reveal that we know less than we thought we knew, or even worse, less than our manager, teacher or colleague thought we knew.
This fear is so common that there’s even a name for it: atelophobia. This term describes someone who avoids situations where they feel they won’t succeed. For example, a student might delay taking practice exams until they think they have mastered the material, which can actually delay mastery.
Ironically, the way to succeed is by making mistakes, not by avoiding them, especially when it comes to prepping for a securities exam. It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. By getting things wrong, we can improve our skills and grow. Let’s explore how making mistakes while answering questions leads to growth and to success on exams.
“It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. By getting things wrong, you can improve your skills and grow.”
Practice (Tests) Make Perfect
Part of prepping to take a securities exam involves working with practice questions. Practice questions are designed to give us insight into what the actual exam will be like. Rather than shy away from practice tests, we can use our performance on practice questions to understand whether we are ready to take the actual exam or not. When we answer a practice question incorrectly, it alerts us to the fact that we lack an essential piece of information. It can help us focus our study time on our areas of weakness.
Get Curious About the Story
To maximize the value of answering practice questions, explore the ‘story’ behind the question that we just missed. Why did we select the answer choice that we did? And more importantly, how can we ensure that we will have the necessary tools to choose the right answer next time?
In this way, practice questions can provide an important window into newfound knowledge, and thus opportunities for the future. If we chose answer “A” when we should have chosen “B”, we should take the time to understand why “B” is, in fact, the correct answer. Use the source material provided in the study program, such as the textbook or video lectures. Look for the correct information in notes or supplemental materials. Take the time to understand not only why “B” was correct but also why “A” was not.
Write to Remember
Actively participate in your learning journey. This means creating notes when we make a mistake. It takes a second to jot down the essential point of a question, and doing so will actually help to form a connection to that point in our minds.
You might choose to review your notes for 30 minutes before going to bed at night. Research shows that studying before bed can improve the chances of being able to recall that information later. Studies also show that writing your notes on paper, rather than on your computer, helps with recall because your brain has more details to trigger memory.
Though the fear of making mistakes is ingrained in our psyche, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, The Miracle of Making Mistakes, mistakes can be valuable. The article notes how many great inventions have been stumbled upon, and how innovation tends to flourish when people have the space to make mistakes.
When it comes to your securities exam, embrace a growth mindset. This means you view setbacks, including mistakes, as part of the learning process. You know that with work, your skills will improve. If you’re willing to make mistakes and enhance your understanding of a topic as a result, you will be better prepared the next time that topic pops up, and this will lead to better outcomes.