Today we have a guest post from Mike Bergin, the founder of Chariot Learning, shares the insight and experience earned over twenty-five years in education through his extensive writing on test prep and teaching.
Everyone wants great test scores. That is to say, anyone who has to sit for an important or perhaps even trivial wants to score as well as possible. Nobody I’ve ever met went into a midterm or AP exam saying, “Boy, I hope I bomb this one.”
Earning exceptional test scores, especially on high stakes exams like the SAT and ACT, feels like winning, and just about everyone wants to win. Just as we all want to be happy, successful, and loved, we want to win. Obviously, none of those things come easy, if at all. How exactly does wanting something challenging like exceptional test scores translate to earning exceptional test scores?
In his day, Bobby Knight helped a lot of aspiring athletes become winning athletes. Fans of college basketball likely recognize the controversial Knight as one of the most successful coaches of all time, winning 902 NCAA Division I men’s college basketball games over a long career. What he learned about winning applies to any endeavor on or off the court:
“The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win. Everyone wants to win but not everyone wants to prepare to win. preparing to win is where the determination that you will win, is made. Once the game or test or project is underway, it is too late to prepare to win. The actual game, test or project is just the end of a long process of getting ready, in which the outcome was really determined. So if you want to win, you must want to prepare to win. Once you prepare to win, winning is almost anti climatic.”
Basically, wanting to win is not at all special; everyone wants to win. Preparing to win, on the other hand, sets you on a path to actually accomplishing your dreams.
Where the SAT and ACT are concerned, the best scores don’t just fall to the students who want them. Instead, you’ll find the ones with the will to prepare to earn them over-represented at the upper percentiles. The will to prepare to win on the big tests demands a lot, as every road to victory does:
The will to study the content on the test
The will to learn the best strategies for the test
The will to practice questions, sections, and full tests
The will to learn from mistakes to improve point by point
The will to work with whoever gives you the best shot at your best scores
The will to arrive at the test ready for peak performance
Knight was not the first to draw the distinction between the will to win and the will to prepare to win. Similar sentiments have been credited to legendary coaches from Vince Lombardi to John Wooden to Joe Paterno, though University of Michigan football coach Fielding H. Yost was almost certainly the first. But Knight returned to this essential point again and again in order to convey what it takes to win:
“Winning to me is a very wholesome objective, yet very few people know how to go about it. The will to win has always been grossly overrated as a means of doing so. Everyone wants to win. The will to prepare to win and the ability to prevent losing are of far greater importance.”
Remember, if you want to win, you must want to prepare to win. And then prepare!