Welcome to the College Prep Confidential Podcast
June 9, 2019

CPC Episode #6 - Alien Invasions and Electrical Insulators Reveal Clues To Better College Test Scores

In Episode 6, we're digging deep into learning mastery tips for College Prep Exams including: The fatty electrical insulation sheath you can strengthen through "mental weight lifting" to get better test scores Tom Cruise used this technique in the...

In Episode 6, we're digging deep into learning mastery tips for College Prep Exams including:

  • The fatty electrical insulation sheath you can strengthen through "mental weight lifting" to get better test scores
  • Tom Cruise used this technique in the movies to get smarter. You'll find it on CD players
  • These little blobs in cookies show you how to structure your study sessions
  • The only type of practice to improve your skills. Miss this, and you reduce your potential on college prep exams
  • How this "weird" soccer game holds the key to quicker learning
  • Why the best musicians in the world ripped up their music sheets during practice
  • Learning maximization using the "Go Slower to Go Faster" Technique
  • How and where to "download" an Ivy Leaguer's Exam Experts Brain

Welcome to Episode 6 of the College Prep Confidential podcast. I'm Don Sevcik, and let's jump into today's episode titled, 

Alien Invasions and Electrical Insulators Reveal Clues To Better College Test Scores

I finished, for the 3rd time the other day, watching a movie called Edge of Tomorrow. If you've not seen it, here's the brief summary, as well as a clue to better test scores in the movie...

Earth gets invaded by an alien horde. An American military officer, Major Bill Cage, played by Tom Cruise, who's never fought a day in combat, gets dropped into a mission where the humans have to storm the beach and fight a swarm of aliens, called mimics. Cage, and other soldiers, get dropped on the beach from a plane. During the battle, Cage squares up with a blue colored "Alpha" Mimic. Cage kills the creature, but not before its acidic blood rains down on his face, killing him. Because of the way the mimics are made, the Alpha blood gives Cage the ability to "loop" (aka reset time by a day).

The screen goes dark for a moment. Suddenly, Cage wakes up again, starting his day exactly where it started yesterday. Tom Cruise starts the day again, and gets assigned to fight in the same battle. Ahhhh, here's the fun part...

This time, he remembers everything that happened the day before. He's got a playback tape in his head of the events that will happen up to the point when he died the day before.

And if the aliens get him again, he gets to "rewind" the day. On his first few days which he relives, he gets a bit farther on the beach each time. And with each day he restarts, he has a mental map of how to get farther up the beach. His battlefield knowledge grows with each "rewind" of the day.

And it got me thinking. Cruise's character never fought in combat before the first day on the beach. However, each day, he inches his way towards becoming a combat legend. 

It reminded me of a similar situation, in a book I read last year which I'll reveal in a moment. It has to do with repetition and deep practice... and this process I’m about to reveal to you, contributes to better test scores.

You see, Talent is grown, or repeated, as in Tom Cruise "rewinds" in Edge of tomorrow. Tom Cruise learns through mistakes.

There's a great book on repetition and deep practice, which relates to the Edge of Tomorrow "learn by mistake" approach, called The Talent Code, Greatness Isn't Born, It's Grown.

Imagine your brain and your nervous system has a talent meter for a certain skill. Your meter starts off at zero. But as you work on deep practice for any skill, each mistake you make, your talent meter inches up slightly. Deep practice, and repetition, help your meter climb upwards. And as the meter climbs upwards, your skill level increases.

In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise learns as he makes mistakes each day. 

I'm thinking of the old German proverb:You will become clever through your mistakes." 

Talent code, author Daniel Coyle explores hotbeds of talent (Brazilian soccer players, or Meadowmount school of music for example). And the result is focused practice. What you're really doing is "groping and inching" your way to a skill, and ultimately mastery. Each time you practice the skill, you start off a bit better than before, provided you practice correctly.

Coyle gives the example of the hotbed of Brazilian soccer players. Upon further research, Coyle discovered many of the Brazilian soccer people, as kids and teenagers, play a game called futsal.

Futsal promotes creativity in players to win games because the court is so small, the ball is heavier, and you're always in high pressure situations; you have to be able to manipulate the ball to your advantage with confidence. Futsal goes into soccer more than soccer goes into futsal.

The other advantage Daniel Coyle discovered with Futsal...the touches. A touch is when the soccer player gets the ball. If they get the ball on average 6 more times with futsal, they get to make this many more decisions, and learning chances. for instance, a younger futsal player may get the ball taken from them right away on the first 20 touches. But on the 21st touch, they'd start to learn and adapt.

For a futsal match, they'd learn this much faster than a soccer match, since they get more touches.

Like Tom Cruise in The Edge of tomorrow where he relives the day, and each day, he conquers the aliens and moves a bit farther up the beach, and closer to victory. You can repeat and relive practice, but each time, you slowly, if even a tiny bit of gain, inch your way towards talent.

To master college prep exams... we can use Coyle's three keys to growing talent:

1) Deep Practice- when I go out and play 18 holes, this is about as far from deep practice as you can get. Why? Because deep practice is all about fixing mistakes. You can do that on the driving range or the putting green, but not on the course (well, not easily, anyway). Think about it: how much time does the average golfer spend playing vs. practicing? 5-to-1? 10-to-1? Or any other sport or skill, for that matter.

The concept of deep practice is not about practicing for countless hours each day; instead, most of the talent hotbeds profiled in the book had pupils training less than 3 hours per day. But the 3 hours of practice at these hotbeds has exponentially greater yield than regular practice.

Deep practice is about struggling to get better. When we have to grapple with a weakness in our game, we can get to a point of breakthrough. "Experts practice differently and more strategically. When they fail, they don't blame it on luck or themselves. They have a strategy they can fix." (p 86).

What is Deep Practice?

Deep Practice consists of stopping when an error occurs, practicing that one skill until it is perfected, then continuing. Students learn by repeating, reassessing and "fixing" their skills in the process of learning them, with immediate feedback and error-correction. Remember, every skill requires nerve fibers carrying an electrical impulse. think of it as a signal traveling through a circuit.

Scientific research shows how deep learning causes myelin, a neural insulation, to grow and thicken around axons, which connect the brain's neurons to each other. Increased myelin makes the electrical signal that passes through the neural network faster, stronger, and longer lasting. The result is quicker thinking, and better retention.

The thicker the myelin, the faster and more accurate we become at the skill we’re trying to build.

Deep Practice uses two methods:

The first, is a process used at Meadowmount Music School I mentioned earlier. Students take a pair of scissors and cut each measure of their sheet music into horizontal strips, which are stuffed into envelopes and pulled out in random order. The students pull out a section of music, and play it. It’s called chunking.

You can use this tip with ACT and SAT math problems. Also Vocabulary. take the whole word, then break it out into chunks. Then piece the chunks back together. 

For math problems, you can do the full problem, then do each step. This helps with equations. What do I need to add or subtract first. Then multiply or divide. Finally, how do I isolate my variable and solve. 

Think of a chocolate chip cookie, the best ones spread out chunks of chocolate throughout the cookie. A cookie is comprised of chocolate chunks, leading up to the overall experience of a full cookie

The second method comes from slow, then faster as you get better. The students play the note, slowly, and then faster as they master it. When it's time to play the full piece, they've got a deeper understanding of the individual notes, or chunks. When you master slower speeds, then you graduate to faster speeds. So to go fast, you go slow first.

2) Ignition- at some point in each of our lives, we watch a friend or colleague shoot to the moon (in some specific area of life or work), and we wonder, "how did he do that?" What switch was flipped in his brain? When we see it happen to someone just like us, it gives a sense that we could acquire that particular talent, whether it be a tennis swing, an ability to remodel a home, or learn to play the violin. During Edge of Tomorrow, as Tom Cruise’s character Bill Cage relives the day, you see his confidence building. Instead of being passive on the battlefield, he runs through the aliens without fear. And this persistence builds the passion. Until it builds up in a crescendo when Cage says, “We can win this war.” It’s at this moment Cage breaks out of his old limitations. Notice the meaning of his name, “cage”. Each day, he breaks out of his old cage and gets better and fighting the aliens.

It works the same in college prep exams. Instead of saying, "I want to do well on the ACT. You say, I'm going to score a 27 on the ACT, and I'll keep doing practice exams until I consistently score a 27. The ignition provides fuel to the passion and fire behind talent increases.

3) Master Coaching- this doesn't mean you need some expensive, elite, impossible-to-access, famous coach. Nope, you just need a coach that has loads of experience, plenty of passion, and a knack for connecting interpersonally with his students. I'll tell you how, by the way, at the end of the episode, how to get a master coach for college prep… In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise had Rita. In the middle of the movie, Rita tells Tom Cruise’s character she used to have the rewind power. And during that time, she learned how to beat the aliens. So Rita acts as Tom Cruise’s character, Bill Cage’s master coach. During the movie, when Bill Cage relives the day, he stops off to visit Rita and go into the training simulator to fight the aliens. He starts off poorly. But over time, he gets a little bit better, and then a little bit better.

By using deep practice from The TAlent Code book, we get to "rewind" like Tom Cruise did in Edge of Tomorrow. Instead of rewinding the day, we're rewinding our attempts. And each attempt, provided we practice correctly, has our nerves positioned with the knowledge of all prior practice sessions.

Continued deep practice builds the myelin sheath, reinforcing good behavior and practice, making us better than the last time. And this, rewinding like Tom Cruise did in Edge of Tomorrow,  and strengthening the electrical connection pathway via myelin, is the key to mastering test scores.

You do this by Breaking concepts into chunks. Practice each chunk, slowly, then faster once you master it at a slower speed. then piece it all back together. In earlier episodes, I talk about the best exam takers work smarter. and what I want to do is give you a chance to take the chunking and deep practice I've taught you, and use it.

I’ve put together a platform for you. I call it the ACT and SAT Mastery Toolkit. The mastery comes from a group of Ivy League Testing experts who contributed to the platform. These are people who work smarter, not harder. It embraces the principles of deep learning. I call it, “Download an Ivy Leaguers Brain”. And I’ve got an exclusive link for podcast listeners. You can get started for $1. The ACT and SAT mastery toolkit is at exam.cpcshow.com. You can try it out for 7 days for just $1. This works out to 14 cents a day to download an Ivy Leaguers brain. By using this platform, students get an average score increase of 3 points on the ACT exam, and 150 points on the SAT exam. All from the power of deep learning, chunking, and downloading an Ivy Leaguer’s brain. Once again, the exclusive podcast link for the $1, 7 day “try it out” plan is at exam.cpcshow.com. Thanks for listening, and see you in the next episode.