Welcome to the College Prep Confidential Podcast
June 23, 2019

CPC Episode #8 - Is the Key To Exam Dominance Hiding Inside These Russian Dolls?

In this episode, we're tapping into Russian culture, wind currents, and horse racing to reveal: What these wooden Russian Dolls reveal about expert test preparation The key difference in this 3-tier horse racing structure between amateur and...

In this episode, we're tapping into Russian culture, wind currents, and horse racing to reveal:

  • What these wooden Russian Dolls reveal about expert test preparation
  • The key difference in this 3-tier horse racing structure between amateur and expert ACT and SAT Test takers
  • How peeling an onion can make you smarter
  • What testing experts remove with each study session
  • What an air current can teach you about better study habits
  • How $1 can get you a 150 point increase on your SAT exams
  • What's even better than solving an ACT or SAT problem

Thanks for checking out Episode 8 of the College Prep Confidential Podcast. And this week, let's dig into a powerful test prep strategy I discovered, and how I came to appreciate in an episode entitled...

Is the Key To Exam Dominance Hidden Inside These Russian Dolls?

A few weeks back, I'm reading about Russian culture, and I stumbled across an interesting tradition. Russian families build these dolls called matryoshka dolls, also  known as Nesting dolls.

These dolls are fascinating. The first doll you see looks to be a grandmother. The dolls are made of wood, and painted with different faces and clothes. But the traditional ones are painted starting with a grandmother. 

Now, if you pull the grandmother doll apart in half, inside, you'll find another doll. When you pull the next doll out, it's a little smaller than the grandmother doll, and a little younger. Ah, but the plot thickens...

If you open up the second doll by pulling it apart in half, you'll find another doll. This one is smaller, and a little younger. If you keep doing this, you end up with 7-8 dolls, each one smaller, and younger than the last, until you get to the little baby doll.

You then can go backwards, from youngest to oldest, and stack the baby doll in the bigger doll, and repeat the process until the 7-8 dolls become one again.

As I saw this process repeated a few times, it reminded me of the discussion I had with college SAT and ACT test prep experts. Their preparation for exams mimics the matryoshka dolls.

Here's how it works...

I call this principle the ACT/SAT Trifecta. With the first study session for college prep, The Trifecta creates a bulletin board of concepts from the ACT and SAT exams, grouped into three parts:

  1. Part 1: Concepts you know and can answer quickly
  2. Part 2: Concepts you know but answer slower
  3. Part 3: Concept you struggle with, or do not know.

Now, here’s where it gets fun: the secret of the ACT and SAT Trifecta lies in optimizing your preparation. And I’ll reveal this in a moment, but first, let’s review how most people take the ACT and SAT exams:

Assume your child dives into the exam material for two weeks. Now most people, especially those who struggle, focus on Part 3 of the Trifecta - concepts they struggle with, or do not know. And this focus causes them to worry, crushing their confidence. So each study session revolves around worrying, which ruins the entire study session, including the good parts of the Trifecta, 1 and 2. 

Now, contrast this approach with the best test takers. The best test takers build an inventory. And this inventory builds confidence, increasing their scores each time they take a sample quiz or sample exam. Here’s how the experts dominate these exams!

  1. They spend their first 1-2 weeks figuring out what concepts they know and don't know
  2. From here, they start to build their Trifecta. First, they figure out what they know well and can answer quickly. They put these concepts into Part 1 of the Trifecta.
  3. Next, they file the remaining concepts into Part 2 of the Trifecta, things they know, but answer slower.
  4. Finally, they take everythingelse remaining, and place it inside Part 3 of the Trifecta which is things they struggle with or don’t know at all.

Now buckle your seat belt, because I’m about to reveal the secret of expert ACT and SAT Test takers. You with me...Good!

When these experts finish their first 1-2 week prep time, they go back and study more - with two simple goals in mind:

  1. They focus on moving concepts in Trifecta Part 2, things they know, but take time with into Trifecta Point 1, things they know and can answer quickly. Because they already know these concepts...now they know and recall them faster. Focusing on this goal guarantees they shave more time off concepts they already know. Because the only thing better than solving an ACT or SAT exam problem is solving it faster than you did before.
  2. And the #2 goal of the next round of studying, move concepts from Trifecta Part 3, things they don't know or struggle with, into Trifecta Point #2, things they know, but take time to answer.

Experts peel back layers of the problems, like onions, making them smaller and smaller with each study session. Similar to unpacking matryoshka dolls from largest to smallest.

Now, did you notice, these experts didn’t try to make the jump from Trifecta Part 3, concepts they don’t know into Trifecta Part 1, concepts they know and can answer quickly. If they have a good study session and make the jump, great! But, these experts embrace the principle of Kaizen. They strive for constant, small improvements, repeated over time.

Notice: amateur test prep involves the boxed trifecta, random ordering of the 3 parts of the trifecta. Versus experts, they always have the same 3 orderings, like a trifecta in a horse race. Everything moves up the chain one at a time,.

As the experts repeat these study sessions, they continue to move more concepts out of Trifecta Part 3 into Trifecta Part 2, building the list of concepts they know. And they move concepts from Trifecta Part 2 into Trifecta Part 1, meaning they get faster on concepts they know.

After a few rounds of repeating this process, their confidence builds, their speed gets faster, and their study sessions accelerate, creating a jet stream effect. If you aren’t familiar with the jet stream, it’s a wind current several miles above Earth. When planes fly with the jet stream at their back, they go faster with less effort. We see this jet stream effect when we jump on a plane...

For instance, when I fly from Chicago to San Diego, my flight may take 3 hours and 40 minutes. I'm flying against the jet stream. However, when I return to Chicago from San Diego, my flight takes just over 3 hours. And this is because my plane has the jet stream pushing us.

The “jet-stream” concept applies to the experts method of studying for the ACT and SAT exams. After a few study sessions of building their Trifecta, they begin to accelerate with less effort, much like the planes with the jet stream at their back. And it all starts with the study sessions using the Trifecta.

To use the Trifecta to achieve the jet-stream effect, it starts with asking yourself two questions:

  1. What concepts do I know - regardless of speed
  2. What concepts don't I know?

And it reminds me of a great quote...

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” — Naguib Mahfouz

When you ask yourself the right questions at the beginning of this journey, it simplifies your efforts in the future. I use the word journey, because College prep exams work just like my flight to San Diego and Back. You start off slow, and you might experience turbulence along the way, but once you hit the jet stream...life gets easier and your progress increases exponentially. Success increases, and your problems, just like each matryoshka doll inside the package, get smaller and smaller.

I have a question for you...How would you like to create a "jet stream" study effect for your ACT and SAT exams? I've built a resource for you, which you can find at exam.cpcshow.com. And what this does is help  you move up the Trifecta ladder I discussed. First learning a concept, then getting faster, and then mastering. And this Trifecta process helps you increase your SAT scores on average by 150 points, and your ACT scores on average by 3 points. And I'd like to offer podcast listeners a $1, 7 day trial. Try out the platform, and let me know what you think. Once again, that $1 trial is at cpchow.com. Or, you can go to cpcshow.com and find it. Thanks for listening, and I'll see you next week.