In walking or test-taking, internalized knowledge wins

Truly internalized knowledge goes beyond memorization.

As you read these words, your body is functioning largely without you. Pause to consider this and you may become aware of your breathing and blinking, only two of the many physiological functions your body takes care of for you. 2 million cells will die and be born in less time than it takes you to read this sentence. What would it be like to have to consciously control every blink, every pump of blood, every muscle movement?

Something as simple as taking a step is a complex activity that requires coordination and skill. Try it for yourself:

How did you do? It’s a good thing walking is an unconscious act, or it would be hazardous to everyone around us.

More than 75% of our daily activities are regulated by our subconscious. From cell creation and kidney functions, to walking and even driving to work, many of the things we do are second nature to us.

Knowledge2As is almost ALL of your knowledge. Quickly, add two and two. Chances are, you don’t need to stop and think about addition or the value of two. You know it’s four, and you’ve known that since you were little. You have internalized it, and it’s become second nature.

When we’re taking in new information, especially if we plan on using it in a stressful situation like on the SAT or the GMAT, our goal should be to internalize it until we can draw on it without even thinking. What some call instinct or a gut feeling, we know is deeply learned knowledge – knowledge that you may not even be aware you have.

Truly internalized knowledge goes beyond memorization. The brain records information in stages, and anything that is deemed unimportant gets lumped into short term memory and later discarded. As anyone who has ever prepared for the Memory Olympics will tell you, the way to elevate information from a series of letters and numbers, is to make it somehow relevant to you. This is true whether you’re memorizing the order of 52 playing cards, or trying to learn logic.

When it comes to the SAT or the GMAT, by the time you sit down to take that test, you should no longer have to think about what you are doing. If you are still struggling with individual parts of problems you risk flailing around like in QWOP. Let your knowledge and learned instinct guide you.

Related links:
Joshua Foer – Feats of Memory Anyone Can Do (TED)

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