Study Advice

Principles of Effective Studying I Principle 3: Practice Till you Can do it Quickly Without Thinking

By Ollie Lovell - 4 minute read

Automatic and controlled processes:

If you're doing VCE Psychology 3/4 this year, you probably already know this but automatic processes are tasks that are simple to do and don't take much effort, for example brushing your teeth. In contrast, controlled processes are tasks that are hard to do and need selective attention, such as completing a hard puzzle. Obviously when you first learn something, it'll be a controlled process but you want to be able to get to a stage where completing questions become an automatic process. This comes from doing lots and lots of practice! 

If you want to learn higher level questions, the simple questions need to become an automatic process. If this is not the case then when you're faced with a simple algebra question 12x=4, in which you have to learn to divide both sides by 4, your mind will be still trying to work out 12 divided by 4 and you could forget that the actual goal was to find x. If you have a large, multi-step question, it is absolutely essential that the simple questions become an automatic process. 

Why is this necessary:

When you are in a test or exam, most of the questions will be difficult and challenging. However, as we all know, when you are under these conditions, you are pressed for time. Thus, by knowing how to do the simple questions fast and efficiently, you will be able to effectively adapt your answers to fit the more challenging question that you're faced with. This means that you will have the tools and experience to face these harder questions because instead of having to think about multiple steps, you can just focus on a couple. 

Also most people are not good test-takers. Many people get stressed under pressure and tend to perform worse. However to counteract this, if you know how to answers these questions fast enough that you barely need to think, then you will be able to relax more in tests and exams because you will know the right answer with minimal effort. If you happen to be feeling a bit unwell or didn't sleep properly the night before your tests or exam, then you will still be prepared for the test because the answers will come so naturally to you. 

Basically, with lots of practice, you will be able to tackle any similar questions no matter what conditions you are under. 

How to change a controlled process to an automatic process:

You should attempt to do all questions you find easy, two-three times. These questions should already be automatic processes but you should repeat them a couple times just to ensure you know it. To make the more difficult questions automatic processes, you should repeat them five-seven times. 

Ensure that you do not do all these questions in one day. Choose about three questions to repeat each day in a row to ensure that you remember them. You should repeat these questions until they become very qucick to do and take minimal effort. This will be a good indication for you to know when it has become an automatic process. Then in a tests or exam, you will be able to build on this knowledge and apply it to more difficult questions. 


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The Studyclix Team