GED® Study Guide: Wrong Answers Help You Learn

By Rick Alfaro, Educator

Studying to get a GED certificate or another high school equivalency diploma can seem difficult. After all, most people who left school had some problems learning in traditional classrooms. But the ways that students have traditionally been expected to learn in school aren't always the best. By understanding how your brain learns, you can make your studying more effective.

Learning for HSE exams (the GED test, HiSET exam, or TASC test) is a self-driven activity, so test-takers need to take charge of their learning. Often, the only type of learning that a HSE student is familiar with is classroom learning, involving a lot of memorization of facts and dates and run by a teacher who directs what everyone should do. Studying on your own is different and more effective.

The HSE tests don't depend on memorization. They depend on understanding, and learning for understanding doesn't necessarily mean getting everything right. According to a recent study by Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays, and Robert Bjork at UCLA, making errors and mistakes as you learn can actually help you understand and remember. The results of this study showed that if students take hard tests or practice difficult questions and get the wrong answers, they learn better.

Trying and failing serves a purpose! Getting the wrong answer gets your attention and gives you incentive to learn. It shows you where you need to go. Understanding that a wrong answer isn't "bad" can help a lot. Many learners get frustrated with wrong answers, but think of a wrong answer as a learning tool, another step toward your certificate.

So, how can you use wrong answers as learning tools in your studying? When you're studying a topic, don't be afraid to test yourself, and don't be afraid of difficult questions. Give answering your best shot, and then, if you get the wrong answer, find out why. Getting the wrong answer will actually help you learn better.

Make sure your study materials include good answers to practice questions, answers that will help you learn after each wrong answer. That's a key to success, taking your wrong answers and turning them into learning. It's one of the cornerstones that GED Academy, HiSET Academy, and TASC Academy build into their online classes. If you look at the explanation of a question you've gotten wrong and don't really understand it, try going back and finding the answer in your study materials or online, or try talking to a teacher, tutor, friend, or family member who can help you understand. The wrong answer is your motivation, so use it as your jumping-off point for learning.

The study "Unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance subsequent learning" can be found here.

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GED® Study Guide: Wrong Answers Help You Learn by Rick Alfaro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United Stated License, redistribution of this article is allowed under the following terms outlined here.