Mistakes Can Be The Key To Success With The Firefighter Promotional Exam Process

Struggling through your firefighter promotional exam prep can be hard to process as you begin your journey to being a leader in the fire service.  Well, making mistakes while you study is actually not a bad thing, in fact it could actually be incredibly beneficial for your overall memory. 

Learning Through Your Mistakes

No one wants to make mistakes. It is something that in most American schools is frowned upon and looked down on as you move your way through school. There is a pressure to always be right in our education system that leads to many students, and later, adults being afraid of making mistakes. However, making mistakes and errors while learning is a crucial part of the learning process. The time that someone spends struggling to find an answer is valuable. It allows a person to seek an answer on their own and problem solve for themselves. In a way, making mistakes even helps teach students how to learn for themselves rather than always just expecting to be given the correct answers over and over anytime a mistake is made and not having to work for it. Mistakes are an important part of the learning process and should not be seen as a bad thing as you begin to study for your firefighter promotional written exam. 

The Hypercorrection Effect Explained

Have you ever been so confident with something and then found out you were in fact incorrect. Well I bet you will never make that same mistake again. This is called the hypercorrection effect. The more confident you are in your error, meaning the more confident you are that your answer is truly right when it is actually wrong, the more effective the impact and learning the new correct answer will be. The more you try, the more you give, the more you learn. 

Just making a random guess on a study question and then being given the correct answer is not super beneficial to your learning and memory and will not have the same effect on your memory. However, making an educated guess and actually putting effort into giving a correct answer, even if you are still unsure, is more likely to allow you to remember the actual answer come test day. Learning from your errors is only possible if, after you make the error, you discover the correct answer and actually process the new and correct answer. You must have the epiphany, the ah ha moment, that we all experience when we realize “oh ya, this really isn’t the answer, it’s that instead.” 

What Happens in Your Brain When You Make a Mistake

When you have made a mistake, the “medial frontal areas that prominently include the anterior cingulate—an area related to surprise, error detection, and attention—were differentially activated.” The activation of this portion of the brain supports the idea that the surprise factor, in your wrong answer, has a huge impact on your memory of the correct answer once that realization takes place. Making a mistake on something you had high confidence in can make a person feel surprised and even embarrassed, especially if they expressed their confidence in their answer to others. This emotional reaction or response to having the incorrect answer is what helps you remember it better the next time. 

Importance of Pre-Testing

This is why testing yourself is such an effective study technique. When taking an online practice test, using your own self made practice test, flashcards, or being quizzed by others, you give an answer that you are most confident in and are given immediate feedback to whether it was right or wrong. If your answer is wrong you are allowed time to have the epiphany moment with every question you answer. Just ensure, when you make your own quizzes or if you study alone most often, that the information you have is solid and correct and that you aren’t studying inaccurate information. That is one extra benefit of online practice tests, you know the answer is going to be right every time. 

The Takeaway

Struggling with your study material while you are studying for your firefighter promotional exam can be so frustrating and demotivating. Just remember that the more you struggle the more you will remember and retain in the long run. Doing difficult things usually leads to the most rewarding outcome.