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Video – David McCullough on the Value of Education
by On September 11, 2009

Historian and Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough talks about the value of education.

He sites Milton Friedman, the famous economist, who said the most powerful motivating force is self-interest. He took this a step further and also said it is also our interest in our children and grandchildren. The overriding riding theme behind this thought is education.

Without education we cannot be a productive, innovative society that remains competitive in the global community.

Be Free and Keep Learning!

Studying without Feedback Increases Anxiety During Exams
by On October 28, 2008

By Robert Seiler of

How can you tell how effectively you’re studying?What I’m about to tell you can really turn your grades around if you can get your head around it. Don’t pass it off as something simple and perhaps not worth thinking about because I believe it’s one of the easiest ways to improve your grades if you bother to make it a part of how you study.

Before I tell you what it is I want to ask you a question. 

Let’s say there are two music students who want to learn the piano but one of them is unfortunately deaf. Which student do you think will be able to learn to play piano faster and better?

I don’t play piano but I would assume the deaf student would have a lot of difficulty learning to play at all. You may say that it’s obvious that if you can’t hear the notes you’re playing, you will have a lot of difficulty learning to play piano, but what’s this got to do with how you study for your exams?

Well… imagine that studying is like learning to play a piano, but, like the deaf music student who can’t hear how well they’re playing and don’t know they’re hitting all those wrong notes, you don’t know how well you’re studying.

Let’s take this a little further. If the deaf music student spent a whole year learning to play piano but wasn’t able to hear any of the music supposedly learnt during that time, how well do you think they would play in the concert at the end of the year compared to the student who had no hearing problem?

If you’re studying the whole year for those exams at the end of the year and you have no idea whether you’re actually learning anything (making music), then how are you going to feel when you go into the exam to perform for the examiners? Pretty nervous I would say. Perhaps a sick feeling in your stomach, or self talk like ‘I don’t know anything’ or ‘my mind has gone blank’ etc. Am I hitting a few familiar notes

In contrast, how would another student feel who knew for sure that they understood and remembered everything they’ve been studying during the year? How could this be possible you’re probably asking.

Let me explain… What’s the difference between the two students in each of the previous examples? In one word it’s called… FEEDBACK

When I was putting together my own personal study system, I came up with five different ways of learning. One of the most important of these was feedback. It’s one of the natural ways we learn, not just when we’re at school, college and university, but in all aspects of our lives, from our professional lives to playing sport.

Feedback is defined as the return of a portion of the output of any process or system, to the input.

In other words, it tells you how you’re going and is extremely important in learning. In a sport such as tennis for example, this return of output comes from a number of sources, some of which are:

-your tennis coach
-the scoreboard
-the spectators and
-your own observations of how you’re playing the game.

In music, eg playing the piano, you get instant feedback when you hear a wrong note. The importance of feedback in learning is obvious if you try to learn the piano with ear-plugs in your ears!

In the sport of study, when do we get a chance to obtain feedback… in the exam when it’s too late. I admit that some feedback is given in tutorials and assignments, but this only goes to show how important it is and that there should be more of it.

We need feedback for a number of reasons:

1. It gives us a way of measuring our progress.
2. It tells us whether were studying enough.
3. It convinces us of what we know which gives us confidence that we’re studying effectively.
4. It tells us what we don’t know, thus identifying areas which need more time spent on them and those
    which have already been learned and dont need more time wasted on them.
5. It helps us improve.
6. It gives us encouragement, satisfaction and motivation by allowing us to see the results of our efforts.

Feedback is extremely important when it comes to fear and anxiety which occur often before and during exams. They usually arise from the unknown, in this case not knowing what’s in the exam and also not knowing whether you have in fact learnt and remembered all the information necessary for the exam.

As for not knowing whether you’ve actually learnt and understood all your study material, any method you decide to use for studying effectively should continuously provide you with feedback on the effectiveness of your study. By reducing the unknown in this way, the fear and anxiety which accompany exams will be reduced, thus increasing confidence and performance.

Theres nothing more reinforcing when you study than knowing that you’ve learnt all the material that you’ve spent so much time trying to absorb.

Feedback has been described as the breakfast of champions. So whatever you do… make sure that the study system you use provides you with lots of feedback. Does your current study system drown you with feedback? If not, make sure you get one that does.

Article written by Robert Seiler of

Robert Seiler is a graduate of two Australian universities.  After a failure in his first degree, he developed his own study system which he used in his second degree with spectacular results. He won a scholarship, was awarded a university prize for best performance in a final year subject, managed As in his subjects, and received a degree with honours. Learn how he did it at

Your Answer Reflex – How it can Help Durning Exams
by On October 21, 2008

By Robert Seiler of

Have you ever touched a hot iron and then pulled your hand away really quickly to avoid getting burned? Did you have to think to yourself, “Gee! – this iron is hot – I better not touch it any longer because it’ll probably cause a really bad burn on my hand.”  The answer is obviously NO!  You wouldn’t have had any time to think about what you should do and pulling your hand away is automatic.

It’s what we call a ‘reflex’ action. It doesn’t involve much, if any, thinking because by the time you think about it, it’s too late.

Let’s lighten up a little and investigate another situation where reflexes are important but a little thinking is involved. If you’ve ever played tennis, or most other ball sports, you’ll know that it’s important to think quickly because the ball can move very fast. However, if you just stand there and think for too long, the moment is over, the ball moves past you, and you’ve lost the point. The reflex was too slow.

The reason you practice so much in tennis, or any other sport, is to train your reflexes to the point where you almost don’t have to think at all. When your opponent serves to you at over 100 kph you react in a millisecond and hit the ball back for a winner. Your brain virtually has no time to think about what you’ll do. It happens automatically.

Now you’re probably saying ‘what does this have to do with getting A’s in my exams?’

Imagine that when someone hits a ball to you in a game of tennis, it’s like being asked a question in the exam. Returning the ball is like giving an answer. Someone hitting the ball to you, or asking you a
question in the exam, is called a stimulus. Returning the ball, or answering the exam question, is called a response.

What do we normally call the combination of a stimulus and a response? It’s called a reflex. A reflex is the response to a stimulus. In the example of the hot iron, the incredible heat is the stimulus and pulling your hand away really quickly is the response. In this case the reflex doesn’t have to be trained at all because the body is already programmed to react to protect itself from injury.

Some reflexes however have to be learned before they become automatic. That’s why we practice our sports so much – to train our reflexes to minimize the amount of thinking we have to do. There is so little time to think.

In exams, the same situation exists. You have a limited time (several hours) to respond (give answers) to lots of stimuli (exam questions). I invented the term ‘question / answer reflex’ to describe this situation. Once again, as in our previous examples, if you take too long to respond to the stimulus (answer the question) then you’ll probably fail at what you’re doing.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to train the ‘question / answer reflex’ so you could react much faster in the exam? Whenever a question is asked, you react at lightning speed with the answer, almost like touching a hot iron and pulling your hand away. As soon as a question is fired at you in the exam, your mental reflexes are so well trained that your answer responds immediately. You hardly even have to think.  All the thinking has already been done in your pre-exam training and your answer is virtually automatic!

Doesn’t it also make sense if information in exams is expected to ‘come out’ in a question / answer format, that it should ‘go in’ in much the same way? Would you train for a tennis match by hitting a baseball with a bat? Then why do students train for exams by highlighting and underlining notes? Wouldn’t it make more sense to train for exams using the same system you use in the exam ie questions and answers?

Now go and work on your ‘question / answer reflex’.

Article written by Robert Seiler of

Robert Seiler is a graduate of two Australian universities.  After a failure in his first degree, he developed his own study system which he used in his second degree with spectacular results. He won a scholarship, was awarded a university prize for best performance in a final year subject, managed As in his subjects, and received a degree with honours. Learn how he did it at

Make Mistakes when Studying
by On October 14, 2008

By Robert Seiler of

One of the most effective ways of learning naturally is by making mistakes. I’m sure you’ve heard people say that we learn by making mistakes.How many times have you also heard people say “don’t make mistakes”? Lots of times I bet.

In tennis, and any sport, mistakes and correcting them, is called practice. You know immediately whether you’ve made a mistake in tennis when the ball goes out of court, and you try to correct that mistake the next time. This is called ‘learning how to play tennis’.

In other words, learning is simply a process of making mistakes, finding out what you don’t know, and correcting. By the time you get to Wimbledon you would have made heaps of mistakes, but you’ll be a very good tennis player.

So, do you agree that the process of learning involves making mistakes? In the sport of studying for exams, when do we get the opportunity to make mistakes? Yes! In the exam when its too late. We even get punished for those mistakes by having marks deducted. Usually, we don’t even get a chance to learn from the mistakes we made in the exam because we don’t often have our exam papers handed back to us so we can see what mistakes we made!

This quote by Robert Kiyosaki, well known author and accelerated learning expert, sums it up very nicely: “Our education system teaches riding a bicycle by lecturing on the subject for fifty hours, giving a written test, and then punishing the student for falling off.”

In other words were not given the opportunity to make mistakes, and to learn from them. I decided that my study system should let me make as many mistakes as necessary and not be punished. If we consider making mistakes as learning experiences, then I’d have a study system, which practices the art of learning from mistakes.

Mistakes tell you that you don’t know something that you need to find out. If you have any doubts about how important making mistakes is in learning, you just have to look at the animal kingdom. You’ll find lots of examples of young animals making mistakes and learning from the experience.

So, instead of mistakes being punished and suppressed, they should be encouraged. Does your study system allow you to learn from making mistakes? If not, you should modify it so you can benefit from this very useful and effective learning technique.

Article written by Robert Seiler of

Robert Seiler is a graduate of two Australian universities.  After a failure in his first degree, he developed his own study system which he used in his second degree with spectacular results. He won a scholarship, was awarded a university prize for best performance in a final year subject, managed As in his subjects, and received a degree with honours. Learn how he did it at