Every point I lose on a test can be categorized into one (or more) of the following:

  • Careless miss: This is the most common, and includes arithmetic mistakes, misreading a well-composed question, or circling the wrong letter. The incidence quickly approaches zero with more time and practice (i.e. taking practice tests or doing homework), but can rarely be eradicated by simply studying. Of course, there’s the random occasion when a test question asks what you’ve studied exactly–then you just have to recite from memory
  • Compulsory miss: What? A term or concept appears on the test that I did not come across during lecture or whatever other means of preparation. For example, professors sometimes pull random concepts from the textbook (which aren’t covered in lecture), just to give those who read a little bonus. There are few fixes aside from doing all the reading, and these are often unavoidable also (hence compulsory).
  • Capacity miss: I could have sworn I’ve encountered this fact, concept or term somewhere–I even remember which lecture! But what it really means escapes me. This is when my memory fails. Reviewing lecture slides help immensely.
  • Conflict miss: Instead of forgetting something I’ve encountered, or not ever encountering the concept or fact at all, I simply learned it wrong. My understanding of the concept was wrong. Or I mixed up two different concepts that seemed similar. This is like careless mistakes, but instead of at recall-time, it’s at store-time.
  • Consistency miss: The lecture, test questions, or study material were inconsistent, confusing, or misleading. I can often detect them, but I can’t prevent them.
  • Clueless grader miss: The grader makes a mistake. Improving penmanship helps.

Some things can be addressed with practice (careless, capacity and conflict misses). Some things can be addressed with review (capacity and conflict). Some things require extra work (compulsory misses). Some things require vigilance (conflict and consistency misses).

But there are trade-offs with each. It’s a matter of where you are weakest, and how you are most effective.

What do you think? Did I cover all the basic ground with these categories? (You can tell I modeled this on the types of cache misses)