Win The Test

For students who want top scores on Math and Science exams (even if it's a struggle now), Win The Test is the tiny book that cracks the code of high performance.

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We’ve all met THAT student: the one who leaves the test early and gets the highest grade.

Were students like that just born smarter? I sure thought so ... until the day I accidentally became one! After failing an engineering midterm, I completely changed my strategy. Two months later, I walked out of that class's 3-hour final after just 40 minutes—with a 98%!

You don’t get those results studying the way most people do. Sadly, by just trying to pass, most of us accidentally practice losing, not winning.

Worse, by cramming before and forgetting everything afterward, we throw away the superpowers we might have had for life. Powers that could open doors and change the world.

I'm Kev Polk and I've been helping people win the testing game since 1982.

Win The Test is the complete system I used to help myself and others end our losing streaks and start winning every test. I break down the habits, practices and especially the emotional mindsets you'll need to turn your results around. I give real-world, step-by-step strategies that were battle-tested across four decades. And I keep it short. You can read the whole book in an hour, go back later and practice any skill you need, and get on with your day.

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Book Overview

You need basic study skills, of course, and I cover those in Chapters 1 through 3. But to do well in quantitative courses, you need special strategies that most study advice ignores. I cover those strategies in detail in Chapters 4 through 8.

Why is it so hard to find good advice on acing quantitative exams? Three reasons:
  1. Most study advice was written by writers, not scientists and engineers. Writers may know how to fly through an English Authors test, but most of them were probably nervous wrecks in Math.
  2. Studying like a Literature major is absolutely the wrong way to get good at math and science. For example, a Lit major must spend most of their time reading and re-reading. Do that in Math or Science, and you'll go down in flames!
  3. When you prepare the way I show you, the skills become so natural and effortless that it can be hard to explain them in words. That's why the best mathematicians and scientists are often so terrible at teaching! But with Win The Test, you'll have the skills, and you'll know exactly how to share them if you want.

As a special treat, Chapter 9 delves into practices that most professors frown on. These not only give you an edge during the test, they're all you need to keep your skills for life (almost nobody knows this, but these "forbidden" practices can make you literally 120× more productive than your peers in the workplace).

No pressure, but the world needs more smart people. Yes, I'm talking about you! If you have the passion to make your life count, it's time to step up. It's time to start winning. It's time to Win The Test , so you can unlock your potential, keep your skills forever and make the biggest possible difference.

Win The Test

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Why You Must Win

Why testing is a sport. Why you must win, not just pass. How to overcome imposter syntrome and feel like you deserve to succeed. How to raise your standardized test scores. How to go from failing to becoming “that student” who leaves the exam early with the top score. Why the top schools are actually more affordable than average schools—when you win.

Chapter 2: Solid Study Skills

Rate your study habits so you can take them to the next level. The four main study skills and the twenty top habits you'll need to win. The fun way to build focus, logic and empathy every week. Why the best study habit is also the best life habit (not enough of us do this).

Chapter 3: Top Test Taking Tactics

Rate your testing skills in five key areas. How to gather your own resources to win any standardized test, so you don't have to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on a specialized prep course.

Chapter 4: Practice > Study

How to use your study time to become so skilled that it's almost like someone else is doing the work for you.

Chapter 5: How to Solve a Problem

The five essential steps, with tips on how to organize your work and make the most of your strengths—and those of your study group.

Chapter 6: Practice Winning, Not Losing

Why most students practice losing when they study (and how to practice winning instead). How to shift your identity from super dumb in a subject to super smart using embodied cognition, visualization and neuroplasticity. Why you need to celebrate your mistakes.

Chapter 7: How to Design Your Practice Tests

How often you should take a practice test. How much time to spend on it. How many questions to include. How to plan your studies so you never have to cram for a test (and why you’ll rest easy and confident the night before).

Chapter 8: Your Victory Calendar

How to know when you're winning those practice tests. How to track your victories and boost your confidence.

Chapter 9: Analyze Mistakes with RIMS

Why you'll welcome every mistake in practice from now on. The four types of mistake you can make on a test. How to find patterns in your mistakes and unlock giant breakthroughs. How to multiply this effect with visualization.

Chapter 10: Forbidden Practices

How three study practices that professors sneer at can give you an unfair advantage. Where to find the best practice problems and practice tests. How to memorize equations and numbers. How these practices immerse you in a subject, boosting your performance, creativity, and ability to connect different concepts.

Chapter 11: How to Get Your Brain Back

How to recover when your brain crashes on a test. Why feeling “nervous” before a test is a good thing. Dealing with negative thoughts and physical jitters.

Chapter 12: Your Victory Plan

What to do, step-by-step, to win any test using this system. How to figure out what's going to be on the test. How to practice for a test that requires a calculator. How to avoid surprises on test day. Why this system works even when life derails some of your efforts.

Chapter 13: How to Keep Your Skills Forever

How just two hours of Forbidden Practice per month can keep all of your college skills sharp for life. How to plan, organize and schedule these practices around life events so you don't lose your hard-won skills. Why this tiny amount of sustained effort will move you to the front of the line for the most prestigious jobs on the planet!

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Who Should Read Win The Test?

How to use this book

First, buy it! You'll have immediate access online, and you can download it to your computer, phone or e-reader.

Download the included optional Study Guide, too. It has fill-in worksheets to reinforce the main points of the book. Plus, you get all the assignments and checklists, so you don't have to write them down.

Read the book! It's just 80 tiny pages, so you can easily read it in one sitting, or one chapter a week if you prefer. I keep it fast-paced so I don't waste your time. Just follow along with your Study Guide. Do the assignments—they're short and fun! Get up and take a break before moving on. As you start applying the techniques in the book, re-read those chapters a few times to catch the finer points and lock in your knowledge for life.

About the author

Kev Polk organized his first test-taking seminar in 1982 and graduated Princeton University with an Astrophysics degree in 1987. He has taught elementary school, middle school, high school and college. He went from failing to 99.7% on a major standardized test in 50 days, and helped countless others make massive improvements in even less time.

Kev also worked in space exploration, partnering with NASA on two Mars missions. In this capacity, he appeared on CNN, the BBC and hundreds of live venues. He has won awards in writing, speaking, app design and community design, and hosts the Edenicity podcast.

Locked down during the pandemic, he decided to share his hard-won knowledge about winning STEM tests. So he chased the kids and cats out of the basement, grabbed his iPad, and recorded a series of videos that later became this book.

Still not sure?

You obviously want great test scores in math and science. So what's getting in the way of trying Win The Test? For most people, it boils down to one of 5 things:

1. I can't afford it.

That's legit. In public middle or high school, the banquet of human knowledge is free. But not after you graduate! College books and tuition cost thousands of dollars. If you don't get great grades, you'll just be throwing that money away. That's why the best time to learn how to Win The Test is now!

Listen, test prep is a giant industry. If you have thousands of dollars and a ton of time, Kaplan courses are great. The problem is, they only handle the big, standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, GRE and so on. They don't do anything for the classes you'll be taking. And grades matter! Win The Test gives you the power to build your own Victory Plan for every math and science test you ever take, standardized or not.

You won't find this information even in courses that cost thousands of dollars. My family has been begging me to at least charge hundreds of dollars for this material. But I was a broke student once. So I'm offering it as a simple $10 eBook.

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2. I've never been good at math.

I know how you feel. I felt the same way when I had to repeat middle school math—twice! People usually give up when that happens. They never stop to realize that the reasoning parts of our brains are still physically developing in our teens. What's hard in 8th grade can become super-easy by 10th grade or college. But most people never try again, so they never know. In my case, I really wanted it, so I stuck with it and won. You can, too. I'll show you how.

3. I feel my identity is unwelcome in STEM.

Bias is real, and it hurts. But the world needs the diversity you could bring to STEM. Your uniqueness will open up new insights that would not be obvious to most practitioners. I've observed this first-hand among the hundreds of school groups I've met as a science outreach educator. For example, the kids at a South Central Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club asked asked better questions about Mars than any college class ever did. Then we built robot cars. Their designs were awesome! A 12 year old Black girl built one completely unique, record-breaking car after another with astonishing speed. Then there the were the famished rural Appalachian kids I taught in Southeast Ohio. Some had an amazing knowledge of wild plants. Others a knack for motors and electronics. Rest assured, your identity can be your greatest career asset in STEM.

It's also possible to use identity-based adversity to gain a psychological edge. My friend Andrea, arguably Princeton's brightest math student in three centuries, endured a lot of trash talk about "girls in math" from male peers. My friend Eric, now a Dean of Arts and Sciences at a big state college, endured thoughless racial slurs from faculty. In both cases, I saw how they used these painful moments for motivation. Josh Waitzkin expands on this concept in his book The Art Of Learning (see the reading list). And with Win The Test, you'll have a proven strategy to turn motivation into high performance.

4. Maybe I can figure this out on my own.

I agree—you absolutely can and will, if you never give up no matter how painful the setbacks you encounter. I failed midterm after midterm for years before I got a clue. It took a toll on my grades, my confidence, even my health. I read every study skills book I could find, books that were vetted by top publishers, and it only helped a tiny amount. By contrast, Win The Test draws on 40 years of experience in human performance in fields as diverse as space exploration, rescue diving, world-class software and teaching. I've poured thousands of hours and thousands of dollars into this quest. Now I have a system that gets consistent results. Sure, you can spend years figuring it out on your own. Or you can skip the suffering, get the complete system, and get it handled now.

5. Why isn't this free on YouTube?

YouTube is too watered down. It favors channels that publish a lot of videos. To be seen widely, most YouTubers have to spread their content over dozens or even hundreds of episodes. And frankly, most of the study advice online is packed with pretty faces spouting the same useless filler I read 40 years ago. If you want to wade through dozens of hours of worn-out phrases like "you gotta focus," I'm sure you'll find a few good tips. But if your time is valuable, I encourage you to ditch the fluff and get Win The Test.

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