Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Testing Intuition and Intuiting the Test

Hey everyone,

So Day 3 of studying for the MAT next Tuesday continues.  I received a surprise gift from someone to help me prepare for the Miller Analogies Test, a 100-page synopsis of the topics most commonly tested on the MAT.  This study guide has helped me cut down my study time tremendously, and gave me an opportunity to play-around, so to speak.  

Today I decided to take another MAT practice test, but this time if I was uncertain about an answer to a question, I'd go with my very first instinct, the answer that "popped out" at me, my intuition.  Now, the "I" word means different things to different people, so I'll clarify that I'm talking about the kind of intuition that can be described as nonlinear intelligence capable of making flashes insights without consciously thinking about the data.  I'm not talking about psychic intuition, per se--that's a topic for later down the road.  I'm talking about times when the brain puts the disjointed pieces of information together faster than your logical step-by-step mind can. 

In any event, of the 100 problems on my practice test, I had to resort to intuition on 22 of them.  Of those 22 intuitive or gut-reaction replies, 17 were right and 5 were wrong.  That makes my intuitive ability--at least for general knowledge presented in a multiple-choice format of four options--a little over 77% accurate.  That's pretty interesting to me.  I take it to mean that the recesses of my mind (and by extension, human minds in general) have an awareness of much more information than the conscious part does.  If I was just totally guessing, then I should have only gotten 25% of those questions right (you have four options, you have to pick one, ergo 1/4=25%), but my intuition was over 3 times better than guessing, and I'm sure yours is as well, if not better.

I have to be honest, I didn't figure I'd be turning the MAT into a game of intuition, but that is exactly what it was for me.  At least the problems that I didn't know the answer to were.  I look forward to testing my intuition again, and seeing if I can make it even more accurate.  I can tell you that of the 22 intuitive guesses, there were a couple where I second-guessed, and both were costly mistakes.

Intuition is rarely offered as a test-taking cool, but I think it is a wonderful adjunct to the more formal test-taking strategies.  Sometimes it's worth guessing, but if my personal experience is any indication, the "guess" may be a little less wild ass than we think. 

I certainly wouldn't use my intuition as the primary test-taking strategy for the MAT or similar tests.  Afterall, while my intuitive guessing was 17/22 (77%), my accessible knowledge and know-how was 67/78 (86%). So in my case, formally acquired knowledge trumps intuition when going head-to-head.

Of course there are times when my conscious mind will truly lack the knowledge to solve the given-problem.  In those cases, I think it's great to have a well-honed backup brain-skill.

That's about all for me today.

Until next time,

Nathan (Nth)


  1. 77% isn't bad compared to 86%, but I doubt they're independent variables...

  2. I doubt they're independent as well. Ogi Oggas may provide some insight.

  3. Hi Nathan,

    Just started reading your blog. You've got some great thoughts and brain-training strategies! I just started reading Mortimer Adler's "How to Read a Book", which might be a nice complement to your eyeQ course, but focused on the higher rather than the lower levels of reading. (In other words, it addresses this question: When you do want to slow down your reading for maximum comprehension, what should you be thinking about?)

    Would you consider making available the 100-page synopsis of common MAT subjects you mentioned in this post? I'm considering taking the test and would be most grateful for the help.

  4. Hey Daniel,

    Glad you enjoy my thoughts! Thank you for the suggestion. I'll buy that book for my Kindle this Friday.

    Let me ask the person who sent that to me if I have his permission to share it. If so, then I will post it as a doc or something.

  5. I'm scheduling my MAT test soon too. I would also be forever grateful for the 100-page synopsis. Thanks!

  6. Hi Nathan,
    I too am taking the MAT very, very soon and would love to use the 100-page synopsis. By any chance, did you get permission to share it? Thank you so much!