Many people have repeated the phrase “practice makes perfect” so much that they end up neglecting the how and the what of practice. This leaves them trudging on with unstructured practicing while reassuring themselves that “practice makes perfect.”
Does practice make perfect? Perhaps it is more accurate to say that practice makes permanent.
Because of a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity, when we practice an action or skill repeatedly in a way focused towards improvement, this leads to habituation. Through practice, our brains become conditioned to perform an action more adequately, and success becomes habitual.
Understanding this can help to shift the focus in our practicing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that success is simply correlative to the amount of time a person devotes to practicing. This mentality can obscure the focus away from the how and the what of practice.
Although this is nothing new to what wise people have always known, we now have scientific studies to back it up. In March 2014, Psychology Today published an article titled “Neuroscientists Discover How Practice Makes Perfect: the cerebellum perfects skills by correcting unexpected errors.” The article details the science behind “muscle memory” and how our muscles can recognize the difference between a correct action and an incorrect action.
“Purkinje cells are the neurons that coordinate all the movements of the body. Climbing fibers are the neurons that provide feedback when there is an error or unexpected sensation. Together Purkinje cells and climbing fibers work in harmony to fine-tune motor control.”
When you perform an action you have two neurons working together to hone that action towards perfection, explained the researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University that were cited in the Psychology Today article. Focusing primarily on how Purkinje and climbing fibers work together in regards to movement, they found that our bodies will recognize when an action is done incorrectly if the action is proven incorrect by an unwanted outcome.
Our brains, therefore, are being conditioned to perfect the task at hand. Think of something that took you massive amounts of practice to master, whether learning to play the violin or to speak a foreign language. In the case of the violin, recognizing a sour note allows you to discover where your fingers belong on the strings and what amount of pressure to give the bow and at which angle.
Since you might not be practicing for a violin recital, what does this mean for your EPPP test prep?
Of course, practice, practice, practice. But more importantly, practice right. In the context of your EPPP practice, your incorrect outcome might show up in the form of a failing score in your practice exams. As with practicing the violin, however, each time you correct your mistake, you are actually rewiring your brain towards success.
Since we recognize that practicing right is more important than practicing long hours, at TSM we offer you a personalized study method based on our initial assessment of your learning style and where you are in your studies. From there we provide you with daily sessions. All you have to do is get into the habit of completing your daily work routine.
In earlier blog posts we have touched on the theme of conditioning your brain through correct practice. One post, “The Myth of the Good Memory: how memory is a skill not a gift” debunks the myth of a “good memory” and shows that ability to retain content comes down to how we train our brains. Another post, “You may be Spending Too Much Time on EPPP Study Materials“, shares evidence on the dangers of overworking during EPPP test prep and how to maximize your study time for optimal success. The common thread running through all these articles is that success is determined, not by long hours of practice alone, but how and what you study.
- The Myth of the Good Memory: how memory is a skill not a gift
- You may be Spending Too Much Time on EPPP Study Materials