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Keeping an Error Log on the Praxis Core

Some folks studying for the three Praxis Core exams find the standards of these tests challenging.  Some folks are non-native speakers, so all verbal questions are challenging for these folks.  Other folks haven’t looked at math in several years, and so anything mathematical is intimidating.  If you feel you have a lot of ground to cover in getting yourself ready for the Praxis Core, this is the post for you.

Even if you are already relatively confident about how you will perform on Praxis Core, I would still caution you.  The ancient Chinese sage Laozi wrote: “The one who thinks everything is easy will end by finding everything difficult.  The Sage, who regards everything as difficulty, meets with no difficulties in the end” (Daodejing, §63).  In other words, there is a deep wisdom to bring the best of one’s self even to seemingly easy tasks.

One habit that can help a student advance significantly in her learning is keeping an error log.

 

An error log

An error log may be kept either in a notebook or on a computer file.  Each time you practice questions, you will get some right and some wrong.  The purpose of an error log is to record every single mistake you make in every problem you get wrong in every practice session.  It should include (1) the reference for the problem (page number or URL); (2) a brief summary of the problem (if you are doing it on the computer, you can copy & paste the problem); (3) the correct answer and the answer you put; (4) a detailed explanation of the mistake you made—what you overlooked, what you forgot, what you never knew, what you misunderstood; (5) a detailed explanation of why the answer you wrote was wrong; (6) an explanation of why the right answer is right.  This is potentially a paragraph or so for each question you get wrong.

Part of the role of an error log is to track your mistakes.  if you start to see patterns (e.g. “I always have problems with this topic”) then you can focus your efforts on where you need to strengthen your performance.
This is less appreciated, but a good deal of the learning simply happens in the doing itself.  Suppose the problem is a math problem.  When I do the problem, and then look at the solutions, I am using the parts of my brain that do math.  Now, if I have to explain in words why the wrong answer is wrong or why the right answer is right, I have to use the words part of my brain, a very different part.  If I have to write this in a journal or type this into a computer, then I am also using the part of my brain controls the motions of my hands.  When you regularly build these cross-connections in your brain, using multiple parts of the brain in the learning process, you will understand more deeply and remember more thoroughly.

 

A high standard

One mark of an exceptional student is never to make the same mistake twice.  It is very hard to abide by that lofty standard, but even making the effort to strive for it galvanizes the learning process.  Without an error log, you would never know if you were making the same mistake over and over!

Doing an error log takes a lot of work.  It is a very thorough way to guarantee deep learning.  It’s important to appreciate: this is not merely a test preparation skill, although it is that too.  It is also a character-building skill.  If you think of keeping an error log simply as a gimmick you have to use to get the score you need on the Praxis, then you are underestimating it.  Think of it as an investment in the kind of person who eventually will stand before children as an example of what it is to be a human being—ultimately, that’s what a teacher is!  A wise man once said: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Think of bringing the very best of yourself in your Praxis preparation as practice for bringing the very best of yourself to your students each day throughout your career.  Your students will deserve no less.

 

Summary

If you feel you really need to make progress in some area of your Praxis preparation, keeping an error log can work wonders for your learning rate.  If you have experience with keeping an error log that you would like to share, please let us know in the comments section.

 

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