Exam Study Strategy – Honesty! Honestly?

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Anatomy, Study Strategy | 6 comments

Today after answering a few reader questions, I was thinking about what attributes make a person a successful test taker.  Some of these attributes may strike you as pretty obvious.  A test taker needs to exhibit or spend the following things to be successful.

  • Time – to study
  • Effort – Not just reading and letting the words slip past your brain while you study
  • Intelligence – The ability to grasp complicated concepts

Throughout school I met plenty of people who had all three of these things and still did poorly on test day.



I’m talking about being honest with yourself.  This is a different kind of honesty than just always telling the truth to other people, because being honest with yourself can be quite hard.  Let me give you an example:

I spent a good deal of time covering levers. But levers are simple right?  FLE123, boom. Done. How can that be hard?

Well for many it might be that simple, but when I sat down with the practice exams and started getting lever questions wrong…I had to stop and think. I had just learned a lot of anatomy, and so I started to overthink things.  Instead of a biceps curl being a first class lever, I started thinking everything was a third class lever because I was arguing (with myself) that the applied effort was where the muscle inserted and thus, applied its force to the bone. So for a biceps curl I was arguing effort was on the forearm, load at the hand, and fulcrum at the elbow – making it a third class lever (E in the center, third class).

But it’s not where the effort is applied, it’s NOT where the insertion is.  The ‘E’ in effort stands for where the force is generated, in this case the belly of the biceps muscle. My first run in with this topic had me thinking it was easy for me, but I was glossing over some details that tripped me up later. I had to have the conversation with myself and hash out where I was confused, but in the end I understood it more completely than ever.

So be honest with yourself, don’t gloss over things and say “I got that” when you really don’t.


  1. A strategy that always worked well for me was:

    1. Don’t study
    2. Spend the night before drinking and playing video games
    3. Show up to the test slightly hungover
    4. Obliterate the test (this step is critical, and individual results may vary)
    5. ?????
    6. Profit

    • While this worked for you in engineering and physics, I do not think it works for the CSCS! Mainly because there are no classes that you can play bejeweled in and just absorb everything through osmosis…

  2. Hey Julian,
    I passed my CSCS today and your site was extremely helpful! I have passed this along to some of my friends that are starting the process of getting their CSCS. I have encouraged them to check this site out, and if you get the book going to purchase it. I really appreciate you taking the time to update this site. Take care.

    • Congrats Joe! Thanks for sharing, great job on your CSCS. Posts like this really keep me motivated =)

  3. Hey Julian,

    I just wanted to confirm that you’re saying a bicep curl is a 3rd class lever correct?


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