Trailhead: Christof Kuhbandner, Alp Aslan, Kathrin Emmerdinger, and Kou Murayama. "Providing Extrinsic Reward for Test Performance Undermines Long-Term Memory Acquisition". Frontiers in Psychology (2016-02-01).

Listen. I will not belabor this point. (I would love to belabor this point, and I have, but I have also exercised the DEL button liberally so here we are.) The point is: optimizing your learning for an exam is trash.

But that's what much of your grades are based on, so you're kind of stuck, eh?

I'm not qualified to talk about grades anymore, anyway. When you're an undergraduate, grades have Meaning. They have outsized influence on the job you get or the graduate school you get into. Even if you think grades are trash, the odds are in favor of good grades. I think grades are often trash, but the odds—can't deny it, gotta have 'em.

But in my own life: I don't have much time for grades or performance management scores or any of the pseudo-objective measurements that we're regularly subjected to. It's not a tough stance I'm taking, it's just that I'm not interested. You can optimize your performance ("performance") for what gets the grade, and still not know how the thing you're doing works. An exam tests knowledge that can be easily packaged in an exam; performance management does the same, but for things that can be packaged in a PM form.

It's an incomplete model. There's more to life and work than what gets measured on an exam. Those scores are useful, and successful people can score high, but it's those with enough resilience to solve the problem—whatever the problem at hand happens to be—who are most valuable.

Don't confuse what's on the exam with what you need to know.

Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn't have the slightest idea what's really going on.

—Kurt Vonnegut. Cat's Cradle (1963).

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