Change Your Answer Not Your Taste In Music

Picture this: You’re in college. It’s 9:00 in the morning. Your brain isn’t fully functioning just yet because your roommate had some friends over night. Perfect scapegoat. It has nothing to do with the fact that you were up until 4:00 in the morning reading what you should have read a month ago. As soon as this Red Bull kicks in, you’ll be good to go.

The Professor greets everybody with a “Good Morning” and a “Best of Luck” before he hands out the exam. “Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his sweater already, ma’s spaghetti.” That actually has nothing to do with anything; I’ve just always wanted to quote Eminem in one of my articles… forgive me.

After reading the first question on the test, the answer doesn’t immediately come to you. So you skip it; you have to ease yourself in. Now you’re glancing over the next few questions, hoping to find that quick one – one that can get the ball rolling, give you some momentum.

Oh, here’s the one. The brevity you’ve been looking for. You read it quickly. So quick that before you even finish reading the question in its entirety, you see the correct answer. Ahh…that feels good.

Go With Your Gut

Forty minutes later, you revisit the question you answered so quickly. Upon rereading the question, you second-guess yourself.

Should you switch?

“Of course not. Go with you gut! Never change your answer!”

How many times have you heard this? How many times, while you have been taking a test, have you run this advice through your head?

Well, I guess since I answered it this way initially, I can’t change it. I’m locked in.

Suck In Your Gut

Your gut sucks. Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it to you with an elementary question.

A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

When answered quickly, I’m assuming the automatic part of your brain was shouting “TEN CENTS!” Upon further review, the reflective part of your brain can figure out that the correct answer is actually FIVE CENTS! $1.05 + $.05 = $1.10.

If this question were on your test, would you have wanted to change your answer?

Remember Regret Aversion?

Remember when we talked about radio stations and regret aversion? That same idea is actually to blame for most test-takers being afraid to change their answer! Psychologists Justin Kruger and Derrick Wirtz studied this phenomenon – the idea that you shouldn’t change a doubted answer because “your first instinct is usually correct.”

What they found was that more often than not, student that changed their answer made the right move. Half the time the first answer was wrong and the second answer was correct and only in 25% of switches did student go from correct answer to incorrect answer.

Here is how they explain it:

“Kruger and colleagues showed that students felt the pain of switching to a wrong answer more than answering incorrectly and staying put. Such counterfactual thinking – aka – if only… thinking is more memorable for most people than a successful answer change, and thus a major contributor to regret aversion.


Don’t be afraid to question yourself. You’re not always going to be right initially, so think things through. It’s important to improve your test-taking skills before it’s too late.

College is important. These tests are important. Each question is important.

“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.”

Editor’s Note: That’s right peeps, only at My University Money will you get personal finance and academic advice to the straight beats of your favourite rap battlers.


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11 years ago

This article is itching for the Monty Hall Problem!

The MythBusters took on the Monty Hall problem this last season and proved that it is always better to change your answer.

11 years ago

Well if the Mythbusters proved it, then I am sold!

11 years ago

I don’t believe this. There’s no way the mythbusters thought of this before I did.

11 years ago

Pretty snazzy rap theme going in this post!

Interesting topic. I am used to the conventional wisdom of going with your original thought on a question but you got me with the ball and bat test question. Great post!

11 years ago

I agree with “go with your gut” feeling. When it comes to exam, my first response is correct 75% of the time. I tend to not stick with the first answer, because I doubt myself and like to choose a different one. Over the years I learned it’s all a matter of perspective.

I believe questioning yourself can be very healthy, but it can also paralyze you. With that said, I think looking for feedback about your decisions helps improve decision making.

11 years ago

We like to keep it fresh (or is it funky?) around here at My University HQ.

11 years ago

You’re so full of it! You’re telling me you have accurately logged every exam question you’ve changed and found your first answer is correct 75% of the time? I’m not buying it…

Instead I think you REMEMBER kicking yourself for switching better than you remember switching and answering correctly.

11 years ago
Reply to  funancials

What I meant to say is the times I did not stick with my first response are right majority of the time. I may not accurately logged every questions, but looking back at my old exams it looks that way. I probably may have exaggerated the percentage, but it was to prove my individual point; that I do not stick with my gut feelings when I should be trusting my first instinct a little more. I apologize if anybody was offended by anything I said.

11 years ago

A ball and a bat and BAM! There goes Pam!

11 years ago

feedback is huge. Remember how difficult taking pictures used to be when there wasn’t “feedback.”

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