Lesson No. 3: Training Your Brain for Competitive Testing


Successful athletes not only build a regimen for competitive performance, they explore their own organic approach to competitive performance. Competitive testing is no different. 

The first question any sprinter should ask is with which leg will I lead? To figure this out, stand up straight and jump forward as if starting to run. Do this a few times. The leg that jumps forward first and more often is your lead leg. Often, right-handed sprinters will lead with their left leg. But not always. 

The first question any competitive tester should ask is which of my intelligences are more dominant and how can I strengthen my weaker intelligences so to support the stronger? The first step is understanding a little more about the way your brain functions and how lateralization plays a part.



“In the mid-1800’s, Paul Broca proposed the classic hemispheric dominance theory that particular characteristics were associated with each side of the brain.  Initially, researchers believed the left side of the brain had the higher faculties and was more dominant.  By the late 1800’s, John Jackson was questioning the left brain dominant theory.  He considered the right brain to be the “neglected hemisphere”.  During the early 1900’s Wilder Penfield pioneered the use of direct electrical stimulation on certain areas of the brains during surgery. Brain theory research made tremendous strides during the 1950’s when Roger Sperry at the California Institute of Technology was able to sever the corpus callosum, the nerve fibers between the two cerebral hemispheres, and study each of the hemispheres in isolation.  His split-brain theory research, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1981, established that the two hemispheres of the brain process information differently.  Individuals do not learn with only one hemisphere, but there may be a preference for one or the other processing strategies. Characteristics of the left hemisphere include verbal, sequential, and analytical abilities.  Dominant functions of the right hemisphere are global, holistic, and visual-spatial” (Cortland.edu).

In 2013, neuroscientists at the University of Utah found evidence beyond the right brain, left brain research; however, they did also find evidence to support lateralization:

“It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain. Language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But people don’t tend to have a stronger left- or right-sided brain network. It seems to be determined more connection by connection, ” said Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study, which is formally titled “An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging.” Read More

The following 30 second brain test works on the idea of right-brain, left-brain dominance. Though the dominance hypothesis has been debunked, you can learn a little about your language and attentional dominances:

Left Brain Right Brain Test

Which of the Following Annotation Style(s) Do You Use Most When Reading?

What did your 30 second brain test show you? Are you left dominant, right dominant or equal? If you are left dominant, research says your language talents are stronger than your attentional talents. If you are right dominant, research suggests that your attentional talents are stronger than your language talents. Remember, both sides of your brain are working together. Your job, now, is to help them work even better together. 

How you notate as you read is a primary skill when testing. It is a way to quickly jump into new material with an easy and confidence-building focus. (In the next lesson, we will discuss concrete strategies on how to make detail notating simple.) It is essential that you explore your organic needs and strengths in reading notation. Let’s start by looking at some basic approaches that anyone can use in any testing situation that involves paper and a pencil or pen. Look at the following excerpts taken from an SAT essay test sample and determine which of them work best for you visually.


MIT: Tooling and Studying: Effective Reading and Note-Taking

The following guidelines on effective note-taking while reading come from the Massachusettes Institute of Technology (MIT).



  • Genre matters: reading strategies will vary depending on what type of publication you’re reading. Here, we will be addressing academic materials, including textbooks, academic articles, presentations, and more, but not including novels, poems, and visual content.
  • Must I read every word? No – the goal of reading and note-taking are grasping key concepts; there will doubtlessly be less significant information contained therein. Follow the below steps to determine what you should read closely and what might be peripheral.



  • Consult your [writing prompt] for the breadth of reading assignment. Aim to concentrate on the [prompt] assigned [as you read].
  • Get an overview… read the summary and conclusions first for a big-picture view… Be sure to make note of the main topics, as you will want to build more elaborate notes on these while you read the piece.
  • Make note of section titles. Chapters and articles will be broken down by content or theme; make note of these. Again, build more elaborate notes on these while you read the piece….



  • Big ideas: what main ideas are reflected in the introduction, conclusion, and [writing prompt]? Be sure to [underline or circle] all relevant details of the big ideas in the text as you read the entire piece.
  • Follow visual cues: main ideas will often be bolded, italicized, bulleted, set in different font sizes, color, and/or spacing. Additionally, illustrations, figures, tables, charts, diagrams, and the corresponding captions elaborate on key ideas. Use these to determine the significance of concepts, and to take notes accordingly.
  • What’s repeated: concepts, formulas, facts, and processes mentioned more than once in the piece are likely significant.