Winners Think Probabilistically

If you’ve ever made a split-second cost-benefit decision, you’ve thought probabilistically.

Everyone possesses this capability: a car fails to stop for you at the crosswalk and you look to see who’s driving, make a calculation as to whether the driver is capable of harming you, and only then craft your reaction to the slight accordingly (yell something? pretend it didn’t happen?).

Those who think probabilistically get a bonus on the ARE; those who don’t think probabilistically pay a tax in the form of extra division fails. 

If you’ve asked “how many hours do I need to study to pass this exam?” you’ve failed to think probabilistically.

This line of thinking is akin to asking “How often do I need to wear my seatbelt to ensure I don’t die in a collision?” because in practice, every hour studying gets you a higher likelihood of passing, approaching, but not ever reaching 100%.

There is no magic threshold, no fixed number of hours, beyond which, you will pass this exam division. The probabilistic thinker knows to schedule the exam just when they begin to feel comfortable with most of the material.

They recognize that a fail on the division doesn’t necessarily mean that they scheduled the exam too early, and that they can retake the division.

The test-taker who fails to think probabilistically waits until they’re comfortable will almost all the material, then schedules the division for a date six weeks off, unwittingly increasing the chances that content learned at the beginning of the study process will be long-forgotten by test day.

Likewise, when encountering a multiple-choice question in a timed ARE test, those who think probabilistically demonstrate comfort in selecting the option that they think is the best answer, then moving onto the next test item.

They can always go back later if there is time. No obsessing over whether another answer is also plausible for the probabilistic thinker, because they know that many of these questions have multiple plausible answers, but (typically) only one best answer.

Those who fail to think probabilistically play the lottery weekly, buy expensive cars, pay off their low-interest student loans before paying off their high-interest loans, and  believe in conspiracies. . . or are more likely to believe in conspiracies.

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