Lesson from Boxing: Exam Success Through Purposeful Practice

One of the weapons that Mike Tyson brought in to the ring was the “right hook to the body”/”right uppercut to the head.”  This youtube clip is two minutes of Tyson ripping into people.

Look at the speed. Look at the precision. He hammers the best boxers in the world. They’ve all seen the tape. They know what Tyson can do.  Tyson does it anyway.


First, he chose a combination that works against good fighters. Not a cheap shot that works only on chumps. Due to the length of the forearm, the human body cannot block a hook to the body and an uppercut to the head at the same time on the same side. Fortunately, most people can’t punch with their right hand twice at the same time.

Which brings up step two.  He practiced the motion over and over again so he could strike twice with powerful shots in rapid succession. His body knew what to do through repeated, purposeful practice. He practiced shifting his weight.  He practiced keeping his left hand up so he wouldn’t get knocked out himself.  He practiced quickness.

Third, he worked in the ring to practice forcing the opportunity of the combination.  You’ll notice that the combination is useless unless Tyson is inside his opponents reach.   He practiced his footwork in the ring to create the situation where the combination would be effective.

When you study, first, learn the right way to do the problems.  Don’t learn bush-league short cuts that work only on easy problems.  Learn the fundamental principles of the problems you will see.

Second, own them.  Practice those fundamentals to the point that doing the problems are instinctive. Practice setting up the problems.  Practice executing the calculator steps. Practice checking your work.

Third, learn creative ways to use each fundamental principle.  The SOA does not always write questions where the method of solution is obvious. Be able to take a problem you have never seen and turn it into something you know how to do.

This recipe worked for Mike Tyson and will work for you.


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