Using the process of elimination

You guys probably aren’t watching TV these days, i’m sure you’re all too busy studying 😉 For the few of you that do catch some of the box, you might have noticed a new show on channel 4 called ‘the million pound drop’.

In a nutshell, some not very bright contestants are given £1m in cash (in stacks). In front of them are four doors. They must answer a question and place all of the money over at least one door. If they get the question wrong the door opens, money falls down a hole and it’s game over. If they get a question right, they get to take the money thats hasn’t dropped in to the next round. Even if they don’t know the answer they can still retain some money to take on to the next question (8 questions in total).

million pound drop

Lets say they can eliminate two answers, but can’t decided amongst the other two. They can simply place place £500k over 1 door and £500k over another. So they’re guaranteed to lose £500k (there can only be one right answer) but they’re spreading the risk and playing it safe…. they know they’re also guaranteed £500k. And £500k guaranteed is much more attractive than a 50/50 £1m gamble (or at least it should be to most people!).

So anyway, that’s my roundabout way of introducing the ‘process of elimination’. It’s a very powerful tool. It usually won’t get you to the stage where you can find the right answer, but it will eliminate wrong answers and by doing that, you force your brain to think and make decisions. It increases the chances you might hit upon something which could trigger the right answer.

photo credit: kalleboo

Let’s take a non leaving cert example… a TV. It’s not working. Your job is to find the problem. What do you do?

Well, most of us don’t have a mental checklist of things to do at the ready… but when faced with that situation, we subconsciously make one. That’s our brain using elimination techniques automatically. We call upon all our knowledge about TVs and start getting creative with it. Is it plugged in? Yes? Is there a red light on? No? Press the button… still no red light? Is there power to other devices in the room? No? ……. ah ha…. we’ve found the problem… it’s a blown fuse or power cut.

So we started off with a problem that we didn’t know the answer to. We demonstrated our knowledge of the subject by showing we knew a TV had to be plugged in to work. It had to be on standby to too. It also needed electricity.

Now of course we know about electricity / power etc… so we did actually know what the answer was, we just had to direct ourselves to it using mental paths and signposts and recalling everything we know about ‘how TVs work’. But because we kept asking questions and thinking creatively, we eventually found the problem. The lesson here is not to give up when you don’t know answers. If you don’t know answers to questions, try searching for any related information, then eliminate it bit by bit. It might help, it might not, but it certainly beats giving up and walking out of the exam hall having left a compulsory question unanswered.

This sounds fitting for my new business venture :)
photo credit: @heylovedc

You probably know a hell of a lot about a subject but at the same time you don’t know how much you know until you get questioned. It’s only when you’re eliminating all that stuff that ISN’T the right answer, you begin to realize just how much you know.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably look at all questions when you first open the paper and then get distracted from the question you’re currently answering with information that comes to you related to other questions. That’s a good thing, not a negative thing… even though those distractions are of no use to you NOW (for the question you’re currently answering), let those thoughts and distractions run their course, just be sure to write them all down as you’ll probably be glad of them later on in the paper!

Eliminating things and filtering information is important not just to edge youself closer to the correct answer, but also to help dig up wrong answers which turn out to be of use for other questions.

If you think of a big slab of ice, your ice statue is already there in front of you… you just have to eliminate bits and pieces to create it. That’s easier said than done of course which is why elimination is a skill in itself. You need to know what to eliminate & why you’re eliminating it. To do that, you still require knowledge and understanding about a subject.

ghost girl ice sculpture
photo credit: superk8nyc

Leave a Reply