Basic Skills

How often, as adults, do we get tests of our skills?

I’m not necessarily talking about the things we do for a living, though as a writer I get my English tested every time I chat with a copy editor friend of mine. (Thanks, Sarah.) I’ve also played Brain Age and Big Brain Academy. The nice thing about those games is it doesn’t feel like you’re stretching your brain while you play.

But since Sarah moved to Germany, I no longer get to IM her constantly when I have a grammar question or ten. English grammar really isn’t that easy. Sure, there are other sites I can go to that will tell me where to use a semi-colon or how to spell a word.

Some of those sites even offer quizzes, but while it keeps your skills up it doesn’t exactly offer a baseline on knowledge. It’d be the same answers if you took it tomorrow, so how else do we make it random?

I started wondering because, since I tutor, I’m taking the practice exam to be ready to help a couple students through it. It’s definitely an odd feeling to be re-taking it after all these years. I wonder if it will correctly identify how well I’ll do my first year of college now…

Yeah, I doubt it, too.

“Use it or lose it” is a common phrase. So if we don’t use that wonderful knowledge we used to know, it’s gone, right? Kind of? I always heard the half-life of knowledge is four years. [Provided you don’t use the skills.] So, after four years, you know half as much as you did. After eight years, you know a quarter. After twelve years, you’re down to one-eighth.

No wonder I recall very little French. I studied that sixteen years ago, and it really doesn’t come up often. Chemistry, on the other hand, I have studied more recently, plus I get to tutor the subject. A lot of it is now close to the forefront of my mind.

Does it help me write? I’m not sure. But an active mind keeps thinking, and my mind turns it into creative something-or-other.

I’m still on the lookout for more things to soak up, knowledge-wise. Stay tuned for more random knowledge-builders. (And don’t be afraid to link some for me in the comments.)