In any single class, the most negative thing you learned in school was not what you learned. To get good marks, it was learning.

The more I think about this problem, the more optimistic I get about it. This appears to be one of those cases in which we don’t know how much we have been held back by something until it’s eliminated. 

And I can imagine the whole bogus building crumbling down. Imagine what happens if more and more individuals start asking themselves whether by hacking bad tests they want to win, and conclude that they don’t.

Ambitious people.

Talent will be starved of the kinds of work where you win by hacking poor exams, and the kinds where you win by doing good work will see an influx of the most ambitious people.

And as the value of hacking bad tests shrinks, education will grow to avoid teaching us to do it. Imagine, if that happened, what the planet would look like.

This is not only a lesson for people to unlearn, but one for society to unlearn, and when we do, we will be surprised at the potential that is liberated.

Lesson for people to unlearn

[1] If it seems extremely utopian to use assessments just to assess learning, that is already the way things work at XYZ School. XYZ School has no grades.

Either you’re graduating or you’re not. At each point of the curriculum,

the only purpose of the tests is to determine if you can progress to the next one. So the entire school is really pass/fail in consequence.

[2] Hacking is multi-sensory. There’s a narrow context in which anything implies compromise. That is the sense in which a poor test is hacked.

But there’s another, more common sense, which means finding a surprising answer to a dilemma, mostly by thinking about it differently.

Hacking is a marvelous thing in this context. And yes, some of the hacks that people use on bad tests are impressively ingenious;

hacking is not so much the issue as that, since the tests are hackable, they don’t measure what they’re supposed to do.

[3] You could prepare for it by reading good books on medieval history if the final exam consisted of a long conversation with the professor.

A great deal of the hackability of school assessments is due to the fact that vast numbers of students have to be given the same exam.

[4] The misguided algorithm for achieving good grades is learning.

[5] People selecting start-ups at ABC Combinator are similar to admission officers, except that a very strong feedback loop prepares their approval requirements instead of being random.


In the other hand, you will usually know it within a year or two at the latest, and sometimes within a month, whether you consider a bad startup or dismiss a successful one.

[6] Admissions officers are tired of reading children’s applications that seem to have no character beyond being eager to appear, but they are expected to be admitted.

Moreover, what they don’t know is that they’re looking in a mirror, in a way. The inability of the applicants to be authentic represents the arbitrariness of the application process.

[7] I don’t mean morally good by good work, just good in the sense that a good sculptor does a good job.

[8] There are borderline instances in which it is difficult to tell which group a test falls under. Is raising venture capital, for instance,

like college admissions, or is it like selling to a client?

Good/Bad Research

[9] Remember that only one that is unsecure is a successful test. In the sense of working well, good here does not mean morally good, just good.

However, the distinction between poor and good research fields is not that the former are bad and the latter are good,

Most importantly, the former are fake and the latter are not. But it’s not unrelated to those two steps. The way from good to evil goes, as Tara Ploughman said,

[10] For those with start-up experience, people who argue that the recent increase in economic inequality has been due to changes in tax policy appear to be quite naive.

At present, different people are getting richer than they used to, and they’re getting a lot richer than they would be made of mere tax savings.

Hacking Bad Exam

[11] Tiger parents note: you might think you’re training your kids to win, but if you’re training them to win by hacking bad exams, you’re training them to win the last battle, like parents do too often.

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