The Fallacy Of “Training To The Test”

I’ve been shooting a lot of standard courses of fire lately.

5×5, FBI Qual, Casino Drill, and others.

I’m trying to figure out airsoft times/distances that compare to live fire and which standards are even valuable to shoot with airsoft.

Drills like these are kind of fun, but are they a good reflection of your skill level?

It depends.

There’s a teaching methodology used in grade schools and high schools that use standardized testing. It’s called “Teaching to the Test.”

In “Teaching to the Test,” teachers are less interested in students learning real-world skills and more interested in racking up impressive numbers on the test…so they teach the material that they know will be on the test.

This is how we end up with kids doing awesome on the math portion of the ACT or SAT but not knowing how to make change.

It’s such a big problem that it’s sometimes even called “Cheating to the Test.”

Training to the test is a similar problem in the gun training world.

It’s my opinion that to be a meaningful assessment of skill, you shouldn’t practice a standard before you shoot it for score.

When you do, you don’t know whether your score is a result of your skill level or the result of familiarity with the test and being warmed up.

Ideally, shooting tests would reflect your cold performance…like what you need for self-defense or even for the first stage in a match.

Typically what we do is practice and train a variety of drills, and then you test the effectiveness of that training with a standardized course of fire.

How you perform cold is a much, much better indication of where you’re at as a shooter than how you perform warmed up.

You may not like how you perform cold vs. warmed up (I usually don’t) but that’s reality. And it’s much better to accept the cold bitterness of reality of training than in a situation where lives are on the line.

Shooting the same course of fire…over and over…will normally make you better at that course of fire, but it may not make you a better shooter if you’re fed a situation that’s different than the course of fire.

Shooting a plate rack is an example…

On a platerack, you shoot 6 plates in quick succession…monkey on the back is optional.

Once you get the timing of your gun down, and know the angles between plates, you can burn it down in a couple of seconds…but that speed and pre-defined transition angle doesn’t really carry over to anything other than shooting that size plate rack at that distance.

It’s ridiculously fun, but not ridiculously valuable. Training for the plate rack is training for the test.

When you decide NOT to train for the test, it can be humbling…especially when you’re comparing scores against shooters who WERE training for the test.

That’s not a bad thing…especially when it causes you to train smarter.

So, if you want to avoid training for the test and building skill that’s resilient and more likely to work in all situations, how do you do it?

Two of the keys are variety and high quality drills designed with real-world self-defense in mind.

Not grinding out the same couple of drills over and over until you do them on autopilot, but applying the fundamentals at a high level in a variety of situations.

It can be hard to come up with a variety of high-quality curated drills that don’t suck…but I can help you out with that with >THIS PACKAGE< that includes 50+ drills that you won’t find regurgitated ad-nauseam in every gun training book, article, and video you can find.

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  • Gene

    Reply Reply October 19, 2022

    I’m a teacher. Please consider what the test is measuring, as you alluded to in your commentary. If the test measures what we want students to know and be able to do, make change in your example, then teaching to the test is a good thing. If not, shooting plates, that may not be a good thing. Although I have not seen your drills, I expect you aim (pun intended) to teach fundamentals that apply to achieve success on any test. To your making change example that might be teaching the skill of counting up when subtracting because that skill applies in that instance as well as others.
    Thanks for considering this.

  • rod vanzeller

    Reply Reply October 18, 2022

    Why do you think that most cops don’t train?

    • Ox

      Reply Reply October 24, 2022

      Same reasons most gun owners don’t train…effort, time, cost, and an illusion of competency.

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