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The Matrix Analogy - What Neo and Morpheus have to do with acing tests?

If you have not seen the movie Matrix – Please stop reading, go watch the movie and then come back. Your life is incomplete.

With that out of the way, let see what we can garner from treasure trove of wisdom that the movie Matrix is. I always tell my students that the student-tutor relationship is kind of like the relation between Morpheus and Neo. Like Morpheus, a tutor has to believe that his student (Neo) is the one (who can Ace the tests with proper guidance). He has to tell Neo about the ins and outs of the Matrix that modern day test taking is. He has to tell him what tricks it contains, how there are agents on every corner (you know the tough questions that every test taker is scared of…) and how Neo need not even dodge bullets once he achieves his full potential. But no matter how much Morpheus believes in Neo, how much Kung- Fu training (ahem….tutoring) he does with Neo – it is Neo who will have to beat the agent (take the test). Morpheus cannot do that for Neo. All he can do is train Neo as hard and as best as he can and tell him all he knows.

He always has to remember that “there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”. He can only show the path to Neo – Neo has to walk the path by himself.

In my opinion, the turning point in Matrix is when Neo starts believing himself. The progression of Neo from being scared of even jumping across buildings (being scared of even most simple questions just because they look tough to solve) to when he looks at the agent and decides to fight rather than run (you know what….. I am not going to be scared of the problem anymore, let me take a look at it and try to solve it before I assume that I cannot solve it at all). The turning point for my students has always been when they stop getting scared of questions and try to attack them no matter how difficult they appear to be.

You remember the scene in subway, when Neo looks at the exit, looks back the agent and decides to stay – that is the point which every test taker needs to seek. That is the point where the student starts to believe – and that is the point where matrix unravels before Neo’s belief and will. Morpheus can wax eloquent about Oracle’s predictions (diagnostic tests anyone), how limited agents are by the system (every test question as to be easy enough so that students can solve it within given time limits – generally less than 1 minute per question) and how Neo is only limited by what skill level he believes he is at – but when there is a choice between an agent and an exit – it is Neo who has believe and stay and fight. Morpheus cannot make that decision for Neo (Neo gets to take the test all by himself). The Path is Neo’s and only Neo’s to walk.

So next time, when you are taking a test and thinking how tough a question looks – remember Morpheus, Neo and that it is your decision to make – run to the exit or stay and fight the agent.