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As you know I am crazy about the Japanese abacus (soroban). I have to undergo speed tests to progress from one level to the next.

At yesterday’s International Soroban Competition, where I was the guest speaker, I learned that, at age 75, I have progressed from elementary to the 7th Kyu (it goes elementary, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 …) faster than any past student of Abacus Maths. Here’s how I monitor and motivate my progress while practicing. It’s called a scattergram. I plot my time on the horizontal axis and my score on the vertical. For simplicity, I enter the time as a decimal, so 28min 54 seconds gets entered as 28.5


Notice that every dummy test is numbered so that I can track my progress towards my goal which is to consistently score 95% + in 25 minutes (the exam time is 30 minutes).

I also change colour every 10 attempts to further highlight my progress (or otherwise).

The target area starts with pale pink – a reasonable expectation of scoring 90% – 94%.

Grey – a reasonable expectation of scoring my target 95%+ with no time to spare.

Green – exam ready. i.e. a reasonable expectation of scoring 95%+ with 5 minutes to spare to allow for nerves, chokes and other misshaps.

The arrows are for further motivation. I am writing this at the beginning of October and the exam is on 9 November. My first priority is time (i.e. to get any reasonable score within 25 minutes, that’s the blue outlined box) and then score – to improve the score to the target area. I was planning to be down to 25 minutes by the end of September scoring 75% – 89%. Instead I’m scoring higher but in longer time, which is dangerous.

I haven’t shown the entire history, which started on 3 June. I had just passed my Level 7 test with a score of 98.5% and the following day started practicing for Level 6. At my first attempt I scored 85% in 58.3 minutes! This morning (purple number 72) I scored 90% in 28.3 minutes, an improvement of 5% and 30 minutes, which back in June did not seem possible. I believe that without the scattergram, I would still be way off target.

Derek Springett, CEO of HArbour & AssociatesNeed expert advice about becoming financially successful?

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