Gulp Limits

All students, whether they’re aware or not, have built in expectations as to what constitutes a ‘good’ mark. At StudySpot, we refer to these expectations as ‘gulp limits’, because results that fall under those limits make students’gulp’, whereas results above allow students to sleep peacefully. For example, a student might have a gulp limit of 70%. If that student obtains a mark at 70% or greater, the result doesn’t require much analysis or much attention. Nothing needs to change. But if that same student ends up with a 62%, it’s action time! The student might work harder on the next test, go in for extra help, pay more attention to their homework – whatever it takes to get those marks back up across the magic 70% threshold.

The problem, of course, is that gulp limits tend to be self-fulfilling. They’re rooted in our personal expectations of achievement, and human nature leads us to put in just enough effort so that we’re over our gulp limit. Very recently, a student came in and said point blank to the coach: “As long as I get a 70% on my math test, I’ll be happy.” Really? Why 70%? Why not 60%, or 80%? Why is 70% the key number? Not surprisingly, the student ended up with a 72%. Because the student needed to get a 70%, he did exactly what was necessary, and nothing more.

This begs the question: If that same student was somehow able to increase his gulp limit, would his actual results eventually improve along with it? We believe the answer is yes, and that’s why we encourage our students to ‘raise the bar’. Before discussing how a coach can try to accomplish this, let’s spend a minute talking about where gulp limits come from in the first place.

For most students, gulp limits stem from their previous educational history. Students who tend to get results in the 80% range normally have gulp limits to match. Students who see a lot of 65% results tend to have gulp limits consistent with those experiences. Students also derive their gulp limits from their parents who will get angry with grades below a certain threshold. Like students, parents have expectations and make those expectations abundantly clear. In truth, many high school students put in exactly the amount of effort required to keep their parents and their teachers (and their coaches!) off their back.

In part 2 of this topic, we’ll explore some ways to help students increase their gulp limits…


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