The Difference between Fixed and Growth Mindsets

Read the passage and then answer all the questions which follow below. You are recommended to answer the questions in the order that they are set. 

Mistakes in spelling, punctuation, and grammar may be penalised in any part of the paper. 

Note: When a question asks you to answer in your own words, YOU MUST NOT COPY THE WORDS IN THE PASSAGE IN YOUR ANSWER.


(1) Praise is intricately connected to how students view their intelligence. Some students believe that their intellectual ability is a fixed trait. They have a certain amount of intelligence, and that’s that. Students with this fixed mind-set become excessively concerned about how smart they are, seeking tasks that will prove their intelligence and avoiding ones that might not. The desire to learn takes a backseat.

(2) Other students believe that their intellectual ability is something they can develop through effort and education. They do not necessarily believe that anyone can be an Einstein or a Mozart, but they do understand that even Einstein and Mozart had to put in years of effort to become who they were.

(3) When students believe that they can develop their intelligence, they focus on doing just that. Not worrying about how smart they will appear, they take on challenges and stick to them.

(4) More and more research in psychology and neuroscience supports the growth mind-set. We are discovering that the brain has more plasticity over time than we ever imagined; that fundamental aspects of intelligence can be enhanced through learning; and that dedication and persistence in the face of obstacles are key ingredients in outstanding achievement.

(5) Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ test, had a strong growth mind-set. He believed that education could transform the basic capacity to learn. Far from intending to measure fixed intelligence, he meant his test to be a tool for identifying students who were not profiting from the public school curriculum so that other courses of study could be devised to foster their intellectual growth.

(6) The fixed and growth mind-sets create two different psychological worlds. In the fixed mind-set, students care first and foremost about how they will be judged: smart or not smart. Repeatedly, students with this mind-set reject opportunities to learn if they might make mistakes. When they do make mistakes or reveal deficiency, rather than correct them, they try to hide them.

(7) They are also afraid of effort because effort makes them feel dumb. They believe that if you have the ability, you should not need effort, that ability should bring success all by itself. This is one of the worst beliefs that students can hold. It can cause many bright students to stop working in school when the curriculum becomes challenging.

(8) Finally, students in the fixed mind-set do not recover well from setbacks. When they hit a setback in school, they decrease their efforts and consider cheating. The idea of fixed intelligence does not offer them viable ways to improve.

(9) Let’s get inside the head of a student with a fixed mind-set as he sits in his classroom, confronted with algebra for the first time. Up until then, he has breezed through Mathematics. Even when he barely paid attention in class and skimped on his homework, he always got As. But this is different. It’s hard. The student feels anxious and thinks, “What if I’m not as good at Math as I thought? What if other kids understand it and I don’t?” At some level, he realizes that he has two choices: try hard, or turn off. His interest in math begins to wane, and his attention wanders. He tells himself, “Who cares about this stuff?” It’s for nerds. I could do it if I wanted to, but it’s so boring. You don’t see CEOs and sports stars solving for x and y.”

(10) By contrast, in the growth mindset, students care about learning. When they make a mistake or exhibit a deficiency, they correct it. For them, effort is a positive thing. It ignites their intelligence and causes it to grow. In the face of failures, these students escalate their efforts and look for new learning strategies.

(11) Let’s look at another student – one who has a growth mind-set – having her first encounter with algebra. She finds it new, hard, and confusing, unlike anything else she has ever learned. But she is determined to understand it. She listens to everything the teacher says, asks the teachers questions after class, and takes her textbook home and reads the chapter over twice. As she begins to get it, she feels exhilarated. A new world of Mathematics opens up to her.

Adapted from Educational Leadership October 2007, ‘The Perils and Promises of Praise’ by Carol Dweck 

( ) denotes Paragraph numberMarks are in [ ] boxes

  1. From (1), what does ‘takes a backseat’ (line 5-6) tell you about the students’ desire to learn? [1]
  2. From (2), why do you think the author listed ‘Einstein and Mozart’ as examples? [1]
  3. From (3), what does a student have to believe, to take on challenges and stick to them? [1]
  4.  From (4), write down a word in this paragraph to show that our thinking can be easily shaped or molded. [1]
  5. From (4), give one word or short phrase (of not more than seven words) which has the same meaning as “fundamental”. [1]
  6. From (5), when Alfred Binet invented the IQ test, what was he hoping to find out? [1]
  7. From (6), using your own words, explain fully the main reason why students would rather hide their mistakes than correct them? [2]
  8. From (8), give one word or short phrase (of not more than seven words) which has the same meaning as “viable” [1]
  9. From (9), Using your own words, explain fully what is a possible reaction when a person’s interest in Math begins to wane. [1]
  10. Summary

This passage shows the difference between those with fixed mind-sets and those with growth mind-sets. Using your own words as far as possible, summarise the difference between those with fixed and growth mind-sets.

Use the material in from Paragraphs 1 to 8.

Your summary, which must be in continuous writing (not note form), must not be longer than 150 words (not counting the words given to help you to begin). Begin your summary as followsThose with a fixed mind-set have become excessively concerned about … [25]


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