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Testing First exam results are back, and I need to up my game

  1. Sep 17, 2010 #1
    First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    I'm a freshman engineering major. I just got the scores back for my calc I and physics I tests today, and I got an 89 on both of them. I know that's a pretty good grade (above the class average), but it was the first test and will probably be the easiest. I didn't study until the day before for both of them.

    I'd like to get an A or A+ in both of the classes. Neither professor curves at all. I'd greatly appreciate it if some of you successful folks could share some studying tips...most of the information that's been thrown my way has been aimed at English and History majors regarding readings..

    Thanks. And it'd also help if I got some reinforcement of the idea that my scores aren't proving that I'm too dumb to ever do anything worthwhile. =/
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2010 #2
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    I usually make sure that I can work through every example that is in the textbook on my own. A lot of times, a professor will use an example from straight out of the book or use a slight variation of the example. Other than that, I use the first test of the semester to gauge how he/she asks questions and what kind of questions are asked.
  4. Sep 17, 2010 #3
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    Really? If you need that much validation after having already stated in the same paragraph that you both know you've got good marks and you didn't study until the day before then you're in trouble.

    Being spoon-fed congratulations after every test is a high school thing - you won't find it like that at university. The thing is, you know your marks were good. But you also you know you didn't bother studying until the day before - you must know that's bad. Whether you get a good grade in the tests or not, that isn't the only thing that matters. I'd wager there will be many people that achieved marks less than yours but have a better understanding of what the classes were actually about. As for trips: first of all, actually study. Keep up with material from your classes as it's being presented. Try to read over class notes within a couple of days of the class itself. Complete questions over-and-above the set course material, in the sciences you want to complete as many questions as you can.

    Test yourself by reading further in-depth in the subject matter, it will help verify whether or not you have a solid understanding of the material you've covered thusfar.
  5. Sep 17, 2010 #4
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    I guess I needed that, so thanks.

    I just need to buckle down and learn how to study. I'm not AS worried about getting good marks as learning the material, but I figure that for the most part the two go hand-in-hand.

    I just hope I don't get too burned out from studying. I love the concepts of what I can model with Physics, mainly space related, but I just have a hard time concentrating when the questions ask about the forces when two balls of clay collide and stick...I guess you have to learn the basics before you can do the fun stuff..
  6. Sep 17, 2010 #5
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    Back in grade school I usually failed or got a C on some first exams as I'm not sure how it will all be layed out or difficulty level and ace the rest of the tests. To study for math and physics, you need to do many many problems, as math and physics are there to solve problems. You cannot just memorize and expect an A like english or history. Critical thinking skills are more important.
  7. Sep 18, 2010 #6
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    In my early days I was held back by fear of failure. It wasn't until I accepted the possibility that my best might not be good enough that I was able to reveal my potential. You seem to be held back by the same type of mentality. You need to drop the self doubt. You need to commit yourself to doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals.

    Start studying a week before your next exam. First make a plan for success. Decide "If I can correctly do every problem from chapter 1 - 6 in less than 5 minutes each, then it will be nearly impossible to not get an A." Lock yourself in a room and do as many problems as you can. Do every relevant problem an absolute minimum of 5 times each. Keep track of how much time you spent studying. I would often spend 20 hours studying for a QM or Stat. Mech. exam.

    I would hear other students before the exam saying things like "I studied all morning for this exam, I hope I do well!" I would be thinking to myself, I have studied for the last 4 days for this exam, and I KNOW I will do well.
  8. Sep 18, 2010 #7
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    That is great advice Physicsab**. This is what I've started to do and it really does help. Finding a book with problem sets that are very difficult help too, and if you do a lot of these, then you know you can definitely kill the test. If the professor's tests are easy, you'll annihilate them. If the professor's tests are hard, well you've prepared with hard problems and you will probably do well, maybe you'll be the one to kill the curve. Regardless, it never hurts to try and find the most difficult problem sets to practice with.
  9. Sep 18, 2010 #8
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    Phyisab****, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think I've been kind of scared to see if I can actually do well, so by not adaquately preparing, I won't be able to find out. I know that that doesn't make much sense from a philosophical point of view, but I do believe I'm scared to find out my true potential.

    I will take your suggestions. My university has rooms in the library that we can use (sound proof), which I will make use of. I'll also try planning out my days so that I know how much time I'm going to study. Last test I didn't even work out every problem in the book...I will make sure to do every problem at least twice this time.

    I also might look up some books on psychology, to try to combat my low self esteem, since I think that is a factor in this situation...
  10. Sep 18, 2010 #9
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    You don't need to do anything with psychology. All you need to do is start studying a week before the exam for about 3 hours a day. At that rate, you will do extremely well in any class. Consistent flow of information is a good tactic for memorization, and the harder the problems you do the more intuition you build about them as well as gaining knowledge in regards to tactics on how to solve certain tricky problems.

    Once you find out how well this works, you won't even worry about grades anymore.
  11. Sep 18, 2010 #10
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"


    Are you sure this method leads to understanding rather than just memorization of the steps needed to solve a problem? I would much rather learn how and why a problem is solved than simply memorize how to do it. 3 hours a day seems like quite a lot, especially since I have three classes (chem, calc, and physics) whose tests conveniently line up in the same week. That's 9 hours a day, in addition to my classes and work for other classes.
  12. Sep 18, 2010 #11
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"


    I have 21 hours of classes per week and I manage at least two hours a day on my math and physics classes. When there are upcoming tests, I do a little more, and yes my exams do fall on the same week mostly. It does work. About your first question on simple rote memorization; no it isn't because if you pick your problem sets well enough and you don't stop till you've understood what you're doing, and only you know when that happens. To give you a clue, if you can look at a 'difficult' problem and know how to do the problem before you even write anything down with any values, then that's when you know you can do the problems. There is always a certain amount of memorization in studying, but I think the difference here is that you're not sitting there trying to memorize, you're sitting there trying to figure out how to do problems quickly and efficiently and in the process you end up memorizing some very useful tricks.

    I've just told you what I do. If 9 hours is too much for you, or you don't need 9 hours, then that's fine. I'll admit, I don't average 9 hours a day, I think 5 or 6 is more reasonable (it really depends, you can't always abide by a solid number all the time, sometimes you just have to figure out how much you know, need to learn, and just.. do it). I'm not sure how it is at your university, but our tests count for a large percentage of our grades so each one is important. I love the feeling of going into class on test day very confident because I've put in so much time into it. That always translates to good grades, and better yet, you really do know your stuff and it doesn't fade away easily (which is great because of those damn things called finals).
  13. Sep 18, 2010 #12
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    Okay, thanks for the explination. I only did 3-4 hours total for these tests (not including the mandatory homework), so I think I'll try the other end of the spectrum. Starting tomorrow I will spend 2 hours a day doing problems and studying for those 3 classes. That's 6 hours, which is manageable. Then, I may bump it up to 3 hours a day the 2 days before the tests.

    I'm glad that I posted this, since I got to see that others with a passion for physics do indeed spend time doing the problems. It's good motivation, and I hope that I can fall into a good habit this year.
  14. Sep 18, 2010 #13
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    Step 1. Decide what you want.
    Step 2. Get it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  15. Sep 18, 2010 #14
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    That's a good thing to note: habit. Of course, sometimes I don't even notice how long I spend on physics since it's fun to me. Other courses require a bit more motivation, but once you get into good habits you don't need to force yourself to do stuff.

    Also, sometimes it happens that because I've studied so much along the way, I don't ever need to do 'extra' studying for a test. I've only done those before the first tests of classes because I'm unsure of style, difficulty, etc. You'll soon find that you know everything.. and you don't even need to cram or kick it up a notch. As long as it's consistent, it's good.
  16. Sep 18, 2010 #15


    Staff: Mentor

    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    I agree with hadsed. IMHO, a lot of the stuff around self esteem is exactly backwards. High self esteem doesn't cause you to do well; doing well causes high self esteem.

    My two cents...
  17. Sep 19, 2010 #16
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    Alright, I made myself a nice schedule for every day until the day of the exams (for calc, physics, and chemistry). I'm doing about 2 sections a day, then on the 5th day I am reviewing everything I covered in the previous five days. The 3 days right before the exams are left open for solely review (even though the class is still learning new stuff).

    I took back the psych books to the library today..I often find myself wasting time reading stuff that's interesting but not completely relevant to what I need to focus on. I'll see how this schedule compares to the one before (not even reading along in the text book.) I plan on spending 1.5-2 hours per day on those 3 subjects, not including the assigned homework (which is due 3x a week and takes about 30 min, so 15 min extra a day for each class).
  18. Sep 19, 2010 #17
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    I'm sort of in the same position however I made a B on my first physics test (it was way above a class average of Ds but still).

    Everyone keeps saying to do as many problems as you can but I seem to be able to keep up with only doing assigned hw and maybe a few extra problems.

    The HW is usually 20-30 problems per chapter with a similar amount of conceptual type questions.

    I don't see how anybody has that kind of time. Maybe I'm too slow on these problems but speeding up requires more practice so that's a catch. Do you guys not sleep or something lol. Then again I do work about 20hrs a week and don't spend every waking moment doing physics. I do have other classes and a sane mind..

    Anyway good luck with your future studies, this was actually my distraction from studying for my second physics test.
  19. Sep 19, 2010 #18
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    'Then again I do work and have a sane mind..'

    Well there's your problem (your sanity that is)!!
  20. Sep 19, 2010 #19


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    Your experience mirrors my experience, when I hit my first 'real' physics classes. Find your low gears, slog it out. Remember it's fun :smile:!
  21. Sep 19, 2010 #20
    Re: First exam results are back, and I need to "up my game"

    I'm an EE major and I can't exactly say I like physics.

    However I'd rather be doing this than be taking something like sociology or psychology. Bad part is that classes I actually like this semester (calculus) I've been mostly ignoring because of the large workload of physics.
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