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Frustration in grad school

  1. Apr 1, 2007 #1
    I need some feedback.

    Our professor in Algebriac Structures just administered our 1st exam last week. We have covered 7 sections in the book and the amount of material is just daunting. All of the proofs, plus the notes, plus the homework.

    Before the exam, he listed off the things that he was going to focus on in the exam. I did my study for the exam based on what he said to focus on. (proofs to know, types of problems)
    The exam wasn't what he told us it would be...not at all.
    I was thinking about dropping the class because I've never done so poorly on an exam (67). I'm not sure if I should approach him with this, and if I did, I don't know what to say.
    Our homework is supposed to count for 75 total points, but every time I try to hand it in he says he doesn't want it. He didn't give back the homework he took up in week 3 and he told another student he couldn't find it.

    Should I say anything at all?
    How should I handle this?

    Needless to say, I am a little intimidated by him and I don't want to make the situation worse.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 1, 2007 #2


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    Oh man, I had a professor like that. It's brutal. It's pure chaos.

    I'm not really sure what you should do. I would say don't take his word ever again.

    Note: Atleast mine didn't lie about what he's testing you on. He did throw a spin or two, but you'd still get 70-80% based on what he said.
  4. Apr 1, 2007 #3
    you should learn a lesson that you should not true your professor totally. You need to know everything to get an A.
  5. Apr 2, 2007 #4
    Studying only what the professor tells you to study is a sign of a weak student.

    Raise above and learn everything...
  6. Apr 2, 2007 #5


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    Um... I 100% disagree.
  7. Apr 2, 2007 #6
    rrrrrrrrrright. <insert sarcasm here>
  8. Apr 2, 2007 #7
    I don't know what is the system in your place of studies, but when I was a student, should such a thing happen, all the affected (and also the unaffected ones) would put a complain all together with the professor. If that didn't work, we put the case for revision by the department of physics (or maths/science in your case), since that is an irregular behavior and I think completely unethical, since not everyone is being given the same opportunities and all of you get damaged on your scores (that will be valuable for postgraduate studies). Under no point of view seems that to be something you just can let pass.

    It's true that it's very good, adviceable and necessary that you study more than what it is asked for in class, but when they put limits on the topics to be covered on a test/quiz, that's something to be kept as unchangeable, unless the professor and all the students come into a common decision of modification, with enough time for the preparation of any additional material, if any.

    However, "learning everything" is just impossible, since you can almost always find a hidden branch, another application, specially when you get into more advanced courses, like Mathematical Methods for Physics, to put an arbitrary example. Or sometimes finding "the top" when you can say it's enough it's not visible. Don't panic, that's why topics must be defined for the quizes.

    The rules are the rules. If they are capable of make a student fail a course immediately if they find him/her cheating, sure it is that "teacher cheating", failing to follow the established rules for the course, discrimination or any kind of damage not followed by a good enough compensation must be faced as soon as possible, or all of you can suffer a lot, get bad grades or/and even fail unjustly.

    It would be good that at the beggining of a new course a printed copy of the rules and a syllabus (at least tentative) be given to all of the students so there are no future misunderstandings, problems, etc.

    Remember, it's your effort (and do your best!) so don't let them undermine it.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2007
  9. Apr 2, 2007 #8


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    How is your relationship with your faculty advisor? I'd talk to him/her about this class and these problems with the test and the homework. Your advisor should be able to tell you what your best options are, and if they're plugged into the overall faculty situation, they might be able to tell you if this professor is considered a problem by other faculty as well.
  10. Apr 2, 2007 #9


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    I agree with berkeman. I don't know about the situation where you go to uni, but over here in the UK all students have personal tutors. I get on pretty well with mine, and always go and "annoy" him asking for advice, so that's who I'd go to. I imagine that the person berkeman is talking about holds a similar position.
  11. Apr 2, 2007 #10


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    Exactly. At many US universities, undergrad students are assigned a faculty advisor (a professor in the student's major department). If you don't hit it off with the default professor assigned to you initially, you can request a change which is usually granted. I changed once, at about my junior year, in order to get a professor whom I took a lot of my EE classes with. He was pretty helpful a few times in helping me choose classes and such.

    If I'd had the OP's type of problem with another professor, I could have gone to my advisor professor in a low-key way to discuss my alternatives. :smile:
  12. Apr 3, 2007 #11


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    I think this is a brilliant teaching technique. Pit the students against the evil professor. My read - the professor is encouraging the class to collaborate and earn the trust of one another. This is a very practical skill that will serve you well in the future.
  13. Apr 3, 2007 #12


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    happyg1 don't let one failure/incident upset you.... you do what you do because you love it not because of the marks in exams. Ultimately, it is not marks but what you know will give you satisfaction. Not all professors are good teachers and not all good teachers are good researchers .... you win some and you lose some, that's life. Most importantly, you must make sure that you stay on the correct track that will ultimately lead you to where you want. ie. you must look ahead and not look back
  14. Apr 3, 2007 #13


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    I highly doubt this is the intention of the professor. In fact, I know it is not.
  15. Apr 4, 2007 #14
    I'm surprised nobody has suggested this, but go to his office and ask him what you can do to better prepare for the tests. Tell him you studied for what was going to be on there and still didn't do well, but do it in a nice way, and ask him for suggestions on studying for the next test.

    This does two things, it "might" actually help you study more efficiently, and it certainly let's him know you are trying. Most importantly it's a way of implicitly suggesting to him that his test did not reflect what he said was going to be on there, and it does this without any confrontation, and without you actually saying it.

    Just curious but, how did everyone else do on the test?

    Another suggestion. I don't know how you are studying, but it's a good idea to do every single problem(at least the problems that look like "good" test questions) in your book, prove all the theorems, and grab related problems from like say a schaums or another text.

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2007
  16. Apr 5, 2007 #15


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    i am sorry but i have difficulty believing you have given an objective version of the situation. it is so extremely unlikely that your version is correct that it is almost unbelievable.

    sociopathic professors exist but they are rather uncommon.

    therefore i conclude, not that you are not truthful, but more likely that you are totally clueless at determining what your professor expects from you, and that your communication level with him is zero.

    hence you should definitely go and talk to him, and present your concerns and your questions, as politely and clearly as possible.

    you might present the scenarios suggested here, e.g that he really expects you to know "everything" (not at all unreasonable, thank you), and see if he admits this.

    But if he repeats the outrageous behavior you have alleged so far, then he is a hopeless case and you should probably get out. if you make some progress at talking to each other, you may get through this.

    but take a trusted and objective friend with you to compare notes with afterwards, if he/she agrees with you, then you may have more faith in your interpretation, in spite of my disbelief.
    good luck.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2007
  17. Apr 5, 2007 #16


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    ... professors that do nothing to advance the interest of undergrads or graduate students do exist and they are rather "annoying".... one of our officemate's supervisor is such a breed. he can *never* be found outside class during any reasonable office hours. Apparently, he comes in and work during times when there is no one around... Good Friday, Christmas day and other national holidays are the best time to find him... although he often pretends he is not around. He also never turn up to seminars/talks.. and there is no such thing as "group meeting" for his students. In fact, he does nothing more than sign the papers for his grad students. Most of the publications produced by his students are *without* his name on it... apparently he hardly had any input!! when it comes to undergraduate teaching, he just doesn't know what "teaching" means.

    in the light of these, it makes one to wonder why he is a faculty member and take so many classes, and students. well, that's a long story... older faculty ppl in the department are simply "unmovable"..... as some of us may know that the politics in the older days was quite different, and once you have been around for a while, you have quite a bit of influence around the place.... besides, university hire these people mainly for research and teaching is just a side job...(as we all know)
  18. Apr 6, 2007 #17
    If you've failed, but barely talked to the professor, then how will you know how to turn around your studies? Go to his office hours. Tell him your difficulties.

    One of the best pieces of advice a professor gave me was to "write my own exam." He said something to the effect of, if you've been attending the class and doing the homework, you should have a good idea of what you're going to face on the exam, so study that. Even in the most daunting of courses, you can get a really good sense of the "flavor" of the course. That will help you to know what the prof thinks the important points of the course are.

    Then he put us together in homework groups. I think he figured that if we all combined our ideas about what was important in the course, we could cover a large chunk of the material from the course between us.

    So, go talk to the prof, form a study group with everyone else if you haven't already, and try writing your own exam.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2007
  19. Apr 17, 2007 #18
    Thanks everyone for your input here. I have NEVER been in a situation like this before. I found out that the highest grade on the exam was a 73,(I made a 67...) So I didn't do so bad. I also found out that our prof. just got tenure last semester, and lots of folks are sying that he's not trying anymore...dunno about that.... I DID go talk to him about this and he seems to not remember telling us to know the 6 proofs...regarding the HW, still hasn't graded or returned any of it (we have 3 classes left before our final exam). He told me not to worry and everything will be fine..although HOW to redeem my D grade still remains a mystery. My GRAD advisor just had a baby and she's (naturally) preoccupied with the new soft, cute little one, and also says "don't worry...it's FINE"...with no other explanation.
    The other Grads in the class with me feel the same and we have (almost) all said SOMETHING to either the professor or the advisor and nothing has changed at all. We await the last test, which will be the week before finals, and then the final the following week (no class in between).

    We have covered ch3-ch6 in herstein. Galois theory alone is a huge thing.

    We hope he'll narrow things down a little more accurately this time. I understand the general theory, but LORDY!!! SO MUCH MATERIAL!!.... SO MANY PROOFS!


    I guess I need to "know everything"?

    It makes me SO tired and am not enjoying this class at all.

    Our class meets Tuesday from 6:15PM-8:45PM. His office hours are M-TUES-WED 8AM-8:45AM. I have waited for him early on Tues, but he doesn't get there until 6:15PM, so no discussion time.
    Obviously this is a problem for anyone (like me) that works during the day.
    I have e-mailed him and received no responses. I asked him in class if he got my e-mail and he said he hasn't checked it this week. Dunno what's up with the man.

    Last edited: Apr 17, 2007
  20. Apr 17, 2007 #19


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    well....life is full of ups and downs... and that's what make life interesting..... no matter what you do.....just take it easy ....... we don't wanna see another Virginia Tech incident......
  21. Apr 18, 2007 #20
    It's professors like these that infuriate me and make me want to become one myself and show them how the job should be done!
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