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Frustration of not knowing how to do a question but others do

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Hi all.
I am a little bit frustrated after my mid-term test today.
Perhaps it is the worst performance I have in my undergraduate study.
Partly because I have not studied for some part of the exam. (I did not intend to skip it but I heard firmly that it won't be tested from the professor, but somehow others revised for it and it was tested).
But the most important point is that, I happened to be unable to solve a question but someone in my class did it!
I have been a top student in my class and I thought that I will be the one to solve the most difficult question that others cant solve.
But I just fail to do so yesterday.
That is not a particularly "extremely" difficult question but somehow I just cant figure out the solution at that moment. I just got idea how to do it after reading a reference book after the test.
Ah...so I am feeling quite bad now, feeling a incompetence compared to that classmate.

I am going to graduate school after I graduate. In my mind, it is for really top students who can always tackle the difficult problems. So, I am feeling that....am I really deserve to be in graduate school? Perhaps that guy is more suitable than I do. Ah...

I know I have got a really low emotional quotient or adverse quotient? Um....I just write to express here. Anyone got similar experience or got something to share?


Answers and Replies

you shouldn't compare yourself to other people.
Don't worry, it happens all the time. And you'll do fine in grad school. I have talked to several grad students about their experiences and they said they are NOT expected to know everything or be geniuses. Just regular students like you and me, who love what they are studying and are willing to put in a lot of work.
You should absolutely compare yourself to other people. Competition is almost always positive motivation, and if that wasn't part of your personality, you'd already know it by now.

With that in mind, there's more than one graduate student position in the world, and statistically half of them have to be worse than the other, so there's no point in worrying. If you're good enough for grad school then that's how it will play out.
If you were smart enough to solve all the problems in the world you would be out celebrating your Nobel Prize, not posting here.
Vanadium 50
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As others said, you shouldn't be concerned about how well others are doing. My concern would not be that someone else got a problem you didn't - it would be that you didn't know how to do a problem the professor thought you should know, and that after the exam, you still don't know. That suggests that you didn't learn something that your professor thought you should have. The successful student would spend his or her time taking the hint and learning this, not worrying so much about how much other people learned.
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
There comes a time in everyone's academic career that they realise they are not the brightest student in their class anymore. It seems like you've encountered that in this test. This is not a problem; there are two ways you can go: you can either sit around and mope that you're not the best anymore, or you can can just accept it, get on with your studies, and try and learn things from those that are smarter than you!
Well, i think even though the other classmate got the question right,
You gained more then he ever could, you learned. Mistakes are essential for learning, its not just a saying, and i mean, making the mistake in a test, can only grind the mistake into your head more, and in the end make you remember the right way to do it next time better.
Dr. Courtney
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I got a 32% on the mid-term in my mathematical methods class Sophomore year. It was the lowest grade in the class.

Accomplishment in Physics is proportional to effort integrated over time. Do not be discouraged if you occasionally blow a test. I always kept going, simply making sound decisions about what I needed to do differently after a poor result.

There were many test problems that I could not solve over my years in school. By hard work and God's grace, I did well enough to make As in most of my classes and I was offered financial support for graduate school at Stanford, Princeton, and MIT even though I was probably not the best student in most of my physics classes.

It's great to aspire to be the best student in every class you take. But consistently earning the lowest A in the class is probably good enough. :^)

I always learned more from the problems I missed on tests than from the problems I got right. Maybe that's how I got to be so smart!

Michael Courtney
As a teacher I see even the very best students get stuck on something that someone with a low grade gets without effort. It happens all the time, you really need to not look at outliers, and look at your overall trend/history for success instead.

As a student I've had classes that I didn't get and others just got it, but overall I feel that I learned a great deal from my education. You just have to look at the big picture.
Homework Helper
Cheer up

Legend has it the even Lars Onsager could not do all the problems in _A Course of Modern Analysis_ by E. T. Whittaker and G. N. Watson. The most important problems are those no one has solved. Every person ever has an infinite number of problems they will never be able to solve, Don't worry about those.

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