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Help! Tests are hell

  1. Oct 20, 2011 #1
    On the last two calc I tests I got a 92 and an 86, respectively. All entirely due to calculation errors, and I really don't know how to stop making them. Starting at about an hour before class and all the way through an exam, I get mind-numbing anxiety attacks. I feel like I'm completely rushing through every problem (15-20 questions in an hour), but somehow I end up being one of the last still working, even before I check my answers. It's unbelievably frustrating because I whiz through all the problem sets, I'm very active during group problem solving and class discussion (the professor has even noted this multiple times), but the course is entirely graded on tests.

    I just had a test today on chain rule, implicit differentiation, related rates, and log/inverse differentiation and I feel absolutely horrible about it. I did every problem because I knew how to set up every problem. I knew how to do all of the problems! At least, I think I did, maybe I really don't know the material. At this point I'm simply anticipating an okay grade for the test, but I really need to step it up. I'm making it a goal to get a 95 or better on the rest of the tests.

    I'm not sure where my problem might lie (anxiety? I'm certainly studying enough, and spend about 2-3 hours on exercises a day), so any suggestions at all would be most welcome.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 20, 2011 #2
    Computational errors on the exams is just one of those things that are very hard to fix. They usually happen (at least for me) if I'm trying to get through the algebra too quickly, like combining 3 or 4 steps into one. The only way I can see to fix this is to either go slowly and make sure every step is correct, but this may be obviously impractical because of time constraints on exams. The other way is to practice a lot so that you can get through the exam quickly and you'll have time to recheck your answers.
  4. Oct 21, 2011 #3
    As ahsanxr noted, if you're having this problem, don't do steps in your head. There's no way to quickly check your work, if you don't write it down. Write it out. If you forgot to change a sign, etc. it will be easier to recognize.

    I know this sounds old fashion, but a good meal the night before, a good night’s sleep, and a good breakfast in the morning makes a difference. Drop the caffeine the day before to give you a better shot at sleeping through the night. A refreshed mind thinks clearer and faster, IMO.
  5. Oct 21, 2011 #4
    On top of the good advice from the other posters, I would say to make sure you do NOTHING for at least 45min-1hr before the class. Not for that class or any class. Just relax. Anxiety, will blow a test in a heartbeat. I'm in calc2 and for our first test I studied up until the start of class, and yes I could do the problems backwards and forwards. But when the test came....I froze...I was second guessing myself...and just overall frazzled. I got an 84, and was pretty aggravated at myself. So for the next test I reviewed that morning, and then gave myself that break and walked into the class a lot more relaxed. I got a 95 on that test and then a 105 on the last test. So yeah, it helps a lot.
    Good luck man!
  6. Oct 21, 2011 #5
    Thanks very much for the advice. It's interesting because on problem sets I can converse with myself in my head about how to approach a problem, and it works very well for me. On the test that's just gone and I go on autopilot, and that certainly doesn't seem to work.

    I'll try all the night before stuff. I probably could've gotten more rest, and I was studying a lot of other stuff all the way up until I had to leave really. No caffeine and healthy eating the day before and the day of sounds like a good plan as well.
  7. Oct 21, 2011 #6
    I can see where your anxiety would come from, it is frustrating and does make you nervous. Grades are important, but you have to believe in yourself that you'll do good even though you think you wont. Even when you look at the first problem and don't know what to do, go on try your best.

    As for the annoying little mistakes, you need to stop combing multiple steps in your head (I do this too much too :p). A good example of when I screw up is when I take a limit, factor something, and multiply all in 1 step. Usually I end up with the wrong answer, but I'll notice it when I check over my test.
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