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Help with an awkward situation

  1. Dec 11, 2011 #1
    I wrote my differential equations exam Friday, and have since found myself in an awkward position. My school is small, so engineering physics and math all share the same class, and this year we had a really strong class. I was pulling along in the mid-70's, but that was due to a very bad quiz at the beginning of the year I thought the exam would replace.

    However, the professor's exam this year...it was unexpected. All of the coursework we'd done and the quizzes he'd shown us weren't particularly computationally intensive. The exams from previous years were light, I wrote both of them, neither took me much more than 2 hours and judging by the solutions I could ace them. This final was pretty balls-to-the-wall for 3 hours, however, with a few integrals that I would've taken a sheet of paper to solve without having to work out variation of parameters to get there. Most of the students were pretty upset with the final, and the professor probably overheard some colourful language when people were discussing it.

    The professor is generally very popular(perhaps not right now), and a friendly guy. Does anyone have relevant experience on how to handle this situation?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2011 #2


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    I'm sorry, but I'm not quite seeing what's awkward in this situation.

    Was it because the exam was unexpectedly awful? It happens. I'm pretty sure my ODE exam was like that for me. Take the mark you get, and from it a lesson - sh*t happens. Perhaps if the entire cohort did badly, you'll get scaled.

    Is it because the professor overheard the winging? If he's taught for a while, he's probably heard worse, and I doubt he's crying into his coffee over it.

    What exactly needs handling here? If you're worried about your marks, go and speak to him, you may have done better than you think.
  4. Dec 11, 2011 #3
    Well, as I said before, we've got an unusually strong class, partially since this was the first year that this course was offered first and second semester. The math and physics honours students are all taking it first semester to use it as a pre-req for courses, so there's about 7 of the 20ish students who generally get safely 85+ in all their math courses (at least I do, and I've already gone through most of the "difficult" upper level courses, this is usually considered to be the easiest one). The class average will probably be in the 65-70 range, which is generally about right, it just wouldn't make sense considering who is in the class.

    I've been told a few times that the department doesn't make exams harder or easier to superficially get the "right" class average, they try to keep the consistency in the difficulty, whether that means a class will have nobody with a mark over 80, or nobody with a mark under 70. I don't know how to ask about the difficulty of the exam without there being an implicit accusation he'd done that. I may just have to go to my supervisor about it.
  5. Dec 11, 2011 #4


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    "Hi Prof SoandSo, I found the exam harder than I was expecting, and I think others did as well, is it just me?"

    I still don't see the situation as awkward, just a bit sucky, tbh. What's the problem? The exam was hard, so?
  6. Dec 12, 2011 #5
    The awkward moment when someone thinks its awkward when its really not..

  7. Dec 13, 2011 #6
    I also just experienced something very similar with a math class I just took. The exam averages ranged from [40, 51], with 51% being the max. I have no idea if the final marks are going to be scaled, but if they aren't, there will be a large number of Engineering and Physics majors retaking the course next semester.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011
  8. Dec 13, 2011 #7
    What class was this? What university?
  9. Dec 13, 2011 #8
    Calculus III, University of Saskatchewan. I realize that a part of what I said may have been taken a bit out of context. When I stated the maximum exam average was 51%, I meant the maximum CLASS average. There were definitely people that exceeded the class average..lol
  10. Dec 17, 2011 #9
    Oh man, I haven't heard many marks but the highest mark I've heard of in my class is 82. I'm a bit late on this I suppose. If I don't clear 65% I'll probably make myself take the course again next semester as humiliating as that will be in a small and competitive department, although this seems like the time to suck up the pride.
  11. Dec 18, 2011 #10
    Hey, be glad you're allowed to retake an exam in your country, in Belgium we're not allowed to (once you've passed it).
  12. Dec 18, 2011 #11
    Yes you are. In Belgium, you have a few days in witch to decide not to accept your grades. But once you did that, you can't retake it.
  13. Dec 19, 2011 #12
    Really? This is news to me and any student I know! Do you know where I can find more information about this? I'm positive my university never informed me of this.
  14. Dec 19, 2011 #13
    Hmm, I guess I spoke too soon. It actually depends on the university you attend. In my university, it seemed to be common practice. But it might not be with yours.
    I suggest reading your examination regulations. Maybe it is possible nevertheless...
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