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How do you get over a bad test?

  1. Feb 3, 2013 #1
    I had a midterm Friday I bombed. I never do that. I ended up dropping the class. I've felt horrible since then. I always get As. It was bad because I really liked the class. It was challenging, fun, interesting. Probably my favorite class of the quarter (advanced number theory). However, he taught it from a very algebraic approach (he assumed everyone had taken abstract algebra, it however was NOT a prerequisite or even recommended). I haven't had abstract algebra yet, so it was a challenge. Also he COMPLETELY disregarded the syllabus/book. What he was doing had absolutely nothing to do with what it said in the catalog, or what was in the department syllabus, or book. All I had were his lectures. That presented a challenge as well.

    However, no excuses. I did the homework and did well; 39/40, 27/30. I went to office hours, I studied. I literally could not have done a single thing ANY better. At all. There was literally nothing else I could have done. I just screwed up, is all. It's done now.

    I still have a full load this quarter, and am doing well in other classes. I have a part time job, I'm in clubs, etc. I'm doing okay. I just can't stop feeling absolutely horrible. Afterward, I learned all the answers to all the questions.

    I literally couldn't have done a single thing better. At ALL. I went to office hours, did all the homework and put a lot of effort into it. Anything I didn't get I asked for help on, I showed up to all lectures. I just ****ed up. Afterward, all the answers make a lot of sense. BUT that's now.

    I just feel horrible. How do you deal with this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2013 #2
    Well I was in this exact same situation last semester in complex analysis. I did all the office hours, HW, etc. but I bombed all but one of the tests. And I mean failed them miserably. But so did pretty much everyone else in the class, even the smartest kid who is going on to get his PhD in math this year still barely made B's. So the teacher ended up giving the whole class a HUGE curve, which I kind of feel undeserving of, but hey it looks bad if 90% of your class fails/drops. It was still actually a pretty fascinating class, all stress-induced depression aside.
  4. Feb 3, 2013 #3


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    On reading this I get the impression, whether correct or not, that you dropped a course just because you don't get a stellar mark on the mid-term in a class that you were otherwise doing okay in. If this really is the case, it's a good thing you're asking about it now, because it's likely to happen again if you continue in academia.

    Just about everyone gets a bad mark on an exam once in a while. If you don't, it likely means you're not really challenging yourself.

    The first thing I would do is figure out how I did in proportion to everyone else. What did the distribution of scores look like and where was I on it? A low median with a narrow standard deviation suggests that the professor just didn't give a fair test. This happens.

    Sometimes the chips are just plain stacked against you - you weren't exposed to a set of assumed knowledge before hand, you got food poisoning the night before the exam, you don't understand the professor's accent or don't get his sense of humour... it happens. Sometimes you just have to suck up a less than perfect mark and move on.
  5. Feb 4, 2013 #4
    I did worse than everyone I talked to, got half of what was average. Not sure how the curve was going to go. I had to drop that day, last day to drop.

    I've had off tests, but the worst I've ever gotten was a high C in a class with 5 exams. Other than that, always As or Bs, and As overall. Haven't outright failed a test.
  6. Feb 4, 2013 #5
    Well, **** happens? This doesn't mean you're dumb or can't handle school. You had a bad day, at worst, you may find out number theory isn't a subject you can just rock. And that's okay.
    Next time around maybe change how you do things. Just because you are doing all the HW's and going to OH's does not mean you are studying right for you.
  7. Feb 4, 2013 #6
    I know exactly how you feel! I started my first rigorous math sequence last semester... I was doing really great. I had a perfect score on the homework going into the first midterm, felt extremely confident... then BOMBED. I worked my butt off doing tons of practice tests, extra problems, etc. and scored average on the second midterm. I felt incredibly pressured for time, not having ever taken rigorous math tests. The final had extra time time per problem, and I got one of the highest grades.

    I'm taking part 2 of the sequence now. I again have a perfect score on the homework, doing tons of extra problem sets and practice exams... bombed the first midterm AGAIN. It is incredibly demotivating to work SO hard and fail miserably. What's more frustrating is that the highest scorers on the tests typically score about 60-70% on the homework.

    I don't feel that my test scores reflect my ability or knowledge of the material... I simply suck at taking tests under such time pressures (as my final from the previous semester indicates). However, it certainly makes me feel stupid! It is unspeakably frustrating to do so poorly on the exams (which determine almost the whole course grade) while having a perfect score on the homework, a better understanding of the material than almost of all of your classmates, and working a retarded amount of hours putting in extra problem sets and exams to improve your exam score.
  8. Feb 4, 2013 #7
    Of course not. I even said in my original post that I'm not taking it personally. I don't even think it means that I can't do number theory. I got an A in number theory 1. I could have handled this class better if I had more exposure to abstract algebra, or a teacher that followed the syllabus.

    I couldn't have done a thing better, honestly. It was just a bad test. That doesn't mean it sucks any less, though.

    I did everything I could have possibly done. I was well rested, I had eaten, I studied. Nothing was throwing me off. I was 100% and I still ****ed up. It just happened.

    I can rationalize everything logically, but that doesn't mean that it makes me feel any better. Thanks for listening, and replying though.

    It sucks because I was really excited for this class, and it WAS my favorite class this quarter. I just wasn't familiar with some of the terms. Even though it wasn't too heavy of abstract algebra. We were working with the ring (field) Z/n (p), the n-adic numbers. Talking about isomorphisms between different n-adic numbers, stuff like that. I had never dealt with the term "ring" before this class, nor isomorphism, nor any of the algebraic theorems (field implies integral domain, stuff like that). I mean, it's nothing too challenging, but when dealing with those terms and ideas on top of the number theory, it's challenging. I knew it was challenging and got a lot of help, hell I even asked the instructor for an extra book to work out of (like I said, he completely disregarded the book, none of this was even remotely in the book), he said he would get back to me and never did.

    Anyway, it's done now, thanks for taking the time to read.
  9. Feb 4, 2013 #8


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    I always had a really hard time taking exams my freshman and sophomore year. I always felt very pressed for time and had a kind of "tunnel vision" where I would miss very obvious things. With practice it got better. However, in the grad courses I have taken, one had one take home final and the other in class exams that were stressful but not as computation heavy as some of the early undergrad classes.
  10. Feb 5, 2013 #9


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    Say a student takes 40 courses in undergrad, each counting for equal credit hours. Say that student gets a 50 percent on an exam that counts for a third of the points in 1 course. By missing half of the point on one exam, that student missed less than one half of one percent of the points available throughout undergrad.
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