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Testing My exams went horribly

  1. Apr 27, 2010 #1
    I just finished my second year of university, where I'm majoring in engineering physics. My exams went horribly and so did the rest of this year. I'm often lost to the point that I don't even know where the holes are in my understanding and as a result I've lost a lot of the enthusiasm I had for physics and am at the point where I'm questioning my aptitude for any math-related subjects.

    I know that changing majors would be a very drastic move at this point. It's not -that- late but then again, I have invested a lot of time towards my major as well. I also don't really know where else to go, because at the end of the day, I do enjoy what ever's made it into my head.

    If this scenario sounds familiar to anyone, I would love to hear any solutions/ things that made it better for you.

  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2010 #2
    Re: Aptitude?

    I am just beginning my journey so I may not best qualify to provide advice. Also, I do not wish to steer you down the wrong path away from your goals. I do hope others here will chime in.

    It sounds as if there is still hope. You did not provide any details on school scheduling, social life, etc. I can only imagine that a second year student has pretty much knocked out the pre-reqs. Are there any Gen Ed requirements you have not met yet? Maybe taking a class or two outside of your major will help redirect your focus.

    Also, have you tried getting together with classmates to form a study group? Sometimes the act of explaining a concept can help solidify your understanding or help pinpoint the hole.

    Again, I am just a semester into this pursuit but there were times in class where I just felt bogged down. It was during those times where I took a break. And during that break I would look up a bit of history on a subject that got me interested in the first place. It has the great effect of re-igniting the passion and I return to to the subject at hand refreshed and ready to tackle more details.

    If you are really struggling, take a look at why you decided to go into engineering physics. Have you sought resources to get you back on track?

    When I decided to pursue this degree, I was nearly finished with a Bachelor's in Information Technology/Web Design. In fact, I only needed 12 credits to finish. But the year prior, I was really struggling with completing projects. It was a habit I needed to break at the professional level but the more I continued the more of a chore it felt. So I pursued topics relating to but outside my curriculum. I felt if I taught myself this or that, I'd have an edge and I may begin to enjoy what I was doing. Unfortunately, I wasn't "geeking" out about it. The only real challenge was just making it through the classes. It was then I decided to quit spinning my wheels and go in another direction entirely.

    Also, reading Benjamin Hoff's the Tao of Pooh helped. Many may find it overly simplistic or downright cheesy but there was real comfort in knowing that maybe I am square and its OK if I don't fit in the round hole. The trick is to find where and how you fit. If you truly enjoy what you do at the end of the day, you owe it to yourself to find out what makes you "geek" out about it! Delve into a bit of history. Get together with friends. Just don't go at it alone.

    It is a very challenging field of study. I hope you can find your place within
    Last edited: May 2, 2010
  4. May 2, 2010 #3
    Re: Aptitude?

    I meant to add:

    I found a blog where a person with dyscalculia was pursuing a degree in physics but I cannot find any links :(

    Hopefully, this thread will be a bit more helpful:

  5. May 14, 2010 #4
    Re: Aptitude?

    Oh wow, thanks so much.

    Social life: I'm not that much of a party animal. Just random outings on the weekend for me. I would have liked to be more involved in campus groups, but I'll see how that fits in.

    One crucial point I forgot to mention was that I really did love my major in the beginning, and felt that I lost the means to learn what it offered. My forearms are extremely weak and I get about 3 hours a day to use them, after which they just can't function unless I enjoy excruciating pain. I'm not asking for medical help, but it's definitely frustrating. I really don't know how to approach studying, and that's certainly contributed to my lack of confidence. Stress also affects my ability to absorb material, apparently.

    I do have an advisor, who gives me much needed moral support through all this. But naturally, she cannot make any discoveries/ decisions for me, and I can't expect that from here either.

    I'm just wondering if there were any way to cope with and make sense of all this confusion?
  6. May 14, 2010 #5
    Re: Aptitude?

    My advice is to take a step back and start with the things you do understand. When I get overwhelmed by how much I still have to learn, I like to review what I do know. Look at the big picture; discoveries and decisions come better when you are not stressed and caught up in the moment. So you might be lost at the moment, but you can put in some hard work and learn a little each day. Eventually, you'll know the material. So your grades might not be so great right now, but that's already past. All those struggles are behind you; just think how you would do better in the future.

    Personally, I find that when I don't dwell on my mistakes too much, I feel happier and become more productive. At times when I feel stupid or hopelessly behind in my studies, I stop and force myself to understand that a little each day will build up to full understanding in time. And occasionally, I read blog posts or attend classes that inspire me once more.

    Performance on exams and in school is important, but not as much as pursuing knowledge because you enjoy it. From your post, it seems to me that you do enjoy it in the end. Then again, I'm no expert, and I can't make your decisions for you, but maybe if you pause and force yourself to not feel so rushed, things could make more sense to you.
  7. May 14, 2010 #6
    Re: Aptitude?

    That's actually a really good point. Problem is, I don't feel that I am pursuing that knowledge, and my arms make it REALLY easy for me to find excuses to not do that. How do you build confidence and grasp the concepts when you can't solve practice problems? I think if I can figure that out, that would bring this downward spiral to a halt.
  8. May 15, 2010 #7


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    Re: Aptitude?

    One thing that could help is to form some sort of a study group. Sometimes it can really help to talk and even argue about the topics that you've covered in class. It allows you to identify holes in your knowledge and, in cases where everyone is not getting something, where the professors may need to be doing a better job explaining things. This can also help to keep you motivated.

    Another factor that may be at play is "second year syndrome." Most students who go into physics or engineering did really well in high school - often without much relative effort. As a result, many of those never developed efficient study habits. Univerisity comes along and depending on the level they covered things in high school a lot of first year material ends up being review. So those same inefficient study habits are still good enough to get a decent first year mark. Then, as you get into second year, or sometimes even third year, the material gets harder. You encounter stuff you haven't seen before. And there is just more of it. Problem sets that used to take a half an hour now take all night to figure out, sometimes longer.
  9. May 17, 2010 #8
    Re: Aptitude?

    So second year's the devil then. That year where you haven't invested so much that it's too late to choose something else, and yet have invested enough to make it hard to leave? And on top of that, taking away the "let's level out the playing field for everyone before doing anything important" factor. University is great.

    I must thank everyone again for all your suggestions and support. I'm still kind of confused about how I'll cope with studying without being able to practice as much I want to. But I'm going to do what I knew I was going to do all along: study engineering physics, except this time I'll probably have more enthusiasm.
  10. May 19, 2010 #9
    Re: Aptitude?

    In my country performing bad is so common in Physics, Math, Chemistry and Engineering courses that there has been some heavy criticism if those courses shouldn't be easier (many many people give up and switch to humanities).

    I recommend you not to switch. When we perform below our standards we tend to get pessimistic about our skills. Study hard and wait for your next exams tell you.
  11. May 19, 2010 #10
    Re: Aptitude?

    Avoid the harsh cycle of pessimism. Generally, most serious students will be a bit demotivated when they do poorly on exams, and this may lead to them studying less and paying less attention in class, thus making the situation worse.
  12. May 19, 2010 #11
    Re: Aptitude?

    I've been working/going to school part-time since 2005. I just now this past semester had a "study group" with some guys I met in my classes - one a math major and the other a fellow physics major. Especially in upper-division courses, it's a good idea to do this. Not to mention I had a great time just hanging out, too. The individual knowledge can collectively be complementary, so it's great for math and natural science majors to get together and study and help each other out. I helped them out in certain areas and they helped me out in certain areas.
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