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Never Learned How to Study Advice?

  1. Mar 11, 2010 #1
    [This is a slightly long post, but I'm trying to provide as much information up front as possible so I don't waste anyone's time]

    I went through all of high school acing most of my classes with minimal effort. I even skirted by first semester, freshman year of college with a 3.5 GPA. The first signs of trouble came during a general education class that, while very boring, should have been an easy 'A' for me. I only obtained a 'C' in the class, but nevertheless I marched on to second semester. I've just finished up midterms, and I'm not terribly happy with myself. I obtained the following grades:

    A - Computer Science II
    B - Physics I
    A - Physics Lab
    D - Calculus II

    The 'B' in Physics should be an 'A', but the explanation for that one is simple -- I forgot my calculator during one of the tests!

    But the D in Calc II is obviously horrendous. I took Calculus in high school, got a 5 on the AP exam. When I took the first exam in this class, I scored an 81%. This is a terrible math grade for me by all standards. After finishing the last exam, I was shocked by a 55%. The problem was two-fold: I actually did not finish most of the exam, because I got halfway through it and figured that I was doing it all wrong, so I quit. It turns out that I was doing everything right, so half of the exam consisted of problems that received full credit while the other half was blank.

    But I know that I wouldn't have felt this way if I had kept up with the material in class instead of doing what I did in high school - cramming everything in at the last minute and letting my aptitude for math help me sail through. I think if I studied consistently I would be a lot less stressed, learn better and wouldn't constantly have my life hanging on a thread of "I hope my test grade was high enough!" (which leads to extreme burnout and apathy after the tests). Not to mention that I'm going to hit material in a few semesters for which cramming will not suffice, and I want to be prepared.

    This bad grade hurts me especially because I love math, and I want to work in a field where math is an integral part of what I do. Now I just look like a bottom-feeding idiot. So I ask of you: what can I do? The only thing I've ever worked towards studying with diligence have been things I study on my own (I spends perhaps too much time studying the Haskell programming language and reading Euclid). I've never actually had to study consistently for a class, and I know now that's what caused me to freak out on this last test and what earned me a 'C' in an easy Gen. Ed. class. I really want to fix this problem, and I've forced myself to write this post to seek help. I want to stop the problem now before I end up in a situation I will later regret.

    If it helps, my majors are Computer Engineering/Science and Mathematics. Also, just in case it isn't clear, I'm still in Freshman year.

    PS - If my tone comes of as flippant or disinterested in this post, please note that I am quite serious about being upset by this grade. I tend to set really high expectations for myself, and receiving a failing grade on a test in my favorite subject was enough to have me considering suicide, which is a totally unacceptable and immature response to a situation like this, but I flip between extreme moods often enough that this last bout really scared me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 12, 2010 #2
    I think you know what your problem is: you should start studying from day one, and possibly, if you can, even start reading before a topic is treated in class. The more abstract math gets in your studies, the more you need time for it to sink in, to ask questions, to do some proofs on your own and so on.
  4. Mar 12, 2010 #3


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    Its a good thing to realize this early on rather than later. I think you will find that if you challenge yourself there's always going to be something that you don't know if you do challenging subjects.

    When you enter the workforce you will be competing with people who are both smart and also some people who also work their guts out. It will show to the employer when they are likely to be tested who has worked hard and knows their stuff versus someone with a superficial understanding.

    Also if you intend to do research, you'll more than likely find that you will hit brick walls a lot and it will be a thing where you have to persevere against all odds.

    You're still young and like all of us we all are learning new things about others and ourselves everyday so just take it on board and you'll be fine.
  5. Mar 12, 2010 #4


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    One bad grade is not the end of the world, and I think you realise this. It also seems like you realised that you will need to study throughout the year, and not just in the build up to an exam. The answer to how to study is simple in theory: ensure that you attempt every problem set in the week that it is given. If you cannot answer a problem, then review your classwork, or your textbook or, having done this, ask a TA or your professor for some help. If you keep up to date with your work, then you won't need to cram (as much) before the final exam, and you'll find that you actually understand the problems.
  6. Mar 22, 2010 #5
    I just received one of those "you have a D, you're on a warning list and should consider dropping the class now!" e-mail messages.

    I think I'm going to be ill.
  7. Mar 22, 2010 #6
    Now, to me, the way that you described how this grade came about, it really doesn't look at all bad. It happens - you know what happened, and clearly you're a capable individual with the knowledge on how you can sort things out. And, hey, like has been said before, don't worry about it. I'm one of those people that was sick with worry all the way through my undergraduate degree. I was worried that I might get to the end and have nothing to show for it, I felt that I could mess up an exam and fail. Having got myself a good degree, I realised that my previous attitude was causing me more problems than it helped. I guess on some level I had thought that if I worried, then it meant that I cared, and that would mean that I deserved to do well. What actually happened was, I worried and so made silly mistakes - now, I still did well, but I didn't do as well as I know I can. And that's why I don't like exams!

    Bad grades or something like it happen to everyone at some point. It's important that you don't let it overwhelm you. You're smart, and you know that you can do this. The important thing is how you respond to any adversity. Now, the way that you've gone about explaining your situation says to me that you believe you should have done better than that grade - then, why listen to some email telling you to drop the class, when you think you can do better? Focus on what you want, and make a plan for how you can get there.

    Being that I don't think you're in a particularly bad situation, I'm not going to insult you by belittling your feelings on this. What I do think, however, is that: It's also extremely important that you remember that you've still got a long, long way to go with the rest of your life. I feel that your response to this grade is probably indicative of a greater problem present in today's society - there is a tremendous amount of pressure on young people nowadays to perform - a lot of it because of a few misconceptions (though this is probably for another thread!). You have as much time as you need to learn what you need to. If you need to repeat classes, and you feel you can get through it then, go for it.

    Also remember that this community is here for it's members. If you ever need assistance when tackling your course work, then we're here to advise. If you want to speak about career options and the like, and even if you want some examples of people that have had a similar experience to your own, I have no doubt that they are here.
  8. Mar 22, 2010 #7
    I'm disappointed that nobody has responded to this yet. Regardless of anyone's thoughts on the validity of test or grades, you need to see someone about this suicidal impulse NOW.
  9. Mar 22, 2010 #8
    I am a high school student in Algebra 2/Trignometry so I have no idea about your math issues. However I too have an unacceptable grade. I have found that a good way to study is to keep a piece of paper handy and write down any problems that I come across in my homework/classwork etc. that I think would be important to remember for the test. Also you should talk to someone about your suicidal thoughts. If you just read this and " it's not that big of a deal" then you definitely need to talk to someone. This literally is a life or death situation.
  10. Apr 11, 2010 #9
    Well, as an update, I think I can pull up my Calc II grade at least somewhat, and everything else should stay consistent (although I'm having trouble with the Physics I class, in that they only gave me 40 minutes to finish a 50 minute test (they screwed up), so I might have bombed that). Overall, this is not going to be a good semester for me. I hope I haven't blown my chances for a good graduate school, although I suspect I have.
  11. Apr 11, 2010 #10
    It has nothing to do with test grades, actually. I've been distant and somewhat unhappy for as long as I can rememeber, and I don't know why. I've had thoughts of suicide since middle school, and I've never actually acted on them, so I suspect it's just an emotional escape of some sort. Sorry if I scared anyone, I shouldn't have said that; I won't say it again.
  12. Apr 11, 2010 #11
    I'm kind of in the same boat (second year Electrical Engg though) - I'm currently sitting at about a C in Circuits II and am fully relying on the final exam to bring it to a reasonable level, which isn't generally a good policy, nor is it a policy I usually follow. However, I did a very similar thing as you on the MT - I was halfway through a question when I decided to start over because I thought it was wrong. I had no chance of finishing that one.

    What I've learned from my almost 2 years in engineering is that you have to stay on top of studying from day one of every semester. And if something (ie, exam) comes about and knocks you out with its evilness, just get back up and keep going. Semesters are far too short to spend time being shocked or appalled.
    In first year, I made the unfortunate mistake of thinking Mechanics 1 was an easy class because I had very high grades in high school without doing too much work and basically didn't study for my first university MT. I was extremely shocked to get a 50. However, after that, shock and realization of reality set it and I started to study every night to catch up in that class and still pulled off an A.

    I'm not sure when your finals are (but around now, I'm guessing), but basically, cross out social life, don't try to procrastinate and/or feel sorry for yourself and just sit down and review that class. Actually, review all classes.

    I'm sure you'll be okay, first year can be a bit rough, but you'll make it :) Don't get discouraged because of one bad grade, sometimes that is somehow needed to get you into the habit of studying and doing all your work.
    Also, if you're feeling suicidal, see a councellor...

    If you ever want to talk, send me a message.
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