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Studying Not getting the grades I desire

  1. Mar 3, 2016 #1
    Hello everyone,
    This thing really bothers me and I want your honest opinion.
    So I'm a big fan of science and math; ever since I was a child I always wanted to become a researcher. I learned a lot of stuff as a kid and I used to get As in most of my exams. I spend most of my time reading and learning new stuff.
    However, now that I'm in college, I don't really like my performance.
    For example, I got B in a lot of my math classes even though I understand the material 100%. When I'm done with an exam I always feel like I did well, then I receive my paper and I see that I've made some silly stupid mistakes that sometimes cost me 10+ points. The weird thing is that I'm a person who really wants to understand everything. I can't do problems until I study the proofs and know exactly what's happening, sometimes I even read about the history of what I'm studying. Even in other classes like Physics, sometimes I study really hard and I feel like there is no way I'm not getting an excellent grade, then I end up not getting A.
    What disappoints me is that I see people who don't spend so much time studying and yet get really good grades. It's true that I'm not a person who studies for an entire day, but I do put some effort into studying, even more than these people do, yet my grades aren't as high as them. I understand that the point of college is to learn new stuff and it's not just about grades; and I think I enjoy my classes more than other people do (this is what people tell me). But grades are also important for me, and I want to get into a good grad school, and I want to feel that I'll be ok getting into grad school.
    Do you think that maybe because I'm not the kind of person who do stuff well if there is a time limit that I'm not getting my desired grades?
    Does anyone here relate to my issue?
    Should I worry about this?

    Thanks a lot.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2016 #2
    My impression (i.e. the impression of some random guy on the internet who read ten subjective sentences about you) is that you may focus too much on details that you consider interesting and pay too little attention to the overall problem and points that actually are important. Understanding a topic is not sufficient for university/academia (and arguably in no field at all). You must also be able to actually apply your knowledge. A mistake is an error. In real life an incorrect result because of "a silly mistake" has the same consequences as an incorrect result because of utter incompetence.
  4. Mar 3, 2016 #3
    From what it sounds like, you're worrying too much about comparing yourself to others around you. Throughout your post, you're trying to validate your qualities and success by comparing your habits versus others. Some people will work less and get good grades; some will work their asses off and still get bad grades. Getting caught up on how you put in more time/effort will just frustrate you more. I'd say to just focus on trying to better yourself however possible and not deeming that you're good enough already (there's always room to grow, learn, and improve!)
  5. Mar 3, 2016 #4


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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If your comprehension is, indeed, good, then you may just need to practice the mechanical aspects of problem solving. Don't skip steps or do things in your head. Use good penmanship so you don't mis-copy from line to line. Write each step on a separate line. Don't rush--take time to be accurate. You can, I'm sure, supply some more.
  6. Mar 4, 2016 #5
    Checking answers is a very useful skill you need to master. You shouldn't be happy to just reach an answer, you should thoroughly check it. Redo the entire computations again independently. Think about whether things make physical sense. Do a dimensional analysis. Etc.
    Don't think this is a waste of time. If you land a job later, you will be forced to do this kind of thing too. If you don't thoroughly check everything, disaster may happen.
  7. Mar 5, 2016 #6
    Thanks guys for your insights.
  8. Mar 5, 2016 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    If you're at the beginning of undergraduate, keep in mind that you'll probably cycle through the same areas more than once in your coursework, each time at a higher (or deeper) level. For example, a first-year calculus course is usually oriented towards problem-solving. A real-analysis course (usually third or fourth year in the US) covers the same territory, but in a "proofy" way that focuses on the logical structure.

    Likewise with physics. I studied basic areas like classical mechanics, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics three times: first in the intro physics sequence, then in upper-division undergraduate courses, then in graduate school. And then I had to study it all again while I was teaching it.

    In the early stages at least, you have to prioritize what it takes to do well in the course at hand, and take the gaps on faith for now. Do as much "extra" stuff as you like in your leftover spare time, and realize that you'll probably get some of that stuff in later courses anyway.
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