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Testing Not sure where I am going wrong with exams

  1. Mar 21, 2016 #1
    There was a course that I have taken before and passed. Like a good pass. I just don't feel like sharing the grade, but it was good. I learned a lot from the class and understood the material well and demonstrated that several ways.

    A year later I am re-taking the course because it's been a year since I've been in school. I am taking it a different school. If we had to compare the schools... the first school I took the course at is very well known for it's academic rigor... it's a school pretty much everyone has heard of. The second school I am taking it at is also well known... but academic is not what comes to mind, but it's good in academics too.

    Anyways I'm not doing well on the exams at the second school. I study hard and I am a very hard worker. I enjoy solving physics problems for pure fun and so studying for me doesn't feel like a task or a must do. So I am not sure what is happening? I passed this course once and I am failing the second time? How does that make sense? I haven't even forgotten all the things i've learned. How could i do much worse on the exams now? I don't get what is happening! This has never happened to me before.

    What should I do? Also the professor is not very approachable and is actually not very good at all. I don't want to go into details, but there must be something on my part that is not good. I personally don't think it's a lack of understanding and the proof is there in my transcript and word of mouth from the prof who taught it to me the first time!

    Any advice is welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 21, 2016 #2
    What is it in particular about the exams that's messing you up this time? Are you making simple algebra mistakes, or are there conceptual difficulties?
  4. Mar 21, 2016 #3


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    This is a very ambiguous question, are the tests purposefully made so that majority of the students earn what seem like low marks before a curve is applied? Or is the grading scale basically set in stone? What problems on the exam are you missing if you recall the material from the last time you took the class?

    A year isn't a long gap, you shouldn't be failing if you'd actually learnt the material the first time around. Actually, it should be just the opposite, you should be doing better than most students who've never seen the material before.
  5. Mar 21, 2016 #4
    Thanks for the reply! The prof curves at the end so the grade you get is the grade you get for now. I lose points for doing something differently sometimes or using a different notation (but defining it). I also lose time so there are some questions I can't finish and the prof hates short cuts. I used one for an exam and I didn't get any credit for the question even though it was a legit short cut ( correct physics+math). The prof even said I was correct, but said it was not fair that I used it since it was not taught.

    Yeah a year long gap is not anything. My the prof I took it with the first time suggested I place out, but this prof said no. this prof did not even let me attempt to place out by giving me an exam. The funny thing is if the prof let me, I am confident that I would have been able to. The exam for placing out is not timed like the exams given in class. You get 4 days from the day you start with only the course text book for the place out exam. I perform waaay better on untimed exams than timed. However the exams at the first institution was timed also. I don't get how I did better on the exams at the first place than the second.

    I did learn the material the first time around... at least the first prof believed I did and I did too. Other profs from my past believed I did too, because I had given talks that had related material. I don't know... maybe I've gotten dumber? Or something. I really want to fix it. I have my last shot with the finals and I just want to show what I really know.
  6. Mar 21, 2016 #5
    Most of the points I lose are because misplacing a factor of 2 or a negative sign or not being able to finish a problem (however I left problems unfinished at the previous institution also and never did this poorly)... but this prof grades harshly. Also you have to answer the questions like the way the prof wants it... not your own way. Sometimes when I workout problems on my own I learn a new method of solving problems, but the prof hates that. I learned that the hard way =(

    I need to focus more on time management and reading the prof's mind. I have a habit of looking for interesting problems to solve when studying because it's fun! I think I waste time doing that maybe...
  7. Mar 21, 2016 #6


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    That ranks up there as the dumbest thing I've ever heard. There are a slew of correct ways to do a physics problem- some are easier than others- but you shouldn't be marked down because you used a method (/your brain) and it wasn't "taught" in class. What exactly is doing something differently? If I were to redefine a coordinate system so that left is increasing and right is decreasing would he mark me wrong? If so, he isn't teaching physics. At least, not a good way to think about physical problems.

    How are you getting marked off for notation? Example please.
  8. Mar 21, 2016 #7


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    Why are you taking the same course for the second time, at a different school? Are you doing this just for fun, or are you a glutton for punishment?

  9. Mar 21, 2016 #8
    I cried because of that comment made. I was like what!?!?! I can't get points because I knew something from studying what the heck? Oh well... the prof is the one with power. Nothing I can do. Other profs are not like this, by the way.

    Examples of notation would be: I write: Sigma x ( pauli matrix sigma x) = {{0,1},{1,0}} but that is wrong according to the prof. It should be Sigma x --> {{0,1},{1,0}} ... it's just every book I've read use equal signs (instead of arrows) so I got so used to them =(. The prof has his own way of doing things and it has to be done that way... but during an exam I revert back to the way I remember it.

    I didn't get any credit for a problem even thought it was correct because I didn't do it the way the prof wanted ( it was not mentioned in the problem which way so I thought it was fair game).
  10. Mar 21, 2016 #9
    I wanted to place out but the prof did not even let me try and see if I can place out =(. The prof at the first institution believed I should have placed out and didn't need to re-take. In fact another prof at the institution I'm currently at apologized to me that there was nothing they can do to change the mind of the prof that wouldn't let me place out....

    I haven't learned anything new...but I am doing worse. I just don't know why. It makes no sense to me.
  11. Mar 21, 2016 #10


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    If they were I would find another school.

    Sooooooooo, he marks you wrong for writing,

    $$\sigma_x = \begin{pmatrix} 0& 1\\1& 0\end{pmatrix}$$

    Shouldn't matter how he wants it. If he wants it a certain way he should design problems that are more readily solved by his methods.

    Don't know what to tell you other than suffer through it, or transfer to another school.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
  12. Mar 21, 2016 #11
    I thought about leaving a lot. Still do... However, I only suffer because of this one prof. My research advisor is very nice and most other profs I've interacted with are encouraging and when I am anywhere else, but the particular course this thread about, I don't have an identity crisis ( about physics) haha

    I don't know. I solved a lot of problems to prepare for the exam so that I can improve on time management as well. None of that seemed to help tho...I just don't know what to do. I am working harder here than I did at my previous university and I'm doing worse. I just don't get it. There has to be something wrong with me... but what?

    Thanks for the advice tho!
  13. Mar 22, 2016 #12
    Report professor to the department head immediately this is unacceptable.
  14. Mar 23, 2016 #13
    This has been done several times but nothing comes out of it. This professor has a lot of power. =/
  15. Mar 30, 2016 #14
    Go to the president of the University.
  16. Mar 30, 2016 #15
    Maybe I should have updated: Thanks for the advice everyone...buuuuuuuut I ended up getting depressed and dropping the course. It's the best choice for my sanity. As for the proof of unreasonable grading... I have it, but not sure if that will accomplish anything. I think it's best for me to just continue working hard.
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