Fall final exam review: notes

As I mentioned in my last post, I received an A in Microbiology and an A in Chemistry.

I received an A in Chemistry, and I’m a little bit surprised. I’m pretty sure I did horribly on my Chemistry final (though I will never get to see it).

I did a bunch of things wrong that I hope to remind myself about so I don’t do them again.

Chemistry Lab Final: What I did wrong in preparing for it

1. I kept inwardly whining that I didn’t know what was going to be on the lab exam so I didn’t study as hard as I should have for it. I kept feeling really confused. I don’t know why I do this. She had said it would be everything from labs we’d done. I think my main problem was that I didn’t trust her to communicate effectively with us about what’s on the exam and what’s not. She’d miscommunicated a bunch of times about what would be on various exams, so I’d pretty much written her off and studied/found answers on my own.

2. I may have only studied the labs I’d liked.

3. My lab class was too late (at night) to keep up focus. I pretty much forgot acid-base titration solving.

4. Throughout the semester, I treated lab as something to just get through. We never had lab quizzes or tests (we had one quiz about lab safety and some balancing equations, and nomenclature early on, but it wasn’t a big deal). I did my labs, turned them in, and forgot about them.

5. I think I may have studied five hours, down to when lecture started. To me, five hours seems like a lot of time. You can drive long distances in that amount of time, but I’m not sure if studying (time spent studying) has ever been quantified in terms of what you can accomplish/should accomplish in a given amount of time.  Cal Newport advises that a person should always be studying and reviewing.

Chemistry final: things I did wrong in preparing for it

1. I did not sleep.

2. I did not eat.

3. I studied a ton and in the few hours to the exam, I managed to lose all my confidence. I started thinking I’d gotten very lucky on getting 3 A’s on my exams, and I skipped the exam that covered the most important chapters (9-12) because she was going to drop the lowest test score anyway and I had a Microbiology lecture exam. (I was extremely hungry for an A in Microbiology, to “prove myself” or whatever.)

4. While taking the exam, I realized how effing tired I was. How totally tired I was and how exhausted I was. I kept flipping through the exam, looking and surveying questions, putting little notes. I think I may have started the exam after a half an hour. I felt like I wanted to spend ten hours on the exam, and when you’re tired, you’re slow.

5. I kept using a mechanical pencil that uses 0.5 mm lead and that breaks really easily.

6. I couldn’t immediately find the periodic table attached to the exam, so I sort of froze and tried to find problems that didn’t require it. That took time.

I’m a time waster and I need to get it together. I’ve always been a time waster. It’s because I need to be more relaxed when answering questions.

The question is, how? I imagine this was stuff I should have figured out during undergrad, but at really good colleges, professors are enormously kind. Not that they give you extra time, but that they create exams that don’t always take all that much time.

Now that I think about it, I was always the last to hand in my microbiology exams too. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I probably need to do some extended reflection about this and honestly find a solution.

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