I have never been big on taking exams. Especially not math exams. For years, so many have advised me to get over my negative mindset, my fear, my lack of confidence when it comes to math. And yet no matter how many practice problems I do, no matter how many individuals give me advice, I struggle with all of those things to this day.
This summer, I had the opportunity to get accustomed to what my college workload would be like. Though the program was centered around humanities courses, we took an economic class to prepare us for math/science courses. One day, while doing homework, I got stressed. I began to overthink- all of my past failed exams, my own thoughts putting me down, teachers and parents’ words. I felt overwhelmed and worried that the same stresses I had always dealt with would follow me into college. I ended up having a panic attack. In my angst, I decided to email the Director of Accessible Education in the Office of Academic Resources, who had spoken to us a few days before, and who had encouraged us to contact him if we felt that we needed support. He met with me and told me about special accommodations that can be given to students. He suggested that I request receiving additional time on exams when the semester began. I could either initiate the process of getting this accommodation at the start of the semester, or I could wait to get a feel for what the exams in my Statistics 101 class were like. I told myself that it would be good to see what the class, professor, and exams looked like before setting anything up.
At the end of the summer, I took my final in Economics. I ended up passing, but with a C-. My professor told me that I had been doing so well throughout the exam, but I ran out of time and didn’t get to the last question, which was worth a lot of points since it had many parts. I considered the additional time on exams as an option for me.
Because I wanted to wait and see what the structure of Stat 101 would be like, I waited until our first exam, which was the midterm.
Midterms. Stress, reading, writing, studying. Everyone looks tired, people break down, and you feel alone. I had two papers the weekend before my Stat miderm, as well as paper revisions due the day of. Needless to say, I wish I had more time to study and do practice problems. I didn’t feel too terrible about it, however. I had an A+ in the class for a while and it had just dropped to an A after the problem sets were inputed. I took diligent notes when I read the chapters and I made sure to understand the homework problems when I did them. My professor’s office hours conflict with my class schedule, but I attended a few TA office hour sessions when I needed help. I felt that I had good knowledge going into the final. Plus, we were allowed to bring a cheat sheet. How poorly could I do?
It is time for the midterm. Out of two available time blocks, I chose to go to the later one because I had been working on paper revisions and had to solidify my cheat sheet. When I step into the building, I am overwhelmed by all the people waiting to enter the auditorium. I had forgotten that with the two sections of Stat 101 classes combined, there were over 100 people total. About half are already taking the exam, but the other half wait outside. I begin to get nervous. I grow more overwhelmed as I enter the large auditorium.
Everything was going well and I was surprised by how much I knew. I was nervous but felt confident, especially with my cheat sheet. Time flies by much faster than I expect though, Close to the end, I start to rush trying to answer questions I had not yet gotten to. I am frantically skipping over time-consuming questions and writing down answers rapidly to get as many points as I can. Time’s up.
I leave the exam in tears because I knew I hadn’t done well. I regret waiting to get special accommodations to get more time on exams, and I am mad at myself for not budgeting my time better. I know I knew the information, but I wish I had more time to show that I knew it.I got the exam back and I got 32 out of 61 points. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who not only did poorly, but felt short on time. Now, I am thinking about the next steps, and am writing to let others know that one bad exam doesn’t mean you are a bad student. I plan on going back to Academic Resources and filling out the necessary paperwork to get the accommodations I think will benefit me. I will talk to my professor and ask her for advice. I will go into the final knowing that I have to get as many points as I can while being concise and cognizant of the time constraint. Most importantly, I have to make sure I acknowledge the work I did and acknowledge the work I can still do. I am proud of the fact that I felt-well prepared and knew enough to earn the points I did. I can only go up from here.