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# Failed midterm and freaking out

Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
edited September 2014
So I took my first midterm for Math1A today and I completely failed. I studied all week but it was stuff that was a lot more difficult than the homework assignments the professor had given us before. I wasn't expecting it to be this hard because the professor told us to base off the difficulty of the exam on the homework.

So now I found out that I got a 17/40 and the class average was 22/40. How bad is this, what does this mean for me and my grade, and is it possible to get an A- or B+ in this class after this? Please let me know how I can deal with this, how to tell my parents, and whether or not I'm doomed to fail...

## Replies to: Failed midterm and freaking out

• Registered User Posts: 1,354 Senior Member
Honestly, I stopped seeing exam scores in terms of percentages and started reading them in terms of the mean and standard deviation. Whatever the class average is, that's now a B. About 1 standard deviation above puts you in the A range, 1 SD below is around the C range... 2 SD below and you should freak out. That scale works particularly well in curved classes, but even for straight points it works out about the same.

I can't seem to find the grading cutoffs online, so it's hard to say what grade it's possible for you to get. But you should probably learn how to calculate grades by hand... it's basically a weighted average. For example, if the class was 20% MT1, 30% MT2, and 50% Final, you would do: 0.20 * (17/40) + 0.30 * (MT2 score) + 0.05 * (Final score), and that would be your overall percentage. So, if you're wonder what the highest possible grade you can get is, assume you get a 100 on the remaining assignments. Check your syllabus for grade breakdowns and the overall grading scale.

If I had to guess, I'd say you're probably not doomed. Well, you might be doomed if you can't figure out how to calculate grades. But it's only the first midterm and it's still pretty early, treat it like a wake up call if you're not happy with your score. Statistically speaking, only ~5% of the class gets an F in math 1A, so if you're not in that category you can relax a little.
• Registered User Posts: 1,417 Senior Member
What is the standard deviation of the exam?

Usually one bad exam doesn't mean doom. A more common problem is when people do well on MT1, then proceed to do crappy on MT2, then do so-so on the final exam to get a B.

I've also seen plenty of folks who would fail the first exam but get their act together and ace the remaining h/w and exams and get an A, so the game's not over.
• Registered User Posts: 11,047 Senior Member
I think this is one method of weeding. Students get scare and drop out after first midterm. Is the drop deadline already passed?
• Registered User Posts: 836 Member
I'm pretty sure you already heard, but the cutoff was 15 for a B. I think you're fine. :) And the drop deadline is tomorrow.
• Registered User Posts: 575 Member
What happened is not unexpected or unusual. You have just been exposed to the difference between a college exam and a HS exam.

Don't panic. Use this as an opportunity to begin the true transformation from a "regurgitation" type test (HS) to an "analysis" type test (college) .

If you haven't done so, use office hours to get up to speed, pre-read the class work, get a study group, use the university tutors. The approach to studying the college material is very different from the approach to studying HS material. While some talented students can cram, for most others mastering college material is incremental - slow and steady will win this race.

FWIW (since anecdotal stories are not proof of too much), D scored a 9/25 on her first math college exam (mean was 13). When she read that first exam, she wondered whether she had wandered into the wrong exam location. She had been a HS whiz in math, and treated the class initially as a mere extension of HS math (after all, there are much better ways of spending time in college then grinding the books). She went religiously to office hours (which had the beneficial by-product of connecting with the prof), joined a study group, identified what she didn't thoroughly understand for an occasional round of tutoring, and began prereading (which she carried over to all classes). The grinding approach paid off - her final grade was a B+ - but she said she had never worked harder then in her first two semesters at college (except for the first month of first semester when social life was paramount).

Again, don't panic. Use the result as a learning moment.
This discussion has been closed.