Is it fair for the prof. to make exams 10x harder than study material?

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Toadesque

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I just had my chem mid term today and I probably did awful. And I studied my ass off for the last week, doing all the problems in the book, doing all the old tests from the prof's website that SHE recommends, reading the text. And when I get to the exam, none of that was applicable. It was like I was doing completely different material. It just doesn't make sense. How can you test people on material that they won't ever come across unless they break into her office and look at the tests? I was looking around at everyone else's tests and A LOT of people left entire pages blank because they had no idea what to do. I probably did better than the class average but the curve will still probably put me in the high C range.
 

JackInTheBox

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I just had my chem mid term today and I probably did awful. And I studied my ass off for the last week, doing all the problems in the book, doing all the old tests from the prof's website that SHE recommends, reading the text. And when I get to the exam, none of that was applicable. It was like I was doing completely different material. It just doesn't make sense. How can you test people on material that they won't ever come across unless they break into her office and look at the tests? I was looking around at everyone else's tests and A LOT of people left entire pages blank because they had no idea what to do. I probably did better than the class average but the curve will still probably put me in the high C range.

I've always felt that that was a more fair assessment of student's abilities. The professor teaches the concepts and the basic building blocks, and then it's up to the students to piece everything together and see how those basics relate to the bigger picture. The class average might be low, but there will be people who were able to apply what they learned to solve novel problems. Separates the men from the boys, so to speak.
 

JeetKuneDo

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I just had my chem mid term today and I probably did awful. And I studied my ass off for the last week, doing all the problems in the book, doing all the old tests from the prof's website that SHE recommends, reading the text. And when I get to the exam, none of that was applicable. It was like I was doing completely different material. It just doesn't make sense. How can you test people on material that they won't ever come across unless they break into her office and look at the tests? I was looking around at everyone else's tests and A LOT of people left entire pages blank because they had no idea what to do. I probably did better than the class average but the curve will still probably put me in the high C range.

Hey, you shouldn't worry too much about your test until you get it back. I had many professors do this, and I also felt terrible about the test afterwards. However, if you did put the time in to study the material, you should be ok. A lot of my ochem tests had averages around 30. I think it's better off having a harder test, just imagine what would happen if your test was curved and everyone got a 90 percent.
 
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mmmcdowe

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In short, yes it is.

Get used to application type thinking, the MCAT is basically that. You aren't going to just be sitting there solving for x or y from equations that it gives.
 

Toadesque

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I've always felt that that was a more fair assessment of student's abilities. The professor teaches the concepts and the basic building blocks, and then it's up to the students to piece everything together and see how those basics relate to the bigger picture. The class average might be low, but there will be people who were able to apply what they learned to solve novel problems. Separates the men from the boys, so to speak.

That would be fine with me if the prof. actually taught us material worth learning. Anything she teaches in lecture makes no sense, so I go home and read it myself. And I understand it. Okay that's great.

but the exam comes and it's completely different.

I know I sound like a whiner and a *****, but sometimes you just have to draw the line at what it means to "test" somebody's knowledge.
 

mmmcdowe

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That would be fine with me if the prof. actually taught us material worth learning. Anything she teaches in lecture makes no sense, so I go home and read it myself. And I understand it. Okay that's great.

but the exam comes and it's completely different.

I know I sound like a whiner and a *****, but sometimes you just have to draw the line at what it means to "test" somebody's knowledge.


Give us an example of a question.
 

shraf

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I just had my chem mid term today and I probably did awful. And I studied my ass off for the last week, doing all the problems in the book, doing all the old tests from the prof's website that SHE recommends, reading the text. And when I get to the exam, none of that was applicable. It was like I was doing completely different material. It just doesn't make sense. How can you test people on material that they won't ever come across unless they break into her office and look at the tests? I was looking around at everyone else's tests and A LOT of people left entire pages blank because they had no idea what to do. I probably did better than the class average but the curve will still probably put me in the high C range.

stop whining and more importantly stop looking at other peoples' tests!

its not the prof's fault you were unprepared...the people who can do those hard questions are the ones who truely understood the material not the ones who spend hours upon hours just trying to cram the practice exam into their short term memory
 

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Well maybe.
But none of you knows this person or has seen the test. Perhaps it WAS unreasonable. We don't know.
To the OP - hope for a forgiving curve, and try to figure out what the prof. wants and give it to her. Some classes are just harder than others. Try to pull your grade up to at least a B or better, so that it doesn't mess up your GPA too much, if all else fails.
 

Toadesque

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stop whining and more importantly stop looking at other peoples' tests!

its not the prof's fault you were unprepared...the people who can do those hard questions are the ones who truely understood the material not the ones who spend hours upon hours just trying to cram the practice exam into their short term memory

do you have a disorder that permits only selective reading? wow

Give us an example of a question.

I can't remember any specifically. Basically she gives you a piece of information and then you have like 4-5 questions that you have to do based off the information given. The downside to that is that if you don't know the answer to the first one, you can't answer the 2nd one, and if you don't know the 2rd one, you can't answer the 3rd one, etc.
 

chiz2kul

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wow! There are soo many haters on this thread! You dont even try to understand the OP's post b4 critisizing him! Sheesh!
Well no surprises there based on the type of pple on sdn...
To the OP: dude, i totally feel you on that one. I hate it when teacher recommends a particular study material for the test, and then nothing, absolutely nothing is on the test. I hate it when teachers teach your a particular concept or something, and then tests on a totally different concept/subject, its ridiculous. And they they'll be smiling/smirking at you when you talk to them about it...
 

JackInTheBox

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I can't remember any specifically. Basically she gives you a piece of information and then you have like 4-5 questions that you have to do based off the information given. The downside to that is that if you don't know the answer to the first one, you can't answer the 2nd one, and if you don't know the 2rd one, you can't answer the 3rd one, etc.

That's not unreasonable at all. A question like this is designed to assess how well you can reason and think through a process, not whether you can plug some numbers into an equation and spit out an answer.

My advice for the future: if you get exam questions like these, and you get stuck at an earlier problem, just move on to the subsequent steps. Make up a reasonable starting value and write something like "if this were the answer to part A, then..." and finish the rest of the problems from there. You'll be marked off for all the final answers, but you might get partial credit if your reasoning is right for everything else.
 

lainapox

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Maybe she was suggesting using the old tests to figure out and get comfortable with the format - the types of questions she'll be asking, the type of thinking she's looking for, that kind of thing.

I've taken a bunch of those tests. I think they're the best kind. They separate the memorizers from the people who learn the way things work. In science, that's pretty much what's most important - learning how and why things do what they do, not random formulas and facts.

Hope for a curve.
 
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Chemist0157

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My Physical Chemistry class is like this. The material we cover in class, on our homework, and on our tests is very different. It's not outrageous for a professor to do this, especially if they curve the tests. I would wait to see what your final grade is before you get upset.
 

Toadesque

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That's not unreasonable at all. A question like this is designed to assess how well you can reason and think through a process, not whether you can plug some numbers into an equation and spit out an answer.

My advice for the future: if you get exam questions like these, and you get stuck at an earlier problem, just move on to the subsequent steps. Make up a reasonable starting value and write something like "if this were the answer to part A, then..." and finish the rest of the problems from there. You'll be marked off for all the final answers, but you might get partial credit if your reasoning is right for everything else.

yeah but dude that's not the problem. I can handle these type of problems fine, I did them all on the practice test. But the problem is that the ones on the real test were soooooo much harder. It was so much harder to figure out what you needed to do to get the answer.
 
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yeah but dude that's not the problem. I can handle these type of problems fine, I did them all on the practice test. But the problem is that the ones on the real test were soooooo much harder. It was so much harder to figure out what you needed to do to get the answer.

Yeah... quit whining and go figure out how to handle those type of problems. We all have classes like this...
 

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The answer to this question is really, really simple... If the test is on a curve then it is ABSOLUTELY okay for the teacher to do this. If the grading is above 90 A, 80 B etc. Then the teacher should not, and usually will not make the test questions harder than practice material or material in class.

The best way to grade a class is to make the test extremely hard and then grade on a curve, this tests the students ability to apply the information in new ways as opposed to regurgitating formulas. Tested in this way, the people who get A's will be those who truly understand not those who memorized.
 

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yeah but dude that's not the problem. I can handle these type of problems fine, I did them all on the practice test. But the problem is that the ones on the real test were soooooo much harder. It was so much harder to figure out what you needed to do to get the answer.

Your argument would be stronger if you were able to give us some actual examples. Otherwise, most won't believe you and call you a whiner. Anyways, just wait and see what you got on the exam, and post some of the questions when you get the exam back.
 

TexasTriathlete

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If you did slightly better than the class average, then yes, it is fair.

If everyone in the class got a C or below, then no, the test was probably not representative of what was taught.

This practice is fairly common in med school, by the way. They'll teach us basic concepts, and then ask clinical-type questions about them. A lot of times, it comes down to being able to eliminate four choices that you know can't be right. The MCAT is somewhat similar.
 

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This is completely fair. I also highly doubt that the tests are 10x harder than the study material. You most likely study to memorize facts and formulas and are probably quick at reciting definitions, but when confronted with a problem that requires you to think YOU FREEZE. Thus, the tests appears to be difficult. STOP. THINK. UNDERSTAND. Simple as that. The answers are in your chrome dome, you just need to piece the information together. Like you mentioned, if you don't know a piece of information you cannot answer the rest of the problems. Sounds like you are disregarding material. My PI always told me he loves to put topics on exams that are not covered extensively in class. WHY? To see who will read the darn book.
 

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I don't quite understand the animosity towards the OP by the people here. None of you have any idea what this test was like or how challenging it was.

OP, it's possible that you were expecting something too similar to what you had studied when you were preparing and neglected to go over some of the material that her previous tests did not cover. It's not likely that the material simply was not presented in any form, it may just be that you're not able to recognize it. If you can, go to the professor's office and discuss the test with him/her and your study methods. The professor may offer you some suggestions or clarify some things that you were confused on.
 

foreverLaur

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I agree with the sympathetic people. The OP may really have studied very well for this exam. Some professors are just out to screw over students. I've had professors who know how to test very well to separate those who understand the material vs those who memorized everything. Others really do just like to make students cry and do poorly.

Bashing the OP isn't going to do anything but hurt. Try to be sympathetic and offer advice, hints, and tips. That will HELP and that is the point of this forum.
 
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I don't quite understand the animosity towards the OP by the people here. None of you have any idea what this test was like or how challenging it was.

OP, it's possible that you were expecting something too similar to what you had studied when you were preparing and neglected to go over some of the material that her previous tests did not cover. It's not likely that the material simply was not presented in any form, it may just be that you're not able to recognize it. If you can, go to the professor's office and discuss the test with him/her and your study methods. The professor may offer you some suggestions or clarify some things that you were confused on.

The test may have darn well been difficult, but the OP should just deal with it instead of whining and complaining about how this is so "unfair". If instead, he/she had started a thread such as "I did poorly on my exam, how can I improve, etc...", it may have led to some more positive responses (or at least mine would have been). But having this whiny, entitled attitude isn't going to get you positive responses...
 

Toadesque

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Stop interpreting my words in the way YOU want to read them. I asked if it was fair for the teacher to present the test in that way.

And it doesn't matter even if I wrote some of the examples down here (i'll get the test back soon though). You might find them easy because you like chemistry (I don't, it's just not in my blood) and then you'll make fun of me for not being able to do it.

And stop making assumptions about me as if I'm stupid and only study to regurgitate information.

If instead, he/she had started a thread such as "I did poorly on my exam, how can I improve, etc...", it may have led to some more positive responses (or at least mine would have been).
Why would I do that? I already know what the responses will be, "study harder, earlier, etc".

The actual point of this topic was mainly to see if other people here have experienced teachers like this. And let me just let you guys know, this is a GEN CHEM class. I've talked to friends who did gen, organic, and most of them said their Gen Chem tests were never presented in the way mine are. So some perspective for you.
 

mmmcdowe

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Stop interpreting my words in the way YOU want to read them. I asked if it was fair for the teacher to present the test in that way.

And it doesn't matter even if I wrote some of the examples down here (i'll get the test back soon though). You might find them easy because you like chemistry (I don't, it's just not in my blood) and then you'll make fun of me for not being able to do it.

And stop making assumptions about me as if I'm stupid and only study to regurgitate information.

Why would I do that? I already know what the responses will be, "study harder, earlier, etc".

The actual point of this topic was mainly to see if other people here have experienced teachers like this. And let me just let you guys know, this is a GEN CHEM class. I've talked to friends who did gen, organic, and most of them said their Gen Chem tests were never presented in the way mine are. So some perspective for you.

I'll be frank. Friends are friends because they sympathize with you, even if they think you're wrong. Furthermore, just because some of your friends haven't had this prof doesn't mean the profs method is wrong. Nothing is going to come from this thread that is positive. The answer is we can not tell you if the test was fair without having taken the class with that prof. We can say that his method is not crazy, however. So here's what you're going to want to do. Get your grades back. If more than 2 people got A's, the test was fair and you will know how to prepare based on what you got wrong. If you are above the average, then everything you said was valid, but unless no one got an A it was a reasonable test. If you are below the average, then clearly not that many people left whole pages blank!
 

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I just had my chem mid term today and I probably did awful. And I studied my ass off for the last week, doing all the problems in the book, doing all the old tests from the prof's website that SHE recommends, reading the text. And when I get to the exam, none of that was applicable. It was like I was doing completely different material. It just doesn't make sense. How can you test people on material that they won't ever come across unless they break into her office and look at the tests? I was looking around at everyone else's tests and A LOT of people left entire pages blank because they had no idea what to do. I probably did better than the class average but the curve will still probably put me in the high C range.

+pity+

May 26, 2005

http://www.chem.ucla.edu/~cantrill/30A_S05_archive.htm

Well, the midterm is graded... High was 75/100, Low was -1/100 (yes, -1) and the mean was a poor 32%

probably the best core class i ever took.
 

Perrotfish

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I think undergrad institutions should standardize their science tests to the ones offered by the ACS (or similar organizations). When they go off topic honestly they generally go into topics that are esoteric and inane. Not necessarily undoable, but useless and difficult to prepare for. Also the fact that every class is professor specific prevents people from making useful standardized study aids. The fact that medical school education is so standardized to the boards and the shelf exams is one of the few really great things about it, and I think is one of the major reason why medical school seems so high yield compared to undergrad. Also, unrelated, this would provide medical schools with a standardized way to compare you to your peers, other than the MCAT. I just wish the ACS offered a complete set of Undergrad exams and quizes rather than just one final exam.

Also, yeah, I sympathize with the OP, I had two professors like that during undregrad. One was nice and curved everyone, one was... I didn't like him. It's not that the classes were too hard, it's that you don't know what you should study. Simple Mendilian genetics is one of the easist topics in biology. No one should get one of those questions wrong. If you get a question about the inheritance of blue eyes on an economics test, it is unreasonable.

I'll be frank. Friends are friends because they sympathize with you, even if they think you're wrong

You a chick? Unless you just found out your wife was cheating on you, or something, guy friends are about as sympathetic to your depression as a lion is to a gazelle with a broken leg.
 
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mmmcdowe

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I think undergrad institutions should
You a chick? Unless you just found out your wife was cheating on you, or something, guy friends are about as sympathetic to your depression as a lion is to a gazelle with a broken leg.

Funny, I wasn't aware we were talking about depression. I thought we were talking about getting a bad grade and people listening to you vent! :D
 

Toadesque

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lol got the results back.as expected, I did terrible.

Here's the breakdown

High score: 154/190. LOL. Followed by 146, and then a 138/190.

Low score: 14/190, 22/190.

As you can see, I wasn't making it up that this test was absolutely ridiculous. It's fine if the professor wants to challenge the students, but seriously...when the entire class does this terrible...that tells you something.

She let us redo some of the problems to get a little bit of credit back but that still doesn't compensate for how bad the scores were. I'll end up with barely a C.
 

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foreverLaur

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Like I said... I feel ya. The HIGH grade on my Drugs & Behavior class was a 72% and the average was a 48%. And mind you this is a psychology class where the only prerequisite is Psych 100. The textbook is an upper level pharmacology book and we were expected to know the chemical compositions of a lot of drugs. I have a strong biology and chemistry background and I got a 70% on the test. The midterm was 50% of our grade. It is no wonder like half the class dropped.
 
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mmmcdowe

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lol got the results back.as expected, I did terrible.

Here's the breakdown

High score: 154/190. LOL. Followed by 146, and then a 138/190.

Low score: 14/190, 22/190.

As you can see, I wasn't making it up that this test was absolutely ridiculous. It's fine if the professor wants to challenge the students, but seriously...when the entire class does this terrible...that tells you something.

She let us redo some of the problems to get a little bit of credit back but that still doesn't compensate for how bad the scores were. I'll end up with barely a C.

A bit rough, but it won't be the last time you get a prof like that. I bet you'll find that the second exam is a lot easier, just because you'll have an inkling of what she's up to.
 

Toadesque

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this was the 2nd exam lol. I talked to her after the test and she said typically this exam is the hardest she gives and people usually do badly. I just hope the next one is easier, get an A and pull my grade up. Then get a B on the final and pray I get a B in the class.
 

chemnerd89

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I just had my chem mid term today and I probably did awful. And I studied my ass off for the last week, doing all the problems in the book, doing all the old tests from the prof's website that SHE recommends, reading the text. And when I get to the exam, none of that was applicable. It was like I was doing completely different material. It just doesn't make sense. How can you test people on material that they won't ever come across unless they break into her office and look at the tests? I was looking around at everyone else's tests and A LOT of people left entire pages blank because they had no idea what to do. I probably did better than the class average but the curve will still probably put me in the high C range.

Your situation reminds me of this kitty:[youtube=xjdvpHBNfo4] woops[/youtube]

You thought you had it, then PLOP
 

katarina90

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I can sympathize, there are times when you just get bad luck as far as professors. Which is why I am a huge fan of Rate My Professors.

Although, sometimes even that doesn't work...

Case in point: I had an Anatomy class once, looked up the professor on Rate My Professors. He had one review, it was a great, rave review.

Then I got to class. Tests were really horrible; things that he told us we wouldn't need to know were on the tests along with a lot of horribly fuzzy black-and-white photographs where we had to identify very tiny specific structures. Wording was very ambiguous (ie, "most important function"--well they're all important, aren't they?).

70 % of the class ended up failing, no curve applied (not an exaggeration, I did actually count the # of people who failed--grades posted by # on office door). I squeezed by with a C--barely.

A few weeks later, I was scanning Rate My Professors and ended up finding a misspelled variation of his name. 43 reviews, all terrible.

Go figure : / Although, I don't regret the class, the guy was a great lecturer and I learned a LOT, despite the bad test scores.

Anyway, OP definitely do the redo work. Even if its only a few points, it may end up being the few points that bring your grade up a letter grade or half at the end of the semester, you never know.

Just try to do as well as you can on the final, and worst case scenario, if you do end up having to retake it (with a different prof of course), you'll probably kick ass because you're used to having such a tough professor.
 

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do you have a disorder that permits only selective reading? wow



I can't remember any specifically. Basically she gives you a piece of information and then you have like 4-5 questions that you have to do based off the information given. The downside to that is that if you don't know the answer to the first one, you can't answer the 2nd one, and if you don't know the 2rd one, you can't answer the 3rd one, etc.
This isn't the only class you'll experience a "here's a few words, do" type of question. Last year in biochem I was asked to discuss glucose metabolism and glycogen synthesis. With diagram and text, I had 1.5 pages on the exam. Suck it up, college doesn't get easier.

Edit: Although this wasn't a multipart answer everything in the question depended on what was infront of it.
 
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JackInTheBox

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this was the 2nd exam lol. I talked to her after the test and she said typically this exam is the hardest she gives and people usually do badly. I just hope the next one is easier, get an A and pull my grade up. Then get a B on the final and pray I get a B in the class.

The professor admitted that that exam would be the hardest one she gives, and the highest score was over 80%. Obviously some people rose to the challenge. Just because you didn't doesn't mean the professor is being unfair.
 

Toadesque

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The professor admitted that that exam would be the hardest one she gives, and the highest score was over 80%. Obviously some people rose to the challenge. Just because you didn't doesn't mean the professor is being unfair.

Oh come on. Nobody ROSE to the challenge. The person who got barely got a B was the same person who always gets the highest grade in the class, which is usually an A. On the last test she got an A. I don't know for sure, but I'm sure she was crying when she saw her 154/190. And the disparity between her score and the next score was like 10% so it's not like a good chunk of people did well.
 

scg

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To answer your question: No, it's not fair. You should ask your mommy to talk to the dean for you.
 

Chemdude

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I had that mentality a couple of semesters ago. I've come to realize that it doesn't matter how hard the exam material is. No matter how difficult the exam is, the people who do the best get the As.

Not to mention, the test may have been really easy for someone else. I remember those tests that seemed like they were graduate-level; although they seemed impossible, Mr.Genius always managed to get a 95%+.
 

Kaustikos

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To answer your question: No, it's not fair. You should ask your mommy to talk to the dean for you.
Definitely. And while she's up there, ask her to ask the dean for a letter of recommendation for med school.


Seriously. Yes, they can do it. Yes, it's fair. Honestly, if you thought it was hard, then 80% of the class did too.
 

GoodMorning

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Some of the posters on this thread are unbelievably hostile... Those of you asking for an 'example' are flawed in your thinking because there's no way you would know if that question was or was not beyond the scope of the material learned by the OP

Professors do NOT need to give exam material beyond the scope of the material covered in order to effectively teach. Some professors, in my opinion the strongest, do not need to 'prove' how difficult they can make exams in order to effectively convey information.

I've been fortunate that every science class I've taken undergrad has had fair testing. Not everyone has earned an A, but I've never walked out of the room and heard people freaking out that it was unfair. For those of you who say this does not prepare you for the MCAT, you're wrong from my personal experience. You don't become prepared for the MCAT by the exams you take but rather by the information learned.

That said, there are professors at my school who do teach this way. Some of them ARE excellent professors, but just as many of them are terrible professors. Harder exams do not necessarily indicate a better professor, just as "fairer/easier" exams do not necessarily mean the professor is leaving material uncovered.
 

scg

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Those of you asking for an 'example' are flawed in your thinking because there's no way you would know if that question was or was not beyond the scope of the material learned by the OP

I would have to disagree. Clearly most of the questions were "beyond the scope of the material learned" by the OP.
 
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