The Hindsight Notes: Worst Exam

25 Feb

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: Your Worst Exam.

The stress of exam season is something that continues to haunt me well into my adult life. I have a recurring nightmare in which I realize that I have an exam in an hour for a class that I have neither attended, nor have I studied the material. The sheer, gut-wrenching panic is something that consistently causes me to wake up in a cold sweat and be eternally grateful that my school career has come to a close.

So this week, we want to hear all about your scariest, longest, toughest, absolute worst exam. What about it made it so terrible? The format? The subject matter? The fact that you studied for something completely different from the stuff that wound up on the paper in front of you?

As always, I’ll start us out:


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!



7 Responses to “The Hindsight Notes: Worst Exam”

  1. thehindsightletters February 25, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    My worst exam happened when I was 19, in first year University. This exam had all the elements of a nightmare scenario. It was for my Introduction to Poetics class. It was a notoriously tough class, and had the reputation of being impossible to ace. I studied and studied and studied. The venue for the exam was initially announced right at the end of the semester. I made a note of it right away in my little student agenda. By fluke, I ran into my Professor at the grocery store. We made small talk for a few minutes, and when saying goodbye I said “See you in Exam Hall B, Room 112 on December 22” or something especially lame in order to act like a keener and confirm the date and room. The Professor laughed and nodded and we parted ways.

    On the day of the exam, I showed up at the room 45 minutes prior to the start time. Normally, even 45 minutes ahead, I would see other classmates nearby, doing some last minute cramming. But this time, I couldn’t see anyone. 3o minutes until the exam and still no classmates. The room was completely empty. 20 minutes until the exam. Still no one. I was officially panicking. Was I in the right place?

    This being years before wireless internet was widely available, the only place I could confirm the location was in the library all the way across campus. It was a risky move, but I took off running. By the time I reached the library I was covered in sweat and out of breath. Sure enough, they had changed the location of the exam that morning and I had neglected to check.

    I managed to get to the new location just as the T.A.’s were handing out the exams. Whew. I unloaded my bags, got out my pens and took a deep breath. I took a first glance at the exam and realized (and I swear I am not kidding here) that although I was under the impression that the exam was on the last 1/3 of the material we studied, it was actually on THE ENTIRE SEMESTER’S MATERIAL. I’m not even joking. I contemplated jamming my pen into my carotid artery right then and there. Possibly the most panic I’ve ever felt in my life.

    Now, miraculously, I somehow managed to scam my way through the exam and emerge unscathed in my grade average. Thank goodness. But I continue to suffer from intense post traumatic stress, even years later.

  2. multiplicity February 27, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    I have had two exams that still haunt me and make my heart race before any sort of test as i fear a recurrence. The second however also saved me, made me get my act together and realise caffeine, although nectar from the gods, is not a sleep replacement.

    At 15 i entered an exam confident and sure i’d do ok, half way through it was all going swimmingly but my eye was getting itchy, within ten minutes i couldn’t see or turn my eye ball from side to side and i was panicing big time. I left the exam hall and saw a nurse who sent me straight to the hospital. To this day they don’t know how or why my eyeball decided to swell but account it to some sort of allergic reaction to stress. I am always stressed and then i get stressed in case it happens again. nightmare.

    The other was in my first year of exams at uni, i had all 5 in 5 days and i had spent my first year playing hockey, going out and generally not doing an ounce of work. Luckily uni gave us a whole term to revise, my naiive brain took this as 8 sunny weeks to have fun. SO two days before my exams started and not a note made or book opened i panicked stock bought red bull and prepared to blag my way through exams at one of the top uni’s in the world. Needless to say i didn’t sleep in the following days and if i’m honest i have little memory of the 3rd forth or fifth days apart from that my hands shook alot. when my results cam back there was a striking pattern. I started of well with the top mark, but when down a grade in every exam, scoring what my supervisor told me was an astonishingly low mark in my last exam. Having looked at the paper it is no surprise as rather than write coherent answers it seemed i deemed it appropriate to doodle over the paper and draw pictures to explain my thoughts instead. that i passed by a mark is a miracle but as my supervisor said, it is impossible to fail, you came as close as i ever saw. 5 days with no sleep and crate fulls of caffeine left me wrecked physically and with no memory of days 4 and 5. my friends say i couldn’t phyically write on the 5th because of my shaking hands.
    i learnt though and although the next 2 years saw more caffeine consumed and equally little work done at times, i remained caffeine free over exams and used it only after to make sure my celebrations were not hindered by exhaustion. Each time i drink red bull my hand still shake the next day, a repeated reminder of that week which now causes much hilarity but at the time nearly broke me.

    • thehindsightletters February 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

      Oh my! Isn’t it amazing the lengths to which we will go for a good grade?! I absolutely love the “I’ll just draw a picture” option for answering exam questions! Hilarious! Thanks for the comment!

  3. Beth-Anne March 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Hands down my worst exam experience:

    My final year of university, first semester. I had completed a course that I needed to graduate and had done well. My grade was above the class average but I still needed to pass the 50% weighted final. I wasn’t particularly anxious about it. I studied for it. I checked the exam schedule the night before – double checked. Set my alarm. After breakfast and a brisk walk to school, I stood confidently outside the lecture hall, waiting to enter. As I waited, a stream of familiar faces walked out of the building. It took me a moment to recognize the faces as my classmates! A look of surprise and concern registered on their faces wondering where I had been. They asked if everything was alright.

    I had missed the exam.

    I had read an old copy of the exam schedule. The test was moved from the 10:30 am slot to 8:30 am.

    I ran to the professor, who thank the Lord, was a kind woman with a sense of compassion few know. She allowed me to write the exam right then. Saving my year.

    For years after I had nightmares about missing my exam and flunking out of school.

    Just thinking about it causes my heart to race!

    • thehindsightletters March 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

      What a nightmare!!! Thank goodness your professor was so understanding!

  4. Sarah De Decker March 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    In one of my later years of university I took a class on Primate Behaviour (still love that I could take a class like that). I went to every class, read every reading and took notes, participated etc. even though I didn’t know anyone in the class.

    Halfway through the year, my grandfather passed away, and his funeral was on a Thursday, the day of that class and when the essay was due. Fortunately, like a super-star, I had finished the essay in advance I and handed it in early, explaining I would be gone for a funeral and would miss class that week.

    A few weeks later when studying for the final, I realized I didn’t have any notes from that one class I missed – since I didn’t know anyone in class, I couldn’t call someone up to borrow their notes. I had done the readings for that session and figured, there’s no way missing that one, 2-hour lecture will cripple my exam.

    I sat down to the exam which was like 10 multiple choice questions and 2 essays. Sure enough,BOTH essay questions related to the day I wasn’t in class. BOTH required exceptional detail and accounted for the vast majority of the test marks. Sigh. I know for one of the answers, I actually drew a picture (I think that was allowed?) since I couldn’t fully describe the answer.

    Luckily, the essay held my mark up and I learned lots about chimps in that class, so it worked out. But I wonder if that professor was off his academic high horse chosing questions from one lecture, OR, whether he noted that there were many people missing from class that day and purposely chose that content to punish those absent……I tend to think it was the later.

    Yay for primates!

    • thehindsightletters March 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

      That sounds so similar to my experience! What a nightmare feeling, knowing that even though you studied so hard, the tiny little bit you missed was the most important part. Ugh! I would LOVE to take a class in Primate Behaviour by the way, sounds fascinating 🙂 Thanks for your story!!!

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