Reflections on My First College Exam
The college application process is stressful (that’s pretty much an accepted fact). The one aspect of college admissions that stressed me out especially was testing. In the months that I carefully and meticulously planned out my application, wrote out essays, sought out recommenders, and met with high school advisors, the idea of having to take another ACT or SAT subject test remained at the height of my worries.
I couldn’t seem to shake it off my mind. I don’t suffer from test anxiety, nor am I unconfident about my testing strategies. I simply didn’t want to take another high-stakes examination. In my eyes, on these dreaded Saturdays, along with a strange-looking scantron, I was handed a piece of paper that decided my future—where I would apply, where I would end up, perhaps even what I would do there. And so, once I heard the tick of the timer going off, and the clink of several pencils being put down at once, I’d sigh and hope for the best. Never did I go home and ponder about individual math or reading questions. I, instead, explored the importance of the test on my application, and whether my other scores could make up for a potentially poor score on this one. It was always the big picture that unsettled me the most.
On the drive to Vanderbilt from St. Louis on moving day, I constantly found myself thinking about my first upcoming test, or “midterm.” The concept of being surrounded by five times the amount of people in a room six times as big on desks three times as small was foreign to me. Conveniently, my first exam here in Nashville was a General Chemistry exam — as a student on the pre-med track, it mattered quite a bit. As big picture as it can get.
I went in nervous, as did the few hundred other students that entered the testing building with me. But I left relieved. The test certainly wasn’t easy, which makes sense seeing as how the class is designed to be challenging. However, I realized that if one makes use of the opportunities available to them, there really isn’t a reason to overly fret about exams on campus. It’s true that they’re sometimes very difficult and that almost everyone goes into exams slightly nervous. But, in retrospect, I had access to a plethora of study tools and resources to help me study, all of which were introduced to me at the beginning of the semester.
For one, we were given our professor’s office hours: an invaluable pocket of time for anyone going in with questions, or to anyone just spectating. I saw students around me making use of office hours quite frequently, and the times that I went were integral in ensuring that I knew the material well. We were also provided with the office hours of our lab TA, as well as our recitation TA, both of whom were available to help us with any questions we had. From the very beginning, each of us had been connected with three people that never hesitated to help when asked. In fact, recitation itself was a resource, as it forced us to practice certain problems that either carried a probability of appearing on the tests or were the basis for test questions. These resources, in addition to quite a few more, were there for us to make use of. They certainly turned an otherwise demanding class into a manageable one.
I’m sure we all know by now that college life is radically different from high school. For me, the differences have landed in college life’s favor. I’ve found that in college, even in larger lecture-based classes, my classmates and I are never left to completely fend for ourselves. As I continue to seek and discover new opportunities, I’m met with more and more ways to succeed in that which I pursue. My first chem test of last semester taught me to refine and develop new habits, and I’m excited to see what improvements the first one of this semester will reveal.
If you have any questions about anything I mentioned here, or in any of my other (forthcoming) posts, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Here are a few more study resources that students can apply to their classes.
Here’s another that focuses in on Gen Chem especially.