When your best isn’t good enough
January 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
As can probably be deduced from the title of this post, our biochemistry exams did not go as hoped. I’ve been taking it a lot harder than I expected. Normally, in the hours before an exam, I get a calm sense of clarity. It usually follows my thinking that I will pass the exam if I have the knowledge required to pass and then accepting that a failing grade is just an opportunity to learn the material better. There are a lot of really, really good things about me needing to retake the exam, but right now, I’m allowing myself a bit of a wallow period.
The main reason for my wallowing is that I had a flight booked for California this morning. On Christmas morning, Skjalg surprised me with the perfect gift: a trip to see my family. He, his family and my mama, all got together for the ticket and the trip was set for the day after my last exam. When I got the present, I immediately started crying. I haven’t been home to see my family in over two years now (the perils of living abroad). My mom came to visit me last winter, but I have not seen the rest of my family since my visit in January of 2012. I haven’t mentioned the trip because it was conditional upon me finishing my exams in time and I didn’t want it to add to the already unbearably stressful exam period.
Waiting for the results yesterday was a terrible experience. Skjalg and I only managed an hour or so of sleep the night before the exam, so we should have been tired enough to sleep until the results were uploaded. We were able to keep ourselves down for an hour long nap, but after that, it was just constant refreshing of the webpage that would showcase the results. Skjalg got his result first, mine was updated about 30 minutes later. It was morning in California at that time and my mom was up and getting ready for work. She messaged me to ask how it went as my result loaded on the screen. When it loaded, I felt such an overwhelming sense of shock and sadness. I’m thankful that we were messaging in the moment because it saved me from having to worry about how I was going to tell her that I wouldn’t be coming home just yet. As usual, my mom was supportive and understanding, but that didn’t stop me from starting a battle with myself.
To make matters worse, the details of the exam were uploaded this morning. I failed by ONE POINT! One single, little point. The exam was divided into 3 sections worth 30 points – (1) Open questions about any of the topics (2) 30 multiple choice questions about carbohydrates and metabolic integration, and (3) 30 multiple choice questions about lipids, amino acids, nucleotides, porphyrins. We needed at least 15 to pass in each of the sections, plus our total points (sum of this exam and our bonus points) needed to be 56. However, there is a ‘1-point rule’ stating:
‘1 point rule’ if any of the blocks contains 14 and the others 15 points or more (T) + the laboratory exam is evaluated by either 1 or 2 points (L), the grade for final-examination is 2 (pass) if the sum of scores and points (T+L+M+B) are 59 points or higher.
What did I get? 21/20/13. I have 4 bonus points from presentation/lab work from the semester and 2 from the lab exam. That means that I would have passed with a 14 instead of a 13 in the third section – sliding in at total 61 points. I still can’t believe it – one point!
As I resumed studying today, I kept an eye out for exam questions that I might have answered incorrectly. One of my mistakes was writing that the enzyme dihydroorotase catalyzes the reaction of dihydroorotate + NAD+ to orotate + NADH+H+. The enzyme that actually catalyzes that reaction is dihydroorotate dehydrogenase. Dihydroorotase catalyzes the reaction that generates dihydroorotate from carbamoyl-asparate by cleaving off a water equivalent. Silly me for mixing those two up! However, since this was an open question, it wouldn’t have helped me pass if I had gotten it right…
Skjalg and I will be retaking the exam on Tuesday at 11:00. My flight is rebooked for Wednesday morning and I am going to do everything I can to make sure I am on it. I appreciate this opportunity to cover the information more thoroughly – something that will pay off when it comes to preparing for the final exam at the end of this year – but I’m still bummed. I pushed myself so, so hard for this exam, despite being sick. I let myself sleep enough hours to keep me going, but when I was awake, I was cramming. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you push yourself, things don’t work out the way you want them to. But that doesn’t mean you should stop.
So, I’ve given myself today to wallow (while studying, of course) and from tomorrow, I’m putting my fighting gloves back on. Churchill always helps me with that 🙂