Monday, November 03, 2014

Curse of Confidence

Last week I took Exam #3 in my Discrete Optimization course.  I had no idea how to do the bonus problem but was fairly confident that I'd aced the rest of the test.

I scored 46/50, which is a point less than I did on the previous test.  My scores are going down each time, but past performance is no guarantee of future returns!

Once, when as a junior I took Mathematical Modeling, I had an A going into the final exam.  I walked out of that final thinking that that was the first final I'd ever aced!  When grades came out I had an A- in the course!  Hmm, must be a mistake, I'll go talk to the instructor after the semester break.  As I was walking down the hall a few weeks later I saw my instructor and started to approach him to and see if, perhaps, obviously, there had been a recording mistake with my grade.  He saw me and, with typical military bluntness, said, "Miller!  What the f*** happened to you on that final?!"

Confidence is a curse for me.


PeggyU said...

Now admit it. There have been tests you thought you didn't do well on but were pleasantly surprised.

I remember a test in Real Analysis. After the exam was over, and we were leaving the room, two other students and I started talking about a proof that was on it; the problem was worth a good portion of the points. So many years have gone by that I have forgotten what it was we were supposed to prove, but I still recall the stress I felt over probably bombing that test.

Anyhow, I had agonized over this proof, and it ended up taking up nearly the whole page and a lot of time. The other two smugly informed me that a good piece of that work could have been avoided if I had started by using some such related theorem. It turned out, though, that they had made some assumptions they should not have, and by starting from scratch I had avoided their error. I ended up actually getting an A on that test. But I spent the weekend studying hard and trying to figure out how I could redeem my grade in the class.

I tried the confidence thing once, with embarrassing results. I had sat through a physics class most of the semester without ever volunteering an answer to the professor's questions. However, I had been quietly answering them to myself the whole time and had done well enough that I finally worked up the nerve to pipe up. Of course when I did blat an answer out, I was dead wrong!

Darren said...

I admit that I've done better than I expected on some tests--the 2nd one in this course, for example, on which I scored 94%! But I attribute that to serendipity :)