Sunlit Water

October 21, 2009


Filed under: Academia,Personal — by teofilo @ 10:51 pm

I had my first midterm today.  It was pretty easy.  It also brought me back to a situation I’ve been in a lot when it comes to test-taking.

I not only test well, which seems to be pretty common among my internet acquaintances, but I also test fast.  I’m almost always the first person done with a test, sometimes by a considerable margin.  Since I’m also shy and self-conscious, this usually means I end up sitting there with my completed test until someone else finishes and hands theirs in, which tends to embolden me to turn mine in too and get the hell out of the room.  Today I finished the test, which had a three-hour period set aside for it, in about an hour, and then waited about half an hour until a couple other people had turned theirs in before I turned in mine.  My roommate, who is also in the class, later told me that most of the remaining people turned theirs in shortly afterward, so I may not have been the only person doing this.

I do tend to get good grades on these tests, but even when I don’t do particularly well I finish quickly (sometimes I just don’t know the answer to a question, and there’s no use agonizing over it).  I often wonder, though, just what all the other people in these tests are doing for so long.  Am I really that unusual in finishing so quickly?  I emphasize that it’s not that I’m particularly well-prepared or anything.  This seems to happen regardless of how well I’ve studied or how well  I know the material.



  1. I used to finish tests fairly quickly, but don’t really do so much anymore. I think in my case I valued speed for a while, but became indifferent to it. I noticed after I became one of the later finishers that lots of people apparently don’t want to be the first. Unless the exam is difficult or long enough for lots of people to barely finish in time, there’s always a big group turning in their exams after the first few do.

    Comment by andrew — October 21, 2009 @ 11:36 pm |Reply

  2. I think a big part of this is that I (probably you as well, since we’ve both gravitated to a text-based media) simply read faster. When I’m handed text at the same time as someone else, I’m always surprised at how long it takes them to finish reading it. That may be a lot of what they’re doing for so long: reading.

    That, plus the decisiveness (“this answer isn’t getting any better”) means I finished early too. But I tend not to care what strangers think of me, so I am up and out.

    Comment by Megan — October 21, 2009 @ 11:44 pm |Reply

  3. The funny thing is, though, that while I do lots of stuff really fast, I actually read really slowly. So that’s definitely not it.

    Comment by teofilo — October 22, 2009 @ 1:09 am |Reply

  4. Professor tomorrow: “Teo, the test was double-sided.”

    Comment by Minivet — October 22, 2009 @ 1:35 am |Reply

  5. Heh. I often worry about that sort of thing, so I always check.

    Comment by teofilo — October 22, 2009 @ 9:30 am |Reply

  6. My freshman year of college I took a philosophy course that I simply did not get. I went to every class, did all the readings, and was still in the dark on the day of the final. It was my last final that year and at 7:30 p.m. I got it, read the essay questions (which were in Greek, I think), opened my blue book and wrote a note to Professor Waxman apologizing for being so inept, explaining that it was no fault of his, and that I hoped he had a nice summer.

    Then I sat there for a couple of minutes wondering if I should pretend to write for a while or if I should turn it in and leave. I opted for the latter. Being less than five minutes into the exam, EVERYBODY looked up. Even the professor looked up with a confused expression. I shrugged, handed in the blue book, and started my summer.

    How I passed the class with a D- is a mystery to me.

    Comment by Meredith — October 22, 2009 @ 3:34 pm |Reply

  7. I agree with Megan that it could be that you read faster. If it’s an essay response test, I would say you also write faster than most.

    But you’re also just smart. You have a fast processor.

    Comment by Meredith — October 22, 2009 @ 3:35 pm |Reply

  8. The “reading faster” explanation works in a lot of cases. Since you say it’s not true in yours, I wonder if it’s decisiveness. Some people get a lot out of ruminating over possible answers to questions, going back and changing them, etc. The positive side of this is that you’re mulling. The negative side is that you’re dithering.

    In my experience, US college exams are generally not very creative. Therefore, if you’re mulling/dithering over the response, it’s not because it’s a thoughtful and complex question, it’s because you don’t know the answer.

    Or at least, that’s my default explanation for why some people finish promptly and head out, and other people keep sighing and flipping back and forth, erasing and re-writing.

    Comment by Witt — October 22, 2009 @ 7:05 pm |Reply

  9. Decisiveness makes sense. I usually do tests in pen. No erasing for me.

    Comment by teofilo — October 22, 2009 @ 9:46 pm |Reply

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