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I failed. I totally failed.

Tom Raaf | Monday, November 3, 2003

“That was the worst test I have ever taken in my life. I am positive I failed. Maybe I should just quit school and quit life,” junior Michael Flanagan said as he stormed out of his Accounting test shortly before break. However, when he received his test grade from his professor after demanding it by e-mail sometime in the middle of fall break, he found that his grade was not quite as poor as he had thought; a 96 percent, one of the best grades in the class.

This short little story is just one example of a terrible problem on the Notre Dame campus involving students who do well on tests but claim that they bombed them. I speak from personal experience in saying that there is nothing worse than when you walk home from a test with someone who rants about how poorly they did when in fact you know that they probably beat your score by upwards of 10 points, at worst getting an A-. I call this trend the Academic All-Star Pessimistic Plan to Success Team. By my rough calculations, this group is made up of nearly 25 percent of the students on campus. These are also typically the same students who badger teachers for test grades from the hour after the exam until they receive them by some other special earlier time than the rest of the class … because of course everyone knows that if you know your last test grade a day before everyone else it gives you an undeniable edge over the class for that 24 hour period.

At first, I thought that these students were simply considering the worst-case scenario, in hopes that their grade would be better than they thought. Since my initial assessment, however, I have seen so many flagrant violations that I know that this is not the case. Anything under a 98 appears to constitute “failure” for many of these students. It seems as though these poor souls are searching for post-test failure pity while at the same time receiving good test score gratification. Sort of a getting your cake, eating it, throwing it up and eating it again type of philosophy.

Along with this usually comes the common lie about the amount of time these All-Stars studied for the test. “Oh, I just kind of flipped through my notes … I think it shouldn’t be too hard” can be easily translated into “I e-mailed my professor this summer and outlined the course packet sometime in early July. I have known about this test since senior year of high school and am probably more prepared than the professor.” As a result, non-All-Stars or prospective All-Stars feel a false sense of security and under-study for the tests.

So to you All-Stars out there I say this: be proud of the amount you’ve studied, have confidence in your test performance and, if nothing else, bank on the professor giving an unbelievable curve. Just don’t tell me about your D- and then tuck your A paper away the minute you get it back.

Tom Raaf is a junior who is really not quite as bitter and cynical in real life as his columns might lead you to believe. He is a Libra and is most likely having a 4-star day today. Contact him at traaf@nd.edu.