My heart on my sleeve

Rabn's picture
Rank: Chimp | 6

Hi everyone,

I'm a long-time lurker on WSO, now seeking counsel from those more experienced. I'm coming here because I honestly have no one else to talk to...

I do not want to waste too much of your time so I'll try to keep this short and concise. However, I come to you now with my heart on my sleeve, in a time of need. Thus, I'm not sure how short I can make it without getting my message across.

I'm someone who has spent most of their life (from the beginning of high school - now), immersed in the world of finance. Investing is my passion. I love it, live it and breathe it everyday.

I spend my days either studying (during the university curriculum) or doing something related to finance/investment (outside of the university curriculum). I strive for excellence everyday, putting in hours that most would consider obsessive and/or unhealthy.

I wake up everyday with hopes and dreams that I refuse to let go of.

However, since starting university, my grades have been poor. Very poor.
(For reference, I'm a financial mathematics and statistics major).

Despite the hours and effort I put in, my grades are severely lacking.

I have a passion for what I'm studying and would be researching, studying and applying it in my own time, were I not undertaking formal education. However, despite regular sleepless nights of studying, my grades show little reflection of my efforts.

I'll be honest - I'm writing this because I'm afraid. I'm so scared. I put in so much effort, time and passion into what I do. However, when I get my grades, I feel nothing but a deep sense of despair in the pit of my stomach and in the back of my mind. It seems like everything around me is subliminally indicating that I will fail. That I will end up being a failure....

I feel like I am insane... I keep asking myself, am I being delusional? Despite my circumstances, I continue sleeping late and waking up early. I continue putting in all of my efforts and feeling sure that I will achieve my goals, regardless of my mediocre grades.

I've come to the realization that life is not fair. I've come to the realization that you will not (at least in the short-term) get what you deserve. But despite all of this, I still wake up everyday with the hope that I will reach my goals and achieve what I want through continued hard work.

Now that I've finished writing this, it's obvious that It isn't short, nor is it concise..But I need your advice. I'm honestly not sure what I'm even asking or if there is a question to be asked. Am I a fool? Am I being naive? Can someone in my situation thrive in an industry full of people with outstanding credentials?

Thank you.

Comments (43)

May 9, 2015

Maybe you should get some sleep, studying for hours does not guarantee success. There's no point studying for 8 hours only for your mind to clock at 2 or 3.
You either need to find a study method suitable for you or you're not concentrating as much as you think you are.

What Uni are you at any way?

May 9, 2015

You're right - I should probably sleep more. Honestly, my lack of sleep is usually because I get lost in what I'm doing and don't notice the time. In addition, I mostly enjoy what I do so even if I am tired, I end up not wanting to sleep.

I'm at a target but I'd rather keep the uni name private.

May 9, 2015

Stop living and breathing finance and start getting better grades if you want to actually get a job in finance when you graduate.

Also, what about this situation leads you to the conclusion that life is not fair? I'm reading this story as: you are not getting good grades and want a finance job which are usually taken by people with high grades, therefore, life is not fair. That is poor logic.

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May 9, 2015
DickFuld:

Stop living and breathing finance and start getting better grades if you want to actually get a job in finance when you graduate.

Also, what about this situation leads you to the conclusion that life is not fair? I'm reading this story as: you are not getting good grades and want a finance job which are usually taken by people with high grades, therefore, life is not fair. That is poor logic.

I'm honestly doing everything I can with regards to my studies. When I say, 'live and breathe finance', I'm insinuating that I spend all my time studying. That's my point - I'm doing everything I can and it's still not enough.

The grades I receive do not reflect my effort and I just don't understand why.

May 9, 2015
Rabn:

DickFuld wrote:Stop living and breathing finance and start getting better grades if you want to actually get a job in finance when you graduate.
Also, what about this situation leads you to the conclusion that life is not fair? I'm reading this story as: you are not getting good grades and want a finance job which are usually taken by people with high grades, therefore, life is not fair. That is poor logic.

I'm honestly doing everything I can with regards to my studies. When I say, 'live and breathe finance', I'm insinuating that I spend all my time studying. That's my point - I'm doing everything I can and it's still not enough.

The grades I receive do not reflect my effort and I just don't understand why.

Ok, but what about this makes you think it's 'unfair'?

May 13, 2015
Rabn:

I'm honestly doing everything I can with regards to my studies. When I say, 'live and breathe finance', I'm insinuating that I spend all my time studying. That's my point - I'm doing everything I can and it's still not enough.

That sounds atrocious. You need to go to the gym, play some playstation, get drunk, get laid, watch hbo, etc. Maybe you'll actually be able to focus.

May 9, 2015

Perhaps you're not being efficient with your time..also, you need to find that balance between working hard and taking the time to enjoy yourself whether it be keeping active/body healthy/burning off some steam, taking a stroll in the park, meeting new people etc. I've been down that road before and it can otherwise lead to depression.

Have you thought about the fact that may be you don't actually understand the material you're studying? This isn't the same as pre-university "whose the best at memorising useless shit". If your courses require something additional I.e applied / practical then go an meet with your professors.

Or may be you've been so inefficient this year, poor at using the multitude of resources at your disposal that you have now run out of time and are facing your exams next week? Nerves?

Bitch please, I love bananas! If you found my advice useful, hit me up with one.

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May 9, 2015
Black Star:

Perhaps you're not being efficient with your time..also, you need to find that balance between working hard and taking the time to enjoy yourself whether it be keeping active/body healthy/burning off some steam, taking a stroll in the park, meeting new people etc. I've been down that road before and it can otherwise lead to depression.

Have you thought about the fact that may be you don't actually understand the material you're studying? This isn't the same as pre-university "whose the best at memorising useless shit". If your courses require something additional I.e applied / practical then go an meet with your professors.

Or may be you've been so inefficient this year, poor at using the multitude of resources at your disposal that you have now run out of time and are facing your exams next week? Nerves?

Thank you for your input.

I could very well be inefficient with my time - I'm honestly not sure. I just work as hard as I can and try to control what I have the power to control.

WRT balance - I don't think balance is the issue. The work I do is excellent and I love doing it. It's not the work that is distressing me - it's the inadequate output (grades) from my huge amount of input (studying/hard work).

Also, this has nothing to do with exams specifically. It has to do with the overall picture.

May 9, 2015

I suggest looking into techniques to studying to obtain good grades. I know too many people who are just simply good at studying for exams and obtaining high grades, but actually not necessarily understanding the materials. Then I've also met tons of people with passion in finance and seem to really understand the materials, yet fail to score decent grades.

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May 9, 2015
vik2000:

I suggest looking into techniques to studying to obtain good grades. I know too many people who are just simply good at studying for exams and obtaining high grades, but actually not necessarily understanding the materials. Then I've also met tons of people with passion in finance and seem to really understand the materials, yet fail to score decent grades.

I agree with this comment: exams/marked coursework is not always based on whose book smart. There are times when you think you know your shit and then fail miserably at attempting cw/exam because you don't know how to dissect the problem - the book doesn't always teach you how to apply concepts. Are your peers struggling with this particular course(s) as well?

Also, you keep stating that you perform excellent work (or at least when you replied to my previous comment) - it seems that this is clearly not the case and presuming you understand the material, it doesn't make much sense that you're not scoring high marks. Where did you go wrong? This is where professors come into play - doesn't seem like its your work ethic that's the problem, but a lack of being able to apply the material you have covered.

Bitch please, I love bananas! If you found my advice useful, hit me up with one.

May 9, 2015

Your current state of mind is very self-destructive and, if you keep thinking this way, you'll never get anywhere. Take a few hours off, maybe even a day, from studying and sit down, preferably alone, and write down (no, not metaphorically-speaking, like with actual pen and paper) what difficulties you think that you're facing and possible solutions.

Are you screwing up formulae? Maybe you should write them over and over til you can regurgitate them flawlessly. Do you not understand some of the basics? Seek help from a friend, or a tutor. Do you take too long to understand a topic? Create your own shortcuts and/or revise with a friend/study group. Point is, there's always a solution.

As for giving up on a dream; you'd be foolish to let your grades dictate your career path. Sure, grades matter to some extent, but there are ways around this. This is where networking is key and I suggest that you use your spare time to read some of material on networking, on WSO, and get started ASAP.

Good luck.

May 9, 2015

Ever heard the saying "work smarter, not harder"? Putting in the most hours or working the hardest doesn't mean you are going to be the most successful in your endeavors. Anyone can work hard, it is how you work that will determine your success.

On a side note, you're on the site with some of the most finance-centric people you'll ever meet and I think most here would agree that if you truly are spending as much time as you say on finance it isn't helpful. Go have a social life and enjoy college some too. This is a people business (for the most part) and if people can't stand to be around you then you have a small chance of getting a job no matter how smart you are.

May 9, 2015

I recommend injecting a social hobby into the mix. It will help you 1) de-stress, and 2) diversify your personality. You may be "burning out", which will happen again while working in finance. And like others have said, work to improve your efficiency.

Incoming Ash Ketchum, Pokemon Master
Literally a problem, solve for both X and Y, please and thank you.
Hugh Myron: "Are there any guides on here for getting a top girlfriend? Think banker/lawyer/doctor. I really don't want to go mid-tier"

May 12, 2015

Nobody has said this but maybe it's just not for you. I worked really hard to be a basketball player through the 9th grade and couldn't even make the freshman team. Loving something isn't the same as being good at it.

May 12, 2015

First off, it's going to be okay. Your grades and your job should not define who you are. As most have suggested, study less and enjoy life. You'll have plenty of time to live and breathe finance after college.

Are we talking like you're always making 80s or are you making like 65s and lower? If you're missing like a piece or two every time, then you can adjust. I had a similar issue and so I started interacting with my profs more and I'm going to a top MSF program because of that. If you're scoring much lower then maybe you should evaluate ho you learn. If you feel you are understanding the concepts but then you're screwed when you have to apply them, you need to start talking to your profs, and classmates who are doing well, A LOT. They get it for a reason.

Another possibility, though you may not want to hear it, is that you may just not be good at your major/college. I'm a numbers guy but I started in engineering and I literally could not understand a class called statics. If I went back and tried to learn it now, I likely would be able to get some of it but I just don't get engineering past my God-given ability to understand basic inter relation of systems. If you asked me to deconstruct a model and tell you about how it all fits together or explain how to find arbitrage opportunities, now that's right in my wheelhouse. Find what you're good at, and enjoy, and do that. Once you've figured that out then you can find the right career for you.

Best of luck!

May 12, 2015

Dude are you trying to be a quant analyst??? Or a economist why not just be a regular finance major instead of killing yourself with complicated statistics and mathematics ????

May 12, 2015

Stop wallowing in self pity and thinking that you deserve anything or worrying that life is unfair. If your view of fairness is that everyone gets a trophy because they showed up and tried, then life is indeed unfair. Accept it and realize that you just need to do and succeed, not just try. It's like Yoda said: "Do or do not. There is no try." I'm guessing this is the first time you've been out in the world not under the caring embrace of your parents (and now I'm sure I'll find out that you're actually an orphan...if that's the case, my apologies on that last line). It can be a cold, dark and lonely place and the only person that is in control of your place in it is you. You need to realize that and take control of your life. You need to impose your will on the world.

One trait that I've seen in every successful person I've met is that they don't think about how fair things were or how an external factor affected their win or loss, they realize that they alone are the factor that determines if they win or lose. They didn't anticipate that externality? They fucked up because they didn't have a contingency for that factor. A team member blew something? They fucked up by not knowing that team member couldn't do it (doesn't mean that team member's not gonna have a second asshole though...). Someone could have absolutely screwed them over, but they'll look at and say why didn't I see that coming? That's happened to me on more than a couple of occasions. I still hate those people and would like to see them tarred and feathered, but the person I'm most upset at is me for not seeing it coming.

As others have stated, if you're studying around the clock and still not hacking it, you're studying wrong. Go to your school's guidance department or whatever they'd call it in college (I think colleges have this?). Ask them to help you with your study habits. I'd also guess you did really well in high school and didn't have to do much to do well and now you're in a place where everyone is smart, courses are tough and it doesn't come naturally. Happens to a lot of people when they go to top schools. Or, as @fromtheshadows said, do an introspective evaluation and determine if you're cut out for it. Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up.

And stop jerking off to the thoughts and dreams of a post college life working in finance. That's a waste of time and energy. You have to get there first, and that's by doing well in college, getting the internships and all the other shit. It's a goal but don't live in it.

I don't mean to be harsh, but there have been times in my life when I've been stuck so deep in my own situation that I haven't seen the bigger picture or how to get out of the hole I've dug. You need to take a step back and figure a way out. And you're the person who needs to figure that out because there is no one else who is going to do it.

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May 12, 2015

+1

I've been suicidal given the circumstances I've been through. Not worth it. Trust me.

May 12, 2015

I was in your same situation plus academic probation. It's not the end of the world, go out and have fun. Cause when you get older and start working life can get boring at times. Whether you got D's or C's it won't stop you from getting a job. Relax, life isn't a race...

Greed is Good!

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May 13, 2015

C's and D's also get degrees!

May 12, 2015

Sleepless nights of studying? You only have class for 3 hours per day and you can't manage to get your studying done and a full night of sleep? That's shitty time management.

I'd basically echo everything @Dingdong08 said, so I'll add a few more points that may help you out. You're given a syllabus, so you should be able to read ahead and take notes, then come to class and listen to the lecture about the material you've already studied. At which point you can take more notes if necessary or ask questions on the parts that don't make sense. It's been awhile since I took any math or stats classes but they always loaded us up on homework... If you aren't getting the homework, go in to your professor's office hours, tutoring or look up explanations online until you start getting them right. Once you understand or know a formula, it isn't difficult. Turn off facebook, your phone while studying and avoid study groups when you need to get down to business. Those just end up being distractions which is how you end up "studying" all night and end up having not accomplished jack shit. To be clear, I fell flat on my face when I first went to college, so I get it... But then I got my shit together. Stay ready to keep from having to get ready.

May 13, 2015

I LIVE AND BREATHE FINANCE

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

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May 13, 2015

I look at learning in two ways - memorization and critical thinking.

It sounds like you are memorizing everything, but you aren't understanding it to the point you can apply it. If I don't fully understand something, knowing it is almost useless. Be able to apply multiple concepts in a single problem.

Also nothing in life is fair. It starts out that way.

Find your talents and use them.

May 13, 2015

There's always the chance that you're simply not that good at math and/or finance and/or school. It's not a deathblow. There are plenty of jobs in the sector that don't require a 4.0. I was a sophomore during the crash. That's around when I learned what investment banking really was and I thought it sounded great. Of course, I wasn't at a target and didn't have the grades. I shifted focus and now I'm working in small REPE shop doing just fine. Honestly, it fits my lifestyle better too and I'm far more interested in it than I would have been in banking. Hell, I spent high school plus a year and a half of college wanting to be a lawyer. Thank god that didn't happen.

I'd recommend taking an honest look at what your skills are and shaping your future career around them, not trying to force yourself into a role because you convinced yourself at 15 that it was the thing to do. Lifestyle plays into this too. Maybe you're just not a person who can operate on little to no sleep. Goldman might not be the place for you if that's the case.

May 13, 2015

Are you failing in all of your classes?

Just the math heavy ones?

Just the finance ones?

I wish I could claim I've never struggled at math, but that wouldn't be the truth. I got my butt handed to me by stochal, especially taking it with people who'd done similar courses three times before. And in high school I ran into trouble in trigonometry. Pro tip: stochal doesn't matter unless you want to trade exotics on the sell-side.

You will discover there are things you're good at and things you are weaker at. Sometimes the things you are weaker at don't matter as much as you think.

In the meantime, get a lot of rest and exercise. And if you can't make it in finance, you can probably make it as an accountant, or worst case, realtors deal with a lot of finance and make six figures.

May 13, 2015

You haven't given us all the information. You say you spend all your time studying but your grades are still really poor. Something is missing here. You clearly have the motivation and you clearly put in the effort and time to studying. I recommend you do some self analysis and find out where your weakness lies. You're doing something wrong - I suggest you find a study group and try studying with other people to pick their brain and see their study strategy and try replicating that to try it out.

May 13, 2015

Are you meeting with tutors? Attending office hours? I'd say that there are a couple of possibilities going on - you are spinning your wheels on your own/getting lost in the weeds on your own path, while not leveraging resources available who can help you focus on what is important or 2) you are completely exaggerating how much effort you are putting in. I had a roommate in college who made similar claims to you. He'd say that he studied 5 hours every night. What he was actually doing was sitting on his couch with a book open and watching TV. That was his version of studying.

May 13, 2015

Some people have kind of asked the question, but I'll just be direct. What is your definition of "poor. Very poor?" Is that <3.0?

Just wondering because your situation could not be as dire as you portray it to be.....

Best Response
May 13, 2015

Alternative story:

Rabn is from Singapore and getting a 3.6 GPA at Harvard. He is also only a mediocre piano player who can do most Beethoven sonatas perfectly but struggles a bit with Ravel and Rachmaninoff and has generally been a terrible disappointment to his parents and his country.

Look it could be worse kid. Back to my rusty honda and UIUC undergrad and total lack of piano skills.

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May 13, 2015

If your passion is just to get into finance (which is quite broad) / investing, I would consider changing your major... a strong GPA in a finance, accounting, or economics degree combined with some diligent networking would suffice for getting looks at good analyst opportunities. Despite what you may think, most people in finance / investing aren't rocket scientists and probably would've struggled just as much as you seem to be in the major you currently have.

Just something to think about...

May 13, 2015

Start working on your networking abilities, and branch out from people with just finance backgrounds. I used to have the mentality that grades and schools are everything, and I'm happy to find out that it's not true at all. Grades and school are good indicators as to whether a person could succeed in a given situation, but at the end of the day, it's just a way for people who are on recruiting teams to cover their butts if it doesn't work out ("I mean, he was a 3.7 out of an Ivy League school! Can't blame me if he's doing poorly, I followed our hiring practices.")

Besides, the finance world is huge; there isn't just sales and trading, or investment banking, or private equity. There are debt investors (investment grade, or mezz, or distressed), there is growth equity, there's social investing (which is starting to become a thing), there are secondaries (direct and fund level), there are merchant banks, and the list goes on and on. And because of this, you can get into finance even if you start off in another industry. Working at a startup could give you more insight into VC than an IB analyst experience, for example.

You're stressed, and that's normal, especially when it comes to grades. Working hard is part of the equation, but working smart also matters as well. Be able to take a step back every now and then and ask, how is this helping me? And remember, watching Netflix could be a smart way to spend your time if you wanted to take a 15 minute break, or you're doing something procedural (like laundry) and you wanted some noise in the back.

May 13, 2015

There's an enormous disconnect here.

Who says that passion translates into results? It takes time, and practice, and most importantly, taking the time to learn to practice correctly. Take a breath and shift the same efforts you're putting towards learning about investing into learning HOW to study.

What do you do well that enables you grasp the concepts you know well through your investment passion? Are you even in fact grasping those concepts? It's completely normal to struggle at first - all is not lost. Put down the investment books and pick up some other topics (I suggest history and philosophy, those really helped me think a bit differently, which is incredibly important). I think you'll find that less is more. Are you a visual learner? Get a whiteboard and draw out the concepts, study in the morning and relax in the evening, make flashcards...

But really, get your shit together in the classroom and exhaust all resources. Then worry about the markets. You're probably overloaded with terrible habits. Plenty of time to right the ship. Good luck.

May 13, 2015

A couple of things. You need to tell us how bad your grades really are. What is your overall GPA? What is your GPA in your major? Your academic performance may not be as bad as it seems to you when your classes are averaged out. If you've always gotten straight A's in high school (which I assume you did if you go to a target school) the rigor of your college classes might be a change that you'll need time to adjust to. Also, what year are you in? There might still be time to dramatically improve your GPA by the time recruiting rolls around if you do really well in the future. Second, in what classes are you doing poorly? If it is in the high level quant/math classes, I would advise switching majors. Going into a regular finance or economics major might be the right fit. You say investing and finance are your passions so I assume you are aiming for AM/IB/ER. If so, I don't see why you need that much statistics. Swap in some econ classes which might improve your situation.
In terms of general advice about improving your grades, I will basically repeat what other people on here have said. You need to diversify your hobbies and interests outside of math and finance. It sounds like you are way to focused on finance, which is hindering your ability to gain some perspective. It sounds like you have the motivation to study, so I'm guessing your problem is that you have bad study habits. Look into the Pomodoro technique (you can download an app on your phone) which directs you to work in 25 minute intervals with short breaks in between. It has done wonders for my own concentration and time management. If you are having trouble grasping and remembering concepts, try downloading Anki on your computer or phone. It is basically a flash card program, but it increases the frequency of a card appearing if you are having trouble with it, while decreasing the frequency of it appearing if you already know the answer. A really efficient way to memorize large amounts of facts, formulas or vocabulary words. You should have already gone to your tutoring center and talked with someone. Most schools have free tutoring sessions available and they should be aware if you are struggling. There is usually an extensive support system in place to ensure that students don't fall too far behind.
Lastly, I think part of your problem is that you are trying too hard. Staying up late and waking up early to study will just leave you feeling exhausted and unfocused. Make a schedule for yourself and set aside a reasonable amount of time in the afternoon and early evening to study. After your session is over, go hang out with friends or go to a party or something. Eat well, drink plenty of water and get some form of exercise.
Good luck!
Also, are you studying in the US? It sounds like it but I wanted to make sure.

Use more debt than your competition or get out of the business. Any other policy is either self-limiting, no-win, or a bet that the competition will go bankrupt before they displace you. - Bruce Henderson

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May 14, 2015

First, GPA isn't an indicator of future success of intelligence, so don't feel too bad. That being said, finance can be shallow so in the end it is pretty important.

If you're studying correctly, you shouldn't need to study all the time. SLEEP IS CRUCIAL FOR STUDYING. It lets you memorize and process information much better. Just work on your study habits for better grades, then for recruiting lean on your other fortes.

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May 17, 2015

I just decided to check this thread and saw all the new replies. Thank you all for taking the time to respond - I really do appreciate it.

After taking a step back, I have to be honest with myself. It has become evident that perhaps I'm just a human being with a brain that does not function as well as most. It sounds ludicrous but I think that's just the reality of the situation.

Nonetheless, I will continue to strive towards my goals and work as hard as I possibly can. I'm not sure what my life is going to be like or where I am going to be in 10 years time. But what else is there to do but push forward? Giving up is not an option. I will do everything I can do get where I want to be and will not allow failure to phase me. Let the chips fall where they may.

May 18, 2015

Dude, you need to stop sleep-depressing yourself while you're a student, because you have to heavily rely on both your long-term and short-term memory to really do well in exams, and your brain is totally fucked through the lack of sleep. You can (and have to) sleep-depress yourself once you are working in IB, but trust me, your body can make that adjustment faster than you think. IB isn't an environment where you have to constantly learn & retain huge amounts of complex information, college is (especially in financial math). So stop attaching your self-worth to the number of hours per day you're awake (lol).

FWIW, I had a 4.0 engineering undergrad GPA and I needed on average 8 hours of sleep during my studies; when I interned in IBD, I slept on average 4 hours every day and did just fine (although it was a pain in the ass sometimes)...

May 19, 2015

Not to be harsh, but anyone putting in that much study and still doing poorly must have an IQ below 100. Considering that you have so far expressed yourself relatively clearly, I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that is not the case. Instead, it may be:
1. You are doing an unnecessarily hard degree/subject/major. No one should have trouble with basic finance courses with even a low level of study. Quant courses are a different story....
2. You are studying aspects of finance you are interested in, but aren't related to the course you are doing. You may get hard over the idea of distressed sovereign debt, but if you are doing accounting courses, that isn't adding much value.

Honestly, I am of average intelligence at best, and have done well in many uni courses studying the material for the first time the night before the exam. I think in reality your grades aren't that bad, and it is more the standard of success you are imposing that is the issue.

Jun 10, 2015

You sound like some of my peers at a similar target school who complain about 3.7's. Just review each exam/problem set after it is graded and see where you went wrong (formulas/conceptual errors/silly mistakes).

Jun 10, 2015
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Jul 13, 2015