B grades, test anxiety, and repeating courses.

Well, I haven’t posted in some time because I’ve been too busy with school, but I find myself in the same straits that I did the last five semesters – getting B grades, mostly due to being unable to think clearly during an exam, and getting concepts and ideas mixed up.

I am currently toward the end of a self-made post-bacc to retake the premed courses that I took 26 years ago before applhying to medical school.

Unfortunately, with the way my grades are going, it looks like I won’t be going to medical school at all. I keep getting B grades in my science courses; I can’t seem to get an A on any exam no matter how much I study and practice. During exams, I tend to get flustered and things get mixed up. I failed my last genetics exam because I could think straight. Interestingly, I remember most of the things once the exam is over.

As it stands there is no way I can get an A in any of my science classes, save my physical chemistry lab.

My GPA has steadily gone downhill since starting my post-bacc, because I can’t seem to get A’s.

Should I quit?

Also, what can be done about all those B’s? Should I retake the courses again? When I took O’Chem 1 I the first time in 1986, I got a D; then I retook it an got a C (I had to retake it). Now when I retook the course (both parts), I couldn’t get higher than a B on any test. It was all a memory problem: can’t seem to remember things, and what I do remember I get all mixed up.

If I had my way, I would just stop now, and retake all my courses again. So the next question is: when is it appropriate to retake B grades? Is it ever appropriate?

What can I do about those B grades?

How can I improve my science GPA?

I feel like I need to look at my study habits as well; I study all the time, but that doesn’t make any difference on my tests scores.

The only classes I do well in are the lab portions of the class I get A’s, but it is balanced with the B’s and C’s that I get in the lecture portion, so I end up with a B.

Very frustrating. Your advice is welcome.

I don’t know that it would make sense to retake Bs, or what schools would think were you to do so. It would seem that the best thing to do at this point would be to finish out this semester as best you can, figure out what’s holding you back, and then beat the crap out of everything from here on out. That could be in your remaining pre-reqs, or perhaps some extra high-level science coursework you tack on. Just imgaine … working up from where you were, to where you are now, to an A in something like Biochem.

From the way you describe things, it seems like the problem is not your memory or your capabilities to learn, but some of the “other stuff” that we don’t often formally address. If you “study all the time” and are not satisfied with your grades, then you are absolutely right that you need to address your study skills. Does your school have help available with that? Do you have friends who don’t seem to study all that much, but they still do well on the exams? (The little secret with them is not that they’re inherently smarter; I suspect that it relates to efficiency in both studying and applying the knowledge.) Is there anything else that might be holding you back - language barriers, anxiety issues, etc?

I don’t think you should quit at all. Coming back after 26 years, you’ve already shown your dedication, and I have to assume that you have a very interesting and productive perspective that would be a boon to your peers in school and in practice. In order to get there, you’re going to need to overcome these hurdles. I suspect that at least some of what you’ll have to face isn’t purely academic (study skills, memory, etc), but rather stuff like anxiety, self-confidence, and better understanding the idiosyncracies of your own mind (we all have em - and once we learn em, we can have a lot more fun ).

Good luck! And please let us know more, as more comes to mind. I’m sure you’re not the only one facing these challenges…

Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, I’m done with all my pre-reqs, and, as stated, most are B’s. I’ve already spoken to my academic learning center on issues of test anxiety and test performance. Some of their suggestions may help; we’ll see on the next exam.

But what bothers me the most is that I can’t undo the damage already done.

As far as Biochem is concerned, I got a B in the first part; I’m taking the second part, and probably headed toward a B there as well.

I’ve actually finished all my pre-reqs for med school; I was taking more classes to try to get some A’s for a change, but no luck. Hard work is not paying off.

I’m not going to summer school this summer; rather, I’m taking the time to review for the MCAT and prepare ahead of time for next semester.

I’ve also decided to take fewer courses next time, perhaps I am overdoing it on the courseload.

Looks like I won’t apply to med school until I’m 50.

I like what Adam had to say and agree with most of it.

  • nahani2 Said:
applhying to medical school...

I failed my last genetics exam because I could think straight. Interestingly, I remember most of the things once the exam is over.

I quoted what you wrote above because it does not make sense. I know what you are trying to say but I highlight because it leads me into the first piece of advice I would suggest to you. Review your exam once, twice, maybe even three times before you submit them. When you do review it and time permits, treat it as if you are taking it with fresh eyes. The little mistakes add up and sometimes are the difference between getting an A and getting a B.

The next piece of advice is to be in test mode from the beginning of the semester. That means, you are reviewing the material from day 1. Do all the assigned homework problems and more. Do mock exams. Be ready for the exam a week ahead instead of the day leading up to it. In high school I could study the night before and get an A. In college I quickly learned that just does not work. You really have to be on top or ahead of your work. It will help you in future classes and for when you start to prepare for the MCATs. Commit to that and you should see improvement.

If I were you, I would still plan on taking the MCATs but once I was done with that I would consider applying to both medical schools and graduate science programs. A lot of the medical schools offer Masters in Sciences and it really can prepare you for what medical school is like (or so I have been told) plus its a GPA booster.

Like Adam said, don't give up man. We have all been there (I can show you my gray hairs if you do not believe me) and it can get better. Yeah, you could be in a better place with straight A's but you are not in a horrible place either. You cannot change what has already happened so why worry about it now, especially when you probably have finals coming up. Keep on trekking and you will reach your goals.