Unintentional skipping misreading of exam questions during an exam.

I posted a slightly modified form of this under another post, but perhaps it is more appropriate to post here as its own new topic.

So I got my genetics test back and, sure enough, I got a D. So two D’s in a row for the first and second midterms. I am going to take a W in the course. Both of my study partners got A’s. I’ve noticed that the material is so much more intuitive for them than for me, and I’ve already been through this material twice before. And I’m repeating this class; I got a C the first time I took this course.

This test highlighted another problem that I have been having. I have noticed is that I routinely, automatically, unknowningly mis-read or not see test questions or subparts thereof. I also had a physics test yesterday, and I didn’t do well either. I understood the material and did lots of practice problems, but for some reason kept reading the questions wrong – although I didn’t realize it until the test was over. I kept reading numbers incorrectly, converting positive numbers to negative ones and vice versa. For example, during the test, I read the number 0.05 as —0.05 (that is negative 0.05) and I even looked at it twice to be sure that it was a negative number. So I did the problem that way; but when the test was over, I looked at the test copy once again (we got to keep our copy of the test and just turn in the blue book), I saw that the number was actually positive 0.05. Yet during the test I could swear that the number was a minus 0.05. I’m sure there are other parts to the test that I misread or skipped.

On an immunology exam, I skipped several questions that I simply didn’t see during the exam. I left several slots blank on the Scantron form (it was a multiple choice exam) but didn’t notice it until I got the exam back. Yet at the end of the exam, I spent a few minutes going through the exam to make sure I didn’t miss anything – yet, there they were – blanks left unfilled in on the Scantron form. Even the professor asked me about those. I didn’t know what to say.

Why am I misreading exam questions?

Why do I skip questions?

More importantly, is there anything I can do about them? I seem to do this without knowing that I do this, and checking the test over before turning it in doesn’t seem to find these errors. It is only when I’ve turned the test in or when the test is over that I find my mistakes or mis-reads.

This phenomenon is not too different than the fact that I tend to understand problems better after I’ve been tested on it. Of course, in both cases, it is too late to change the grade or the outcome.

I had a somewhat similar problem at one point (regarding skipping questions…) I got in the habit of covering all questions with a blank piece of paper except for the question i was working on, and sort of sliding the paper down question by question as i went along. That way, I saw each problem, one at a time. Never missed any.

I cant speak to why you are misreading the questions though…if it helps, try to read it out loud. (I take my exams in a private room so I can do that, but Im not sure if your classroom situation would allow it…)

My genetics tests have been horrific as well. First one a C, the second one a D - plus my study partner got an A on it! @$%@!*

I would like to know as well, what on earth am I doing wrong!!! At least we have the option of dropping our lowest grade. But still…

This sounds like test anxiety related issues. You are so nervous about the test that you are misreading it and even skipping questions.

I lock into one question at a time. If I run out of time to finish, so be it, but as soon as I look at the whole test, I freak myself out and convince myself I won’t finish. That’s when I start skipping questions and misreading things which then causes me to get more wrong than I would if I had simply taken my time.

You’re in a tough place and I really admire your tenacity. Does your school have a counseling center? (Not the tutoring center). They may be able to assess what is going on and give the symptoms a name and secure the associated help. If the problems are less severe, they should still be able to help you identify ways you can move forward successfully. Perhaps you can get extra time and/or a separate place to take tests.

I think that if you have exhausted all the different approaches to get past this that you can think of on your own, then the best thing to do is step back and get help with figuring out what’s going on before more poor grades accumulate. If the school can’t help you, find a counselor or psychologist that can. I know that’s easy to say but may be extremely tough to do with the expense. However, it seems to me that you really need to seek out someone who deals with this and can really dig into your specific situation and offer you the advice and insight that are not visible when you are in the middle of it.

Please keep us posted.

I agree with the suggestion about the counseling center. They could be helpful. Plus, I was wondering if you’ve ever been tested for a learning disability? It could be the reason for your mis-reading test questions. I’d encourage you to find out more about your school’s counseling center.

Good luck!

I think you need some time OFF from trying to push through this and regroup. You keep trying by going to classes taking exams and you probably just need to let it go for a while. See a counselor during your time off and go from there.

Efex101, I think you are right. I’ve had this test-taking/memory blanking problem past 6 semesters. It has been frustrating me to no end, caused me to repeat classes, and in the process ruined my post-bacc GPA. I’ve exhausted all the learning skills counselors here at my school. There suggestions have marginally helped, and nobody seems to know what more to do with my situation. This morning, one of the school psychologists called me because she was concerned that I might be suicidal, so frustrated am I with my inability to overcome this problem.

Most of my posts on this site revolve around this study skills/test-taking/blanki ng issue. For this is one of the few places where I can vent my frustrations and vet new ideas that may help alleviate it. But alas, to no avail.

All my friends have gone off to med school; I’m the only one of my original cohort of volunteers (at a clinic that I helped start) that is left. And the only reason that I haven’t started med school is because 1) I am not a competitive candidate with my low GPA , and 2) I am concerned that this problem will cause me to bomb the MCAT and – if by miracle of miracles I do get into medical school – cause me to bomb out of med school. So I really, really wanted to settle this problem now.

The overall lesson I am learning is that dedication, organization, commitment, and hard work do NOT necessarily lead to success. Succes that others, perhaps, but not for me. never for me. Perhaps Somebody has other plans.


As I’ve said I think on every post you have brought this up, see a medical doctor… you know, the kind you want to become?

I think your issue with test taking is beyond what non-medication help can do.

You have consistently ignored the guidance to get medications, (maybe you have taken it and the M.D.s don’t believe you need it?).

Until you address your testing issue, I believe, with medications (propranolol, Concerta, Adderal, etc), I think you will continue to get the grades you are getting and that does NOT appear indicative of your ability.

I know, for me, medication is the only way I can take tests… and I have similarly, tried just counseling.

Best of luck to you.

Thanks for your reply; you’re right about the need to get on meds again. I have an appointment set for November 13 (the soonest I could get). Do you recommend psych meds or meds for stress/learning, i.e. to be checked for ADHD/ADD?

Sent you a PM, Nahani.

nahani2, I had a very similar problem. This is my first full term back at school. And I’m really loaded up: physics, orgo I, anatomy, psychology. I was really going to give it up. I simply went blank on an orgo quiz and an anatomy practical. I knew I was prepped for the orgo quiz because my tutor is an orgo professor and he gave me a much harder test the night before and I aced it. Both cost me dearly. I went to talk to the university advisors and they simply told me the party line “study harder, practice test conditions, etc, etc”. I knew that wasn’t the problem; I’d been through college and all that stuff.

Fortunately before I made the ultimate killer decision, I asked my neighbor, who is a high school principal, and a psychologist, for a possible teaching job. I’m glad I spoke to her. She deals with this stuff everyday and she gave me some good advice. She said that universities tend to treat everyone as college freshmen and not like older, mature individuals. Well, she got me an appointment with a psychiatrist that she recommends to the parents of her students.

To make a long story short and after $250, I got some pretty good advice from the psychiatrist. First, he said he makes a living off of us old-people making career changes. He’s 70 and went to med-school at 50, so he knows what I’m (we’re) going through. He stressed that many people like us simply try too hard because we have a lot more on the line than a 20-something right out of high school.

Also, our older brains are not the same as the younger kids anymore. His final point really hit home. He said that a retired marathon runner doesn’t just get up 10 years later and go back to running competitive marathons. The runner must get his body back into shape again. Likewise, older students returning to school to do something totally different must get their brains back into shape.

I keep a pretty rigid study schedule, so I wasn’t behind. I relaxed the night before the next orgo test; I didn’t cram. I knew I understood the stuff pretty well. I just casually reviewed the material, did a few warm up problems and that was it. I improved my test score by 20 points. More importantly, my entire outlook is improved. I haven’t crammed for an exam for the past 3 weeks and I’m doing much much better. I don’t feel the stress anymore.

You’ll do much better if you realize you know what you know and don’t know what you don’t know. That sounds stupid. But if you’re doing what I did and beat yourself up because you thought that you’d ace everything, you’re going to over stress yourself right out of something you have a passion for. And it will snowball and get worse every quiz/test/exam. I have a solid math/physics background and I thought I’d just breeze right through (after 20 years). I really beat myself up with every stupid mistake I made on any test so that any mistake was amplified by powers of 10. That was extremely self defeating.

If you keep fighting it, you’ll only defeat yourself. Remember that medical school is a long, long road with many bumps along the way, and we’re not even out of the garage yet. It’s how you handle those bumps that will make your journey worth it. So, just relax and enjoy it.

In addition to medical/psych review, a behavior modification approach may help. I am a big believer in “process.” That is everything you do whether it be studying, note taking, exams, etc, you develop a specific process and discipline that you follow for each and every problem, from the moment you sit down at the exam until u hand it in. Imagine its like a baseball player who takes hundreds of swings in practice to be ready for the few swings when he is up to hit in a game. First you develop a technique with a coach/psych, etc. Then you practice it with discipline and you take the test the same way. So whatever the underlying reasons for your exam issues, and hopefully they can be improved with medical/psych intervention, you will need some form of the above to be successful