Let me tell you a story.
Our story takes place on May the 18th, in a well-lit lecture theatre buzzing with engineering students ready to take the dynamics test. Dynamics is well known for being one of those topics in engineering that you think you almost understand but- then the test comes around and hits you with a friendly slap in the face. If you can have a friendly slap in the face. Which you can’t.
Being the studious student I am, I know that the test will be a challenge, and so I attempt every single practice paper I can lay my hands on. I literally become some sort of psycho dynamics addict; paper after paper making a lovely pile of refill on my desk.
On the day of the test, I try hard not to over-study, instead I hope to chill out and spend time with my engineering friends. That doesn’t work out so well, as I soon observe that on the day of the test, 90% of the population is in the library cramming, and the other 10% is lying somewhere on the floor after last nights study. Nevertheless, I feel reasonably well prepared for the test and so I am not having any last minute panics- which is an achievement on its own for any uni student.
The test begins, and the sound of pages turning ripples through the hall. There’s an annoying fella behind me clicking his pen. I begin the first question and get into test momentum- (hey maybe this isn’t so bad?). The next couple of questions seem okay as well. 20 minutes in, things are still looking good.
But then, disaster strikes. I read question three. It’s the sort of question where I know exactly what the question is asking me to do, but once I start working it out it just doesn’t make sense on the page.
Have you ever watched your paper swim before your eyes? See the words on the page, and not be able to read them? That’s what it feels like. I quickly calm down and start the next question, so as not to be hung up on that one question for too long.
Disaster strikes twice. I start doing the next question but the same thing happens- I know how to do it, the answers just aren’t making sense on the page.
For the next 35 minutes of the test I flick page over page, trying to work out why my answers are so weird. Did I make a mistake calculation? Did I draw the force diagram wrong? But I can’t seem to spot the error. It’s only with 5 minutes to go, I notice that I have neglected a singular letter from my equation when I simplified.
5 minutes on the clock and I’m quickly reassembling the numbers on my page, cancelling, crossing out- my pen almost gives up but I must get this answer. I get a number- I hope it’s right- but there’s no time to check, so I just go with it.
3 minutes on the clock I’m reading through the last question again, feeling thoroughly bummed out. Why doesn’t my diagram make sense??? I’m almost about to give up when I notice I’ve misread the values in the original question.
43 SECONDS ON THE CLOCK
I realise my mistake and quickly recalculate- my hands are shaking. My face is as red as a ripe tomato.
I write down my answer on the page just as the lecturer says “time up”.
And that was the most stressful 43 seconds of my life. So far.
Let this be a lesson to those who study hard and crumble under test pressure like myself- don’t give in. Search for the answers, be critical, and persevere the whole way through the test. You never know, something might come to you in the last 43 seconds.