Mechanical engineering majors take a long time to finish. In order to help with this problem, the department has been kind enough to compress three math classes into two, eliminating any parts not directly pertinent to the major and thereby allowing us to get them done a little faster. The first of these Frankenstein Death-classes, known as Math 302, is essentially linear algebra and multivariable calculus smushed into one class--there should have been warning bells going off by this point, but despite my natural reaction to flee and hide, I'm registered for it anyway.

Come to find out, there's a pretest in 302 that all students must pass in order to remain in the class. The pretest concerns the material of Math 113, which is essentially the same as AP Calculus BC. I did well in Calc BC--got a 5 on the AP test and everything--but that was four years ago. Not to mention I haven't been doing anything remotely math-related for the last two years in Hong Kong, and in that time my math ability dwindled to nearly zero. Put all those facts together and you've got an intimidating proposition.

This is an old picture, but it was too fitting. |

So the week before classes officially started, I was spending three hours a day sitting in lecture (the department is nice enough to organize a 'refresher course' every year for those of us who have forgotten all our math) and the rest of the day studying by myself in the library, doing practice tests, etc. I essentially made a full-time job out of reteaching myself math.

I flopped into bed at the end of every day with a serious headache, but the calculus started coming back. In fact, when the time came to take the test, I was feeling pretty good about it. We had the test from 2002 to practice on, and I felt confident that I could do everything on it. There were 30 questions, so I needed 21 right in order to make the 70% pass mark.

Then the actual test came, and I was in for a rude awakening. It was already stacked against us that we couldn't have any sort of 3x5 card or equation sheet, let alone something as miraculous as a calculator--interesting how the point of this test is to make sure we remember the material from Math 113, in which you CAN use a notecard and calculator...

Aside from that, the test was just plain harder than all the practice tests, and covered a couple of concepts that never even came up in the practice material (they should've warned us about Arc Length; not one but

*two*questions). I harbor some deep-rooted frustration with the department because the 2019 test was so much harder than the 2002 test, and here's why: the class material is the same. No new math has been discovered in the last 17 years, and the curriculum remains accordingly unchanged. Even if the class had become more competitive over the years, this is a

*pretest*we're talking about; hardly the time to impose a tyrannical guess-what's-in-my-head ordeal to clearly identify those among us who don't have photographic memories, but I digress.

Anyway, I sat staring at the test sheet with 19 bubbles filled, all the ones I confidently knew how to solve. I was left to get at least two of the remaining eleven right through guesswork, which is statistically doable but still risky with five available answers per question. I rolled up my sleeves and applied my best fake-it-til-you-make-it multiple choice skills and came out with a final score of 22, bringing me to 73%.

I'm going to try to ignore that this is supposed to count as a midterm, but hey--I passed!

*Hic Manebimus Optime!*