I am a 2nd year PhD student in the area of digital communication networks. I am taking an information theory class and we had our midterm last week, which was open book, open notes. I did poorly on it--I got a 68, while the class average was a 90 with a standard deviation of 16. This class is the theoretical foundations of a lot of communication, so obviously I'd like to do well and understand the material. A 68 when the rest of the class did so well means that I'm not understanding essential aspects of the subject.
The grading scheme in this class is weird, in that the midterm score is thrown away if I do better on the final. So I have the chance to redeem myself on the final...problem is given that I actually did study for this exam, I don't know how to do better.
The subject matter is inherently difficult for me. I have all the prerequisites (which is just 1-2 probability classes, I have taken two), but I have always struggled with more theoretical math.
I always go to lecture and do the homework. The homeworks take a long time because they are hard for me. I do each of the problems on my own, and then on the day the assignment is due, I go over my answers with a friend who is also taking the course. For this exam we were provided with 3 practice exams. I spent as much of the weekend studying as I could. We had a homework due on Saturday that I spent all Saturday finishing, and then I studied all Sunday and most of Monday. I managed to complete one and a half practice exams in that time.
My current style of studying worked well for undergrad and master's courses, but clearly my methods are not working here. Arguably I could have started studying for the exam earlier, but I actually spent the week before the exam working hard on the aforementioned homework assignment (at the expense of my own research). I did well on that homework, and I assumed spending time understanding material from the homework would be beneficial for the exam. That did not turn out to be true.
Is it reasonable to try and dedicate more time to the class? My preparation for the exam was already at the expense of doing nearly no research that week. Has anyone had an experience where they did poorly on a class like this at first, but then managed to recover? How did you do it?
Finally, the poor grade has made me feel unmotivated and want to avoid working on the material, which is probably the exact opposite of what I need right now! Any advice on getting over this psychological aversion?