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This has been a plague upon my performance for what seems like all my life (or all my graded life).

No, it's not an 100, it's a 98 because of calling bromine a gas carelessly. No, it's not a 6/6, it's a 5 out of 6 because you didn't realize that such a simple question had a minor twist No, it's not a 100, it's a 98 because you had all the right work but you mispunched the calculation.

I'm sick of making careless errors that can truly mean the difference between obtaining one grade and the other. I need to make sure that from now on, I don't, because it is killing me inside.

If it is of consequence, I don't have much time for sleep due to 6 hours minimum of work per night. I get around 6-7 hours a night as opposed to the recommended 9 for a teenager.

Any and all tips would be greatly appreciated.

closed as off-topic by Nate Eldredge, Peter Jansson, scaaahu, Anonymous Mathematician, Dirk Mar 14 '14 at 13:55

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  • "Questions about problems facing undergraduate students are off-topic unless they can also apply to graduate or post-graduate academicians as described in What topics can I ask about here?" – Nate Eldredge, Peter Jansson, scaaahu, Anonymous Mathematician, Dirk
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  • 20
    No, it's not an 100, it's a 98 because... — Let it go. You're fine. – JeffE Mar 14 '14 at 1:02
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    I used to complain about the last few points like that, then my classmate asked if I needed him to call a whambulance. Then I stopped. Yeah, I endured losing a couple points here and there through college and grad school, but at least now I got to keep all these friends. – Penguin_Knight Mar 14 '14 at 1:24
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    If you can at all arrange it, pick a week where you make sleep a priority, and shoot for 8 or 9 hours a night. See how your performance changes, and if you can maintain such a schedule for a longer stretch. And don't worry about the mistakes you learn from; it's the mistakes you don't learn from that get you. – Not Quite An Outsider Mar 14 '14 at 1:45
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    I think most people throw away a few points on every test due to stupid mistakes; I certainly did; that's just human. That's why A is 90 not 100. – Akavall Mar 14 '14 at 2:14
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    "it's not an 100," it's a 100. – Joel Reyes Noche Mar 14 '14 at 5:40
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I had a student come to me trying to get back "lost points" on an exam, because the lost points dropped hm below what was needed to get an A, and he got an A- instead. This was in spite of the fact that his answers were demonstrably wrong.

When I spoke with him, he said that he needed to have the top grades in the class, because he didn't know how else he could demonstrate that he was a "good student." I had to explain to him that the degree to which he was insisting on a regrade (effectively demanding that he be awarded the points, even though they hadn't been earned) actually could hurt him in the long run, because it turns people "off"—no one wants to work with an inveterate complainer. And, ultimately, if he wanted to go further in either the academic world or in a professional career, what he needs are good letters of recommendation from people who are willing to vouch for him and support his career.

My reason for including such a long-winded anecdote here is that the underlying issues are the same: don't worry about little issues here and there. (That doesn't mean don't complain if there's a big problem—clerical errors and mistakes do happen!) Small mistakes are a part of life, and we learn more from those mistakes than from successes.

Nobody is going to think poorly of you because you make small mistakes. Just keep doing what you're doing, and try not to stress out about it when taking exams and doing your work. Worrying about perfection is a good way not to achieve it.

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While it a good thing to be able to move on from small mistakes (everyone makes them and there have been studies about rates of error), it also good that you realize that you make "careless" mistakes. You will never be able to do everything 100% all the time and you might drive yourself crazy (and make more mistakes) if you try too hard, but there are somethings you can do to decrease your risks/catch yourself when you make mistakes.

  • Prepare yourself mentally and physically. This means being fed, watered, having enough sleep and not stressing yourself out. It isn't always easy to do, especially when you put a lot of pressure on yourself to do well, but it will help you make less errors and catch them when you do.
  • For exams, always read questions twice and look over your answers. If you have time look everything over at the end.
  • If you have papers, proof read and have someone else look things over. It can also help to read what you wrote out loud.
  • Don't rush through things if you can avoid it and still complete your task.
  • When you do make errors, keep track of what kinds they are. Do you misread questions more often or do you mix-up words? This will help you be more aware for next time.

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