Ok, I’ve just spend the last hour doing one question from a practice midterm. Actually, “doing” implies I understood how to do it… more like spending the last hour reading the solution for this one question.

The question was deceptively simple… sketch out two functions. Usually, the prof makes it so that the functions are really simple to sketch out since the focus is not on sketching the functions but what those functions mean. Previously, the sketches usually take like less than a minute (and about one line) to figure out, requiring no calculations.

So, here I am thinking, alright, let’s get this thing done. I ask myself, “Ok, so what’s the damn function?”. I now realize I don’t know what the function is. Again, previously, the prof had made it easy to figure out, since this isn’t a course about sketching functions on paper.

I’m started to getting worried now, so I dig out the solution and look at it. What followed was me going over five pages of mathematics that really had no bearing on what the problem was about, but was a total exercise on calculus. The whole five pages was just math… barely relating to the topic of the question.

It wasn’t even easy math either, he got into partial derivatives! No one uses partial derivatives anymore… we’re in grad school, that’s stuff we learn in 2nd year and never use again. Then somewhere along the way he pulls out a Lagrange multiplier, which at one time I think I knew what that was.

It goes on and on, and I’m feeling stupider by each line of confusing math. Then near the end, he writes this gem, “It is intuitively clear that…” Yeah, intuitively clear if you have a Ph.D, but for idiots like me, it’s intuitively clear I’m going to have some serious problems on the midterm next week.

It gets better… he allocated only 20% of the marks for those five pages of work, which was a total ripoff. The previous question (which somehow I understood) took me only a page to do and it was worth 35% of the marks. What a huge discrepancy. I can’t believe he actually subjected some students to this exam!

Despair! Despair!

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