The Time I Failed My Organic Chemistry Exam

“Naoumou, let’s go, we are about to be late!” my mother yelled out to me as I hurried to get my things. It was the start of spring break, and my family and I wanted to go to the movies and watch Black Panther. I did not see it when it came out and I was anxious to find out what the whole “Wakanda Forever” thing was. With an all-black cast and sleek action, this was something that attracted me when the trailer first came out. “Coming!” I yelled. As I was putting my phone into my purse, I saw that there was an email from Canvas. My organic chemistry midterm from the day before had been graded. That soon?

I did not know whether I should open it or not. When I had left the exam room, I had a gut feeling that I failed the midterm. It sucked because I had spent so much time studying, reserving a room in the Ohio Union and continuously writing reactions over and over until it stuck to memory. But it probably did not work because the knowledge I had during the midterm proved otherwise.

I decided to look anyways because, why not? I could not have done too bad, right? I could always improve my grade for the next exam. And so, I went to Carmen and checked my grade with my nerves already kicking in.

When I saw the two numbers next to my Midterm 2 grade, I felt my breath getting knocked out of me. 38…38 out of 100? Meaning 38%? Meaning I failed. Not just a small fail, one that I could potentially fix later. But a 38 Percent Fail.

I stared at my screen, wondering if it was real. This cannot be right. No, they must have made a mistake.“Naoumou, let’s go!”, my mother yelled.

I slowly made my way downstairs, the sadness filling my body from head to toe. I cannot believe I failed my midterm. I just cannot. How am I going to get my grade up for the class? How is this going to affect my GPA? And worse, what if I don’t get into medical school because of it?

“I just got my midterm grade back”, I told my family tearfully. “It’s ok, let’s make sure we can get the movies, it will be fine.”, my mother told me.

During the whole trip to the movies I kept thinking about one thing, my failure. I failed. I failed my organic chemistry midterm. I was supposed to be smart, how could I fail, especially that horribly?

I could barely enjoy the movie. Through all of the fighting and ritual scenes, I could only see the 38 on the movie screen. I kept trying to fight back tears as the dread filled inside me. Organic chemistry was supposed to be my thing. That’s what everyone kept telling me. They said if I did well in General Chemistry, I would definitely like Ochem better. Well if that was the case, why did I fail?

The next day, I went to a meeting I had scheduled earlier with my Biochemistry teacher to discuss my Biochemistry exam. I did well on that, and just wanted to go over a couple of questions with her. “I wish I was doing well in organic chemistry like I am in this class.” I said. “What do you mean?”, she asked. When I told her that I got a 38% on the midterm, her mouth formed into huge O. “You need to get that exam back right now and look over it during this break.” “But how?”, I asked. “Wait here.”

Because her office was located in the Biological Sciences Building where my Ochem TA did research at, we were able to locate him and retrieve my exam. I was able to see all the careless mistakes I made and felt like even more of a failure. I decided to schedule a meeting with my organic chemistry professor because how else was I going to pass this class?

“How many hours do you study for this class?”, my professor asked me. When we wrote down the amount of time I studied for it, it was less than the recommended time the professor had for his students which was 10 hr/week, not including recitation and lecture. “But I do not have time to commit 10/hr week for this one class, I have four other classes and I am involved in many organizations.” I complained to him. “Well, do you want to get your money’s worth? You and your classmates are paying to get a good grade and something out of this class so if you do not put the time into it, you will not get that.” He told me.

“How did you study for this exam? What did you do differently?” He asked. I told him that one of my classmates who always received great grades in his class just did practice problems to study for the exam. Usually I read the chapters to get an understanding of what I was doing and then do the practice problems, but when I saw my friend’s score, I thought if I solely did practice problems, I would get a higher score. Plus it would take less time to do because reading the chapters took a lot of time. “Why are you doing something that does not work for you?”, He asked. “Just because it worked for her does not mean it will work for you.” Hmm that’s true. After our meeting I thanked him and was motivated to work even harder for the final.

Why are you doing something that does not work for you?

For the rest of spring break, I read all of the chapters I should have read for the exam. I did a lot of practice problems and tried to figure out what I did wrong on my exam. When spring break ended, I went to the organic chemistry tutor room and essentially made it my second home. When my TA saw my determination, he stuck by my side, helping me understand concepts and prepare for the upcoming quizzes and final. My averages for the quizzes, 6/10, actually went up to 8/10. I formed a study group with two of my best friends, Dorian and Liza, and we would all practice problems with other and check our knowledge.

Finally, the day of the final arrived. I had made a condensed study guide of all the organic chemistry reactions and example problems that I could potentially encounter on the exam. Dorian, Liza and I reviewed it together one last time and then we packed our things to get into the exam room. I was so nervous. What if I did not retain anything? What if all my hard work went to waste?

I asked my family members and my friends to make dua for me (if you are in the OSU sisterhood groupchat, you know exactly what I mean). I sat in a designated area and waited for the exam to come to me.

On the exam, there were some things I did not know how to do which was expected. But I felt more confident than the last exam and managed to answer every question. People started packing up around an hour after the exam started but I stayed until the end, making sure that I answered each question exactly the way I wanted to. When I turned it in, I felt a sense of relief. It’s over now and there was nothing I could do until I got my score back.

The next day, Liza and I went to the movies to watch Infinity Wars to celebrate (if you cannot tell, I’m obsessed with Marvel movies). Halfway through the movie, I got a notification on my phone from Canvas. What? That fast? My curiosity and impatience got the best of me and I decided to check my grade once more.

I did 12% above the average and the highest score on the exam was an 80% ! Oh my God! I’m gonna get a passing grade in this class! After the movie ended, I did a little dance and then later told my mom the good news. The overall average in the class was low, so there was going to be a huge curve!

After finishing the course and receiving my passing grade, I could finally relax. I did not have to retake it and I could move on with taking other courses in my major. I could spend that summer just focusing on other stuff like research and working in the hospital. No more Ochem horrors, praise the Lord!

This experience made me realize that challenges will always await me on my path to medicine, but I knew that if I could overcome this, I would be able to take on any other obstacle. Failure is inevitable and instead of letting it deter me, I should always make it my motivator to do better the next time I had the opportunity to do so.

Information you should know:

– The course I took was Ochem 2620 which is a course specifically designed for students who chem/biochem majors. They make it really difficult, so they usually give us a curve because they know a lot of us are pre-medicine and cannot take that GPA hit severely.

– Dua means prayer in Islam. I literally ask for it everytime before I take an exam because at the end of the day I believe only God can help me with anything I do.

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