Overheard at the Math 21b Midterm

By Parul Agarwal

The Math 21 series holds a special place in many STEM students’ hearts, and there is no better opportunity than a Math 21b midterm to spread mass fear. Despite the wide variety of students for whom this class is a requirement, no one seems to enter that room calm and collected. This midterm season, we bring you the pre-exam panic of the latest Math 21b midterm.

“I can’t sit in the back because I don’t want to look at other people.”

Haven’t we all been here? Feeling clueless about a problem only to look up and see scores of students furiously scribbling down the answers? Plus, nothing sends a jolt up your spine more than accidentally catching a glimpse of an answer that has 10 more digits than yours does.

“Does anyone have an extra eraser? I make too many mistakes so mine got small and I lost it.”

Angrily crossing out answers is not a solution to your woes when space is limited and you’re writing in pencil. When there’s linear algebra to review, who really stops to think small concerns like whether one has the requisite writing instruments? If only we had erasers to erase our memories of those terrible two hours.

“Oh no! I forgot my watch!” “Dude, there’s a giant clock at the front.”

In the era of smartphones, who even realizes they’re not wearing a watch until they’re in a situation where they can’t sneakily pop it out for fear of the Ad Board? At least this way you won’t panic about running out of time on the test since you set your watch ten minutes earlier to avoid being late to class.

“After this, I have to go to STAT 110 office hours.”

Ah, the ever over-achieving Harvard student who can’t get off the academic treadmill to breathe. The grind truly never stops. We feel almost as sorry for you as the student who declared, “I have a Physics midterm in 16 hours.”

While all midterms come to an end eventually, midterm memories (and quotes overheard at midterms) last much longer. At least you can eventually look back and be glad that it’s over.

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