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During the written part of the exams, you'd have to keep your scientific calculator near you at all times. Some students would discretely smash calculators of people looking in the wrong direction.

I've never been competitive, but maybe that's because I was smart enough to be at the top without being cut-throat, and also having a comfortable middle class background helped in that I didn't feel that doing less than perfectly would be a problem for the future. (When your study depends on grants and your grants depend on performance, life is very different)

One of my close friends was, like me, in the Physics and Mathematics Olympiads. Apparently he was taught by some professors who coached him that he needed to come out of each test bragging about how fantastically well he had done so as to discourage the competition. I find such tactics despicable, even if they work.

Myself, I never had any problem with being honest about how well (or badly) I had done. When I won the Spanish Physics Olympiad [it's been all downhill from there] I thought I had done so-so in the tests, but as it turns out I actually predicted my total score to within 5 points (out of 50) and it ended up being the highest score. So, better to be honest and know where you stand than be dishonest.

My friend is on track for a successful career as a research mathematician; I'm not (no small disappointment), but I make decent money.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 06:15:36 PM EST
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