It happens to the best of us, but knowing how to cope when you flunk an exam isn’t something that comes naturally to all. From the most insignificant test to the most important exam, the knock in confidence resulting from a bad grade can take the wind out of our sails and leave us feeling embarrassed, angry and depressed.
It might help you to know that some of the greatest minds ever to grace this green earth have suffered setbacks in their time, it’s a perfectly natural part of life and learning, so here’s my top tips for coping with exam failure, laced with historical fails designed to prove we all have our bad days…
The Talking Cure: The worst things you can do when you’ve suffered a setback are regress into your shell and bottle it all up. Hard as it may be, chat it out with your nearest and dearest. The support of family and friends will see you through the tough times, while teachers are always there to offer a helping hand, show you were you went wrong and build you up for your next effort. Alternatively, it’s worth a look online, there are forums and webspaces where students in the same situation share their worries. Try chatting to kindred spirits at thestudentroom.
From history: Failing an exam doesn’t mean you’re going to drop out – unlike one Bill Gates who dropped out of Harvard in 1975, only to become possibly the richest man in the world.
Weigh It Up: After any failure it always helps to take a step back and weigh up your options. Can you retake the exam? Can you improve in other areas to bring your grades up to scratch? Explore all the options open to you before doing anything rash.
From history: Henry Ford’s first foray into business, the Detroit Automobile Co., dissolved in 1901 when customers complained of high prices and low quality. A year later, his second company, the Henry Ford Co., was dissolved due to a dispute with a consultant. Don’t let failure break you – when was the last time you saw a Ford? Today, right?
Pack Up Your Troubles: Having reconciled with yourself the fact that you got it wrong this time round and weighed up your next move, steel yourself and get ready to bounce back. Put the past to bed and focus on getting right next time, either in the retake or the next exam on the horizon – focus on the future and don’t look back.
From history: Did you know that despite being a Maths whizz, Albert Einstein was very poor at language? Initially the Federal Polytechnic Academy rejected his application due to poor marks in non-science related subjects. Everyone has strengths – everyone has weaknesses.
Focus On Yourself: Pressure to pass tests and exams bombards you from all angles when you’re in education. It’s not just the expectations of the school, often the pressure to perform to the standards expected by your parents can be overbearing and cause unnecessary stress – never good preparation. Be true to yourself, be realistic; of course you want to do well but don’t let the hopes and aspirations of others bear down on you too hard. It’s you who has to sit the paper and you with the most to lose – moreover it’s you with the most to gain. Set the bar as high or low as you know you’re capable of.
From history: Despite twisting his melon around one of the greatest theories in world history, Charles Darwin had a somewhat inauspicious start in life. Lambasted by his father and his teachers, failing medical school – it’s no wonder no-one knows his name…
Reasons to be cheerful – further lessons from history
Steve Jobs: Dropped out of Reed College after just six months because of the financial strain it placed on his parents.
Fred Astaire: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.” Evaluation of Astaire’s first screen test. Oof.
Harrison Ford: The Star Wars and Indiana Jones star majored in philosophy at Ripon College (honest!) but dropped out just before graduating. The force is weak with this one.
Dick Cheney: Once the second-most powerful person on Earth, Cheney flunked out of America’s prestigious Yale. Twice. And George Bush passed!