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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.

Failed the exam, d'oh. Fear not!

Failed the exam, d’oh. Fear not!

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!

Photo: Here



12 Responses to “Top Tips: Coping With Exam Failure”

  1. orsonswing

    I have learnt that failing exams and/or dropping out is far from the end of the word although it feels like it at the time.
    In fact if I look back it’s those who met adversity that have been more successful in the long run.

    Reply (29) (6)
  2. Ace

    i flunk my board exam… and i feel every bit of what’s written here… i cannot help but blame myself for failing my parents… 🙁 I always tell myself back in college that failure is a delayed success… but its hard to believe it now, specially when u see ur friends celebrating their success while i am buried in my misery…

    Reply (67) (14)
    • Freddy Ped.

      I advice you to jump back and try again!! You can do it, life is long and there are a lot of opportunities out there, don’t quit, remember; batman beats superman with prep, so while those tears and go fight that over powered test but with preparation on advance . Hell, you can throw a big party yourself.

      Reply (24) (5)
    • Aubrey

      The worst thing you can do to yourself is kick yourself when you are already down. Although, it is the “easy” thing to do… DON’T. Keep your head held high and keep trucking. Life continues and it is the people that don’t give up, despite all odds, that really win in the end. Just remember that you have air in your lungs, sun shining on your face and eyes that can see the beauty that this world has to offer. Don’t let one failure cause you to lose your flame. You’ll get it back and it will be shining brighter than ever. <3

      Reply (2) (1)
  3. lily

    I failed my first test and it’s not a nice feeling at all I feel rather depressed about it I just wanna scream

    Reply (30) (8)
  4. mia miller

    I failed one of my subject and I am so disappointed with myself. I feel ashamed and I really feel small with my friends and classmates because of this. Even though my dad told me its alryt, I still feel like a failure. I want to shift course but I always feel like everyone will think that I’m not good enough for my current course that’s why I shifted.

    Reply (15) (0)
  5. Lindsay

    I failed a test today. It’s harder because it goes deeper than trying to just make others happy with myself. I had teachers in elementary school to middle school give up on me. Retaking and retaking the exact same tests to to fail repeatedly. It’s a matter of feeling broken, insufficient, incapable, and just plain dumb. I want to give up but I refuse. This has placed me from depressed to just angry. Hoping for eventual feeling of success. *shrug*

    Reply (2) (0)
    • Mars

      I feel you. I feel that no matter how much hardwork I put in in memorising and understanding the subjects and topics being tested, it does not translate to the desired results that I expect myself to get. This sort of made me confirm that I might just be stupid and dumb as compared with my peers. Nonetheless, I refuse to give up on the education pathway I am halfway completing but the poor results seems be demoralising me along the way. Will there be a moment when my effort will be recognised and reflected in my results before my finals to give me the boost of energy, hope and faith? ): -feeling upset

      Reply (3) (0)
  6. Mars

    I am ashamed and embarrassed to receive my results as I know and have a strong feeling that my answer are gonna make my teacher laugh. To elaborate further, instead of answering A, I gave answer B. After the test, I realised all the huge blunders I made during the tests. Help. I am feeling depressed and embarrassed over this. I know that it is not the end of the world but this shame and stupidity just shatters my self-image and confidence. The teachers are gonna think that I am stupid and I am gonna look like a blockheaded student. Help 🙁

    Reply (0) (0)
    • Teresa white

      I understand completely I took a pre test in my writing 115 class and I froze up totally forgot how to start my assignment I fill so stupid plus I was allowed extra time than I went back to finish the test and got confused. I get good grades in my class but I get alot of outside help I am totally embarrassed to see my teacher next week I fill so stupid.

      Reply (0) (0)
  7. Shola

    When you fail, you are almost tempted to be depressed, but you must make that conscious effort not to, because what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
    That’s what I am tryna do right now😢

    Reply (4) (0)
  8. Eliz AG

    I had my chemistry oral exam today and it went badly. There was only one topic that I wasn’t too confident on and I picked that topic (we just pick our questions like lucky dip). I wanted to cry when I saw I had chosen that. It was a real struggle for me but I did my best… when my teacher told me the grade I wanted to cry. Actually I did cry afterwards. I’m feeling so low, although I know it will pass. I’ll just have to bite the bullet and resit the exam. 🙁

    Reply (1) (0)


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