Coping with Bad Exam Results

Taking an exam can cause everything from simple nervousness to increased hyperactivity, heart palpitations, and one or more sleepless nights. Doing poorly on an examination can cause even more anxiety, decrease motivation, and raise self-doubt, none of which are healthy or productive.

Influences contributing to negative feelings can come from the outside. A student who fails an exam may be concerned about parental disapproval, fearing that he or she may be severely scolded or punished, perhaps losing something of high value such as no longer being able to go out nights with friends. Or the student may fear that the poor exam results put him or her at risk of flunking a course, not getting into college, or otherwise not advancing as planned.

Influences contributing to unproductive feelings can also come from within. The student who does poorly on an exam may hold high expectations and, consequently, experience a sense of failure and reduced self-worth. Or the student may be highly competitive and feel the need to continually be the best, thereby adding almost unbearable pressure and a very high degree of anxiety when the individual fails to excel.

Coping with bad exam results is very important for many reasons. Here are some ways:

Calm down and establish positive expectations.

It is understandable that any responsible individual would be concerned about getting poor exam results. But if the student can calm down and let the body and mind relax, the individual will be able to think more effectively. The more anxious an individual is, the less ability he or she has to think logically, which is why an individual tends to make poor decisions and behave foolishly or ineffectively when experiencing intense great stress or emotional upheaval.  

There’s obviously no reason to be happy about a bad examination. However, thinking about the fact that one can learn something from the experience begins to turn a negative into a positive. Realizing that a bad exam isn’t the end of the world, and that the student can improve, provides hope and motivation to look for solutions.

Additionally, seeing the positive side of situations helps reduce stress and put aside the fears, uncertainties, and self-doubts that feed anxiety. With the decrease in negative influences, clearer thinking and more effectiving coping and problem solving are possible. 

Assess the problem and challenges.

Addressing the issue of why the test results were so poor is important. What do the errors show? Were they made because the student did not study enough? Or did he or she study but not retain the information due to distractions and lack of concentration?

Spending time considering what went wrong and developing ways to correct the problem areas are beneficial for coping successfully. Obviously, if the problem was lack of study, the student will experience less anxiety with the next exam, if he or she creates and follows a schedule of study times. If distractions were a part of the problem, such as, for example, studying in a noisy environment, the student will be able to focus and retain information better by finding a quieter study area more conductive to learning.

For challenges involving increasing motivation to study, one might join a group of other individuals who regularly study together and have had success helping each other. For challenges involving a need to better comprehend the class or course materials, one could ask for the teacher’s help. Instructors are often very willing to provide additional resources to assist students who want better scores, and they appreciate when a student shows an interest and willingness to improve.

Maintain positive attitudes and motivation.

Beating one’s self up for past test results and harboring self-doubt do not result in positive outcomes. Making a commitment to put forth one’s best efforts, and expecting progress without the need for perfection, are thoughts that help an individual cope constructively as well as realistically. Also, positive attitudes regarding treating the body well promote healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep and eating well, that help one function more effectively on any given exam day.

Finally, the motivation needed to carry out a study plan or other desired action to help improve test scores can be increased by taking breaks now and then. Trying to study long hours with no breaks will tire an individual and negatively affect his or her ability to focus and retain information.

Rewarding one’s self for good efforts is also motivating. After spending several hours studying, for example, a student can treat himself or herself to something the individual enjoys, whether it’s indulging in a soothing facial, listening to a new CD, or working on a hobby.   

Coping with a bad exam test can be difficult. But with positive actions, one can learn from the experience, let go of the negative feelings, and move on in beneficial ways.