How to Cope when you don’t get the Exam Results you want

For students of any age or academic orientation, taking exams can be stressful. The additional stress of not getting the exam results you want or expect, often makes coping more difficult. It becomes a question of properly understanding your anticipated success or failure.

“I failed. I cannot believe it!” You may feel stunned and frustrated, or angry and disillusioned, knowing that you tried your best. Somehow, what you did was not good enough.

“It can also be tough if you feel as if you didn’t meet the expectations of others, such as family members or teachers.”

Learning how to cope with low marks or academic failure is important.

Be aware that every student, regardless of age or academic orientation, has to deal with low exam marks at one time or another. Remember that any degree of failure when taking exams, can be one of the most difficult things a student has to cope with during his or her academic career. Failure can have an adverse effect on one’s ego.

Become proactive academically immediately.

Instead of focusing on your personal disappointment, wasting your time and energy on getting angry, thus internalizing your sense of failure or magnifying your shortcomings with respect to this exam, begin to take a more proactive, positive and constructive approach to your studies. In other words, start to do something about it.

Any exam is worth taking, it was worth doing well.

Focus on the exam and examiner’s expectations. Ask yourself why you received such a low mark or failed. What did you do that caused you to fail this exam? Begin to focus on what the expectations were for this particular exam. Find the root of your problem, if possible. You may need some tutelage or assistance from your teacher to do this. Perhaps others have the same problem, so talk to your classmates about it.     

Did you read the exam questions correctly?

Find out whether you read or understood your exam, the exam questions or the exam requirements, because there is the distinct possibility that while you were under the pressure and stress of writing an exam, you may have misread or misunderstood something. The answers you gave might have been brilliant, or correct in their own way, but perhaps they were not the answers necessary to obtain the passing mark or a high mark. Did you learn the definitions?

Are you being honest with yourself?

Your integrity as a student is one of the most important factors with respect to taking exams. Did you really prepare for this exam properly, or just think you did? Was there something you thought you knew that you really did not know? Were you procrastinating? Perhaps you omitted something important or merely glanced over it. Maybe you expected to ‘ace’ your exam without doing any work. It happens.      

What were your strengths and your weaknesses in this particular exam?

It is always important to find out what the key aspects of an exam are prior to writing an exam and to focus on developing them further when you are studying for the exam.  In doing so, you will likely discover your strong or weak points.    

Were there trick questions on the exam?

Some exams include trick questions just to see how well you read your exam instructions and whether you know your exam material. Trick questions often serve to ‘weed out’ students who are not serious about their academic studies. 

Was the teacher fair in marking your exam?

Teachers are generally fair with students and have reputable marking systems. Exams can be placed on a ‘bell curve’, when the majority of students have low exam marks. Taking the time to talk to a teacher about the exam and your own work can help to reassure you in that respect. 

What can you do better next time, in order to succeed?

Every time you write an exam, you can likely do better. Find out immediately if you can upgrade or whether there will be room for re-writes or future exams. Do not just let your unexpected low mark prevent you from furthering your academic career.

Persist and you will succeed.