You’re walking out of an exam room knowing you haven’t quite nailed your exam as much as you hoped. It wasn’t quite what you prepared for, you got nervous under pressure or, quite simply, today wasn’t your day. You feel like you’ve failed. So, what do you do now?
Take a minute for yourself: Find a space where you can sit and take a few moments to process your thoughts and performance. Switch your phone on silent or move away from your classmates. If you’re feeling emotional, give yourself time and take some deep, calming breaths. Take a minute or two to focus on you and how you’re feeling right here and right now. What would you say to a friend in this situation? Show yourself the same kindness.
Be honest with yourself: Was there anything you could have done better? Did you prepare and research or go in on a whim? Did you take the time to study or did you cram it all the night before? Are you being too hard on yourself for not performing as well as you wanted to?
If it’s not what you expect there are things you can do.
Take stock of your options: Is there an opportunity to re-sit the exam? Look at the options that are available to you – can you make up for your exam performance with other coursework and assignments?? Look at what is available to you, and if you’re unsure, reach out to someone who might know – a teacher, lecturer or student support - and get clarity on next steps.
Take lessons: Is there an exam question that continually trips you up or leaves your mind blank? Identify these tricky questions, break them down and work on them. By working on what’s stumped you, you’ll have a better chance at overcoming it in the future. Figure out what you could have done differently and develop a plan to tackle these problem areas.Plan for the future: There will be other opportunities so be strategic as to how you can succeed next time. You may have thought that this exam was the one you couldn’t fail. We sometimes put more pressure on ourselves to achieve a desired goal or outcome. By not succeeding this time it doesn’t mean you have to quit. It just means your path may be different to what you had envisioned.
Ask for support: Consider a tutor or signing up to a study group to help you prepare for your next exam. Talk to your teacher or lecturer about the areas you’re finding tough and see what they suggest.
While post-exam angst is not a great feeling, the experience can certainly help build resilience. Instead of lamenting on what might have been, the growth mindset and the understanding that intelligence is not fixed, but rather the result of hard work, can spur you onto greater things.
See this exam as a turning point rather than an end point.
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