How To Respond To A Bad Test Grade

You know the feeling- “I can’t believe I got a 53% on my test!!!”  Your stomach sinks and you break out in sweat.  Moreover you can’t focus on learning new material because you’re too worried about the consequences of your poor test grade.  Well I’m not going to tell you that all will be fine if you get a real bad test grade however if you do the following three steps you will minimize the damage to your overall standing.




1. Immediately Talk To Your Teacher

The same day you get your bad exam you should make a mad rush to talk to the teacher.  You should say something like “Wow Mr. Z I really thought I would have done better because I did study but clearly I’m not understanding a lot of the material. Could you go over the questions I got wrong and help me figure out what I need to do to improve? I really want to do well in your class”.   A statement like the one I just described will show the teacher you care and that will go a long way to their “sympathy” to giving you a second chance on a test.  Also you need to figure out what you did wrong so you can correct misunderstandings- course material always builds on itself so you have to improve your weaknesses immediately after a bad test.


2. Ask For Ways To Earn Extra Credit

After you talked to your teacher show them that you worked hard to correct the errors on your exam.  Tell them “Hi Mr. Z thanks for helping me figure out what I did wrong, I went back and did some extra problems and I’m pretty confident I know the material”.  The teacher should respond with “excellent! This material is important”.  Once the teacher responds, ask them if you could do extra work or take another exam to earn “partial” credit.  Most teachers will not let you recover all the points you missed on a test however many teachers will offer students ways to bring up their grade slightly. The key is you must ask the teacher and show them you’re highly motivated to do well in their class.  Even if your teacher says no to extra credit they will not forget your desire to raise your grade and usually give you an opportunity for extra credit before final grades are submitted.


3. Keep Your Exams

Of course one of the best ways you can recover from a bad test grade is to ace all your future tests. Besides studying hard for all your future tests one of the smartest things you can do is to prepare for midterms and finals by looking over your old course tests. You would be surprised that most final/midterm exam questions are the same questions from your chapter or section exams/quizzes.  As such never throw away your exams or quizzes- they are priceless to prepare for your midterms/finals. Now I know many you of out there are saying “my teacher does not let me keep my exams so what should I do?”  Indeed many teachers do not let their students keep their course exams so here is what I suggest.  Immediately after every exam you take start writing down all the questions you remember from the test.  Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer you can always go back through your notes and figure out the answer- the goal is to write down as many questions from the exam as possible.  Now just to be clear this is not cheating rather it’s you being smart taking the initiative to go the extra mile for a top grade.  Let’s face it grades are extremely important so anything you can do (without breaking the rules) to raise your grade is fair in my book.


In the end the best way to respond to a poor test grade is to work harder and increase your sense of urgency.  Almost all of us have failed tests and have been disappointed.  Like any negative event you need to learn lessons from the experience and move on.  The worst thing a student can do after a bad test grade is just say “well I hope I do better next time.”  Remember “hope” is not a plan that will secure a good grade. However if you work hard, communicate with your teacher and “over prepare” for exams you will likely get that A grade you deserve.

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