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4 things to do after a bad exam

4 things to do after a bad exam

3 min read
  • Stress management & well-being
  • Study skills & exam prep

Sitting a bad exam can be disheartening. It can be difficult for students to know how to deal with the situation, let alone how to prepare for the following exams under these circumstances. How students react and deal with the situation can have a crucial impact on their subsequent performance.

Thankfully, there are ways to deal with this. Let’s take a look at the top 4 strategies we suggest for students who have just had a bad exam…

what to do after a bad exam

What to do after a bad exam

1. Let your emotions out

It is important that students deal with and accept the situation, instead of avoiding it. Therefore, letting out their emotions by crying or being angry for a bit can be beneficial.

It is also important that students share their worries and problems with others. Talking with parents, teachers or friends can help them get through the disappointment of a bad exam. Asking for help can also help them develop their resilience and deal with this setback better.

2. Don’t dwell on it

Although it is good for students to let their emotions out after experiencing a bad exam, it is important that they don’t dwell on it. A common mistake that students often make is catastrophising, which is believing that the worst possible thing will happen. Blowing a bad exam out of proportion can cause this negative mindset and prevent them from moving on.

Therefore, it is important to prevent students from dwelling on the situation. Encouraging them and reassuring them that it is not the end of the world will help them deal with it and move on. After all, what has happened has happened, and they can’t change anything about it now – and it’s highly unlikely that one bad exam has ruined absolutely everything.

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3. Turn failure into success

Failure and setbacks are learning opportunities. One of the most important steps to take after a bad exam is reflecting on what went wrong.

Students can do this by asking themselves: “What would I do differently next time?” Using this question will help them stop dwelling on the past and gain a sense of control over the situation, which will also help boost their confidence and motivation for their next exam.

Some common examples of what could have gone wrong in their previous exam and how to learn from it include:

  • Timing If students didn’t complete the exam in the given time, they can practice completing past papers and studying under timed conditions.
  • Not knowing the information – If students couldn’t answer some questions on an exam, this could prompt them to identify and study the information they are struggling with most for the next exam.
  • Being stressed – If nerves paralysed them, students can work on reducing their exam stress by getting fresh air, talking to others and not putting too much pressure on themselves.

4. Move on

Easier said than done, but the final step to take after experiencing a bad exam is to simply move on.

This is important to help students bounce back and not let it affect their performance on subsequent exams. Once they have let their frustration out and learned from their mistakes, students should start focusing on getting ready for their following exams.

Final thoughts

A bad exam can reduce students’ confidence, therefore how they deal with the situation afterwards is very important. It’s good to let their emotions out, but they should not dwell on the situation or believe that it is the end of the world.

Students should also focus on turning their failure into success. Using a bad exam as a learning opportunity is one of the best ways to move on and prepare for the next one. These steps can help students get over having a bad exam and turn this setback into success.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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