How to Fail a Test: The Do’s and Don’ts of Academic Defeat

I failed my first geometry test. Frankly, I don’t even remember what it was over. The only thing I remember is that I failed it. It was only September, one month through my freshman year, and I could practically picture myself going downhill. 

Well. That was it. From here, it’s just going to be a community college and a food stamp.

Yes. You can laugh. As ridiculous as it sounds, most of us are guilty of catastrophizing school to the point where we question our academic potential. Every time we don’t do as well as we wanted on a test, we panic. Our brains release extra amounts of cortisol, leaving us feeling unsafe and unaccepted. We immediately go over what we did during the tests: the silly mistakes and the gaps in memory. But in my opinion, if you’re going to fail a test, you might as well be good at it.

So how do you fail a test?

It’s not exactly something you hear people talking about. We have always been taught how to do well. Learn and Relearn. Test and Retest. However, a big part of life is knowing how to crash and burn at something important and do it well.

But lucky for you, I have a lot of experience with this. So let’s divide this into Dos and Don’ts. Hopefully, at the end of this article, you’ll be an expert in failure.

  1. DON’T camp out on your grading app like HAC, Gratify, or Graduway.

Yeah, I’m looking at you. Do NOT even think about staying on the grade app and freaking out over the color of your grade. That will do absolutely nothing, and you will just make yourself feel worse when you could be doing something else. Instead of spending 10 minutes calculating the “what ifs”, accept it and get the number out of your head.

  1. DON’T catastrophize.

No, you will not be going downhill. No, your grade won’t be like this forever. And no. You will not remember this five years from now. I can assure you this test will have nothing to do with your college apps later. When I did poorly on my geometry test, I declared to my parents that I would never go into a career in math. (I still won’t, but that’s beside the point) The point is, I assumed that because I did unsatisfactory on one test, I would be terrible at the entire subject, possibly even the fields involving it. Looking back now, I was being a complete idiot. I could have spent my time studying for retests instead of basing all my potential on the first test I took in 9th grade.

  1. DO study ahead.

If you did poorly on a unit test, getting ahead on the next unit can make you feel more confident and extra prepared. It can also shake off the initial guilt for not doing well enough. Tests aren’t as significant as you think they are. If you can’t change your grade, then have better control over the next one.

  1. DO exercise.

While this one may be a little random, it is probably the most important one on this list. Every time you fail a test, go work out. Don’t even think about school. Just put on earbuds and go for a solid 30 minutes every day. It helps you stay in a better mood and gets your mind off school and only school. Sometimes, it helps me be able to study longer and more efficiently without losing brain function after 15 minutes.

Well, there you have it. A perfect guide about perfect failure: so whether it’s a job interview, rejection from a college, or a simple geometry test in September, failure is a life skill. If you don’t know how to fall flat on your face, you won’t know how to do anything else.