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How to deal with disappointing grades

Disappointing grades can be tough to deal with, but there are ways to handle the disappointment


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in education


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Many people will experience a disappointing grade or exam result at some point during their time in school or college. For some this can be hard to handle, especially if you have put a lot of work into studying or preparing for an assignment.

Regardless of how much preparation you did, a bad grade can affect your self-esteem and your motivation to keep working. Knowing how to handle this disappointment can help you to pick yourself up and move on faster.

How to improve your grades

Taking time to address your grades and understand what happened can help you to prepare for the next time you have an assignment or an exam.

Try to find out what needs to improve

The best thing to do with a disappointing grade is to examine where things might have gone wrong, and what you need to do to improve it. Accepting that you have gotten this grade, and understanding that you need to improve, can help you to move on. If it’s possible, try to talk to the person who set the exam, or someone who has knowledge or experience in the area. They will be able to offer advice and guidance on what might have caused you to lose marks, and offer some tips for going forward.

Going to a teacher or lecturer about your grade also helps to show them that you are committed to improving.

Try different study techniques

Studying is not easy for everyone, and the way you study best might be different to how another person studies. If sitting in front of a book with a highlighter and a pen doesn’t work for you, try to find other ways to review the information. This could include watching videos or listening to audio on the topic, using colour codes and flashcards, creating mind maps or visual diagrams, or testing yourself with multiple choice questionnaires.

Here are five ways to make studying easier. Keep trying different things until you find what works for you.

Find ways to manage procrastination

Many of us tend to procrastinate and leave ourselves very little time to study. For most people, procrastination isn’t something that happens because we’re lazy - it can actually be caused by stress and anxiety. The more anxious you feel about an upcoming exam, for example, the more likely you might be to try and avoid thinking about it altogether. Try to understand your procrastination and find ways to manage your procrastination here.

Create a study plan

Once you know you have assignments or exams coming up, it’s a good idea to create a plan. Look at how much time you have and decide when is the best day to begin preparing. Creating a plan makes the task seem less overwhelming and you’re more likely to be prepared in good time. This also helps to avoid all nighters.

It's also a good idea to try and create a dedicated space for study, if you can. If this is not possible at home, try using a school, college, or local library. You could also look into study groups to help you stay motivated and focused.

A study plan consists of writing out a few small things:

  • The date of the exam
  • The material covered in the exam
  • Breaking down the topics and subtopics
  • The time to be allocated to each topic
  • Your progress as it happens

Read more about creating a study timetable.

Try to develop healthier lifestyle habits

It’s important to remember that your lifestyle will also impact your ability to study. For example, eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking care of your body are all key to having the energy to stay focused and get work done. If you’re not looking after yourself, you’re more likely to have difficulty getting your work done.

Try to get a good night’s sleep and learn how eating habits can affect exam performance.

How to handle feelings of disappointment

It is normal to feel disappointed when your grades aren't as good as you had hoped. How you deal with disappointment is important. View this as an opportunity to work on your resilience.

Give yourself time

How you deal with disappointing grades is by making small improvements, slowly, over time. It’s all about exploring your options to discover what suits you best. Better study, sleep, food, and more exercise will go a long way towards helping you improve your results when the next exam comes around. It’s important to believe in yourself and know that if you keep working, things will improve.

Get some exercise

Exercising is great for both our physical and mental health. It can help to release stress and tension in the body, clear the mind, and help us feel better with a boost of endorphins (chemicals released in the brain that makes us feel good). When we’re studying or in classes and lectures, we spend a lot of time sitting. Exercising and moving around helps to give us more energy, and it can also be easier to focus.

Find ways to get some exercise, even if you don’t like sport.

Talk to someone

If the grades you’re getting are starting to affect your mental health in any way, there are people that want to help. Talk to someone you know about how you’re feeling, and make an appointment to see a counsellor in your school or college (most colleges will offer a free or affordable counselling service).

Similarly, most teachers and lecturers will be happy to talk to you about your work and how you’re managing it. They are experienced with these kinds of issues and will be able to show you techniques that past students may have used to help them through the same kind of issues.

Need more information?

Would you like more information? Maybe you would like to talk through your own situation? Get in touch through our online chat system for 16 to 25 year olds - Monday to Friday 4pm to 8pm.

Feeling overwhelmed or anxious about disappointing grades?

If you feel overwhelmed and need someone to talk to, our anonymous, 24/7 text line is always open. You're worth talking about and we're here to listen and support you.

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Published June 22nd2020
Last updated Novem­ber 30th2020
Tags APcontent
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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