5 Things You Can Do To Get Over A Bad Grade

When I think of exam season, I think of long nights, lots of takeaways, severe back pain, and constant confusion. Some lock themselves in the library halls while others spend all day in their rooms. Even those that slacked behind all year suddenly open their books and scramble together the few sheets of notes they’ve got. Why? Because nobody likes failing an exam.

Yet it happens, even to the best of us. At some point or another you will likely experience failure. Maybe you didn’t study enough, ran out of time, or simply missed the topic of an essay. Either way, you are not happy about the mark you received. What now?

1. Take time off to digest the news.

‘Time heals all wounds’ is probably one of the most popular quotes of our time. And though time won’t change the grade you got, it’s what you need to move past the initial disappointment. Spend a day away from your computer, vent to a friend, go on an adventure or shed a few tears. Whatever feels best to you at that moment. 

2. Be honest about your effort.

Once you feel that you have dealt with the (sometimes overwhelming) flood of emotion, it’s time to assess the situation from a more rational point of view. To do that, one of the best questions to ask yourself is: “How much effort did I really put into this?”. I know, I know. At first, you might go: “of course I gave it my all”. But think about it for a second. Did you make preparing for this exam your priority? How often did you watch another episode of your favorite series, pressed snooze, or had a drink too much instead of revising? This is not to say that you didn’t try hard, but it may help you identify areas to improve upon. Ideally, your mark reflects the amount of work you put into your studies. Of course, that’s not always the case. But you might realize that there were times, at which you could have put in just a teeny-tiny bit more work.

3. Review your study schedule.

Ever heard of the saying: “work smart, not hard”? The same goes for studying. You might feel like you gave this exam your best shot because you spent the past four weeks going over old lectures, notes, and readings. Sadly, if you didn’t study the right things in the right way, a lot of that time may have been wasted. There is so much information on the internet about different study techniques and schedules. So don’t be afraid to explore them all. Switch it up. See what works best for you. The worst thing you can do is to repeat old study habits and expect better results. Ultimately learning and revising is an individual experience, be introspective and honest about whether or not your techniques are working.

4. Get in touch with your lecturer.

Lecturers are not only there to teach you the content but also to help you succeed in their modules. So don’t be afraid to get in touch with your lecturer. You might be surprised by the number of helpful tips they can give you. The benefit of getting in touch with your lecturer is that:

A – they have seen your exam and the mistakes you made, and 

B – they have seen other students excel and fail their exams for years. If there is just one person that can help you prepare better for the next exam, it’s them.

5. Consider it a learning experience.

Most of the time you will be able to resit the exam you failed. In that case, aim at doing better the second time around by learning from your past mistakes. Now that you have honestly assessed your efforts and reviewed your study schedule, maybe even received advice from a lecturer, implement this new knowledge to design a study schedule that will allow you to succeed. Whilst it is important to implement any knowledge you gained, don’t let the fear of failure stop you from doing well. This is easier said than done, and though I wish I could give you feasible advice on how to do this: I can’t. It really is all about making that mental shift. And remember: A bad grade doesn’t define you.


Active-Class helps students to learn from their past exams by providing teachers with easy-to-use marking features as well as statistics. These can help you compare your performances across different exams and modules as well as see exactly where it was that you lost out. This is just one of the reasons that makes Active-Class an effective learning management system.

Sophie Miszori
Sophie Miszori

Clinical Psychology Student