Tests have a way of making us feel naked and exposed, revealing our flaws, showing what’s best kept under wraps.

I get it. Those test outcomes can mean the difference between passing a class, or not, but a test doesn’t have to define your future success. How you go forward is shaped by what you do when something goes awry. When that test score is your worst, or its just below the tenth of a point that pushes you to the next level, you don’t have to camp there.

So, what do you do?

1. Cry if you need to, or wail and gnash teeth – just don’t go blasting negatively on social media and blaming others. You’re trying to move forward, not backwards.
2. Consider. Honestly evaluate what happened. Did you study? Did you put time and energy and thought into learning the material? Was there something you didn’t understand? Was there something that surprised or blindsided you? Did you assume you were only to study a certain number of items and didn’t bother with anything else? Did you memorize data but not comprehend the concepts so that you couldn’t make sense of an application question? Notice all of these questions are about you – not the test items, not the teacher, not the school, not your classmates. Why? Because it is about you and your responsibility of ownership.
3. Improve. Only you can create your academic improvement. After thinking about what went wrong on that test, start thinking about what can make it better. Maybe that means devoted time to study with flashcards, using the electronic study tools that come with most textbooks, making your own quizzes, or teaming with classmates. Maybe that means owning that learning takes effort and you need to prioritize other things in your life for it to happen. Or, maybe that means you need to have a heart to heart discussion with your instructor for their suggestion.
4. Focus. Its hard to feel positive when we have a miserably failing test score. Give yourself a pep talk and refocus on the end goal. A failed test does not define you, but your response does.