How to Handle Failing a Test

Writing this might be more about trying to get myself to cope with failing a test than anything, but hopefully someone else will find it useful in the future as well. Perhaps my future self will refer back if needed.

About an hour ago I finished what may have been the most difficult test of my life—and that’s saying something. I’ve taken pretty much any AP test you can think of, along with all of the standard college entrance exams. One might think that the first class in the general physics sequence probably shouldn’t have a midterm that could put each of those to shame…but it did. I studied for it, and really feel like I made an enormous effort to do well on this test. I know that I am not the only student in the class that felt like the test was impossible, so it wasn’t a lack of preparation that was the culprit.

I don’t know what my actual grade is yet, but I think it’s safe to say it will not be pretty. I’ve never failed a test before, so this is kind of new territory for me. So in order to help myself along in the coping process I’ve decided to write about how I handle it.

I think the most important thing that we can remind ourselves when something goes wrong, is that the sun rises tomorrow. There are so many things that can go wrong in a day but when it all comes down to it we get to try again tomorrow. Attitude really does make a world of a difference. I may have just failed a test, but it’s okay. I tried and I did the best I could, and I get to start over tomorrow. I always remind myself of this when something doesn’t quite go the way that I expected it would and I find it to be so calming. It really helps bring me some perspective.

Another thing that helps me with perspective is going out into my driveway at night and looking up at the sky. I live in a pretty isolated part of my town and so there’s less light pollution. This means that I get an incredible view of the night sky. I know it seems a little silly, but it really does help. I look up at the sky and think about all of the places that are sitting underneath the same stars, and all of the people who are looking up too. I wonder what’s going on in their world and suddenly mine feels really small. Sometimes I get really anxious and stressed and this helps. It clears my mind and helps me remind myself that this moment is so temporary, and there’s so much out there for me. It also helps me appreciate the life I have and how every second matters. I look up at the billions of stars in the sky, and I decide I don’t want to spend another second worrying over a physics test. That makes it sound really easy, but it definitely makes a difference.

I think the most important thing we can do for ourselves when we fail at anything is just give ourselves a little grace. I’m really hard on myself and if there’s one thing I know to be true it’s that we are all our own worst critics. So ease up on yourself a little, take a deep breath, look up, and carry on.