How to deal with a bad grade

Jan 16, 2023

Your heart sinks a little, your skin turns pale, and your mouth goes dry. You don’t know who to blame. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling, especially when you worked hard and usually get higher grades. The most important aspect is getting past the disappointment of a bad grade and planning your next move. Believe me, when I say that I have had my fair share of bad marks so, I speak from experience when I say that moving forward is necessary to do better in the future. The following tips may come in handy for you when dealing with bad grades.

1. Give yourself time to process

People often tell you to dismiss bad grades and try harder next time. They say there is no use in dwelling on the past or letting your mind wander over mistakes. But sometimes allowing yourself to wallow in that grief and despondence can sometimes help you gain the perspective you need to face the next challenge. You deserve a little time to yourself to vent your frustrations when you’re upset, especially if you know you worked hard to get a good grade.

2. Let your panic pass quickly

When we get a bad grade and we're not used to it, we panic. We think we've lost our smarts, our focus. But that's just not the case most of the time. Everyone can slip up from time to time. It's the mistakes we make in life that teach us who we are and how to do even better the next time. Don't panic because panicking will cause stress, and stress doesn't make for good grades. One recent study found that students who stressed over big exams did worse than those who stay calm.

3. Keep calm and carry on

This is one of the most crucial stages when dealing with bad grades. After you’re thought and calculated everything in your head, it’s time to take a deep breath and move ahead. Your response to it will impact your performance next time. Ensure that you don’t stress or beat yourself up too much!

4. Identify your weaknesses

After an exam, it is essential to discern and understand your mistakes so that you know exactly what your gaps are. Sit down with a teacher, friend, or parent and ask them for advice. After identifying those potential weaknesses, spend time working on how you could remedy them in the future using specific strategies that would best address your problems. Your strategies must be targeted specifically toward your needs. For example, if you ran out of time during a test, practice exam-smart strategies like writing essay questions in a timed and simulated environment.

5. Study effectively, not longer

A lot of people think that studying the right way means studying for a long period. That's not always the case. Studying with purpose and enthusiasm usually wins out over putting in longer hours. Having thorough notes from class will also make it easier to study for tests. Write out your notes using a pen and paper instead of typing them on a computer or laptop - the act of writing out letters and numbers with a pen activates motor memory in your brain. Increased motor memory means increased overall memory of whatever it was that you put down in your notes. Effective studying every day will build up knowledge over time.

6. Tackle it the next time

After you’ve worked on the subject, ensure that you keep your cool and maintain a calm mind the next time you take an exam. Be confident about your efforts, but at the same time, remember to not overestimate the complexity of the exam and subject matter. Before you attempt each question, collect your thoughts and try not to get too impulsive when you begin. Half the time a bad test grade is often due to test anxiety and not competency at all—so don’t let the stress overwhelm you.

Remember, your grades don't define you!

Grades are important, but they don't define you. You are so much more than a number or letter on a page, and tackling terrible grades is a process we're glad to help you with. Every student has struggled with dissatisfying grades before, and we're no exception.  

How our team handles getting a bad grade:

I think right after I got my results, I will allow myself to feel whatever I want to feel (sad/frustrated) but not for a long time. I will then move on from the past and try to analyze which topic I need to put extra effort into.  I think that as long as your grades improve from the previous ones, that also means good grades. It’s okay to be sad but don’t take a lot of time grieving for something that cannot be changed. Future you will thank you for making mistakes because they will not make the same mistakes again!

-Adrieana Zulaikha - Content Writer

My reaction to a bad grade is initially disappointment. However, after getting a grade, regardless of whether it was good or bad, I would always reflect on what went well and what went wrong.  I believe that most of the time I received a bad grade was internal factors, not external ones. For example, a lack of study/not understanding, etc. After the reflection, I normally put disappointment aside as I believe lamenting what has already happened is counterproductive. I try and set goals to overcome whatever problem I face during the test so that I would not make the same mistakes in the next one.

-Ethan Huang - Video Content Manager and in charge of IGCSE Latin

It was a maths exam and I had never gotten a bad grade in maths which contributed to me being a bit overconfident In the following exam I got a 5 in maths HL out of a 7 which is quite average for IB. The way I dealt with it was denial initially, I tried to hide the grade from my friends and my parents, but after a point, I did have to confront the grade. What I did realize was that my parents and friends were rather understanding and merely told me to not be overconfident for the next exam. So, for the next exam I made a schedule to practice maths for 30 minutes every day and within a few weeks I regained the confidence that I had lost and performed much better on the following exam!

-Maadhavan Gupta - Content Writer1.2.

Samiha !

I'm passionate about physics and psychology. I'm doing my internship here in a place where I can apply my skills in content creation and increase my experience in language :)