What I Learned From Failing My First Exam Ever

Up until recently I was 100000-0 for exams that I have taken and passed. Not to pat myself on the back or toot my own horn, but I did graduate in the top 5% of my class in high school and I made a 4.0 last semester. So it’s easy to say that I have very high expectation for myself, and failure is not an option. Ever.

So you can imagine my dismay when I looked at my Chem 2 exam score and saw that my streak had come to an end. I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I resorted to my natural instinct and cried.

A lot.

This really bummed me out, and I could tell that it was affecting other parts of my life. I didn’t really know how to process being below average (technically my score was above the class average, but that wasn’t a source of reassurance either). The funny thing about life and time is that while I was still hung over on my failing grade, time kept on going. My professor wasn’t going to wait for me to get over it, he has a class to teach and a life to live. So I decided to either learn from my mistakes, or let it defeat me. It made no sense for me to let one stumbling block on the journey of life, keep me from making it to the finish line. So here’s what I scavenged from this experience:

  1. Failing an exam doesn’t equal failing as a person.

As someone who measures their self-worth from external sources, things such as my grades built my identity. If I made good grades, it equated to me being a good person and being worthy to continue to have positive relationships with people. So when I failed my exam, my first though was “Wow, I’m a bad person” and that’s not true. Separating academia me from me as whole is something that I need to work on. Just because this part of my identity is struggling on something doesn’t mean that I suck as a whole.

  1. Knowing how to study is important.

In high school I “studied” as in, I reread my notes the night before an exam or looked over my homework a couple of times. The only thing I felt like I actually studied for was the AP exam and the SAT, and even those are a stretch. My freshman year of college, I realized how inept my studying skills were, and since then I’ve tried to develop them. Knowing what works for you ensures that you study smarter not harder.

  1. Make enough time to study.

Knowing how to study is great, but if you don’t actually do it, then how does one benefit? That’s right, they don’t. I realized that I was procrastinating on some many things, partly because I wanted to be in the middle of everything that was happening in my hall, and partly because I was resting on my laurels. I thought that there was no way that I would fail because I made an A in Chem when I took it, I’m a great student. So I thought! Make sure to budget time to study, make a schedule and say, every day from 3-6 I’m going to find something to study, that way you’re always refreshed on what you’ve learned. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, it’s up to you to use them wisely.

  1. Use those resources.

Office hours. SI sessions. TA’s. Study groups. The Internet. Use ALL OF THEM. I have recently decided to start going to all of my professor’s office hours at least once a week, especially for Chem and Pre-Cal. Why? Because that’s the time I know for sure that my professor has time for me, also, it will help put a face to a name because trust me, of all the 5 sections with 200 students, your name and face will get lost. Office hours are a great way to get to know the professor, and have the one-on-one help you need.

  1. Life sucks sometimes, but you have to move on.

Recently I’ve been feeling that I’ve put in so much work into my classes and in return I’ve been getting less than amazing results. Sometimes that’s how to cookie crumbles, but the important part it too keep trying hard and doing the best that you can. If not what else are you going to do? I’m telling you as a professional driver of the struggle bus, it gets better. Maybe not when you want it, but eventually it will.

All in all, college is a time where anything can happen. It’s the time for new experiences. It’s the time for growth. It’s the time to make mistakes. It’s the time to live.




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