Ask Emma: I failed a test

Grades don’t define your worth; take steps to learn from your mistakes



No one likes to see an F on a test, paper or assignment. However, Emma has some tips on how to bounce back from a not-so-desirable grade.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Dear Emma,

I just got a test grade back and found out I failed … hard. I’ve never failed a test before, and I don’t know what to do. This kind of feels like the end of the world, or maybe just the cherry on top of 2020. 

What do I do? I literally have no idea what to do now. No clue. 

Please help,

First-Time Failure

Dear First-Time Failure,

That’s tough. I know how difficult it is to work your butt off in a class and not see the results when it comes to testing time, and I’m sorry you’re experiencing that. 

My first piece of advice is to not be discouraged. It is still fairly early in the semester, and you have time to turn this bad grade around. Your midterm grade may not be what you want, but that is not what counts toward your cumulative GPA. 

In case you need to hear it — which it sounds like you might — your grades do not define your worth. This one bad grade does not define you or mean you are a failure. In fact, this shows your determination and resilience in making a comeback from a difficult situation. 

I am a perfectionist, so I understand that may be hard for your brain to process. Give it time and grieve if you have to. As someone who has been there, it will be okay. 

Most classes have points designated for different categories, and professors often will drop a few of the lowest assignments. I recommend making a spreadsheet of the points available in this class so you can calculate what you need to get in other areas to bring your overall grade up. 

Next, figure out where you went wrong. Was it a lack of understanding? Not enough time spent studying? Studying the wrong material? If you aren’t sure, schedule a time to meet with your professor to go over your exam. If you are polite and express that you want to know what you did wrong for next time (and don’t try to argue for more points), most professors will be happy to work with you. 

Finally — and this is the most important step — you need to learn from what you did wrong. You can’t just repeat a mistake and expect different results. If you need to study more, do that. Build in the time to go over the material. Attend office hours if you lack understanding. Ask questions. There are tangible things you can do to prevent this from happening again.

College is hard, and you are not expected to be perfect the whole way through. Life gets in the way sometimes — especially during a pandemic! 

So, to recap, don’t beat yourself up and learn from your mistakes. If anything, know you are not alone in this. 

I hope this helps,


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