Wednesday, March 21, 2012 myBiz Blog
Using a Bad Test Grade As Your Next Learning Opportunity by Leah Butler

In school, grades are everything. They can help or hinder where you want to go next in life, whether it be graduate school or a job in the professional world. Once you get into college, the pressure is on and each test or paper is worth much more than it ever was in high school. One bad test grade could potentially ruin your chances of getting a good grade in the class…which could potentially hurt your semester GPA…and bring down your whole GPA….and prevent you from getting into graduate school…causing you to never get a real job!

Now, let’s be honest. While there’s always a possibility this may happen, it’s pretty unlikely. One test grade, no matter how bad it is, will not ultimately prevent you from getting a job or into grad school. Even a bad final grade in a class won’t even do that. However, it’s natural to start freaking out when the teacher returns the test, only to find that you didn’t do quite as well as you had hoped to do. I usually find that I go straight to the syllabus to check how much of my grade the test is worth. Knowing that I never have the motivation to study after getting a test like that back, I have a few things I do to help me get back on track and back to work.

First and foremost, I like to go for a run. I find that it gives me time to de-stress, while still being productive. On my run, I think about ways I could have been better prepared or material I should have studied a little more. If I studied with a group of people, I consider studying alone for the next test. If I studied by myself, I contemplate getting a study group together for the next test. I also take the time to think about classes I have gotten good grades in, and the study techniques that worked in that class. By the time I finish my run, I’ve stopped freaking out about the bad grade and I’m thinking about the next thing on my to-do list. While I still may not be happy about the grade, going on a run gives me the time to think and put things into perspective, so that I’m not letting one grade ruin my whole day. Over time, I’ve come up with this routine that I use anytime I start getting stressed out about anything, including classes or a bad grade.

Whether or not you have a routine such as this or a specific song you listen to on a bad day, it’s necessary to take time and put things into perspective. It’s almost inevitable that every student will receive a bad test grade at some point in their college career. If you are still upset about the grade, go in and talk with your professor or TA and figure out where you went wrong on the test. Chances are, this information will show up again on the final and if you put forth the effort now, you’ll be better off for the next test. However, never go into a professor or TA and start accusing them of being a poor teacher or unfair grading. That will probably work against you and your grade.

Remember, no one is good at the same thing. Your classmate next to you may have gotten an A on this test, but bombed a different one that you did really well on. When it comes down to it, your grades do not determine anything about you as a person. The best thing is to treat any bad test grade as a learning opportunity.

Remember to use all of the great resources UW-Madison has to offer, including the Business Learning Center (BLC), GUTS, Math Lab and Math Tutorial.

Leah is a sophomore majoring in MHR and International Business.  To comment on her post or tell us how you made this major decision, please email