Taking challenging exams is a typical part of being in college. ALBERTO G/FLICKR VIA CC BY 2.0

Back in high school when people made pages for individual jokes on Facebook, my friends and I all liked a page that claimed losing your pen would ruin your life. The reasoning given was that losing your pen would equal no notes, which would equal no studying, which would lead to failing. No diploma would mean no work, which would mean no money, which would mean no food, so you’d fall into a depression and die.

In college, it’s hard not to feel the same way when you do poorly on a test. You look at the class average of the BIO 203 midterm. 59. Your grade? 42. That’s it. Medical school is probably too hard for you anyway. Might as well learn how to hunt and move to Costa Rica or figure out how to survive the rest of your life working in retail.

Or maybe you forgot to study all of the concepts for your international relations test and no matter how many examples you gave, your professor wasn’t satisfied. That 96 you were expecting? 73. Great.

It’s so easy, in a pressure cooker school like Stony Brook, to feel depressed, pessimistic and gross when these grades show up on Blackboard and stare at us. But don’t worry. Everything will be OK.


In BIO 203, it is mathematically possible to get a zero on a test and end up with a raw final score of 68. In CHE 321, you can get a zero on a midterm and still have a raw 83 percent. And even if mathematically you’re out of the running for that dream grade, classes are always salvageable.

You do so much more harm to your mental state and your grade point average when you shut down and give up on studying for the next test or on doing homework anymore or on even showing up to class anymore.

“This course isn’t the end of the world and this particular test isn’t the end of the world,” Isaac Carrico, one of the CHE 321 professors, said. “There are four major exams and lots of other points in other places so if you have one terrible exam and three great ones we’re certainly not going to kill you on that one exam.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should shrug off a failing grade and think that you’re in the clear and “who cares?” Doing worse than expected should be taken as a wake-up call to double down on studying and reviewing so that you do twice as well on the next one.


Carrico’s advice for students who aren’t happy with their grades thus far:

“The best way to deal with it is to know that it’s not final. Usually when we have kids who work hard who have a bad exam they tend to recover okay. Take advantage of all of our resources and do well on the next test. There’s enough time left in the semester to bring your grades up.”

I could probably write a whole dissertation on people who failed a test or failed a class or even failed out of school yet ended up successful, happy and able to eat food on a regular basis.

You are not the tests you’ve failed. You are all the times you got up afterward.

Andrew Goldstein

Andrew is a Senior journalism major also studying pre-medicine. He started writing for The Statesman in Fall 2014 and has since started a book review column, a science column, and written for News and Opinions. He hopes to incorporate writing and science into whatever career he ends up in. He also enjoys asking invasive questions. Contact Andrew at: [email protected]


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