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What to learn from a poor test grade
  • Calendar Nov 07, 2019
  • User Jared Wells
  • Category In Uncategorized
  • Comments 0 Comments

We’re starting to get calls from parents about unexpectedly poor grades on a test or quiz. And while students and parents should be on the lookout for red flags like this that something isn’t going well in the student’s class, it isn’t time to panic! Any failure in life is an opportunity for learning, and a poor grade on a test is no exception to that.

The key, though, is this: the student must come away understanding

-why the missed questions were missed, and, more importantly

-in what ways was the test preparation process inadequate

Before we get into how to find the answers to the above questions, a warning:

Blaming the teacher is (usually) not productive.

It’s very easy for a student to blame a poor test grade on something the teacher didn’t teach (or teach well), or the teacher’s not giving the students the correct information about the test, and any number of other reasons that the teacher might be at fault.

And, these reasons MAY be right.

But here is the problem: even if the reasons ARE right, if the goal is a higher grade in the class, blaming the teacher is not helpful, because it’s very unlikely that the teacher is going to change. So a student who performed poorly on a test has a choice: blame the teacher, and let that be the excuse for not succeeding in the class, or look for the ways that the student can change, and make those the path to success, despite having a teacher that isn’t doing things the ideal way for the student.

For example:

Excuse: “I didn’t understand how the teacher explained that concept”

Solution: “When I don’t understand how the teacher explains a concept, I need to ask a question/get help from a tutor or a friend/watch a video on Khan Academy.

Excuse: “The teacher is so picky and marked me down for now showing my work/writing units/doing the problems the exact way she showed us.”

Solution: “I need to make sure that when I practice I am showing my work/writing my units/doing the problems exactly the way she showed us.”

Excuse: “The teacher asked questions that weren’t even in the book/review sheet/slides”

Solution: “Some of the questions came from sources I didn’t expect. I need to make sure I am reviewing all the sources, not just the book/review sheet/slides.”

Students need to look for what they can take control of, despite how they might feel about the teacher!

So, how do we make sure that the student learns the lessons and makes the changes in behavior so that the student learns how to succeed on future tests.

Step 1: Analyze the test.

The student needs to look over the test and work to understand why each question was missed. This doesn’t JUST mean understanding how to do the problem correctly. It also means understanding exactly what the student did wrong, and WHY the student did it incorrectly in the first place.

That is, it isn’t enough to say, “Oh I missed that question because I multiplied instead of adding the exponents.” Why did the student multiply instead of add? Was it because the student didn’t know that they should multiply? Was the student running low on time and rushed through, leading to the error? Did the student skip a step in their work? Each of these reasons for missing the question has its own solution.

In order to do this, the student needs direct access to the test. Ideally, the teacher will allow the student to take the test home. If not, the student should take detailed notes on their test, and/or request time to see the teacher before or after school to review the test in detail. If the student explains it as, “I’m not happy with my performance on this test, and I want to figure out what I did wrong so I can improve for my next test” the teacher should be accomodating!

Step 2: How did the student end up taking a test that he was unprepared for?

This is the more important, and oftentimes more overlooked question. To answer this question, think about the following:

-What was my test preparation timeline? Did I have a study plan that started at the beginning of the unit, or did I wait to do my studying until the day(s) before the test?

-Was there material on the test that I did not expect to see? If so, why? Was the material from a source I didn’t expect to be tested on (textbook, slides, lecture notes, worksheets, homework problems, practice exams, other sources on the teacher’s website)? If so, why didn’t I expect to be tested on it? Will I regularly be tested on material from this source?

-Did I feel confident going into the test? If so, why did I feel prepared when I was, in fact, unprepared? Did I test myself in a variety of different ways, or did I just “feel” ready? Did I use active (free response questions, solving problems start to finish, free recall) or passive (reviewing notes, re-reading the chapter, “looking over” problems) methods of study?

-If I didn’t feel confident, when did I realize I wasn’t confident? The day before the test? If so, why didn’t I know sooner? If I knew sooner, what did I do once I realized I wasn’t confident?

You can succeed on your next test...but not by approaching your next test the same way you approached your last test. Be determined to determine what went wrong and what you can do differently next time.

Does your son or daughter need help getting ready for their next test? Give us a call at 858.551.2650 or email!


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