man is frustrated after failing an exam

How to Regain Confidence After Failing an Important Exam

Failing an exam is not a fun experience, especially if you’re talking about an important test that could have been potentially life-changing. You might have spent a lot on review materials and registration, so you might feel like you’ve wasted your money. On top of that, it can have a massive impact on a person’s self-esteem, so your confidence might be at an all-time low.

Despite your failure, one of the prevailing thoughts after flunking a test is to retake it. If it is something so crucial for your professional development, you can not easily give up on it. However, that might be difficult to focus on doing your best the second time around if your self-esteem is still recovering. So, how do you regain your confidence after failing an exam?

Recognize that failing in an exam happens to almost everyone

If you look up how many doctors fail the medical licensure exam, or how many lawyers fail the bar exam, you’ll see that thousands of them experience failure every year. The examinees for these major tests are most likely some of the most brilliant and most educated people, but a handful of them still experience failure.

Realizing that failure is always a part of any endeavor, including exams, allows you to put things into perspective. It is a concrete reason not to feel too bad about yourself when you fail an important exam since everyone else experiences it at some point in their life.

Retrace your steps leading up to the exam

After failing an exam, you might wonder where you went wrong. Most people will try to remember all the questions they encountered and try to look up the correct answer. However, the chances of you remembering every single question to put your mind at ease is slim. Additionally, there is more to taking an exam than just the items on the test.

Your performance in an examination can easily be affected by several factors found outside of the test itself. What did you have for breakfast on that day? How many hours of sleep did you get the night before? Was there anything else going on in your life that may have affected your emotional state? Maybe you fought with a friend or received terrible news. Anything can distract you from getting the right answers.

mental anguish can be experienced after failing an exam

Forgive yourself

You need to stop beating yourself up over this failure. While being able to criticize your own work and performance can push you to do better, too much of it can demotivate you or cause too much stress and anxiety.

Try to identify the voice in your head that is avoiding you from moving on from this failure. When you do, objectively assess if the thing that is holding you back makes real sense, or if there is a way around it. When you forgive yourself and move on, you can treat the failure as a valuable asset so that you can move forward more confidently because of your experience.

Recharge your energy

If things feel too overwhelming for you, try to detach yourself from the situation and recharge your mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. Sometimes, to move forward requires a bit of a rest in between so that you can do so with renewed vigor. 

There are several ways you can recharge your energy. You can go on vacation or travel. You can also treat yourself with a spa day. If budget is a problem, you can easily come up with a mental health day where you do all the things that bring you peace and tranquility, such as yoga, cooking, meeting up with friends, or simply lounging at home all day.

Get professional help

It will help if you get yourself some professional help to boost your confidence with the test materials. There are courses you can take which are specific to the exams that you are prepping for. Specific courses such as PMP – Get It Right The Second Time gives you the knowledge and confidence to tackle the PMP exam, which is a valuable credential when aiming to become a professional project manager. You can check out several resources and books that can help you prep for this type of exam.

study overtime after failing an exam

Adjust your study habits

One of the ways you can get a “fresh start” with an upcoming retake is to switch things around. If you were a night owl, try studying a bit earlier as your energy levels, and memory retention might be higher than when you’re just about to hit the bed. Besides your schedules, you can also experiment with other practices such as introducing focus-inducing music, snacks, or a switch of studying environment.

Manage your expectations

Hoping for the best is understandable among test-takers, however, pitching for perfection only gives you unrealistic expectations that will only likely put you down. This can even further damage your self-esteem in the long run.

Honestly assess your expectations for yourself and see if they are reasonable. There are so many famous and successful people out there who experienced failures before they triumphed. People think nothing of their faults and view them as inspirational.

Adopt a constructive mentality

Condition yourself to think that failing an exam does not mean that you are a failure. Failures are part of the learning process, and you should welcome them as valuable lessons whenever you encounter them. Failure should not indicate your worth, but rather identify which points or subjects you can work on next to become better, more knowledgeable, and ready to take on the same exam the second time.

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