How to Fail an Exam

Elizabeth Hoyt

November 07, 2017

How to Fail an Exam
Your new mantra: Reviewing answers, good. Dwelling on questions, bad.
If you don’t care about your college career or passing your exams, feel free to follow these steps, so you can develop poor test-taking habits and start to fail all of your quizzes, midterms and final exams. From there, you can be sure to fail pretty much all of your classes. We’re not really sure why that would be your goal but, at any rate, here’s how. If your goal is the inverse (which it should be and likely is) these aspects are what you should be avoiding at all costs.
Here are some surefire ways to fail an exam:

Lack of Motivation

If you don’t want to achieve a good grade, you won’t. If you don’t care about getting a good score, you won’t work for it.
Inversely, if it matters to you, you will make the effort to study, pay attention and focus on instructions and the work. Consider what’s important to you and why. Think about your goals and the potential outcomes. It’s likely that considering the outcome of a better grade will have a positive impact and you’ll work harder to achieve that outcome as a result.

Nervous Energy

Okay, you’re always going to be somewhat nervous – that’s a given. But, don’t let yourself get so nervous that you psych yourself out to the point that you can think or focus. Relax, take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand so that you can do your best. Choking is no longer an option!


Have you ever been the type of student who analyzes the question to death during a test to the point that you turn non-trick questions into trick questions, ultimately getting the answer incorrect as a result? Sometimes, things are just as simple as they seem at first glance. You just need to relax a little, taking the material at face value and go with your gut responses. Your new mantra: Reviewing answers, good. Dwelling on questions, bad.

Thinking Negatively

It is often said that there is power in what is put out into the world. If you think you will fail, you will. While it’s not always true, there is power in positivity. To be fair, you do need to back this up with studying and preparation, however, thinking positively will give you more confidence. Never underestimate the power of believing in yourself!

Being Overly Confident

Inversely, if you’re too confident that you’re prepared for an exam, you’re likely to study less, which can cost you. It’s always best to over study than under study, which sounds like it should be common sense but, unfortunately, isn’t always the case.

Not Reading Directions Carefully

Students often go into exams fully prepared, however, fail to read simple instructions carefully! In doing so, the question can be misread completely and answered incorrectly altogether, costing the student one – or many – correct answers. One of the easiest ways students can improve their exam scores is by properly reading instructions for each question.

Failure to Prepare

Students fail to prepare for tests is all sorts of ways, the most common being not studying all together (which you should, clearly, NOT do). However, there are a variety of other ways that students fail to prepare which are less commonly recognized. Showing up late, for example, leaves you frazzled, frantic, and anxious from start to finish – even if you’re only a few minutes behind. Taking the exam on an empty stomach is another no-no. You know how it feels when your stomach starts growling during the exam and everyone can hear? Yep, it’s the worst and it’s a guaranteed way to lose focus on the task at hand – the exam – because you’re too busy thinking about your hunger pains, your stomach grumbles, what others are thinking – pretty much everything but what you should be thinking about. Pulling an all-nighter and taking the test as a zombie-esque-creature-posing-as-a-student. Seriously, what’s the point? Come on, you know you can’t possibly be prepared or focused in that state of mind.

What other things hinder you most on exams?

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