How To Pass A Class, Even If You Fail A Test

I thought my first Physics class in high school would be a breeze. My Mom majored in Radiation Physics in college, and always told me I had a knack for the subject. So you can imagine I was surprised when I got my second test of the school year back, and a big, fat “F” graced the top right corner of the page.

At this point, most students would freak out, and fall into a death spiral of fear and confusion over a failed test. But lo and behold, when report cards came out, I had a solid B in my Physics class, which eventually turned into a B+ for the semester.

Many people believe that learning occurs at a smooth and consistent rate, and a student struggling to maintain a C in a class should slowly progress to a B in the class, and eventually an A. But learning is actually a rollercoaster ride of epiphanies and mental blocks. Especially in a math based subject, it can take one person five minutes, and another five hours, to learn the same concept.

However,  as you gain more knowledge in a specific concept, you can apply the strategies that allowed you to learn easy concepts to harder concepts, and over time, lower the time and effort it takes to absorb those more difficult concepts.

When I failed that test, instead of continuing on with a study strategy that obviously didn’t work, I looked at ways I could change my approach to produce a better result. Luckily, I got a B on my first test, so I simply compared my study strategies for the two tests. When I got the B, I spent a large portion of my preparation time doing practice questions. When I failed, I spent the majority of my time studying class notes.

Obviously, doing practice questions was more effective than studying my class notes. So by doing practice questions before each test, I began to get higher grades on my tests.

If you fail a test, know that it’s not the end of the world. Consult your classmates and your teacher. Research study strategies and try different techniques. Find what works for you! Don’t look at a low grade as a reflection of your self-worth, or even your effort. Instead, see it as an opportunity to improve not only your intellectual capabilities, but also your ability to overcome obstacles in all areas of your life.


Life Lesson: Prioritize and Execute

After a tough day of school and Tennis, I always enjoy having a break at dinner. I usually take 45 minutes to sit down, eat, and enjoy a book. Recently, I have had the pleasure of reading “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking to improve their lives. But last night a particular passage stood out from the rest: Prioritize and Execute.

This particular lesson applied to my homework situation last night. I had two tests, a quiz, a project, and 100 pages of reading all due the next day for school. I was tired after conducting interviews for the school newspaper and giving a half hour speech in Chinese, and I had no idea how I could get all the work done and be well rested for my tests.

While I won’t spoil the book for you, Jocko Willink was in a much tougher situation when he learned this lesson. But instead of panicking, he kept a calm head, gave orders to his soldiers to solve each problem, one at a time, and escaped enemy territory with no casualties. If you can learn to prioritize your tasks, then you can get through the day without suffering any financial casualties, or in my case, GPA casualties.

First, I figured out which assignments would be most important. The two tests made up the highest percentage of my grade, so I spent my first 90 minutes of studying preparing for each test. After completing the highest priority task, I looked at what I had left: The project, the quiz, and the reading. The quiz was to be administered last period, so I decided to skip the review and plan to do it during study hall the next day. Finally, I spent another 60 minutes completing the project and doing 40 pages of the reading, since there would not be a quiz on the full 100-page reading the next day.

Through prioritizing and executing, I took what seemed like an insurmountable amount of work, and completed it in two and a half hours. That’s a pretty good deal at my school, where many students are lucky to get 6 hours of sleep.

Let’s see how much time I saved compared to someone who didn’t prioritize and execute:

Physics Test Review: 45 mins

History Test Review: 45 mins

Chinese Project: 30 mins

~40 Pages English Reading: 30 mins

~60 Pages English Reading: 60 mins

Chinese Quiz Review: 30 mins

Total Time: 4 hours

Compared to the average student, I saved a whole hour and a half on my homework through prioritizing my tasks! And I was able to use that extra time to get a good night’s rest, and stay focused during the tests and the quiz I took today. And now that the weekend is here, I’ll have plenty of time to complete the work I didn’t get to during the week.

When faced with e-mails, meetings, and all the other jazz that goes along with a busy career, things can seem overwhelming, and impossible to get done. But by keeping a level head, you can pick out your highest priorities, accomplish them, and then continue down the list until you complete everything that needs to get done that day. And before you know it, you will have a less packed, more focused schedule, and get more done than you could ever imagine!