It’s that blessed time of year again – mid-terms. Or, for our friends in engineering or music, the time of year when students in every other Faculty get a small and terrifying glimpse into every week of their term, mid or otherwise.
In the whirl of essays, labs and tests, it is inevitable that one – or several – will not go as planned and you’ll get a mark back that is much lower than you ever thought you’d receive.
It is important to ask yourself though, and answer honestly, “what happened?”
Obsessing over every question on a test, or inwardly ranting about how you “should have known that, dammit!” is not a good use of your time or brain power, but asking yourself “In future, how could I handle that better?” is certainly not.
This is not meant to shame you if you didn’t do well, but there are ways to handle the fallout which will better ensure success next time round.
Consider the following questions:
- What is your mark, actually? If you failed a test, that’s different; but if you got a “bad” mark in your terms, where does that leave you? I came out of high school with the impression that an 84 was a disappointment. If you got a 75 and you’ve never seen marks that low, recognize that standards in university are different. Some may compare themselves to the class average, but I prefer rather to discuss my concerns directly with an instructor or teaching assistant. Perhaps they’re just tough markers. Maybe I didn’t understand the type of answer they were looking for. Maybe (and this is unlikely but possible) they misgraded it and speaking to them would get that rectified.
- How did you study? Consider making a trip to the Academic Success Center (ASC) if information isn’t sinking in, or you’re having trouble with motivation, memory or concentration. You can make One-on-one appointments with a learning strategist, but they have fantastic handouts and articles to help you with everything from motivation to time management while you wait for your appointment.
- If you didn’t understand the material at all, where can you fill in the gaps? Your Teaching Assistant and instructor are the first resources to try, but there is always University of Toronto Peer Tutoring, your College’s or faculty’s writing center (a directory is here), or YouTube.
- What stopped you from “getting it” in the first place? No one will be perfect in every subject, but if you can pinpoint the fact you find lectures hard to follow or don’t understand the problem sets or readings you’ve been given, that will help to isolate your particular challenges. Again, the academic Success Center is a great resource here.
- Was it an issue of running out of time during the test? Were you incredibly anxious and forgot things? Consider talking to someone at the ASC for support in managing your test-taking challenges.
At the end of the day though, the important thing to remember is that this is but one evaluation of several. It’s as much about your self-awareness as it is your ability to recall information. It feels bad when you get a bad mark, but it does not mean that you won’t pass the course, and it certainly doesn’t mean that your grades won’t improve ever or that you’ll be unceremoniously chucked from the University of Toronto with no friends or future prospects to speak of. It is but one bump in the academic road, and the only thing to do now is to keep on truckin’.
Stay strong, U of T, we will get through this.