Why Kids Fail Exams
If you ask your children if they have studied, the answer will always be “Yes.” Yet, even with affirmative responses, students still receive failing grades on their tests. So many bright and intelligent students do not always do well on tests. Even after studying for hours and hours, many students can still FAIL an exam! So, what is the disconnect between studying and the grades teenagers receive on tests? There are several potential factors that contributed to this poor showing:
1. Test anxiety:
Performance anxiety may affect any student, from Early Years to Ph.D. candidates. Its symptoms range from mild – that ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling to debilitating physical ills such as vomiting, migraines, accelerated heart rate, and fainting.
Kids, especially teenagers, are far less confident than they make themselves out to be. Remember from our old school days how intense and destabilizing peer pressure and social competition can be? Today, with every teenager having their own social media account, being terrorized by your classmate’s can – and often does happen 24/7. Many students’ grades are the ultimate determination of their self-worth. If they receive a B instead of an A, they believe they are a failure. If they don’t get the internship they applied for, they take the company’s rejection of their application as a rejection of themselves. A 2002 study by Jennifer Crocker at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social found that eighty percent of college students base their self-worth on their academic success.
3. Wrong study strategies:
Our education system, especially traditional schools, often teach children WHAT to study, but not HOW to study. If you see your child spending hours to hours in front of her desk but still failed in her exams, it means that your child may be studying using techniques for the wrong learning style. For example, if they are using flashcards when they are an auditory learner, then flashcards will not work for them!
4. Other reasons why kids fail exams include:
- Lack of interest – they simply have no desire to study and/or no passion for their subject matter
- Procrastination – putting off studying falls under the time management umbrella
- Perseverance – initially keen to learn, the long wait for assessment day weakens resolve
- Overconfidence – “I don’t need to study, I’ve got this in the bag!”
- Distraction – phones, friends, food… always something more enticing than those musty books…
- Poor/improper study materials: anything from illegible notes to the wrong exam board’s marking schemes
What to do when your child failed in exams
While it’s distressing to see your child collapsing in their crucial steps, there’s a lot to learn from failures. Here are a few tips for parents to help their child cope with failure in exams and get them back on track:
1. Do not lay the blame on your child
Take a deep breath! The first thing that you should do when your child does badly in their prelims is not blaming them. Some parents are so upset and enraged by the news of their child’s failure that they can’t prevent themselves from picking up the rod. Fingers are pointed at every habit of the child, like getting up a little late in the morning, playing a few minutes beyond the sunset, or spending a little extra time in front of the TV.
It is important to move forward with positive and constructive support. We know it is easier said than done, but you cannot change what has already happened: the failing test grade. Harshly ridiculing your child can lead to raised stress levels during future exams. This then can result in your child doing poorly as testing stress can create problems with recalling information and problem-solving. Remember, no children go to an exam with the intention to fail. Like adults, they derive their self-worth from their successes. So if things don’t go well as they expected, they are already feeling down. Do not make your child feel more sorry or guilty. Instead, help her get back on her feet and try again. Always remind her, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.”
2. Do not compare them to other students or children
This is particularly true for siblings. When a child fails in exams, parents often resort to comparing the child with her peers or other high achievers; all that will do is lower your child’s already bruised self-esteem and make them form negative feelings. Every child is different and demonstrates their strengths and weaknesses in different ways. Comparing them to other children will only upset them more and make them lose confidence in themselves.
3. Have an open conversation with your child
A compassionate and open-minded conversation with your child can give you some ideas about her performance struggles. Not studying hard enough is not always the reason why your child fails in her exams. There could be other factors such as “exam fear,” vision problems, or a hatred for one or more subjects, as we mentioned earlier. If your normally bright child starts underperforming on her tests all of a sudden, it could even indicate more serious underlying issues like bullying, abuse, or trauma.
In your child’s words, ask her to describe how she feels, why she thinks she failed. Do not assume. Do not talk her down. Ask her how you can help to improve the situation. Is there a bully? Is something taking her mind off her school work? A parent-child relationship based on trust and mutual respect play an important role in your child’s academic performance.
If you feel that you have difficulty communicating with your child, get someone else like your tuition teacher to analyze and talk with your child. Our teachers and professionals at Everest Education are always open to assist parents in understanding what their child is struggling with.
4. Help your child develop better study habits
Maybe the study technique or routine your child is using is not working for them, or maybe they are studying too much. Make sure your child is balancing school, leisure, and family time. It is important for them to absorb and learn, but it is also important for them to go and play outside to burn off some energy. After sitting in a classroom all day for 6 hours, unwinding time is very crucial. Help children develop a good schedule that allows a good balance between school, family, and leisure.
Make sure your child is eating healthy brain food before homework or studying because food helps fuel the brain. The brain needs fuel to learn and children do not learn as well or retain information well on an empty stomach. Lastly, implement a schedule. Schedules and routines are important because routines give children a sense of safety and security and help them develop self-discipline. Inconsistent schedules can also create emotional anxiety, which can be shown in their schoolwork and persona at school. More than that, don’t forget to encourage him/her to practice some breathing exercises that can help reduce stress and provide a range of health benefits.
5. Help your child overcome hatred toward a subject
Some children, even the bright ones, hate specific subjects and their poor results reflect this aversion. Getting them to overcome their hatred is a tough challenge for all parents. In many cases, a child hates a subject because of the teacher or the way she is taught in school. If this is the case, you need to find a compelling way to change her perceptions. Forcing your child to work harder on subjects she doesn’t like is seldom fruitful. Instead, try stimulating her interest with alternative ways. For example, if your child hates Math, try to spark her love with numbers by playing hands-on activities that can help them relate Math in their real life.
>> Read some tips to understand why your kids hate math and how to fix it HERE
6. Look for additional resources that can benefit your child.
If you don’t have time to look into your child’s studies, the internet and online learning can come in handy. The power of the digital world nowadays allows students to learn anything, from anywhere, at any time, and without any charge. The Internet offers a large selection of online self-paced courses, websites, and applications for kids to learn math, science, social studies, English, and even soft skills such as writing, drawing, presenting, or coding. The question is just how to find them. To give you some suggestions, take a look at these useful lists below:
Parents can also look for a professional tutor to help their children out. Tutors are trained to evaluate your child’s learning skills and determine which areas they need extra help with. They can also create personalized teaching programs to help your child develop the right techniques to answer questions they originally find difficult to answer before getting a tutor to help. By bringing about a change of approach to studying, extra tuition sheds light on points that the student finds particularly hard.
Everest’s Tutoring program offers a customizable curriculum and personal mentorship for students. We pinpoint each student’s strengths and weaknesses and tailor the curriculum to address their specific needs. We provide private tutoring sessions in English in one-on-one or small-group formats as an enrichment program for various academic subjects, including English, Maths, Science (Physics, Chemistry, and Biology), IGCSE, IB, IELTS, and SAT.
>> Find more info about our tutoring program HERE
7. Celebrate fast fails
“Celebrate fast fails” is also one of the core values that we at Everest highly embrace and apply not only for our students but also for our teachers and operational staff as well. From grade school through university and into the workplace, failure is seen as a worst-case scenario to be avoided at all costs. However, at Everest, we treat failure as a powerful learning tool. A mistake in an exam can teach your child what their strengths and weaknesses are. And by learning from that, they would never repeat the same mistakes.
Failure is a valuable teacher when it comes to learning to innovate. Failure is often positioned as the opposite of success, but that’s far too simplistic – and negative! – a view. Success doesn’t just magically happen: it’s the final step in a long process of innovating and learning from failure. Daniel Epstein, CEO of Unreasonable Institute, sums it up nicely: “Failure is a weird word. I don’t see it as a failure. I see it as a natural evolution of a solution to a problem.”
A child’s failure is a chance for parents to teach acceptance and problem-solving skills. You and your child can try to come up with what she could do the next time for a better chance at success. For instance, could she study differently or talk to the teacher about any problems she’s having before a test? This fosters a positive environment that encourages your child to approach you when they are having difficulty throughout the year and ask for help.