How To Master The Bad Grade Bounce-Back

recover from a bad grade

Study a little bit every single day. Turn off your phone and focus. Keep up with the assigned reading. Stay organized. Make flashcards. Take meticulous notes.

You know what you need to do to get a good grade – and maybe you did everything “right” – but it happened anyway. You bombed an assignment, or a paper, or even an important exam. It’s inevitable. I’m sure there are people who have never had an academic screw-up in their lives, but I’ve never met one. But now it’s happened to you, and you’re feeling pretty crummy. How do you recover from a bad grade? Instead of having a minor (or major) freak out, channel your energy into your bad grade bounce-back. Trust me, taking action feels much better than pouting (and it usually yields much better results).

Take 24 hours.

Maybe you have thick skin, and you don’t let a bad grade throw you off. Orrr maybe you’re like me, and you spend the entire day choking back tears (until you can get home and cry freely, of course). I won’t be a hypocrite and tell you not to let bad grades upset you, but I will tell you to put a time limit on your pity party. Take 24 hours to feel sad or mad or disappointed or frustrated or whatever you feel, but then be done with it. After 24 hours, it’s back to business as usual, no exceptions.

Talk to your teacher.

This is the first thing you should do after getting a grade you’re not happy with. I promise you this: your teachers want you to succeed. It might feel like they’re the bad guy sometimes, but they really aren’t. If you’re not sure why you received the grade you did, ask if you can meet with them to discuss it. If you don’t understand some of the material, ask them for extra help after school or during lunch, or ask them for suggestions for studying more effectively. It’s also wise to ask them if there are any opportunities for extra credit. They may be willing to give you an additional assignment to win back some of the points you lost, or even resubmit the assignment in question for half credit. Any little bit helps!

Go over the assignment/test/paper carefully.

I used to get assignments back that were covered in bright red ink, and my face would turn the same color. I would become so embarrassed and upset over “failing” that I would stick my head in the sand, choosing to ignore the comments rather than facing them head on. However, the only way to avoid making the same mistake twice is by actually acknowledging what went wrong! Carve out some time to go over every incorrect answer on your test or piece of feedback on your presentation. Maybe you struggle with a certain question format, or make the same grammatical errors repeatedly. If you avoid addressing what you did wrong, you’ll likely end up doing it again.

Do a bit of soul-searching.

Did you fail your test because you genuinely didn’t understand the material, or did you fail because you didn’t give yourself enough time to study? It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself about what actually happened. If you skipped the reading and only studied for five minutes, it’s probably not a mystery why you didn’t do well. If you studied really hard and still didn’t do well, that’s an entirely different issue. Ask yourself: do I need a tutor, or do I simply need to try harder next time?

Devise a plan.

Once you’ve gone over the assignment or test in question, figured out what went wrong, and talked to your teacher, it’s time to make a plan of action to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Find a classmate who did well, and ask to study with them for the next test. Make a realistic goal for daily studying. Find a tutor to meet with after school. Submit an extra credit assignment. Whatever you need to do, do it!


While I don’t think you should dwell on your bad grade, I do think it’s important to keep it in the back of your mind as motivation. Do you want to have a repeat performance? Probably not – which is why you need to be committed to your plan.