How to Recover from a Disappointing Midterm Grade

gray clock icon
3 min read

The transition from high school to college is a big one. Anecdotal evidence shows it is not uncommon for new freshmen to struggle with midterm exams. Even if you did well in high school, the new environment, increased academic rigor, and newfound freedom of college can decrease your academic performance. It can be difficult to balance the new experiences and the need to study. If you receive a disappointing grade on a midterm, it may be a warning sign that you need to find your life-school balance in order to recover by the end of the semester.

The good news is, it is possible to recover from a disappointing midterm grade. With a little positivity, analysis, and hard work, you can lift yourself out of a poor grade situation. The following tips can help:

Don’t dwell on your bad midterm grade

You earned a bad grade on an important test—now you need to accept it and move on. Don’t waste time dwelling on your midterm grade; instead, work to fix the problem going forward. You can take an evening to drown your disappointment in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, but after that, focus on recovering from your subpar grade. Don’t let this setback deter you from earning good grades.

Identify problem subject areas

To move forward, you’ll need to have a plan. The first thing you need to do is figure out what you need help with specifically. What particular content areas gave you trouble? Were you underprepared, or did you mistakenly think you understood the information? Did you make careless mistakes? Do you need help with time management or study skills? A tool that you may find helpful for this is an “exam wrapper.” Exam wrappers are questionnaires that help you identify problem areas on exams and identify ways you can improve your preparation for the next one. For example, if you received a C- on your college algebra midterm, an exam wrapper could help you identify that quadratic equations and augmented matrices are the concepts in which you are weakest. Furthermore, taking college algebra diagnostic tests or practice exams could provide additional insight (and extra practice) into your academic strengths and weaknesses.

Seek academic help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. If you do poorly on your midterm, you might want to make an appointment to see your professor. He or she can help you further identify your problem areas and can help explain the concepts that you do not understand. In addition, he or she may also suggest avenues for bringing up your grade, whether it’s an extra paper or an extra credit project. Is your chemistry grade less than ideal? You may also want to seek out chemistry tutors who can provide individualized attention you may not receive in a college lecture hall. Don’t be afraid to seek out a study group or tutorials, as well.

Prioritize your tasks and manage your time

Figure out what you need to do to improve your grade—then do it. Although you should take time to eat, sleep, and otherwise take care of yourself, remember that you still have a relatively short period of time to buckle down and improve your grade before the semester ends. Evaluate your schedule and other commitments, and prioritize accordingly in order to reach your goal.

Don’t give up

Bombing a midterm is not the end of the world. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” There are always opportunities to learn from and improve on a bad grade. The second half of the term is a very short amount of time in the grand scheme of things. Keep at it—you can do it!

Even though you may have fallen short on your midterm, there is still time to recover. Believe it or not, this is a common occurrence, and it is important to move forward confidently. Accept what happened, figure out what you need help with, manage your remaining time, and stay focused through the end of the semester. A poor grade can help you develop necessary time management skills and lead to you find your balance between your social life and academic responsibilities.