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Jul 18 2015
by Zoe Haylock

How to Overcome the 5 Stages of Test Score Grief

By Zoe Haylock - Jul 18 2015

We all spent years preparing for the hectic and intimidating bout of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams we took this past spring. Our minds have hardly erased the traumas associated with it — anxiety, stress and sleep deprivation to name a few. Despite the numerous hours spent studying and the innumerable cans of Red Bull chugged, sometimes we simply miss the mark. We're left in a seemingly inescapable pit of grief. The best ways to heal this problem can be found right here. 

1. Denial

This stage can begin as early as five seconds after the test dismisses. You already feel like you've done poorly and you can't seem to shake it. You give up and secure yourself in this beautiful bubble where you justify your decisions, convincing yourself of the inevitable 5 there's no way you didn't get. Denial gets you through the initial pain, allows you to move on and gives you time to go through the next stages. 

2. Anger

This will most likely come as soon as you see your bad score. Anger at yourself, your teachers, your friends, the grader and even your Starbucks barista will flood through your veins. The best part about this stage is that you've moved on from the cushy dream denial brought and have faced reality. To be brought down from anger, remind yourself that it's no one in particular's fault. Then, you'll promptly remind yourself that it's yours.

3. Bargaining

Perhaps you could have studied a little bit harder or spent more Fridays with your head in a book instead of the clouds. There could have been more study groups that actually studied instead of just loitering at Panera Bread or Starbucks. You could have bought another study guide and not a pair of shoes. After receiving scores that you are less than thrilled with, it's probably so easy to regret all of those decisions, but, instead, let's talk bigger picture. 

In the moments where you chose other things over studying, you were happy. Does it make sense to be upset over being happy? 

4. Depression

Your mind takes this to a new level. None of it makes sense to you. You feel empty and alone, as if your whole senior year was a waste. Auguste Rodin once said, "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely." Taking part in advanced classes is for more than just the test scores. The intense workload and critical thinking you had to do has prepared you for college and beyond. The score was icing on top of the cake. Sure, you could have gotten a larger scholarship or not wasted the money for the tests, but there is at least one valuble experience here. For example, now you know not to drink too much before you test or you'll end up thinking more about your bladder than biology. Perhaps you better understand your own testing anxiety. Whatever it is, there is something there that makes this event worthwhile — you just have to find it.

5. Acceptance

Once you do, you'll have finally reached this Valhalla alive. Here, you accept what has happened, but you use what you've learned to create a better outcome next time. There's a good chance you'll never really be OK with disappointing yourself. That pain, however, can be channelled to a more useful emotion: drive. If you never want to experience something like this again, you push to be the best you can be within limits. Never forget that it's perfectly acceptable to give yourself a break and it's OK to fail every once in a while, as long as you get back up and keep trying.

Lead Image Credit: Flickr

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Zoe Haylock - New York University – Abroad

Zoë Haylock is an incoming freshman at New York University's London campus, where she plans on majoring in journalism. She runs a fashion and lifestyle blog called "I'd Rather Be On Fifth Ave". When she isn't reading, she's tweeting @zoe1ugh1.

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