How To Suck at Getting an A Grade (Reflections of a Failure) (Yes, FINE, It's Me)

ONE WHOLE DAY has passed since results day. And after MONTHS - no, a YEAR - of hoping to get straight A's. 

I - failed.


Yes, those bitter words burn me once more (ha, getting poetic in times of distress you see. There's a Shakespeare in me, I tell you). 

And so, here I am, scheduled to re-do my entire first year of 6th form. Again.

But there's no point of curling up in a corner and crying for the rest of my life about it, let's make this a learning curve shall we?

Here are 5 things that led me to SUCKING, big time, at getting an A. 

So for you, let this be a step-by-step guide of 5 things you should never, ever do (under. ANY. circumstances), when preparing for exams.

*WARNING: Contains lot's of sarcasm, WORDS IN CAPS THAT SOUND LIKE I'M SHOUTING, and slapping gestures*

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What I did wrong #1 - I didn't put my 'study HARD' hat on for ALL subjects.

So just like most of us A-levellers (stick with me and my making-up-words mood here), I had 4 subjects to get prepared for. 

So that was English Literature (a really full on subject!), Art (again, insanely full on), Psychology (not so bad actually) and Economics (2 words - never again).

If we rewind 2 months prior to my summer exams, you'll know that I was spending hours and hours every day, every week, writing essays (and going back to my teachers pretty much EVERY day for feedback), and staying regularly at school until 5 or 6pm filling up my Art folders with tons of work.

Now you're probably thinking, HEY, that's not bad at all! Why would this count as something you did wrong?

Well - did you notice anything? 

Revision for my other 2 subjects, 2 WHOLE as-levels, were non existent at this point.

So because I had spent SO long obsessing over Art and English, Psychology and Economics were left in the dump for me to get done DAYS before the exam (in fact, I only spent about 1 hour revising for one of the Economics papers - WHY. WHY. WHY).

I can't even begin to describe how stressed out I was leaving those 2 exams to the last minute.

I was crying the night before exams and trying to spend every spare SECOND I could revising (memorizing some information that I was learning for the first time in fact!)

But that's what you get for balancing your workload like an idiot (yes me, listen to your own advice for once).

What I did wrong #2 - I fell into that horrible, soul sucking last minute revision trap.

You know that cozy false security blanket that tells you in the run-up to exams - relax, you still have WEEKS to revise, how many hundreds of hours is that! - well. I fell for it's LIES.

Rather than sticking to my revision plan and getting the work done 2 months before, I dumped all my revision on my future self and sat down to watch The Big Bang Theory all day.

Which basically resulted in a last minute crying/revision/INSANITY-fest days before!

I was so caught up in procrastination (I'm telling you. TV is a curse *she says, whilst typing this post out infront of the Telly, watching Disney channel*), and if it wasn't for that, then it was because I'd actually forgotten all about these study sessions (again, TV is to blame).

I fell into the 'I'll do it later' trap. And I couldn't have been any more wrong.

What I did wrong #3 - I didn't stick to a studying routine for the ENTIRE year.

Like I said in #1, I did actually create a brilliant routine for 2 of my subjects, and it was all going smoothly.

I got a solid B for art (with work that my teacher described as being even better than what the Year 13's were coming up with! *blushes*), and A*'s for my English Literature coursework essays (I only missed out on 2 marks for each of the essays).

But if I left the story at that, then it would be pretty misleading (BAD Sanam).

If we backtrack just 8 months before, at the start of these courses, then you'd be seeing a LOT of work graded (pretty consistently) with big fat E's (well, at least I did something consistently. Unlike my revision *puts ashamed face on*).

In fact my official January English Literature grade was an E, which will have fun screwing up my university applications and plaguing my results records for the next few years (lot's of good times in store for me, as you can see). 

Then I retook the same exam in the summer, and I'm doing the same course AGAIN, now that I'm re-doing my first year. 

(Yep, those universities I'll be applying to for English will be really impressed).

So what led to these disastrous grades at the beginning of my courses? 

Leaving homework 'till the last minute, putting in barely any effort in class and not using ANY of my free study sessions productively.

Again, it was the 'I'll do it later' mentality that got me.

Not focusing from the very beginning was a stupid decision! 

I had to work a HECK of a lot harder in the last few months to get to the level that I finally did.

And think of how much better and quicker I could have improved if I had just done my homework well before the deadlines, if I had focused and got involved in my classes, if I didn't waste my hundreds of hours of free study sessions talking to friends (And yes. The Daily Mail and Kim Kardashian were involved. You have permission to cyber-hit me).

What I did wrong #4 - I did the absolute minimum in terms of practicing

I know I know I know. Practice makes perfect!

But my 3-months old self was kind of stupid, and forgot all of that.

Let me explain. I went wrong with this in 2 ways:

First there was English, which I did a practice question for nearly EVERY day for a month. Now I bet you're saying where did I go wrong then?

Well - I didn't time it properly you see (*slaps self across face for such a 'school girl' error*). 

I don't think I did a full English practice paper, timed, more than once before the exam. 

Instead I did the questions individually, with huge gaps of time before working on the next one. (How did I not see the issue with this!)

So when it came to the real English exam, where I didn't have this privilege, my timings were ridiculously jumbled due to my panicking and 'oh my God where is all this time going?!' mentality. 

For English there were 3 essay questions, the first and second should have taken me 30 minutes each (I took about 45 minutes for the first, and 35 for the second instead. Well done Sanam. Well done.) and 1 hour for the third (I took 20 minutes, to plan the essay AND write it). 

By the end I hadn't proof read any of the answers (in an ENGLISH EXAM. I can't even imagine how many basic grammar and spelling mistakes I made!)

The second way I made this mistake was by doing (only!) 3 practice papers - the night before - my economics exam. 

Of course that was way too much information to process in such a short space of time, so what I learned from this really didn't want to stick in my head.

What I did wrong #5 - I didn't follow my revision timetable because I was too busy watching The Jeremy Kyle show (never again). 

Now what 'I suck at being any good at stuff' list wouldn't be complete without our dear friend, procrastination.

Discipline isn't an easy one to master.

But as the Queen of planning, I of course planned what revision I was going to do (2 months in advance), but it just ended up getting ignored, until I got scarily close to the exams and was under huge pressure.

By this point, timetable or no timetable, I was doing humongous amounts of revision. Pulling all-nighters, doing 8-hour studying days on the weekend and staying at school until 6 to get everything done.

I only have two words for this. Productive NIGHTMARE.

I would much rather have done small amounts of revision way ahead of the exams, rather than losing my sanity with this studying madness.

So, future Sanam, now you know what NOT to do. (Got it?)

Now I'd love to hear what you think (in the comments below):

What are your bad habits before exams?

And were you ever able to overcome them? How?

Image courtesy of Emerson Fry.

~19/08/2013 UPDATE: After a chat with some of my teachers I've decided that I'm going to go ahead with my current courses into the second year, rather than re-doing them. But of course I REALLY want to get my straight A's, which has inspired this A* Grade challenge. If you want to boost your grades too, then you should definitely join me!

Get In-Depth Guides on How to Become a Super Achiever at School & in Life, Every Friday

You'll also receive the exclusive 'How to Get an A* Grade' workbook (download it immediately) which will teach you how to achieve incredible grades this year at school!


  1. Ahh I used to always fall into the "I'll do it later" trap! Studying really takes practice, and I'm sure you'll ace the test next time! :)

    sorelle in style

    1. Thanks Jilly!

      And yep, so many of us are guilty of the 'i'll do it later' trap!

  2. Oh gosh this is so true!
    Love how you've made into a fun thing, rather than being super upset.

    I'm at University now, and I still see A-Levels being the hardest period of my education, i just scraped by, I really wished i'd tried now.

    Good luck lovely <3

    Kelly ||

  3. I studied exactly the same as you apart from economics and art took up so much of my time as I was most passionate about it and completely neglected the rest (stupid me not realizing i'd need all 3 a-levels to actually study art at university!) i scraped by somehow but i wish i had this to read at the start of sixth form because i didn't try my best at all! it's good that you are light hearted about it - it really isn't the end of the world and at least you know for next time hey! I'm sure you will pass with flying colours come next year :-) X x x

  4. you're speaking the truth! love the blog!

  5. I study english lit and economics as well! One of the mistakes I made during my January exams was doing 5-6 exam papers for economics all in one go. So instead of fully concentrating on the questions and spending the appropriate time on them I rushed through them which wasn't good. This year i'm going to give myself more time to concentrate on the past paper and actually absorb what i'm learning. Good luck with the A* challenge. I shall be getting involved as well :) x

    1. Yeah I know what you mean, last minute practice papers NEVER work out very well lol.

      And me too! Best of luck with the challenge, and thanks :D x

  6. Very inspiring article makes me want to not fall into these traps when I start my A levels.

    1. Thanks Anon, good luck with your A-levels!

  7. Popping over from SITS. I'm really enjoying your writing style. It's very easy to hear you speaking as I'm reading the words. Too bad you had such a hard time with your school endeavors. Hopefully you will make some good changes this term. I'm actually planning a post on how good "fences" make good habits. For instance, I will put post it notes on my tv or computer to keep me off them until I've finished my housework. Or I wi put my cell phone in a drawer if I'm working on a big project at work. Maybe you need to set up your own fences to keep you more disciplined with your studying?

  8. You're right in all you say and there's only the 'hard' way to do it in the end. Remember those stitches that will save you 9!!
    But also remember to not be too hard on yourself. We learn thru all of our lives, but we are only young once. What doesnt happen now can happen later.
    My 'career took at least 3 major turns - each chalk and cheese. Its hard to know your path when so young.
    Im now a full time mum with home and school ed kids. This is the best job ever. And actually nothing can train you for it, even tho there's no more important job on earth.

    So........knuckle down and be tough with yourself, but in a gentle way.

    If i was your mom i would be so proud either way.....
    Good luck in all your aspirations. Xx

    1. Hey Jacky,

      I completely agree - life's all about making mistakes and learning from them.

      And thank you so much, that's really kind of you :D x


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