August is an interesting month, for some it is the time to take a well earned holiday and so de-stress for others it is the month in which the exam results drop through the letter box or inbox and so a time to get stressed.
I have taken the easier of these two options and so have been on holiday, which for me is always a chance to read a couple of books. One of them was called Talent is overrated by Geof Colvin, senior editor for Fortune magazine. In the book Geof puts forward some interesting arguments as to the role talent plays in the success of people who by many would be considered exceptional, even gifted. He argues not so much that innate talent does not exist, more that successful people, those at the top of their respective tree, Tiger Woods (okay not personally – but he is still a great golfer) Warren Buffet, Bill Gates for example have other qualities, they worked hard, and practised a lot…..
Greatness does not come from DNA but from practice and perseverance honed over decades. The key is how you practice, how you analyse the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes.
What has this got to do with exam failure?
If you looked around your class and picked the best, brightest, most talented students, I bet they passed their exams. And the reason you failed was because you are not good enough, you are not talented!
Well here is the bad news, what Geof Colvin and in fairness many others have found is that it is often not down to talent, it is down to hard work and practice, and we are all capable of that. If you believe that your poor exam results were because of your lack of innate abilitiy then you are wrong. You are in fact creating what is called a fixed mindset, you begin to believe that you can’t affect your performance and so don’t try. What’s more it’s not all that good to believe you are naturally talented. Research has proven that if you believe that you do well because you are talented, when faced with failure you are more likely to give up. If you believe that you did well because of hard work and then you fail, you carry on but just work harder next time.
So what should you do?
Geof goes on to say that it is not just practice that matters but how you practice, you need to practice deliberately. He calls it deliberate practice and it should;
- Be designed to improve performance
- Be repeated a lot
- Enable you to get feedback continuously
- Be highly demanding mentally
- Not be much fun
But what satisfies the above criteria…….. yes practicing using past exam questions. So if you were not successful in your exams, find out when you can re-sit then;
1. Take a deep breath, get out your notes from last time and draw a mind map or review the one you did for revision, sometimes it’s best to make a fresh start. This will remind you of what you have to cover and get you thinking about the subject again.
2. Analyse the past exam questions (including the last exam) and find out what is examined the most then identify the areas you need to improve.
3. Start to practice these past questions using the answers for feedback, and no it may not be much fun but then you now that.
Failure – the only way to learn
Here is a great video by a guy called Derek Sivers, Derek is a professional musician and founder of a company called CD baby in the US. He makes an argument as to why we need failure because it is a major factor in how we learn and grow.
I know at the moment that failing an exam can feel like the biggest disappointment in the world and that it may seem that your career is over before it really got started. But it is what you do next that really matters
Congratulations on failing from one failure to another…