Exam Regret


“I completely blanked”

Not really the words I wanted to hear after I picked my son up from his University final exam. With the right amount of empathy and respect I felt this could turn into a teachable moment. My son was experiencing regret. It wasn’t time to pounce and say “If you didn’t study enough, you got what you deserved”. It was a time to hear his frustration and have a conversation about how this could be avoided.

There were no words of condemnation or useless platitudes, I simply acknowledged, “Yeah, I’ve been there.” My son has had some detractors, people that assured him that since High School was easy for him he won’t likely do very well in University. He’s taken that skepticism to heart and become very driven to excel and prove the naysayers wrong. If I were to step in now and push him around because of an apparent slip-up it would certainly have a negative impact. The test accounts for 60% of his final mark, in a class where his lowest mark has been mid-eighties (that’s when I graduated, but not the marks I graduated with). He was discouraged that 3 hours could have such a profound impact on the class he excelled in all semester.

I offered a simple nudge, a comment, “That highlights the need to study hard, those 3 hours have a big impact on an entire semester of effort, you owe it to yourself to be as prepared as possible.” It was a neat moment. I shared some insight that was helpful and even welcomed. His next test was the following day and he vowed not to have the same result and backed that up by studying.

I wasn’t elated that the negative event took place, but seeing a positive response to the regret provides hope for the future. Have you had a disappointment today? Don’t retreat … is there something that disappointment can teach you? I encourage you to be a student of regret, not a slave.

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