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My Three-Step Journey to Managing and Conquering Academic Failure in the IB

Academic failure is a quintessential part of being a student. Dealing with setbacks, less-than-ideal predicted scores or even a bad mock exam result affects the way we students act and perform in school. I often dealt with negativity surrounding my failures during my first year of IB. But as time went on, I learned that it is important to look at academic failure not just as a threat, but also as an opportunity to change the way we act and perform; to look at it through a lens of hope and possibility.

Step 1: Acceptance

One thing I struggled with most throughout my two years in IB was accepting my failures. Accepting that I did badly on a test because I did not study enough, accepting that I should have practiced more for a quiz, and accepting that my IA could have been organized better. When you give yourself space to accept that there is a chance you were in the wrong, it allows you to openly acknowledge and learn about your failures.

At the end of DP-1, my score was significantly lower than what my teachers had predicted. It was upsetting, moreover, it was stressful because universities can also ask for those grades. I was scared and anxious because all I could focus on was my shortcomings, not what I could do to better my situation. When I allowed myself to take a step back and look at my shortcomings with intentions of betterment and opportunity instead of detriment and hate, it allowed me to accept my weaknesses for what they are and showed me ways to work on them. What helped me most in accepting academic failure was openly talking to my teachers about my struggles because they created an environment focused on fostering and empowering a growth mindset.

Step 2: Forethought

Looking back at my IB journey, I feel proud of what I have accomplished, and that could not have been possible without acknowledging my failures and careful forethought into improving myself and my grades.

The end of DP-1 is a crucial stepping-stone for all IB students. You have given your school’s final exams; you know where you stand in terms of your IB score, and the fall term brings about university deadlines, IAs, and a plethora of other IB engagements. Taking the summer to carefully plan my fall term of DP-2 allowed me to highlight the subjects I was weak in and to  consciously construct my action plan for the school year. I scored low in French and Math, so I knew I would have to ask my teachers for extra classes, and knew that I was lacking in problem-solving skills for Economics for which practice questions would immensely help my performance.

Considering my areas of weakness, I was able to plan accordingly to ensure that I could improve and that I succeeded in achieving the score I was aiming for.

Step 3: Action

Acceptance and forethought can only take you so far, thinking about improvement versus actually wanting to improve are two drastically different things. This is why acting on all that you have planned is the most important step. 

I had come this far during my summer between DP-1 and DP-2, I had found a way to accept my failures and I had thought hard about the ways in which I could improve my performance. At the beginning of my fall term, I talked to my school’s IB Coordinator about taking after-school classes for French and Math, I also asked my Economics teacher for his recommendations of practice books so I could improve my skills. Remember that you are not alone in your failures, your teachers are always there to aid and assist you; Your improvement is also of concern to them because they care about you.

In the end, I was proud of myself because I was able to meet my predicted score. Conquering your failures is only possible when you allow yourself to view your faults with positive intentions. You can criticize yourself and you can reprimand yourself, but at the end of the day, those are not things that make you improve yourself. IB taught me to always critique my failures, not criticize them; and that is what led me to a path of self-improvement.

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