How to deal with less than perfect exam results

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At my university, Obafemi Awolowo University, test and exam results are uploaded to the e-portal (electronic portal) of each student. I’ve noticed something weird and I hope my colleagues will bear me witness to this; anytime a result is uploaded, it seems the loading time of the website literally doubles. As if it is taking its time to process those precious make-or-mar grades, while extending the ‘misery’ of the students. When it eventually loads, the result, if good, serves as enough inspiration for the next exam. But what happens when it goes the other way, when results are less than perfect, that is, B’s where A is expected, or C’, D’s etc. where at least a B is expected? In this essay, I’ll be discussing some tips on what to do next after obtaining a poor grade.

What NOT to do next

Before talking about the things to do, it is necessary to establish those things that shouldn’t be done. Firstly, it’s not the end of the world, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Luckily, the tertiary institution grading system operates like a marathon, not a sprint. One poor lap doesn’t condemn the entire race. Do not adopt a lackadaisical attitude towards your academics because of this momentary setback. What is a poor grade to you is probably what someone else targeted.

Besides, at no time should you let an exam grade dictate your life. That would be an insult to the rest of your personal capacity. Academics should be the primary focus at this stage of our lives, not the sole focus.

What to do

 1.        Be Deliberate about your studies

Nothing worth it was ever stumbled upon. Even if it was, making the most out of it required some intentional effort. The same thing applies to good grades. Change your approach to it. Apply the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) principles to guide your walk to better grades.

2.        Consider changing courses

I don’t mean throw in the towel, except things are so bad that only a change in disciplines will save your admission. Rather what you should consider changing are the component courses in your discipline. For law students in my university, we have the opportunity to offer courses outside our faculty until year 4. Some of these departments have a reputation for being ‘stingy’ with good grades. I recently had an encounter with one in the first semester of last session. All attempts to rectify the poor grade failed. What did I do the next semester? I simply registered another course from another department, and I got a better grade. When anyone asks me about course registration, I make sure to advise them to learn from my bad experience. This leads to my next point.

3.        Don’t isolate yourself

If I had made the right enquiries, I wouldn’t have made a dent on my CGPA with that grade. In a podcast by Joel Osteen titled, ‘Developing a Growth Plan’, he spoke on how most of us always know the top 3 people in our field, but hardly ever approach them. If you want to avoid the bitter experiences that come with experimenting with coursework, consult those who have gone before you. Attach yourself to them, so that they can hold you responsible. It would be wise to have more than one mentor. Not just because one mentor’s strength could be another’s weaknesses, but because the different opinions could be sifted through to find the one with the greatest truth value.

This action saved me recently from another bad decision that would have consigned my CGPA into the rubbish heaps of history. To recover from the bad grades of last session, I intended to register more courses than the minimum required 16 units. By taking an extra 4 units, it would serve to push my grades up significantly. But if I failed, it would worsen my grades. In short, it was a gamble. I was advised to seek the opinion of lecturers, and I got differing opinions. While some said I could go ahead, most of them warned against it for a variety of reaso With this in mind, I made the right choice; I deleted the extra elective.

4.        Find a purpose for academics

None of the above will work if you have no purpose behind the course of study.

Like I said in a previous article, law can easily be an abstract course, especially with the mindless cramming it frequently involves and the laws that are written like they were created with the purpose of causing migraines. To help you to push through, when the disappointing grades come in, or when you find yourself with no choice but to crash read the Law of Evidence (though not advisable), you need a vision to guide you.

I have a colleague who runs a fashion law blog where she gives advice on how fashion designers and those in the textile industry can protect their intellectual and industrial works. No doubt this guided her choice of Intellectual Property as an elective. She wants to eventually specialize in fashion law. She is offering many other courses that have no close bearing with her goal, but because of the vision, she finds strength to handle them. Her vision will help her see fashion law in anything and everything.

Take intellectual property for instance. When I’m in the class or studying my note, my mind makes connections with the rights of content creators for the online media, something I’m involved in, while she might be thinking of how a particular design can pass the test of fixation and originality to be deemed copyrightable.


Vision is like a dog sled. There are several dogs in a team, but they all run in the same direction. The effect of this is that the sled moves forward. The dogs are the components of your vision; leadership capacity, technical knowledge, interpersonal relationships, ethics etc. The sled is your academics. Attach those dogs to the sled and crack the whip.  Your sled can only go in one direction as the dogs run; forward.


Akintunde Ifeanyichukwu Agunbiade is a 400-Level student of the Faculty of  Law, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife. He is a decorated public speaker, having represented his Faculty and the school in national debates, and winning the award for “Debater of  the Year”, from the Law Students’ Society, OAU, for the 2015/2016 Session. He is also a member of the Students’ Representative Council (Parliament of the Students’ Union), representing the Faculty of Law. He participated in the formation of the Tax Club, Intellectual Property Law Club, and the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Society. He also led the team that drafted the constitution of the Tax Club within 8 days.

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