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Avoid Goofing Up Tests

by Ron Kurtus (updated 28 February 2022)

Have you ever taken a test that you thought you could have easily passed, only to make some silly or bonehead mistakes that really hurt your grade? More than a few students have done that. And some seem to do it over and over again.

There are reasons students goof up tests, from being overconfident to having poor attitudes. Interestingly enough, this is very similar to what happens to some athletic teams.

The solution to this problem is not that difficult. You just need to have the right attitude and be better mentally prepared, so that you will avoid poor test performance.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Reasons some students goof

There are several problem areas that can cause students to goof up or do poorly on a test that they could have passed. Students can be overconfident, they can underestimate the potential difficulty of the test, or they can feel that passing the test is not important to them.

Some are overconfident

Some students can become overconfident in their knowledge of the subject matter. They think they know the material better than they actually do. It is easy for students to misjudge their own knowledge, and when they realize that they don't know the material, it is too late.

What happens more often, though, is that some students feel they are smart enough to be able to guess their way through a test. So they don't bother studying the material. They are overconfident in their ability to figure things out.

In either case, overconfidence can result in lower grades on tests. Does this apply to you?

Some underestimate difficulty

Another thing that can happen is that students underestimate the possible difficulty of the test. They expect an easy test, but the teacher throws in a real tough test for which they hadn't prepared.

It is also possible that the teacher included material in the test that some students weren't expecting. That can happen, especially for those who weren't paying attention in class.

Some feel test not important

Finally, there are students who don’t feel that getting a good grade is important to them, so they don’t bother to study or even try to do well. Such students may be trying to punish their parents, have a poor image of themselves, or are just plain foolish. Hopefully, you are not one of these students.

Results of these attitudes

Results of being overconfident, underestimating the potential difficulty of the test, or just not caring about it include:

Any of these situations can result in failure.

Similar to some athletic teams

The whole scenario of making unnecessary mistakes in a test is often seen in athletic teams who are playing an opponent that is not considered as good as them. You may have seen this with your school team or favorite professional team. What happens is that team members don't get ready for the game, while the other team simply tries harder.

Team doesn't get ready

The team thinks the game will be easy, so they don’t prepare themselves physically, they don’t study the game plan, and they don’t mentally or psychologically get themselves ready to play as much as they usually do. When the game starts, they are sluggish and make foolish mistakes. They don’t play up to their ability.

Other team tries harder

Meanwhile, the other team—which was supposed to be easily beaten—makes thorough preparations and play at their best, thus winning the game.

Preparation is key

What you can learn by looking at students or athletic teams that have the ability to excel but come up short when it really counts in taking tests or playing games, is that they often don't prepare properly.

Championship teams prepare

The lesson from championship teams is that they never take a game or an opponent for granted. They realize the importance of each game and prepare the same way, whether the opponent is strong or weak. They have a goal of doing their best at all times and reaping the rewards from winning.

These are the same attitudes you should have toward taking a test. To avoid goofing up test, you need to take them more seriously.

Steps to take to excel

Steps to take to do well in a test are:

  1. Set a goal to do your best in every test, perhaps even aiming at getting a 100 or an "A" for a grade.
  2. Prepare your mind, body, and attitude for excelling in the test. Try to be consistent in your preparations, not doing more or less than is necessary.
  3. Go and give it your best shot. Then celebrate your success and learn from your mistakes.

Follow these steps to do well in your tests and to avoid making unnecessary mistakes.


Some students goof up tests because they are overconfident, underestimate difficulty, or just don't care. The same has been seen on occasion with sports teams. The attitude of sufficient preparation and then giving it your best is the way to avoid goofing up tests.

Do your best to feel good about yourself.

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


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