Published: Nov. 14, 2023

It’s normal to occasionally receive lower grades than you were expecting. Performing poorly on a midterm doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll fail the class.

There’s still time to turn things around, and CU Boulder has resources to help you recover personally and academically. Here are some steps to help you bounce back from a disappointing midterm grade.

students walking on campusTake a breather

It’s natural to feel upset if you didn’t perform as well as you wanted on your midterms. Remember that grades are not a reflection of your self-worth, but rather a guidepost showing you don’t understand the material yet. 

Take some time to pause and breathe after your midterm. If you would benefit from talking with a professional, consider checking in with a counselor through CU Boulder’s free “Let’s Talk” service.

Look over your midterm format

When you get your midterm back, look for patterns in the question types that made you struggle. If you did well on the short-response questions but not multiple choice, you may benefit from practicing new test-taking strategies.

Review your exam to see how many points you lost because you misunderstood a question and how many points you lost because you misunderstood the content.

Review the course material

Note the content sections you understood well and the sections on which you performed poorly. Choose a topic you struggled with and create your own study guide for the material. Try answering practice questions from previous assignments, quizzes or class discussions to test your knowledge.

If you work better in groups, consider forming a study group to talk through topics, get answers to questions and hold each other accountable.

Reread the syllabus

Reread your class syllabus, paying close attention to how many assignments you have left, opportunities for retakes, and whether your professor offers extra credit.

Highlight key dates for upcoming quizzes, tests or assignments, and start making a study plan for the next assessment.

Reach out to your professor

Your best resource is your professor. After you’ve reviewed your midterm format and content, make a list of your lingering questions.

Visit during your professor’s office hours to receive answers to your questions and to learn about other resources you can use to prepare for the rest of the class.

Schedule a tutoring session

CU Boulder offers free tutoring resources to help you improve your performance in class. Some peer mentors can meet you in person or online and can help you with questions, assignments and general comprehension.

Visit the Tutoring & Learning Resources card in your Buff Portal to see the tutoring resources available to you.

Meet with your academic advisor

Your academic advisor can help connect you to on-campus resources, improve your study strategies and test-taking skills, set goals for the rest of the semester, and more. Schedule an appointment through Buff Portal Advising.