Jump to content


Photo

Dealing with Exam 'Disaster'


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 Ligneo Fistula

Ligneo Fistula

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1342 posts
  • Member: 529803
    Joined: 28-September 12
  • United Kingdom

Posted 19 May 2019 - 21:27

Have you or your students ever suffered a terrible exam where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, despite being confident in the preparations?

 

How have you dealt with/counselled such a emotional 'trauma'?  Do most learners experiencing such a 'disaster' give up exams or even playing altogether, or carry on?


  • 0

#2 Banjogirl

Banjogirl

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2774 posts
  • Member: 39509
    Joined: 12-September 08

Posted 19 May 2019 - 21:42

It happens. I can't see why it would cause a person to stop playing though!
  • 0

#3 BadStrad

BadStrad

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4016 posts
  • Member: 88756
    Joined: 28-January 10

Posted 19 May 2019 - 22:04

I tell pupils (before their exams) that failing exams can be disappointing, that there might be tears, even a bit of shouting, but it's just an exam, the sky doesn't fall in if they fail it, they can take it again or move on. It's often a real surprise to them how little it (apparently) matters (to me) as their teacher because they feel so pressured by school who in turn feel pressured by every exam statistic.

Of course it matters to me because I want them to do well, but they are just exams. I'm not going to stress them further.
  • 5

#4 Violin Hero

Violin Hero

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3779 posts
  • Member: 26561
    Joined: 08-March 08
  • South London

Posted 20 May 2019 - 07:59

A lot of years ago I failed my grade 4 violin exam. I didn't cry or get angry. I retook the exam and passed.

 

I kept going and I got a merit at grade 8 at the first attempt.

 

The experience did put me off exams though. I made me realise that there is no need to take every exam available. I haven't bothered with exams since I took grade 8 in 2010. It's not like the orchestras I play in are in any way way interested in what grades/diplomas I have passed and the money can be better spent on lessons/new music/orchestra membership fees etc...


  • 2

#5 Latin pianist

Latin pianist

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3650 posts
  • Member: 711500
    Joined: 01-April 13
  • Cotswolds

Posted 20 May 2019 - 09:24

I think failing exams was the making of 2 students I can think of. One failed grade 5 because of lack of practice due to doing too many activities. She then decided to play songs from Lala land and I slipped other pieces in, and her note reading improved hugely so that recently she wanted to try some grade 6 pieces. And she learned them relatively easily. Another student who very unexpectedly failed grade 3, so was more like the candidate LF described, where the exam was a disaster , carried on playing a variety of pieces and again her note reading improved, and she's spent the last term learning the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata for her D of E as well as some other pieces. If these students had passed, they'd have wanted to continue down the exam route and not covered as much material and their reading skills wouldn't have been as good.
  • 5

#6 HelenVJ

HelenVJ

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2195 posts
  • Member: 1265
    Joined: 03-May 04
  • South-East London ( OK - Penge)

Posted 20 May 2019 - 10:23

To feel disappointed after a less than optimal performance would be a normal human reaction, hopefully not long-lasting. It's important to keep a sense of perspective and a relaxed attitude. Using emotive language (disaster/ emotional trauma/ counselling! - with or without 'scare' quotes)  isn't a healthy approach, and in the overall scheme of things an exam is really not very important, even if it doesn't feel like that at the time.

I screen my Piano Parents carefully - the ones who seem mainly fixated on working through the exam syllabus aren't going to be a good fit with my non-exam-centred teaching.  And my adult students have realised how much less progress is made if they focus on exams, playing the same 3 pieces for several weeks. They discover that they don't need or want that external validation, but prefer to enjoy playing a wide range of music at different levels, giving informal performances to each other if they wish, and becoming well-rounded musicians


  • 1

#7 Sylvette

Sylvette

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 402 posts
  • Member: 895486
    Joined: 14-June 16
  • Gloucestershire, UK

Posted 20 May 2019 - 10:38

HelenVJ, I wish my piano teacher had your attitude. 

My G8 Music Theatre exam was a bit of a disaster (nerves producing a very dry mouth and a crack in the voice).  I scraped a pass, but it made me think very hard about whether I wanted or needed to do any more exams, at least for a while. 

My singing teacher is fine with this, but my piano teacher is insisting that I should press on and do my G3 exam this term.  I see his point that I have done a lot of work on the pieces, etc, but I am worried that the nerves will take over again.  He seems to think that having done a couple of exams, I should want to do them all!


  • 0

#8 HelenVJ

HelenVJ

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2195 posts
  • Member: 1265
    Joined: 03-May 04
  • South-East London ( OK - Penge)

Posted 20 May 2019 - 11:27

Sylvette - you're an adult, so your teacher can't insist that you should plough on with exams if you have no wish to. Maybe this is what he is comfortable teaching - some teachers are! -  but you can take control here, and broaden your musical horizons. Life' s too short, and you have nothing to prove.


  • 1

#9 Latin pianist

Latin pianist

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3650 posts
  • Member: 711500
    Joined: 01-April 13
  • Cotswolds

Posted 20 May 2019 - 15:15

And of course you can prepare for the exam without taking it.
  • 2

#10 elemimele

elemimele

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1200 posts
  • Member: 895612
    Joined: 17-July 16

Posted 20 May 2019 - 16:25

So much depends on the individual; at the various times in my life where I've been doing music lessons, it's usually been a time when the rest of my life was over-examined; I'd have given up all music if a teacher had merely suggested exams, as it was my exam-free refuge. The strange thing is, it doesn't take a catastrophe in an exam to put someone off the subject. I decided many years ago that since I was having to learn a foreign language, I'd do the job properly, and take all the exams I could, with a view to keeping it as an alternative career if needed. I stuck to my lessons for quite a while, but after the first serious exam (which I passed very respectably), I realised the exam preparation had destroyed all my enjoyment, and was undermining my love of the language. So I decided not to do any further exams - but for some reason, this also stopped me from doing more lessons. I don't know why. Moral: exams are a tool, for many people useful, but to be used with care and  understanding.

As to how you sort out the after-effects of a bad exam, I don't know. There was a very insightful, and beautifully-written post here some years ago, that I cannot find. Someone was asking for advice after a fail. Someone else replied that following her failure, yes, within the next couple of days two men in grey suits and bowler hats would arrive at the door to confiscate her instrument and purge the house of any sheet music, and she would be cast out into the outer darkness and no musician would ever speak to her again. Of course, continued the respondent, this is absolute nonsense. Actually nothing has changed, certainly not her ability to play the instrument, so really she didn't need to do anything - except decide whether to bother re-taking, or just chalk it up to experience and continue.

A failure is a blow. But it's good for our fibre in the long-run. The very best people have failures in their past. To continue after a bad experience shows persistence, and persistence is more important to success (many would say) than talent alone. An exam tests you on one day only; a bad experience only means you weren't at your best that day. Be strong, look forwards, and tell the exam board to stuff it! (I hope they'll forgive me for using their own site to say so!)


  • 2

#11 Gran'piano

Gran'piano

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 289 posts
  • Member: 899443
    Joined: 19-January 19

Posted 21 May 2019 - 13:56

I think failing exams was the making of 2 students I can think of. One failed grade 5 because of lack of practice due to doing too many activities. She then decided to play songs from Lala land and I slipped other pieces in, and her note reading improved hugely so that recently she wanted to try some grade 6 pieces. And she learned them relatively easily. Another student who very unexpectedly failed grade 3, so was more like the candidate LF described, where the exam was a disaster , carried on playing a variety of pieces and again her note reading improved, and she's spent the last term learning the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata for her D of E as well as some other pieces. If these students had passed, they'd have wanted to continue down the exam route and not covered as much material and their reading skills wouldn't have been as good.

Looks to me that the reaction of the teacher was also instrumental in making success out of 'failure'.


  • 1