9:01 am

My first grade son would soon face exams (midterm) for the first time in his life. You could see a slight uneasiness in his behavior. The night before, he suddenly asked me, “Daddy, don’t you remember what you got on your first exam in first grade?” He also told me that he should be able to get a perfect score since he is very serious about homework and studying at school. He then asked me how I would react if he scored a hundred points, and how I would react if he didn’t.

I told him that as long as he prepares for it, I wouldn’t mind. There are many factors that will affect your test score: confident understanding of the materials, luck, questions you’ve never studied, careless mistakes and the like. So I told him if he can score a hundred points, I’ll be happy for him, and even if he doesn’t, I would still be happy for him because he had tried his best.

In the morning of the test day, my son told me that he thinks he could score around a 90%. I said to him that a 90% is still quite good, and that he should not worry too much. 

After school, I asked him how the exam went. He said that he had finished all the questionsbut the teacher has not graded it so he doesn’t know what he got yet. I encouraged him and said that he behaved very well because I know that he had to give up his playtime the day before the exam to study for the test. I told him that his responsible attitude is a great one.

Two days later, my son showed me his test. He got three questions wrong, so it was about 90%. I praised him again for his good behavior, and then went over the mistakes with him. There was a place where he forgot his phonetic symbols, so he got it wrong. It was a careless mistake. The second question had a little problem with the print on the test paper, so it wasn’t his fault. I said that I could understand why he got that particular question wrong since there was a problem with the test, and that I don’t blame him.

The third question was more interesting; he wrote a wrong phonetic character for a word but I was confused because I’ve always read the word the wrong way, so it’s no wonder my son got it wrong, too. I quickly searched for that word in the dictionary with him and realized that I actually have mispronounced that word for years, which is why he made that error. I smiled and told my son that this problem is also not his fault because it was my mistake. 

After going over the entire exam with my son, I told him that although he did not score a hundred points, he understood his mistakes and corrected them, which is the real purpose of exams. The score is secondary. 

After this exam, my son had the confidence to face and knew how to prepare for future tests. More importantly, he no longer felt that he had to score a hundred points on a test. All that matters is the process of preparing for the test and understanding the questions you got wrong as long as you learn from the mistakes.

Translation: Ireen Chau