Exams, Intelligence and Studying

“Studying is soooo hard! I don’t understand anything.”
“You’re right. Nothing’s going inside my head. In one ear and out the other.”
“Ahhh! You’re “smart” so it doesn’t count. It’s easy for you to get good grades.”

I’ve been in these kind of conversations many times. Many students sitting for exams have no doubt shared their woes with each other, seeking comfort. From something as simple as a “Me too” to tips for exam answering. People who get good grades are usually called “smart” by their peers. As a student who regularly gets good grades, I have also experienced this. But really, how does this affect the people who are called “smart”?

These are all just my opinions based on my experience.


By expectations, I don’t mean other people’s expectations but the person’s expectations of themselves. Imagine being told you were “smart” from a young age and interpreting your grades at schools as proof of it. That’s not to say it is completely unrelated to intelligence. I’ll talk about that in a later section.

When someone keeps getting a result, they’ll expect it to happen consistently. This is where a “smart” person goes wrong. We are only human, we shouldn’t expect something to happen time and time again just because we put in effort. When they inevitably face failure to reach their high standards, they will blame themselves again and again.

Especially when you’re very young,  you’ll overestimate your abilities. I dealt with this by making my expectations more realistic. If you really want to achieve something, give it your best shot but never berate yourself should you fail. You can always learn from your mistakes and try again.

Intelligence and Exams

Getting good grades ≠ being intelligent

Intelligence is defined as the ability to think and understand.

Exams do have some sections that allows a person to show their ability to think but it is mostly fact recall. Someone who is intelligent might even get lower grades than someone who is average but has a good memory. This means that some individuals who are clever may not receive as much recognitions as their classmates who possess high recall ability. I’ve seen plenty of people like the former. They usually get to show their abilities when they join extra curricular activities such as debating, public speaking and writing.

Grades are definitely important so don’t neglect them. If you think of yourself as intelligent, remember that everyone has their strengths. Never look down on others simply because their strengths aren’t readily apparent. That goes to those who consider themselves good memorisers only too. Don’t put yourself down when you can’t do things like debating, public speaking, or writing. You have a lot to offer even without that.


Back when I was in primary school and later halfway through high school, studying was a rare occurrence for me. If an exam was approaching-then, and mostly only then- I would study all the materials I could in what you could call a lackadaisical attempt at studying. I was confused that people would need to read their books again and again. Not in a snide way, mind you. I truly couldn’t comprehend it.

Before long, my grades started to decline. The amount of facts I needed to memorise increased but I stubbornly refused to increase my efforts. The people who didn’t get good grades before seemed to suddenly improve. In retrospect, they probably had a good work ethic which allowed them to study effectively. Habits aren’t easy to break, whether they are good or bad.

Tl;dr: Get good work ethic when you’re young or it will come back to bite you in the end.


Author: classrep4

No pain, no gain

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