How to fail your finals: a comprehensive guide (with pictures)

*The work of the Broken Compass is entirely satirical.

WikiHow boasts a search engine for “How to do anything.” However, if you were to hypothetically search how to “fail final exams,” you would be riddled with disappointment upon only finding a seemingly endless set of links on how to pass. So, out of professional courtesy to WikiHow and a sense of pure, unadulterated sarcasm, the Broken Compass is proud to present to you: How to Fail Your Final Exams: a Comprehensive Guide (with Pictures).

The Semester Work

While this may seem trivial, the semester leading up to the final exam is more pivotal than you might think. There are two possible positions you may be in entering into finals week: first, you have done none of the coursework, failed most (if not all) of the quizzes and lost the syllabus before the end of the first class period; second, you have done all of the bookwork, aced all of the quizzes, have an A in the in class and still have the three hole punched syllabus with all three holes intact. For all intents and purposes, we will assume you are in the second position. (If you do find yourself in the first position, feel free to skim down to How to Study).

The Syllabus

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If, on the first day of class, you managed to pay attention to your teacher rambling on about the entire semester and, in your Type-A overexcitement, highlighted the syllabus in order to prep you for the tests and exams ahead, good for you. Now take your pee-colored piece of paper and feed it to the insatiable black hole that is the bottom of your backpack.


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Let’s face it, most of what you learn in high school won’t ever be useful past the end of whatever course you’re currently taking. So save yourself the hassle of doing it on summer break and soak all of your notes in kerosene (not gasoline) and set them on fire right now instead.

The Grade Calculator

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As you enter finals week, you should check on your grade in the class and see if you are able to achieve a failing grade. Consult the internet (or junior Timothy Su) with your present grade and the weight of the final to see if you can pass. If the score you need for the final in order to pass comes back as over 100 percent, feel free to stop reading here because you’re already set. If not, keep reading.

How to Study

If you are looking to really tank your grade with the final exam, what and how you study must be precisely planned out so that you are as ill-prepared as possible.

Making a game plan

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Take a minute to sit down and look at your schedule for studying for finals week. Identify the time you have to study. On a separate piece of paper, carefully partition up your time to study for each of your finals, giving more time to finals you need to study more and less to those you are more familiar with. Then, take the paper, crumple it up and throw it out because we all know you aren’t actually gonna use that.

What to Study

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Your teacher may have gone over in class all of the material that will be on the final and even gone as far to print out a review packet for you. Don’t fall for this: it’s a trick. Anything your teacher explicitly states will obviously never be on the final exam, so study everything that your teacher didn’t mention and therefore backfire their own trick on them.

If your teacher said all material will be on the final, they’re simply planning on having a class-wide food party, and there is no reason for you to study at all for this course. Just bring Doritos. Everyone loves Doritos.

How to Study on Your Own

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Studying alone can be difficult. Here are some Dos and Don’ts to keep yourself disengaged and distracted:

  • Do have your phone nearby and ready with fun games or social media open.
  • Don’t have the textbook close, not even in your house. Try placing it in a neighbor’s tree.
  • Do only review material once; that’s all you need. If it takes more two minutes for a concept, you’re taking too long and it’s time to skim faster.
  • Don’t utilize online study tools such as Quizlet to help review.

How to Study in a Group

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Studying in a group can be an advantage or a hindrance to your studying abilities. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Go to a public restaurant; nothing like a Bread Co. sandwich to cover up those math notes.
  • Talk about the latest gossip because that’s way more interesting than school.
  • Socially discredit anyone who tries to get the group to refocus; that’s the last thing anyone wants.

Taking Breaks 

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Breaks are an integral part of avoiding the monotony of studying. Make sure they occur after every five minutes of studying and last at least an hour.

Taking Care of Yourself

As Principal Jeremy Mitchell enjoys reminding us, one of the core values of our school is to take care of yourself. During finals week, it is ever so important to embody that value to the fullest in every way you can, in order to fall flat on your grade’s metaphorical face.


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All this talk of eating “healthy” or a “complete breakfast” is a government conspiracy to make us shy away from eating a metric ton of twinkies. Why, you ask? Sugary foods supercharge your ability to get stuff done and subsequently provide you with a deep sleep after getting all that hard work done. Therefore, you should eat exclusively candy and ice cream and drink only Red Bull.


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In order to maximize your study time, you have to sacrifice sleep. You may think that sleep will help you, but that’s seven hours per day that you could be using to study! Stay up and cram.

The night before

You may have heard some of your friends talk about pulling an all-nighter to study the night before a final. Ask your parents and you’ll find out that this study tactic has been around since the Dark Ages. No study strategy would last generation to generation unless it was absolutely infallible.

The Actual Exams

This is it: the culmination of you wasting your time reading this article instead of studying for finals. Those hour and a half long class periods for finals are where you must actually fail in order to successfully accomplish your purpose. Thus, this is the most critical information of the article, so you actually need to pay attention now.

The Clock

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When your teacher hands you the final, keep your head down and work at whatever pace feels comfortable. The clock is a social construct we use to induce stress in order to accomplish tasks faster, so “pacing” yourself is your teacher pressuring you to finish on their terms. Whatever you do, do not use the clock.

Using Your Resources

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Don’t be afraid to ask your teachers clarifying questions about each and every question on the test; they love the feeling of helping students succeed. Especially if they’ve repeatedly said that they aren’t allowed to answer any questions about the test.

Multiple Choice

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Most of your finals will fall under this category. Supposedly, your teacher has randomized the answer order so that there is no pattern to the answers. Supposedly. If an answer series appears twice in a row (whether it be one or 13), then the rest of the test is probably that pattern over and over again. And if not, consult the old ACT adage of, “pick C.” If you are so inclined, perhaps try to write words or draw a flower with your little Scantron bubbles—it’s the last time you’ll get to do it.


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Timed writes are much harder to fail because you actually have to write stuff down, or the teacher will inevitably make you redo it. In order to maximize your chances of failure, make sure you adhere to these guidelines:

  • Bring a pen with next-to-no ink in it
  • Spend the first 10 minutes asking everyone around you for loose leaf paper
  • Spend the next 30 minutes drawing thought clouds, webs, charts and other assorted graphic organizers that you will say are “prewriting” but won’t actually use at all.
  • Don’t bother with MLA formatting; your teachers really don’t care whether you put the period before or after the citation.

Closing Remarks

Following these instructions to the letter will aid in your failure of any exam you take. Remember to wait until the last minute, eat mostly junk food and rely heavily on caffeine to stay awake. But most of all, remember to believe in yourself. Believe you can fail, and you will.