Good! I Got it Wrong!

Children and more mature students typically differ in their response to getting a question incorrect.   For younger children, and especially for self-absorbed teenagers, getting answers wrong can too easily be interpreted as some kind of negative personal message (e.g. “I’m dumb”, “there’s something wrong with me”, etc.) and it becomes a negative frustrating experience.

Getting questions wrong

For more mature, self-aware learners, folks who are emotionally content and comfortable with themselves, a much different perspective becomes available.  Every mistake, every wrong answer, is an opportunity for growth and self-improvement.  The truly excellent student lives by the very high standard: absolutely never make the same mistake twice.  That requires incredible perseverance, but even falling short of that, each wrong answer is a chance to improve, to clarify some necessary concept of which you previously were unclear.

Think of how grateful you would be if, before some important event, by chance you happened upon a mirror when you have a smudge of something on your face: you can wipe that smudge off and substantially improve your appearance before the important event.  In a metaphorical way of viewing the situation, every question you get wrong is such an opportune mirror, a chance to look at yourself and improve yourself.

Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.


The design of Magoosh study plans

Our study plans are designed with this in mind.  We have students jump into mixed content questions right away, well before they have a chance to complete all the Magoosh video lessons.   One reason is — of course, the GRE itself will throw nothing but mixed content at you, and we want you to get comfortable with this “gear-switching” as early in your study process as possible.  Furthermore, we know this will mean students, on average, will get many questions wrong at the beginning, and we believe this is a good thing.  Obviously, we are not trying to punish students.  Rather, we know that making mistakes, and consciously reflecting on these mistakes, is exactly what will prime our students’ minds for the content of the video lessons.  By the time a student gets to Concept X in the 47th video lesson, that student won’t think, “Why do I have to know this?”  Rather, ideally that student will remember the problem he got wrong earlier, and will have an “aha!” moment as the new idea makes everything click.



It takes a good deal of confidence and emotional security to adopt this attitude —- to look beyond the frustration of getting questions wrong, and to embrace, with courage and optimism, the opportunity for self-improvement implicit in each mistake.

There’s a fantastic story about Thomas Edison.  Apparent, he and his team were working on the electric light bulb, and the hard part was finding the right material for the filament, a material that wouldn’t melt or burn out at the high temperature required.  They methodically tried material after material with no success, month after month.  At one point, the foreman came to Edison utterly exhausted, frustrated, and ready to throw in the towel, saying, “We’ve tried a thousand different materials, and nothing works.  All these months of work have been a complete failure.”  Edison immediately responded, “A failure?  Nonsense!  We now know a thousand ways that it doesn’t work!”  Of course, it was precisely that optimism and confidence in the face of no apparent success that allowed Edison and his team eventually to produce the first working electric light bulb —- the archetypal symbol of a good idea!


Being extraordinary

In the face of an apparent lack of success, it’s very hard to maintain this level of courageous optimism.  It takes a very strong and secure individual who can say, “I’ve gotten 200 GRE questions wrong so far, and that’s great, because from those mistakes I have learned 200 new concepts which I can use!”  It’s such an extraordinary perspective that it may even strike some readers as absurd.

This perspective most certainly is extraordinary.  Here, I would remind readers of the Great Law of Mediocrity: if you approach things in the same way that everyone else does, you will wind up with results that pretty much look much the same as everyone else’s results.  If you want to stand out, you must be a standout.  If you want extraordinary results, you need an extraordinary perspective.   If you want Edison-like success on the GRE, it will take an Edison-like attitude.  My friends, wherever you are in your GRE preparation, that is exactly the kind of success I would wish for you.


P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

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34 Responses to Good! I Got it Wrong!

  1. roja October 16, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

    Ur perception towards GRE is absolutely great. ………guess wt I really admire ur statement which instigate the fire within me…..

  2. Jess July 19, 2017 at 6:44 pm #


    Thank you for this. I had a meltdown last night working through problems and getting them wrong time and time again. I have now made a note for myself: “A failure? Never! We know a thousands ways it doesn’t work.” A good reminder as I start my daily studying sessions.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 20, 2017 at 6:50 am #

      Hi Jess,

      That’s awesome to hear! Remember, you can do this! The right mentality will always push you forward! 🙂

  3. Yogesh kurade December 13, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    Well! Really a delve into the science of understanding! Great post. Thank you, sir! Now that I know, how it works I can practice better.

  4. Uyiosa August 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    Very important and relevant article, thanks Mike!

  5. hhex August 3, 2016 at 7:32 am #

    thanks a lot for this article, I was feeling quite a bit down after getting a lot of questions wrong.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 4, 2016 at 5:05 am #

      We are glad that it can help show you that you shouldn’t feel down! 🙂

  6. Bowen Chen July 15, 2016 at 8:14 am #

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for doing this blog post. I considered myself a really good math student but yet I made a tons of mistakes on the practice problems. I could not get myself out of the trap – there’s almost nothing I don’t know about the concepts, but I always fall for those traps. My GRE is in two months, which means I’m really nervous now 🙁 . But I will keep working hard for it. Hopefully got a perfect score (something I really have to archieve)


  7. Nithya December 6, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    Hello Mike. Thank you for the post. Very motivating and I am ready to work hard.

    My question to you is if I am getting mistakes while practicing should I redo it immediately or give myself some time for them. If I do it immediately, I tend to memorize the answer.
    Help me.
    Thank you

    • krishna February 14, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

      My personal suggestion would be do now and later… nothing wrong in more practice 🙂

  8. Liz Tipton October 9, 2015 at 5:35 am #

    Awesome!! I NEED THIS ATTITUDE!!

  9. KC September 22, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    Thank you for the article Mike!

    It’s a good, positive refresher and kind reminder to those are struggling when they forget their goal along the way!

  10. HASAN July 16, 2015 at 5:41 am #

    Amazing article

  11. Wordsflee June 9, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    I am amazed by this sentence ““If you want extraordinary results, you need an extraordinary perspective” and Mr. Mike’s belief and commitment to helping learners improve. We are so glad he chose to teach. Grateful. Thank you, Sir.

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike McGarry June 9, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

      Dear Wordsflee,
      My friend, you are quite welcome. 🙂 Thank you very much for your kind words. I wish you the very best of good fortune in all your studies.
      Mike 🙂

  12. Paulette June 2, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Thank you to Magoosh and all of you who posted on this subject. I have been struggling on my own since February of 2015. I’ve struggled with my self esteem on a regular basis as it seems as though I consistently get more wrong than right. Reading this post and all of your comments has me realizing that I’m not alone…..and I’m not stupid!!!!

    I will take get a proper GRE score if it kills me!!!!

    I just enrolled with Magoosh last week and I am finding that, although I learned quite a bit since February (I was starting from scratch!!!), there were several concepts that I wasn’t absorbing. Magoosh has made me feel slightly more confident in my ability to solve word problems and I can already see more improvement. I now understand the mistakes that I make and will not repeat them.

    Thanks so much!!!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike McGarry June 2, 2015 at 11:36 am #

      Dear Paulette,
      You are quite welcome, my friend! 🙂 I am very happy that you have benefited from this article and from Magoosh! Keep working hard and never stop believing in yourself and in your potential. It doesn’t matter how many times we fall: what matters is that, every time, we get up and keep going. I wish you the very best of good fortune in your preparation!
      Mike 🙂

  13. Mamadou September 10, 2014 at 1:32 am #

    I started on and off to prepare for the GRE since June 2014. “Slow ” being my 2nd nature, I could not accomplish much while working . Started with the Princeton Review and was only focusing on getting the answers right; eventually, I used Manhattan GMAT to deepen my lack of knowledge and understanding in Geometry, exponential and data analysis. July 2014, my friend recommended Magoosh but I wanted to complete those books I had started with and it is not until less than a week ago that I finally purchased it in the primary intent to work on my pace; I was overly confident about getting the question right for the least. What wasn’t my stupefaction to find out that not only I was too slow but also did not deserve to be overly confident. I started with sentence completion since the verbal is what used to scare me and confuse me the most; After a very confusion sentence completion, I withdrawn myself from the verbal trying to have a little bit of peace of mind with the Math section… that did not happen; Either I was getting the answer right after at least 4mn of struggle or I was merely getting it wrong in 1mn30s. Questions of no more than 4 lines but It makes me take 1mn to process things, another minute to panic and then try to answer while the instructor will do it in 1’30” chrono at max. I have never spoke to myself out loud that much in my life as I did this week. Walked away and told myself, I can’t give up. I definitely learn a lot with Magoosh and I consider myself lucky to feel miserable right now because that will eventually galvanize to the top notch. Rapture for me is another synonym for GRE. Thanks to Magoosh and its staff that promptly gives the best of itself to assist us in this strenuous task lol

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 10, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      Dear Mamadou,
      My friend, it sounds as if you have been through quite a struggle. I hope Magoosh continues to help you. I wish you the best of luck.
      Mike 🙂

  14. Eddy September 9, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Hey Mike,

    Thanks for this nice post. I’m on day 2 of the 90-day study plan, and that first practice math quiz kicked my butt and I was already getting overwhelmed.

    But reading this put things into perspective. Thank you!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 9, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      Dear Eddy,
      You are quite welcome, my friend. I am very glad you found this helpful! I wish you Edison-like success in your studies!
      Mike 🙂

  15. Mario September 3, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    This post was perfect for me, since I got 2 answers correct out of 10 for my first try! (Imagine my frustration) – I just started the Magoosh course and I hope to improve my scores in 3 months from now!
    Moreover, I felt that the first two lessons of the 90 days beginner study plan were perfect. Thanks for all this material you give us.

    Have a nice one!


    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 4, 2014 at 10:04 am #

      Dear Mario,
      You are quite welcome, my friend. 🙂 Keep up the hard work: I wish you Edison-like success!
      Mike 🙂

  16. Sadie St Lawrence October 30, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing this post! Your analogies were brilliant and gave me new perspective on how to react when I get a question wrong.I am going through the one-month study guide and was wondering why I was doing math questions on concepts I had not learned. From your explanation I now understand why it is set up the way it is. I look forward to seeing how this program works and have enjoyed it thus far.
    Thanks for the reminder by saying, “If you want extraordinary results, you need an extraordinary perspective”.

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike October 31, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      You are quite welcome, my friend. Best of luck to you.
      Mike 🙂

  17. Apurva July 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Thank you Mike! Much needed advice 🙂

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike July 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      You are quite welcome. Best of luck to you.
      Mike 🙂

  18. William June 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    Thanks Mike for that Edison story, it is a very motivational one!!!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike June 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      I’m glad you found it helpful. Best of luck to you, sir!
      Mike 🙂

  19. Omkar G June 12, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Hello Mike,

    Thank you for sharing such motivational stories, they definitely encourage one to study hard and not worry about going wrong.


    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike June 13, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      Dear Omkar,
      I am very glad you found this helpful. You are quite welcome. Best of luck to you, my friend.
      Mike 🙂

  20. Taru May 27, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    Thanx Mike.

    My gre is on 31st this month.Really needed to hear this.

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike May 28, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      Dear Taru,
      I’m glad you found it helpful. Good luck in this final week.
      Mike 🙂


  1. Four Month GRE and TOEFL Combined Study Schedule | Magoosh TOEFL Blog - August 18, 2015

    […] these or not. This means that you will make some mistakes at the beginning: see this post on a productive attitude toward making mistakes. If, after a week or so of practice, you find that there is simply too much new material for you, […]

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