Why toppers lie before exams?

Hey there!

It was on a Monday, three months back, that as I was preparing for my exams that someone blatantly accused me of lying when I said I wasn’t prepared and that was when I knew the topic for this newsletter.

About this week’s post, I wanted to talk about why many people think toppers lie about their preparedness before exams. We have all been frustrated to hear a topper say, “I didn’t study well” and next thing you know he/she has scored the highest!

I believe it is frustrating to many! And, being a topper, it definitely is frustrating to see that people don’t believe you. (Humblebrag, I have been a topper quite a few times, and wish to clear this issue that plagues most students!)

I hope this post would help us understand the science behind this weird phenomenon.

I will not deny the fact that there definitely are people who lie about their preparedness to get info from others and understand where they stand. Yes! This is possible, and many toppers do it too. (I did it when I was in school. I don’t find the need to do so anymore though)

As I thought about this, I was able to understand that this is a classic case of the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is a cognitive bias where incompetent people overestimate their competence and people in the middle range over-estimate their competence.

Credits: Onlinepethealth

This majorly happens for two reasons why most people (most students) over-estimate their preparedness.

  1. When we lack experience and knowledge, we get poor results.
  2. This same lack of knowledge makes it hard for us to identify our own faults.

One the other side of the coin, the toppers or achievers have learnt just enough to top their class by studying better and also just enough to understand how much they don’t know. They underestimate their preparedness.

And this is why we feel these overachievers lie to us. We assume that the overachievers have the same amount of confidence as we do. The only difference is that the toppers have prepared enough to break this bubble and are facing the realities of the subjects!

Yes, the achievers do study or are better incompetence in those subjects compared to their peers. But they feel underconfident as they realise that there is much what they don’t know. If these toppers were tested with professionals who have much more experience, they most often than not wouldn’t stand a chance. The right side of the blue zone takes a lot of experience and time!

So, who are susceptible to this? Everyone! All of us believe we know stuff when we don’t or believe we don’t know much when we do!

How do we conquer this bias?

  1. Ask your peers for feedback and test yourself to see where you stand.
  2. Don’t assume you know it all. As simple as that.

If you think about it, it is similar to the “Just this once” effect about which I’ve written the previous week! Just when our confidence in a premature habit increases, our tendency to give up is the highest! But, once we keep working persistently do we gain mastery! (You can read about it Here)

Two-minute Task
This is a simple test to know how much you know. Take a subtopic of what you need to learn and teach it to someone for 15 minutes. (Sorry, I lied. It isn’t a two minute actionable) This is to let you know how much content you really have grasped.

After you know where you stand, just keep learning to reduce the knowledge gap.

With that,
More Power to you!


How much did you hate when toppers claim they knew nothing?

I hope this post was helpful!
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Cover pic credits: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

3 thoughts on “Why toppers lie before exams?

  1. Once people around me asked how much I was prepared for the Board Panel Interview…
    I was already strained to being raving with distraught but I couldn’t check myself that time.. I simply brokedown and crossed the line.
    After I finished raving, they sheepishly looked at me and walked off like so many zombies without any sound.

    But I realised their dillema after they saw my name on the 2nd position in the merit bulletin.
    I did apologise, but they walked off like so many pussies! XD


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