Judaism's out look to prayer isn't lhavdil sitting on Santa's lap. This is an attitude that needs to be dropped. Teffilah is comparable to calling your Father on the telephone when you are a\way from him.
There are various reason why a tefilla wouldnt be answered, but it wouldnt make sense for you to do worse. maybe it is a psychological thing, youve convinced yourself youll do worse because you davened
Just because you davened to do well on a test it doesn't mean that you will. You have to study and put in the proper effort to pass the exam. Davening to do well without studying is like tovel v'sheretz b'yado.
I assume jewishthought did study. So i dont know why they didnt do well.DOnt you ever find your tefillos are answered? it helps to ask for even little things, and acknowledge when you get them. The Chazon Ish said to even daven for new shoes.