Failure is a universal struggle. Each and every human being will experience failure once in their life. Whether you’re learning to ride your bike for the first time, you can’t seem to pass your driving test or are struggling in university, every phase of life is rife with failure. Nothing hurts quite like studying hard, learning the course material to the best of your ability, only to receive a failing grade on the exam. 

Failing an exam can seriously affect your mental health. Emotionally, it’s hard to handle because an experience like this will bring a slew of emotions to the surface; frustration, sadness, fear, and sometimes even panic. More than that, it can make you feel like you don’t belong in your chosen program. The fear of failure starts to set in and that can emotionally overwhelm you. 

The first thing you feel if you receive a failing grade will likely be a shock. You’ll probably ask why it happened. If you gave it all in your studies and practiced hard for an exam but still failed it, it can be extremely frustrating. It can also be depressing; a failing grade can have a huge impact on your overall grade. Sadness is one of the big emotional consequences of failing an exam, and many university students struggle with depression (see here). It can also be scary to fail an exam. It’s easy to start overthinking a situation and soon, fear from failing one exam can become the fear of never being successful. If that fear escalates, some students who suffer from anxiety can slip into a panic attack. All of these emotions are normal. 

When you fail a university exam, there are two paths you can take. You can wallow in the emotional pain you’re feeling, feel sorry for yourself, and stay stuck in the mud. This is a common response, but it doesn’t help the student in any way whatsoever. That’s not to say that it’s not important to look inward – emotional intelligence is highly valuable in life. The better way to go about it, however, is to acknowledge your emotions, feel them, and move on. The second path you can take is this; you can learn from the experience and improve yourself. 

This may come as a shock to you, but receiving a failing grade can be a good thing. Why? Most likely, you didn’t understand the material or there’s something blocking you from truly doing well in the course. A failed exam is a sign that’s telling you to stop, re-evaluate, and assess how you can do better. Recognizing the areas where you need help will allow you to grow stronger in those areas. 

Your progress can be greatly improved by failure because you have to work harder to achieve your goals. It’s like the young child riding the bike; if he falls and scrapes his knee, he doesn’t stop biking. He gets a bandaid and gets back on the road. If you fail your drivers’ test, you try again. If you fail an exam in university, there are opportunities for you to do better. 

Improvement is hard but the first steps are easy. Should you fail a university exam, first go to your TA’s or professors and speak to them about where you went wrong. They should be able to help you understand the course material better as well. There are other resources available depending on where you study. Look into study groups, on-campus tutoring, or ask a friend in your class. What’s important to remember is that failure is not the end of the road – it’s just a roadblock. 

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