Failing a course or subject

Failing a course or subject can be pretty rough. There are a couple of common situations where it might happen, as well as ways to help yourself cope. However, the most important thing to remember is that failing doesn’t make you a failure.

This might help if you’re:

  • In school or tertiary education
  • Struggling to get work done
  • You don’t like your course
  • Not keeping up with the rest of the class
  • Unable to complete a course
Aerial view of students writing worksheets

The challenge of failing

Failing a subject can put a pretty big dent on your self-confidence. But even though it might be a huge disappointment, it’s worth keeping it all in perspective. Recognising that failing has little to do with your talents and abilities as a person can be the first step to feeling better.

When it comes to failing assessment or whole subjects/courses, there are a couple of things you can do to make you get back into it and work on building your confidence up again.

Common reasons for failing:

Struggling to get work done. Sometimes there’s too much going on. You have friends, family, work, relationships and general life stuff. Fitting study into a hectic schedule can sometimes be a hugely overwhelming task. If this is the reason for failing, it’s a matter of working out how to balance it all. Deciding what your priorities are, time management and having the ability to step back and say no is the key.

Don’t like your course. You chose your elective or course thinking  it was just the thing for you. Then you  unfortunately discover it's not what you expected. This happens! And  just because it’s not for you that doesn’t mean you won’t find something that you like. Have a look around, check out your options and see if there’s another course or subject that appeals a bit more.

Not keeping up. The challenge with school and higher ed is that each person in the class has a different learning style and speed. Teachers and lecturers often try to aim their classes at the majority - the medium speed learners. If you feel you’re lagging and not able to keep up, don’t be afraid to talk to your teacher or lecturer about what you can do. The sooner you talk to someone about it, the easier it will be to resolve. Your speed of learning doesn’t reflect anything about your intelligence or ability.

Not able to complete the course. For whatever reason, sometimes we just have to bow out of a course or subject that’s not working well. Whether it’s to do with personal stuff or just generally feeling overwhelmed, it’s nothing to feel bad about. If the reason has to do with how you’re feeling or if you’re just too stressed to complete it, you might be experiencing something that won’t be cured with a quick fix. You might benefit from reading a bit more about how to manage stress.

The lesson to learn

Even though these are only a couple of the reasons you might be failing, the important message to take away is that failure is just a part of life. Accept that sometimes you nail stuff and sometimes you bomb out. Beating yourself up about it ultimately ends up being unproductive and upsetting. Talking to someone about how to bounce back is usually helpful.

If you feel like it’s really getting to you and you’re feeling worse than just the natural disappointment, it could be worth reading a bit more about feeling sad all the time or being so stressed you’re overwhelmed.

What can I do now?

  • Talk to a career or guidance counsellor about next steps.
  • Have a conversation with your teacher/lecturer about where you went wrong.
  • Work on building better coping skills.
Last reviewed: 22 July, 2016
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  • ruenhonx    (753 days ago)

    Hey @Bettyruble

    Glad you you found this page and the forums are great, you can just play games and talk about everyday stuff until you build your confidence. Feel free to come on any time you are ready.

    Take care of yourself :)

  • Bettyruble    (754 days ago)

    Thanks so much for the positive replies Hartley and Benjamin. I'm so scared to try too resume my studies, but I am loving my job just insecure sometimes. I should feel good about doing well, think i was a bit down a couple of weeks ago. I'm so happy for my old uni friends and yeah I've got a good customer base to be proud off thanks, The past week I've gained 11 new customers who want my services on a regular basis & It is very true ..I am entitled to live my life the way I choose. Your also right I never thought of the people who gain the degree but choose another path, If I feel confident enough I may take a look at the forums and post. I'm so glad I stumbled across your page, very supportive and helpful thank you & very much appreciated. :-)

  • benjamin_    (761 days ago)

    Hey Bettyruble, - 200 customers is something that you should absolutely be proud of! I'm sorry to hear how you've been feeling, but don't forget that you're entitled to live your life the way you choose to, and there's no single perfect path to having a successful and happy life.

    I know plenty of people who have graduated from uni but aren't necessarily happy, or they ended up doing something completely different to their degree. I agree with hartley_ about having a busy lifestyle - that definitely makes studying more overwhelming and difficult, so i'm wondering if you've considered resuming your study at a better time when you aren't so busy?

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