How to cope with a failed exam

I've failed my uni exam, driving test and my social life’s a mess. I’m constantly being told not to let these ‘set-backs’ put me down, but I honestly can’t help it. I've failed over 20 academic exams in my life now and four driving tests. When is it going to end?

Exams are an unpleasant and stressful part of life. Not everyone can be good at them. That’s probably why they’re not the most realistic way to figure out a person’s level of skill and knowledge. But until the government picks up on that, one way or another we still have to make it through them. So what can you do if you bomb a paper?

First and foremost it’s important to acknowledge that coping with a failed exam or a failed test can be tough on your mental health, especially if you’ve failed a few in a row. So we’re here to help. Even though it may not seem like it right now, a failed exam isn’t the end of the world. 

Remember exam results aren’t the only thing employers look for

It sounds like you’re feeling pretty disheartened since all these things seem to be going wrong one after the other, which is totally understandable. If you wanna yell into your pillow “I can’t believe I failed my test” for four hours straight, be our guest. We’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready.

Exam failure can be a tough pill to swallow; it can be hard sometimes to know what to do next. You mentioned you have failed academic exams in the past so we thought it’d be important to flag that exam results aren’t the only things employers look for. Life and work experience are just as important. Plus, not everyone processes information in the same way. Not to mention the test nerves that can cause hours of revision to leave your head in a millisecond. This means that exams (which literally make you cram weeks worth of learning into 1-3 hours) aren’t an accurate portrayal of your intelligence. 

Consider resits or re-taking failed exams

So you’ve come to terms with saying “I failed my exam” now onto the next step. 

If you’re considering re-taking any of your exams, a good starting point would be to get a lot of feedback and practice so you can prepare yourself for the next round. You should also try and get your hands on previous test papers. That way you can familiarise yourself with the format and questions you may get asked. Another option that might help is joining some study groups to mix up your revision routine. 

If you’re still having trouble with your studying, then our article on revision tips and techniques might help. We’ve also got an article on coping with exam stress here. And, to round it all off, you can check out this piece on retaking GCSE and A-levels here for more information about exam retakes.

Try to reduce your stress levels before exams

Remember that your health (both mental and physical) is the most important thing. So it’s a good idea to allow yourself time to relax. This has the added bonus of ensuring you don’t wind yourself up so tight that you can’t focus on everything that you want to do. 

Try to get the right amount of sleep to prepare you for the day ahead, which in turn will help you to manage your stress levels. Balancing your work, revision and social life will help reduce your stress levels as well. For more advice, you can check out our article on coping with stress here.

Advice for a failed driving test

Practical driving tests can be daunting and a lot of people fail as a result. Very few people pass their test first time round. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for people to fail multiple times. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Learning how to drive takes time and experience. With this in mind, try to practice as much as you can. 

We know that driving lessons can be expensive so see if your parents or friends can take you out to an empty car park or industrial estate to practice. The more you practise, the more comfortable you’ll feel behind the wheel which should help when it comes to taking your test. If you need some more tips, we’ve got an article on practical driving tests here.

Work on maintaining your social life

You also say you have a poor social life. We get that with everything else going on it can be difficult to keep up with a hectic social calendar. But during this time it’s crucial that you don’t neglect your friends if they invite you out for things; you need to have time away from the stresses of work and exams. So take time to enjoy yourself when you can. 

If you don’t have many friends and want to expand your social circle, that’s okay as well. You should start by making an effort to try new activities and experiences. Maybe think about joining a gym or a dance class. Basically just see what activities and groups have been set up in your community and go along to their meet ups. Who knows? you might end up finding a lot of like-minded people there! 

For more support take a look at the rest of our study and exam tips here. If you’re stressed out about exams remember The Mix are here to support you, we have a helpline, email support, a crisis messenger and even free counselling services for under 25s, head here to find out more.

Answered by bss on 20-Mar-2013

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.