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Best Ways to Boost Your Grade after Failing an Exam

Don’t worry if you failed an exam; you can grow from this. I know, it sounds like I’m your best friend giving you the textbook response, but failing an exam, especially in the beginning of the semester, most likely won’t result in you losing your scholarship, dropping out of college, or your parents disowning you and leaving you hanging out with the Boxcar Children. There are many simple ways to get your grades back on track, if you set your mind to it.

Here are five steps to boost your grade after failing an exam.

1. Coping with Failure

Whether you didn’t spend enough time studying and need to place your blame on the professor, or if you are taking a class outside of your comfort zone and legitimately can’t grasp the information, we all deserve some time to feel sorry for ourselves. Truthfully, failing an exam is just a speed bump in life. It happens to everyone, and it can even motivate you to study harder for the remainder of the semester, thus forcing you to retain the information. That is why we pay to receive an education after all, right? The best advice is, don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up on the class and count it as a loss. Failure is only beneficial when it is used as a tool for motivation.

2. Admit your Faults

Yes, for a few hours you can curse the professor for all of their trick questions and typos, but the first step to healing is acceptance. What caused you to fail this midterm? Was it a lack of studying? Did you stay out late the night before? Were you too confident and brushed the exam off? Or, do you need legitimate tutoring?

Most often, college students fail exams due to poor class attendance. Skipping classes results in missing lecture notes, discussions, updates on homework, possible exam hints, extra credit opportunities, and an obvious drop in attendance and participation points. The initial step to boosting your grade is the easiest, go to class!

3. Take Valuable Notes

Good, the first step is over. At least you’ve made it to your lecture hall. Now, follow along with the lecture. Some professors use PowerPoint slides that correspond to their lecture structure. Take notes in between the slides. If your professor is one of the conceptual discussion types and doesn’t adhere to structure, don’t be afraid to ask questions or for further explanation of the material. It is the responsibility of the professors to relay information to their students, which means that as long as your question doesn’t force them to be redundant, most won’t have an issue clarifying their lesson. With note-taking, brevity is crucial. Start every lecture on a new page in your notebook. Copy the lecture topic and date at the top of every sheet to help you stay organized.

SEE ALSO: 3 Fun and Creative Ways to Take Notes

4. Maintain Beneficial Study Habits

College libraries can sometimes be more reminiscent of a high school cafeteria than a study spot. If you attend a large state university, there are often small quiet study rooms on the top floors of the library. If you are the type who performs best in groups, chances are you can reserve individual study rooms. I think it goes without saying, stay off social media. Just because you are in the library doesn’t mean you’re acting scholarly.

Find time throughout the week to study. Yes, it’s hard because we all have the tendency to procrastinate, but in this case it’s important to stop procrastinating and become productive so you can get ahead. Having a schedule for studying is key — cramming information in your brain the night before the midterm may allow you to be one episode closer to catching up on Game of Thrones, but it won’t boost your exam grade. Develop skills to help you retain information. If you’re a visual learner, make flashcards so you can visualize key words when taking the exam. If auditory, find a quiet place where you can read aloud. The best way to confirm that you fully retained information is testing if you can teach it. Explain it to your roommate, call your mom, or find a chair and a mirror.

SEE ALSO: 6 Simple (but Proven) Study Tips

5. Drop the Course

If your failure is continuous and it is too late in the semester to improve your grade, there is no shame in dropping the course and trying again the next semester. Many times, students will be forced to take a basic knowledge course completely unrelated to their major. For a historian, Introduction to Chemistry may not be a breeze-by class. College forces students to step outside their comfort zone academically but the repercussions for failing a class, unfortunately, aren’t a mere slap to the back of the head. Scholarships are dependent on grade point average. Universities install, add and drop dates for classes for exactly this reason.

If the class you are failing is within your major, it would be in your best interest to speak with an advisor. If you are early on in your course load, you could be suffering through the infamous weed out class. Or your chosen major could just not be what you anticipated.


A college course load is intended to be challenging. It is important to be pragmatic when evaluating your grade in a class. Individually, you know when you are truly struggling or just not trying hard enough. There are simple approaches to both issues. The most important thing to remember is, you can bounce back from a failed exam and even a dropped course.