Fighting Failure

It’s that time of year again – across the country, thousands of students are bracing themselves for exam season, and all the stress that it entails. While there are many articles and posts that offer advice on succeeding in exams, fewer focus on how to handle failure, should it occur. While results day may be a few months away, I thought it a good idea to explore the best way to face failure, and come out fighting.


When you’re a student, so much emphasis is placed on exams that they can take on mythic proportions. It can seem that GCSEs and A-Levels are the educational equivalent of Kryptonite; fail and your life is over. Whilst these exams are, of course, important, should they not go the way that you had hoped, there are still many proactive steps you can take.

In the first instance, try not to panic. You will undoubtedly be feeling a mixture of emotions – disappointment, sadness, the list could go on – but seek comfort in family and friends, and try not to be too hard on yourself. In the days following your results, take some time to de-stress and do things that you enjoy. This way, you will have a clearer head to take the next steps.


Once you’ve taken some time for yourself, your next port of call will be your teacher. Arrange a time to talk about what you think may have gone wrong in the exam, and your options moving forward. You are not the first student to get results they are not happy with, and you won’t be the last: teachers are experienced in giving advice in these situations, without judgement or negativity.

There may be a chance that you can re-sit the exam or, if you are not too far from the grade you initially wanted, have it remarked. Be sure to also talk to your friends and classmates, as they can be a great support system, and you can also discover if they have had a similar experience with the exam. It can be hugely comforting to know that you’re not the only one who found the paper challenging.

If a re-sit is on the cards, use your first exam as a learning experience to propel you on to success in the second. Make a list of any areas that you found particularly difficult, and topics that could use some more revision; this way you’ll know exactly what to focus on as you prepare to retake the exam. If needed, then organising additional study sessions with your teacher, or a tutor, can be helpful, and ensure maximum potential for success.


Students, however, are not the only party involved in the trials and tribulations of exams. Parents are no strangers to the stress involved, and can often find it tricky to know how best to support their children should things not go to plan. In general, motivation whilst moving forward, and encouragement rather than admonishment, are the best routes to reducing a bumpy road ahead. Having open communication with both child and teacher as you move on from an exam-gone-wrong with also aid this process.

It can also be important to give your child perspective, and remind them that life doesn’t end when an exam doesn’t go to plan. Use this time to discuss their plans going forward from school and college, as this can not only focus your child on the future, but also motivate them to work hard and move on from the grades that didn’t go to plan. Discussing the exam in question in the context of life as a whole can help to reduce its burden and stress.


Not everything in life goes to plan, and exams are no exception. When results go off-track, it can be easy to panic and feel like all is lost, but that’s not the case. Perhaps it’s not so much the ‘failure’ we need to focus on, but our definition of the word itself instead. When an exam doesn’t go your way, see it as an opportunity rather than a failure – an opportunity to forge a new and improved path, and move forward and farther. Fight ‘failure’ with the faith in the future.