It's Okay to Fail

Just failed? Your story isn't over

Have you just received a fail grade or disappointing mark? Whatever your circumstances, remember that failing does not make you a failure. 

Take a deep breath, don't panic and get started on figuring out what you need to do next.

You might find these resources helpful...

Release of Results

Click here to read more about your immediate options for a review of results or a fee remission request.

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Special Consideration

Academic Standing

I just failed. What do I do now?

Take a moment for yourself 

Failing an exam or getting lower marks than you expected isn’t the end of the world, but it hurts. Allow yourself some time to acknowledge your feelings and let them out before you move on. 

Remember that failing does not make you a failure 

Every successful person fails sometimes. Now is the time to practice self-love and recognise that bad grades do not cancel out your achievements nor your worth!  

Consider the context of your fail grade

This last year has been incredibly difficult for everyone! Think about the factors that contributed to your results – maybe your mental health affected your studying, maybe you did a little too much cramming and missed a few too many lectures, or maybe the class just wasn’t right for you.  

If you're facing difficulties with mental health or extenuating circumstances, consider making an appointment with UNSW Psychology & Wellness.

Immediate options

If you believe your mark may be approved upon second review, you can request a reassessment of your work until 5 days from the result release date. This may result in the mark going up or down and your request may be rejected, however.

In situations where you cannot complete a course, or have tried and failed, you may be entitled to a refund of tuition fees. You can apply within 12 months of completing the course, if special circumstances apply.

Read more about both of these options here.

Plan for the future

What happens now depends on what’s right for you. Whether you apply for a supplementary exam, need to re-do a course or take a break from uni, take stock of your options, find the support you need and get ready for the next step.  

This might include...

What not to do...

  • Don't panic!
  • Don't email your lecturer angrily
  • Don't lock yourself in a room and cry for a week
  • Don't post anything on Facebook about your lecturer or subject

Everyone fails sometimes. Read more about how it can help you with your next steps in life.

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10 People Failing Worse Than You

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Use this failure or disapointing result to think about how you can approach study next time.

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3 Ways to Reflect on Failure 

It can be hard to pinpoint exactly why things go wrong. Make the most of a tricky situation and use this moment of disappointment to reflect on yourself, your studies and your wellbeing.

Write it Out

Writing down your thoughts and feelings will help to organise them, reduce negative thought spirals and allow you to think more clearly about what happened and why it happened. Try using the prompts below to focus and reflect.

  • What was it that was failed to be achieved? 

  • How did you feel before/during/after the experience? 

  • Which aspects could you control? Which could you not? 

  • What can you do to address extenuating circumstances?

  • Who can you go to for support for understanding the issue further?

  • What have you learned from this? 

  • How could you apply this to future experiences?

Talk it Out

With yourself:
Sometimes reflecting on failure in our head can be overwhelming, so verbalising your thoughts can help you process the failure and make your strategies more concrete.  

With loved ones:
Reaching out to friends and family can be a great way to find comfort during a distressing time and give you a new perspective on the situation and how you can move forward. 

Find Support 

Whether the reason for this failure was as straightforward as time management or completely confusing to you, there are people who can help you figure it out.

UNSW Counselling and Psychological Services
For many students, mental health has a major impact on assignment and exam results. If you're struggling to cope at uni, try making a free and confidential telehealth or face to face counselling session with UNSW CAPS.

Student Support and Success Advisors
Do you need help figuring out how to balance life with study, develop study skills or perfect time management. UNSW academic advisors are here to help you find your way.

International Student Experience Unit

Uni life is hard enough without moving to a new country or studying in a second language. The International Student Experience Unit are here to help you with study and offer advice.

How Arc Wellness Warriors Deal with Failure


I will never forget the first time I failed a course at uni. It was semester two of my second year. 

I really struggled with second year, especially as earlier in the year I was diagnosed with clinical depression and generalised anxiety. I was and still am seeing a psychologist, but I recall at that time being so incredibly disappointed in myself for failing, and terrified that anyone around me would find out and think negatively of me 

I think it hit me so hard because I was so critical of others failing courses. This failure sent me into a spiral, causing me to rethink my whole degree, whether I was studying in the right discipline, whether I was supposed to be at university at all. 

I ended up taking some time off during what was supposed to be my third year to reset. Taking the time off really was the best decision I could have made. I prioritised my mental health and finally felt more in control. I did rethink my degree, changing it slightly to fit who I wanted to be then as a 20-year-old, rather than sticking with an uninformed guess I made as a 17-year-old straight out of high school. I came back to Uni with a renewed sense of purpose, and an understanding of how I would use my degree to achieve the goals I set for myself. I retook the course and passed. I no longer feel the pressure of completing my studies on a specific timeline and am content taking it at my own pace. 

It certainly was not the last course I failed in my undergraduate journey, but I’ve come to realise that all I can do is my best. At any stage in time, I am doing my best and therefore I can have no regrets. All I can do is redo the course, reflect on my experiences, and continue on in life. One significant lesson I have learned throughout all this is that my own mental health comes first, and this means more than a failed test.  


During my early years at high school, I was put into a top class for mathematics. Being a part of a high-level class was tough, and I had high expectations for myself to perform well and keep up with the content. However, I struggled to keep up and ended up failing my tests and exams, I spiraled down into feeling hopeless and inadequate.  

I was so ashamed of my failures that I did not want to share it with my parents, afraid of letting them down as well. Keeping them to myself, the extremely poor exam and test results continue to pile up and continued to fuel my frustration at myself and crippled my confidence in not just mathematics, but in all my schoolwork. Eventually parent teacher interviews came, and I had a discussion with both my mathematics teacher and my parents.  

I thought that letting them down would only make them disappointed and upset at me, but instead of focusing on my failures, we discussed about how I could improve. We decided that the best thing for me to do is to take a step back to step forward and move into a class that was not as advanced so I could rebuild my confidence.  

Through this experience I discovered that failure is not the end of the world. I have learned what works for me when I am consumed by failure and that is to talk to someone about it, not keep it to myself. By sharing my feelings of shame and sadness, I was and can get those feeling off my conscience, clearing my head towards learning from them and bouncing back! 

Further UNSW Resources

Academic Improvement Module

Are you on Referral, Probation, Provisional Suspension or Exclusion? The Academic Improvement Module (AIM) is here to help you to get back on track.

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Learning & Careers Online

Support foracademic skills development such as writing, referencing, presentation skills as well as time management and other study-related skills.

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