What to do if you fail an exam

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If you didn’t get the result you were hoping for in the recent CA examinations, don’t be too hard on yourself. Here are five practical ways you can deal with exam failure and move forward.

1. Don’t panic

It can be easy to allow ourselves to get into a bit of a panic upon hearing the news that we have failed at something. People studying for the CA and other professional exams often put a lot of pressure on themselves to pass everything first time.

Yes - you do need to pass your exams with us in order to become a CA, but remember - not every CA out there (and not even all of your ICAS tutors) passed all their exams first time. You will have the opportunity to resit your exams and, with the right approach and support in place, hopefully get all the passes you need.

2. Talk about it

An important way of coping with exam failure is to talk about it. Bottling things up isn’t a good strategy, and can actually make things worse by making you feel even more stressed out. Talk to your family, your friends on your course, your training principal or perhaps a trusted mentor or advisor about how you are feeling.

Remember too that failing an exam is not the end of the world. Exam failure is just one of the many obstacles you’ll face, and there are always possibilities to learn from and rise above failure.

3. Get some practical support

If you did fail a particular subject, getting some support from the relevant tutors can be an invaluable source of help as you work towards your resit. Some of the tutors here have been in exactly the same position as you, and will understand how you are feeling.

Not only will they know how you feel, they’ll be able to help by providing insight and advice on how best to approach the different subjects, as well as giving you tips to help improve your approach for the next examination or resist. Talk to your tutors about how and what you studied, and take along your study plan to show them. Reflect on the following questions:

  • Did you study the right material?
  • Did you study enough in advance?
  • Is there anything you can improve in terms of exam technique?
  • How did the students who did well in the exam approach their studies?

3. Identify what you can do differently next time

Once you have the answers to the above questions, your next step should be to take some time to really think about what you could do to improve your exam preparation. Maybe you could have planned your study time more effectively, started your exam revision earlier or focused on different things. In the exam itself, perhaps you could have been better at managing your time or structured your answers better.

Your tutor’s feedback is critical, because it will help you take practical steps to identify and resolve these issues. If your previous approach wasn’t successful, it is important to identify what needs to change.

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Studying for the CA is tough, and the exams themselves are particularly challenging. Remind yourself that you are studying for one of the most respected qualifications out there. With the right approach to your studies, and a positive attitude, you can pass.

5. Let it go

While it is important to spend a bit of time thinking about why things didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to, don’t beat yourself up over it. Dwelling on your results won’t help you to improve thing in the long term. So, give yourself a bit of a break, pick yourself up and try to move on as best you can.

As Michael Jordon once said: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”


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