In order to succeed we always have to risk failure. And the truth is that we all fail from time to time; an exam, a diet, a relationship, a game, a recipe, you name it. Though failing an exam can trigger an array of emotions for most of us: sadness, disappointment, embarrassment, anger, confusion, shame, regret, to name a few. It is something you can cope with eaily with the correct plan of action.

What you need to remember is that how we cope with failure is equally as important as how we deal with success. Both offer valuable lessons and both can be handled well or poorly. Also, please remember that failing an exam, or anything else, is not the same thing as “being a failure”.


The first is about something you did poorly at one single moment in time. The latter is about labeling your entire self as failing at life. When we get emotional, it can be easy to get the two confused, but they are dramatically different things. Here are a few productive ideas for coping with a failed exam.

intro how to cope with exam failure
Things you can do to cope with an exam failure

Here are some tips to help you cope with failing an exam quickly and effectively.

  1. You are not alone. Know that everyone has experienced failures. Some may have had problems with exams and others had issues in other areas of their life.  Some people have not experienced a major life challenge yet but will do so in the future. The point is that failure is just a part of being human. If you can relate to this, trust us we’ve all been in your shoes in one way or the other.

    remember that you are not alone to cope with exam failure
    Everyone goes through failure at some point in time
  2. Deal with your emotions. Try to identify correctly which emotions you are feeling. Shame, regret, disappointment, anger, frustration, confusion? Taking time to recognize how you are feeling will better enable you to work through them.
  3. Take responsibility for your failure. When you face failure, your initial reaction might be to blame others or some external factor for your setback. It’s important to understand that while others may have had an impact on the result, your failure is never the sole responsibility of someone else. Until you take personal responsibility for your parts in the failure, you will never be able to move forward successfully.
  4. Don’t internalize the failure. Separate the failure from who you are. Just because you flunked an exam doesn’t mean you are a failure. When you start internalizing your failure as part of your identity, it hurts your self-esteem and self-confidence. Do not let your failure define you.
  5. Tell yourself this is temporary. Reacting to a failed test in a big way is easy. Keep in mind that even the most important exams are just one small aspect of your life. Your emotional well-being is more important than these exams. Don’t allow a single grade to cloud your mood for too long.
  6. Prevent yourself from slipping into depression. It’s natural to feel depressed over a setback, but it should not last for a long time. If you find you’re not eating or sleeping properly, you’re losing or gaining weight, or feeling low all the time, speak to a social worker, psychologist, parent, or friend. Sometimes we all need support from people who care about us.

    avoid depression to cope with exam failure
    Seek help if you are feeling depressed
  7. Identify negative thoughts. When you fail at something, you might tend to beat yourself up and get into negative self-labeling. Try to identify such negative thoughts like ‘I am a loser,’ or ‘I don’t think I will be able to come back from this.’ Negative thought patterns can stop you from learning from the failure, turning that learning into a positive approach, and moving forward.

    Identify negative thoughts to cope with exam failure
    Identify negative thoughts that are stopping you from moving forward
  8. Use positive affirmations. When you notice negative thoughts arising, start questioning them. Ask yourself, ‘Is it true? Does this failure make me a loser?’ Use positive affirmations to help you get past the negative thoughts. Write down positive messages like, ‘This failure brings me closer to success, as I have gained knowledge from this experience,’ or ‘I know I am capable of getting over it.’ Put your notes somewhere easily visible. You can also say the positive affirmations aloud to yourself.
  9. Learn from your failure. Judging yourself harshly won’t help you score better on your next test. When a failure occurs, the wisest thing to do is to dissect it and determine the causes. Look at it analytically to cope with failing an exam. Why did you fail? What might have produced a better result? What could you learn from this so that it doesn’t happen again? Learn from your mistakes and move on.
  10. Stop dwelling on it. Obsessing over your failure will not change the outcome. On the contrary, it will drive you to slip into an emotional doom and stop you from moving forward. You cannot change the past, but you can shape your future. Taking a step forward will help you quickly leave behind the debilitating thoughts and move on with your life.
  11. Let go of what you cannot control. You need to understand that certain things are not in your control. Find the courage to let go of them.
  12. Release the need for approval from others. Often, people fear failure because they are afraid of being judged and losing others’ respect. Be realistic. Don’t let the expectations of people around you bear down on you. Do not give power to other people’s opinions. Pressure to perform can cause unnecessary stress and affect your results. It can damage your self-esteem and confidence, undermining your ability to succeed.
  13. Look at inspirational role models. Everyone faces failure at some point in life. When you look at successful people, you see their success. You don’t usually know the struggles and hardships they might have gone through or the setbacks they faced in the process. Remember, you are not the only person struggling in life. Take inspiration from people who have used failure as a stepping stone to success. Pick your favorite athlete, celebrity, or business leader and research their life story.  It is almost guaranteed you will find moments of failure there.
  14. Weigh your options. After your stint with failure, take a step back and weigh your options. Check if there is a possibility that you could retake the exam. If not, use your time preparing yourself for the next test, instead of worrying about the last one. Also, work on other areas that will help you bring your grades up. Explore all the options available to you before making a rash decision.
  15. Review your study methods. Bad or undesired results means it may be time to take a serious look at your studying techniques. Change your study pattern and concentrate more on areas where you are weak. Don’t compare yourself to your friends or anyone else.
  16. Write a journal. Keep a journal. Write down or reflect on everything that happened – what caused it, what you did wrong, and what you can do about it or could have done instead. The next time you encounter a similar problem, you can refer to your journal. Refrain from blaming or judging yourself, just state the facts.
  17. Talk it out. When you suffer a setback, you might regress into a shell and bottle up all your emotions. Instead, talk it out with your family and friends to cope with failing an exam. They may be able to lend you a helping hand and show you where you went wrong. Their support will help you get through tough times. You can also find support from students in the same situation through online communities and forums. Remember that failure is not the end of the world. It is one of the many hurdles in your life that you will have to learn to surpass. Don’t let failure stop you from achieving your dreams.
  18. Meditate. Meditation will help you focus on the present and clear your mind. It enables you to focus on the positive aspects of your life.
  19. Enjoy simple pleasures. One way to relax and de-stress is to indulge in simple pleasures like taking a walk amidst nature in the early morning, watching the sunrise and sunset, or enjoying reading a book on the beach. These simple pleasures can help you to shift out of your feelings of failure and set you in a more positive mindset.
  20. Have fun and laugh. Taking a break from all the negative thinking will help you reset your mind and focus on what’s important in life. Hang out with friends who make you feel happy. Be around positive people who are supportive and helpful. Take a trip to a retreat or get out of town with your family. A change in environment will help divert your mind, and laughter goes a long way to heal emotional pain.
  21. Try your hand at something creative. Enroll in a hobby class or learn a new skill. It will help you divert your mind, and learning something new can make you feel confident and boost your self-esteem.

    do something creative to cope with exam failure
    Keep yourself busy by doing something creative
  22. Bounce back. Once you have made peace with your failure and weighed your options, your next step should be to get back into the real world. Focus on the future and think about ways to get it right the next time. Don’t allow the failure to keep you down.
  23. Show gratitude to your supporters. Even during difficult times, treat others with respect. Thank your family, friends, and mentors for their help and support. Your result does not lessen their efforts or your own.
  24. Share your journey with others. Although it may not happen right away, gradually try sharing your story of failure with others. When you find an opportunity, inspire people and strengthen their ability to cope with failure by sharing your story.
  25. Stay ambitious. Don’t give up your hopes and dreams or lower the bar for your achievement. Over time, your failure will likely become a distant memory. Keep pushing forward.
    stay ambitious to cope with exam failure
    Keep your spirit high and ambition strong

    Have courage and find strength from overcoming your failure and moving on.