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Penn Foster FAQs

What to Do If You Fail a Penn Foster Exam

You’ve studied and prepared for your test as much as possible and you know the material like the back of your hand. But when you finish the exam, you realize you’ve actually failed. You’re shocked and disappointed. You worked so hard, and for what? Before beating yourself up for failing or stressing about whether or not you’re cut out for school, here’s a few things you should know about failure and what you can do about it.

Desiree Sinkevich

Des Sinkevich

So, you failed an exam. What’s next? 


You’ve taken pages of notes and studied hard for an upcoming exam. You feel confident that you know your material and you’re ready to see that perfect score when you submit your answers. But when you do finish, the worst happens: you failed the test. You’re shocked and disappointed. You worked so hard, and for what? Why bother studying this hard in the future if you’re not going to pass? And what do you do now that you’ve failed this test? 


Before beating yourself up for failing or stressing about whether or not you’re cut out for school, here’s a few things you should know about failure and what you can do about it. 


“Failure” doesn’t have to be a bad word. 


When you think about the word failure, or the act of failing, there’s nothing positive that comes to mind. It’s immediately a bad word, a word that makes you cringe and do everything in your power to avoid it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s ugly. No one wants to fail. But failure is a part of being human and an important part of the learning process. When you don’t pass an exam or have a project returned to you because it needs to be redone, thinking of it as a failure immediately puts the idea in your head that you’re a failure when that’s absolutely not the case! So, before doing anything else after “failing,” take a deep breath and remember that failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. 


Failing helps you learn. 


If you did everything perfectly on the first attempt, what would you learn? Not much! Through failure, or mistakes, you learn what not to do and can go back and adjust your process for the next time. You may not have gotten something right on the first try, but you learned what not to do. That’s a step in the right direction. 


Your attitude can determine how you bounce back from failure. 


You don’t feel good after you’ve failed something or when you make a mistake, but your attitude about how you’re going to deal with it can impact how successful you are. If you fail and immediately decide to give up, you’re not going to learn from the experience and you’re not going to move forward. If you can think positively and push onward to retake the test you failed, or learn from a mistake and try again, you’ll not only eventually get it right, but you’ll also prove to yourself that you can do it. And guess what? That’s not just trying to fake positivity until you make it a reality. It is reality. You’ve got this. 


What happens if you fail an exam at Penn Foster? 


Whether you’re considering enrolling in a Penn Foster program, or you’re currently working on a course, you might be nervous about what happens if you fail an exam. Do you fail the whole class? Do you have to start over? With the flexibility of a self-paced, online program, you can take the time you need to study and understand the material the first try, but things happen. 


Here’s what you can do if you don’t pass the first time: 


High School, Career School, and College multiple-choice exams: 


  • For each lesson that has a multiple-choice exam, you have the option to retake it if you get less than a perfect score. So, whether you think you can do better or you need to try again for a passing grade, you’ll have the option to go back to your notes and study guides and try again. Your retake options have an expiration date though! You’ll want to retake that exam within 30 days of the first time you took it. 
  • You can only do one retake for each exam and Penn Foster considers the higher grade the official grade on your transcript. 


High School, Career School, and College Written Assignments & Projects:
Some of your courses will have writing assignments or projects that will be submitted through your Learner Center. These assignments can be returned without grading and with instructor feedback if your submission doesn’t follow the guidelines. 


College Proctored Exams:
Proctored exams are finals students are required to take at the end of courses or at the end of the semester in a college degree program. The rules for retakes on failed proctor exams differ, so if you’re worried you might not pass, make sure to check in with your instructor through the Help Center on you Learner Center. 


What happens if you fail a Penn Foster exam twice? 


You can only take an exam twice. If you fail it both times, the higher of the two grades will be used.


Is there a final exam for Penn Foster?


Penn Foster's online programs do not have traditional final exams. In fact, career diploma programs and high school diplomas do not have any finals at all! You will graduate as long as you pass your courses. However, for college-level programs such as undergraduate certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor's degrees, you will take proctored exams. These exams function as finals for each semester's courses or at the end of a college certificate course.


Let’s talk about grades.


Penn Foster programs use a number-letter grading system. Your exams and assignments will be graded with numbers, and then you will be given a letter grade for the course once it is completed. Passing grades and grading in general vary depending on the program you are taking.


What is a passing grade at Penn Foster?

  • High school: 65 is the minimum passing grade and is equal to a letter grade of D.
  • Career programs: 65 is required to pass, but some require a minimum final grade of 70.
  • College programs: Letter grades are based on exams and assignments, including proctored exams. Letter grades are converted to a QPA of 0-4.0, with 4.0 being the best. To pass, earn at least a 70 in each class and a 2.0 QPA.


What is a failing grade?

  • High school: A grade below 65 is equal to a letter grade of F and is a failing grade.
  • Career programs: If you earn below 65, that’s a failing grade.
  • College programs: A grade below 70 is a D and is considered failing.


Is 65 a failing grade? 

  • High school: 65 is a letter grade D and is considered passing.
  • Career programs: A 65 is a failing grade in career school programs.
  • College programs: 65 falls below 70–the minimum passing grade– which is failing in college programs.


Can you get away with cheating at Penn Foster?


According to the Penn Foster undergraduate 2023 catalog, cheating is submitting work that is not your own or helping someone else cheat. If you are suspected of cheating, you will be notified and required to respond in writing. The Academic Review Board will decide on your punishment, which could include expulsion. Any inappropriate behavior during a final exam will result in a make-up test.


How does Penn Foster track cheating? 


Penn Foster has put measures in place to protect honest students and deter academic dishonesty. The ways they do this are:


  • Proctored exams, where the student is monitored via camera while taking an exam.
  • Plagiarism detection platforms run the student’s work against a vast database to see if they copied any of the content to pass off as their own.
  • Randomized questions prevent students from sharing answers since each exam will be different.
  • Time limits on exams and quizzes make it harder to take several minutes to look up each answer.
  • Time tracking is used to see if a student is suddenly completing work much faster or slower than before.


Can teachers see if you cheat online?


The most common method of detecting cheating or plagiarism is running the student’s work through a plagiarism tracker. Penn Foster’s instructors use Grammarly to rule out plagiarism and can detect cheating on proctored exams. If you feel like you aren’t prepared for an exam or your paper is due, and you’re staring at a blank Google doc, don’t resort to cheating! Contact your instructor and ask for an extension or some additional help. Even if you end up losing points due to lateness, at least it won’t be a failing grade and an academic warning.


Complete your education on your time.


It’s your education, so you get to decide what courses to take in addition to your core requirements, plus you can work on your coursework and take exams at your convenience.


How many electives do you have to take at Penn Foster? 


You are required to earn 5 elective credits under the Penn Foster High School graduation plan. Electives include options like auto repair, Spanish, and small business management. You can choose college prep or career readiness courses, or both!


How long do you have to finish Penn Foster? 


Students have 12 months to complete each semester for most degree programs. They can request two paid six-month extensions per semester but must complete the program within 6 years for an associate degree or 8 years for a bachelor's degree. If they don't, they must re-enroll and have their previous work evaluated for transfer.


Can I graduate Penn Foster in 2 months? 


To help students reach their full learning potential, Penn Foster High School will limit each student to no more than 15 exams per calendar week (Sunday through Saturday). This is to ensure that students have enough time to study and learn the material, and to avoid burnout. You cannot responsibly earn a high school diploma in two months, but you may be able to finish it on the 6-month fast track graduation plan. Most graduates take around 15 months to finish.


What's the fastest way you can graduate from Penn Foster? 


The fastest you can graduate from Penn Foster’s high school program is 6 months. The fast track for every certificate, associate degree, and bachelor's degree program varies.


What if going to school online isn’t for me?


Whether you’re having a rough semester, can’t take classes after enrolling, or decide that online school isn’t for you, there’s a way out. Visit the Learner Center and follow the instructions to unenroll.


How do I get out of Penn Foster? 


To cancel your enrollment at Penn Foster, contact us within 5 days of enrolling for a full refund. After 5 days, you can still cancel for a refund minus the registration fee, but you will also owe a percentage of the tuition based on how much of the program you have completed. If you cancel after completing more than 50% of the program, you will not receive a refund. Refunds are issued within 30 days of cancellation.


Can you get kicked out of Penn Foster? 


Students who break the Rules of Academic Integrity by cheating, plagiarism, submitting unoriginal work, harassing other students, or engaging in other unethical or illegal activities will be subject to disciplinary action, which may include expulsion from their academic program and unenrollment from Penn Foster.


You can bounce back from failure. 


If you’re still thinking of failure as a bad thing, or you’re worried you’re not cut out for online education, Penn Foster is here to help. With our flexible online courses and dedicated instructors and teaching assistants, you can bounce back from a failed exam with some help. Not sure where to go to get advice or information? Here are some helpful resources for our students:


  • Learning Resource Center: This learning hub provides Penn Foster students with academic and professional support. This resource includes subject area centers, the Penn Foster library, and the writing center.
  • The Writer’s Block: Our writing tutors help with the writing process, grammar, sentence structure, writing rules and citations, and critical thinking.
  • Learner Center: Access your classes, teachers, and a universe of resources.
  • 1-888-427-1000: Call us if you have any questions! Whether you’re a potential or current student, we’re here to help you succeed.


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