person studying & taking notes.

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 has happened: 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, you’ll also prove to yourself that you can do it. And guess what? That’s not just trying to fake positivity til 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 that test if you get less than a perfect score! So whether you think you can do better or you need to get 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 Student Portal. These assignments can be returned without grading and with instructor feedback if your submission didn’t follow the guidelines. You’ll be able to resubmit the project after addressing any issues and have multiple opportunities to resubmit it if you get it returned more than once. These assignments require you to retake and resubmit them until you receive a passing grade.

College Proctored Exams:
Proctored exams are finals students are required to take at the end of particular 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 your Student Portal.

You can bounce back from failure.

If you’re still thinking of failure as a bad thing, and 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? Check out our Learning Resource Center today.