How to Cope with Exam Failure: Best Methods for Parents and Children


  1. Is it bad to fail an exam?
  2. Is it normal to fail exams?
  3. What causes exam failure?
  4. What happens if you fail your exams?
  5. What to do when you fail an exam?
  6. How to cope with exam failure as a parent
  7. How to prepare your child for exams


Failing an exam can feel like the end of the world especially for school children and teens who might feel like everything was riding on it. We’re going to give you some simple but effective strategies on how to cope with exam failure so your kid is ready to bounce back and face the next challenge head-on. We understand as a parent it’s difficult to deal with your child’s exam failure so we have some top tips for you too.child wearing school uniform taking an exam in an exam hall

Is it bad to fail an exam?


Failing an exam isn’t necessarily bad and can actually be helpful in some situations. This all has to do with what level your child is at (e.g. primary school vs uni). It also depends on what kind of an exam it is and what it counts towards. 

If your child fails a mock exam then this can work in their favour. It should give them the drive and motivation to revise for the real deal. It also lets them know where they went wrong so they can focus on any problem areas. 

Even failing a uni exam isn’t usually enough to stop someone from reaching their desired career. Perhaps your child can resit the exam. It’s also important to consider what other grades are taken into account such as presentations or assignments. Usually, one exam doesn’t mean failure of an entire subject. 


Is it normal to fail exams?


Many people will fail an exam at least once in their lifetime. This is especially true at school because there are core subjects that everyone has to take and we can’t all be experts in everything. Although frustratingly, we all knew that person at school who seemed to breeze through every subject

For most kids, they will struggle with at least one subject and likely have their favourites too. Even if your child goes on to university, they will usually have to undertake some core classes that are compulsory and slightly left-field of their chosen study area. 

What’s more, even the brightest students can fail exams at times due to environmental factors. This could be changing schools (and possibly country) or their parents getting a divorce. Big life events can easily distract a child but it doesn’t mean they won’t get back on track again. 


What causes exam failure?


As we mentioned, there can be environmental factors that play on your child’s mind that can hinder them from studying and/or ruin their concentration. We won’t focus on these as a direct cause but be aware of any family or external issues they might be experiencing in the lead up to an exam. Is there any way you can help them feel more comfortable?

Here are some common causes of failing exams surrounding issues with preparation and knowledge, both key to any student’s success. 

  • Lack of revision, effort, or understanding

Although most kids try hard, of course, there are times when some students can identify they just didn’t put enough effort in. There are many reasons why this happens but it usually comes down to the fact they didn’t find the subject interesting. 🙄

It could be that it really wasn’t relevant to them and they couldn’t see the point, especially if it’s a subject that isn’t a part of their future plan. Or perhaps it was too challenging for their skillsets (one kid might fail PE but ace maths and vice versa) and they felt overwhelmed.

If it’s a core subject that they have to continue studying then you’ll need to find a connection for them to get them motivated. A good option is to find a tutor as they can teach the material in a manner, on a one-to-one basis. At GoStudent, we always create tailored learning plans for each individual student. Our tutors will help improve your child’s grades and boost their confidence. 

  • Ineffective studying

This is a very common trap that young people and students run into. Even if your child has studied every spare minute of the day, if they haven’t been taught how to study effectively, they can still fail an exam. This is heartbreaking for their morale but doesn’t mean they can’t improve. 

Here are some top tips to improve the quality of study time:

  • Don’t cram - this doesn’t lead to effective memorising or understanding of a topic. Space out study time. 
  • Use retrieval practise - if students just re-read material they often recognise it and feel that they know it as a result. It’s important to practise remembering information without looking back at it. 
  • Exam jitters 

It could be a simple but frustrating case of getting the exam jitters. If your child gets very nervous before exams it can impact how they think and process information. It’s common to misread questions in this state of mind and look like there was a knowledge gap but perhaps they knew the content. 

They could also have run out of time which means practising exams in the run-up to exam time in the future would be useful for them so they’re more relaxed and know what to expect. 


What happens if you fail your exams?


This will depend on what type of exam it is and what level of education your kid is at. A good starting point is for you or your child (depending on their age) to discuss it with their teacher or lecturer. Perhaps your child can retake the test or there were extenuating circumstances they hadn’t made their school or uni aware of. 


What to do when you fail an exam?


When your child fails an exam it’s likely they feel a combination of emotions. They could be angry, frustrated, shocked, embarrassed, depressed, and experience a range of other (usually) negative feelings. 

Let’s look at how you can help your child bounce back by making them feel better in the short term and planning for the future. ✨

  • How to deal with failing a test: making yourself feel better

Here are some of the best ways for your child to cope after failing an exam:

  • Relax - encourage them to breathe and not panic
  • Speak to someone - whoever they feel most comfortable with or all of the following for maximum benefit: friends, family, or teacher
  • Consider your options - a teacher will be able to guide your child on this
  • Lesson learned - even though it’s disappointing, you child will learn from it and figure out what went wrong
  • Distraction - do something they love, whether their hobby is cooking, music, running, etc.
  • What to do when you fail a test: positive steps for the future

Now that your child is hopefully feeling better about their exam result they should be able to concentrate on their future and positive action. 

If they know they need to improve their revision strategies in the future they can focus on improving their study habits. Creating a timetable to help break down their time into realistic chunks will help them feel more organised and give them the confidence they can achieve everything if they stay on track and don’t leave everything until the last minute. 

If they struggled with understanding the content then joining or starting a study group with peers could be useful. Getting a private tutor is another positive step they could take. One-on-one teaching presents the information in a completely different manner than in a classroom setting. If you find an online tutor, your child will benefit from feeling comfortable in their home too and feel less pressure.


How to cope with exam failure as a parent


If your child fails an exam it’s common that you might think they haven’t tried hard enough. However, as we’ve seen, there are many reasons why they may have failed, even if they dedicate many hours to studying. Either way, your support is going to be crucial for your child’s morale and motivation to continue learning. 

Recognising why they failed is a useful start. If they did try hard then you can’t be angry at their effort but instead will need to work out how to improve their knowledge and understanding going forwards. It’s normal for students to have strengths and weaknesses, just like we did at school

If the subject is compulsory and unavoidable (like maths or English) getting your child a GoStudent tutor can really help. Simply explaining theories and information in a different manner usually does the trick. Plus, your child can feel open enough to ask questions whenever they want and not be hesitant in front of peers. 

If you’re feeling upset with your child then make sure you calm down before having a serious conversation with them. When you’re ready, have an honest discussion with them. Ask them why they believe they failed the exam. Usually, they will know and you can make a plan of attack together. 👍


How to prepare your child for exams


Failing an exam is a chance for you and your child to improve things in the future. While from their point of view it might mean studying harder, joining a study group, or getting a private tutor, there is a lot you can do to help them.

  • Give them a nutritious breakfast on the day of the exam. While they should have this every day to support their brains it’s so important not to skip it on stressful exam mornings 
  • Talk to your child about how they feel and gauge their stress levels 
  • Make sure they have time off studying. Take them for a walk for an hour or out of the house to give their brain a rest and a chance to process the information they’ve been learning 
  • Remind them of other things they are good at outside of one exam or subject or even school/uni. If they’re an avid painter, reader, etc., encourage them to take some time off from study during exam time to enjoy their hobby

If your child fails an exam just remember the first thing you need to do as their parent is to stay calm. Together, you can work out what went wrong and from there you can put a plan into place on where to go next and give them the best chance of success at future exams. 

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