Alle Beiträge
Exam failure – learning from experience am 1. September 2023
ungefähr 4 Minuten
Kategorien: Studies
Themen: CTL , digital exams , Motivation , procrastination , self-management and time management

Exam failure – learning from experience

Failing an exam is an unpleasant thing. Suddenly, you find yourself in a situation in which you wonder: Why did I fail the exam? Did I study ineffectively? How can I motivate myself again? What can I do to pass the exam next time? With this article, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) wants to support you in dealing with exam failures.

What should I do if I fail an exam?

A failed exam is usually considered a problem at universities and in the entire education system. For the students concerned, having failed an exam is often a reason to worry, ranging from doubts about their own ability to learn and considerations about whether they have chosen the right degree programme to financial hardship.

Without colouring the situation, exam failure can also be seen as a helpful intermediate step – although this is usually only possible after you have processed the message about the failed exam.  For example, this experience will tell you how and what you should study for the exam or how you can acquire new competences. Sometimes it could also be useful to reconsider your specialisation or even your decision regarding the degree programme.


The following steps will support you in dealing with and reflecting on a failed exam in a structured way:

1) Be aware of your emotions and accept them

Failure hurts. Knowing that you have failed an exam, you might feel various emotions such as anger, incomprehension or despair. Be aware of them and give them space. It may be helpful to talk to someone about it or just to take time to deal with the disappointment. Do not jump into action immediately, but take a break and give yourself a treat.

2) Analyse the situation

Analyse the causes of the failure. What was your part in it: Did you underestimate the time required for studying (here you can find tips on time management, exam preparation and tips to avoid procrastination)? Did you notice gaps in knowledge of the content? Did you make careless mistakes? And which factors could you not influence yourself? Was the type of exam new to you? Evaluate the causes and learn from them for further steps.

3) View the exam documents and the feedback on the exam

Viewing the exam documents and feedback from the examiner is very valuable for analysing the causes of the exam failure. Take advantage of the opportunity, if possible: It is important to understand what worked well and what did not.This helps you to improve yourself. It is also relevant to know whether you failed the exam narrowly or very clearly.

4) Next steps

Avoid brooding about the failed exam. Instead, look ahead and plan your next steps (here you can find tips for increasing your motivation). Focus on what you can control and change. Leave the failed exam behind you as an experience and take with you what you have learned during this whole process.

Tips: Use the university support offers and other support structures


A failed exam is unpleasant for you personally and you are probably in good company. Sharing your experience with others can be supportive, especially in view of the next examination attempt:

Failure is an individual experience, which can mean different things depending on your personal situation. Quite commonly, it leads to self-doubt and feelings of loneliness. You can deal with this individual experience together – which might make it less stressful:

  • The Psychological Counselling Service offers a wide range of services and, in addition to initial information on the website, also offers free counselling via chat and in person. Sometimes there is a long waiting list, but do not be discouraged by that.


Do you want to read more? Then you might also be interested in our articles on the following topics:

How to univie: summer school

univie: summer schools provide you with the opportunity to study at the University of Vienna for one to four weeks during the summer months and gain credits towards your degree programme. It is a great opportunity to connect with international peers and renowned experts in your field of interest. About univie: summer schools univie: summer … Continued

Students of the University of Vienna dive into the Coral Reef

In the early morning of October 14, 2023, 13 biology students from both Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, together with Univ.-Prof. Martin Zuschin, Dr. Jürgen Herler and Angelina Ivkić, MSc from the University of Vienna, set off for Marsa Alam, Egypt. Their destination: the reef of Mangrove Bay. Before the trip began, even though the students … Continued

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top of page