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What to do if you fail a subject

What to do if you fail a subject

Failing a subject at uni can feel like a huge setback, especially if you worked hard all semester. Maybe the subject matter was too complex. Maybe you had too much going on in your personal life. If you’re a new student, you may have been facing the challenges of adjusting to tertiary study. Whichever is the case for you, rest assured that you can get back on track to finish your course.

Check your institution’s policies

First up, check with your institution to see if there is the possibility to re-sit an exam, complete a supplementary assessment (usually only if you were close to passing) or have your assessments looked at again. If you’ve run out of options, get in touch with an academic adviser or your course coordinator to see if you will need to repeat the subject. Generally, this is only the case if it’s a core unit, a prerequisite for a subject you’ll complete later in your course or part of the unit sequence for your major. You can still attempt to re-do the subject if it’s not compulsory, but you may prefer to try your luck with another unit to make up the credits.

Consider the implications

Academically, you may not be able to proceed in your course or qualify for your major. If you’re at the end of your course, you may not be able to graduate until you have completed the required number of credits. The failed subject will also be displayed on your transcript and count towards your grade-point average (GPA), which can affect your chances of getting into student exchange or further study (honours programs, for instance). Future employers may also request copies of your transcript, particularly if you take up a position in a graduate program or enter a highly regulated profession such as accounting or engineering. Financially, you will still pay fees for subjects you fail. This could see you paying an additional few hundred dollars — even a few thousand — to make up your credits. Even if you have taken out a HELP loan, this is a significant cost to bear.

Explore support services

Your institution will have support services in place to assist you with any academic or personal issues you are experiencing. If the problem is academic (you can’t get the hang of a certain theory or writing style), your institution will offer services such as tutors and workshops that can help you improve your skills in order to bring up your grades. If you failed because you’ve lost interest in your course or have been affected by personal problems, it’s best to seek advice about adjusting your enrolment. You might be able to choose a less demanding subject, take some time away from uni or simply drop down to part-time mode.

Plan your next steps

Once you’ve had a chat to your institution and looked at the consequences, it’s time to think about your next step. You may want to adjust your enrolment, take some time out from uni, start the subject again or explore something new altogether. Whatever option you choose, you should be able to access support at your institution — from academic advisers, your course coordinator and individual tutors and lecturers. If you are worried about falling behind in your course or having to graduate later than your cohort, explore your institution’s catch-up options. Look for summer semesters and intensive units —you might be able to study an extra subject over the holidays to make up your credits and still graduate along with your friends!