How to Encourage Someone After an Exam or Test Failure

Updated on December 13, 2016

Failing An Exam

It is inevitable that most students will at one time or another fail an academic or work course exam. The feelings which result are often devastating. Often, the failure is not the result of lack of studying and preparation although often lack of commitment may be the primary factor in failure.

Feelings of shame and guilt often arise from failure at any task. Self-esteem takes a big negative hit, especially if one has been working hard at preparation for the exam or task in question. Very few people come out of exam failure unscathed by some negative feelings.

Just as in grief over significant loss, most people go through a series of emotions after their failure.

  • Most people become fearful of being unable to attain success in that particular course or school in general.
  • They either choose to give up and perhaps drop out.
  • Or, they make the choice to try again by using different strategies.
  • Some people react to failure by blaming someone else.
  • The teacher made the exam too hard.
  • They justify their lack of studying by blaming their failure on lack of good teaching, lack of appropriate location to study effectively or other "lies" they convince themselves are truths.
  • They may become angry and give up.
  • They may choose, after a cooling off period or through counselling with friends, that a better attitude will get them farther and again may try to achieve success through better strategies in the classroom and while studying.

Personal reaction to failure can determine if a person will eventually gain success. Friends and teachers can help make the difference by suggesting some key strategies of success.

Providing Encouragment To A Student Who Has Failed An Exam

1. Remind the student that he/she is only human.

  • All of us face failure at one time or another.
  • There is always something to learn which helps in doing better the next time.

2. Try to focus his/her attention on the importance of perseverance.

  • The only real failure is to give up.
  • Focus their attention on past successes in exams and assignments to boost their confidence.
  • Encourage them to focus on strategies they used which gave them success.
  • Have them write out their list of goals to encourage perseverance.
  • Let them vent their frustrations allowing them to purge themselves of the negativity.
  • Find examples of others who have had to take exams, tests and/or courses more than once and how by doing so they eventually found success.
  • Encourage them to take a break to rest their mind and refocus their priorities.
  • Continue to build on their self-esteem and confidence by lending a listening ear when needed.

3. Do not mock the person or make insensitive comments.

4. Help out the person.

  • Offer to share strategies you have used when studying which have given you success on exams.
  • Run errands for them and/or help them with chores to free up their time for studying with less distractions.
  • Suggest the need for a tutor and if the person is agreeable help them find a suitable one.
  • Remind them again about their goals for the future and help them become excited again about their future plans.

5. Point them towards resources that can help them get back on the right track.

Just Be A Compassionate Friend To Someone Facing Exam Failure

Most people who fail an exam just need a shoulder to cry on. They need someone to help them pick up the pieces and persevere through the experience. The above strategies can help you be there for a friend in need. At the very least you can be that tiny voice which reminds them to never give up!


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    • profile image

      Bokang Daniel Talenyane 14 months ago

      These ideas are very helpful because i felt so speechless simply because I feared that I might hurt her while trying to console her

      Thanks a lot for these ideas

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I agree Billy. I'm going through exams with a class today. It will break my heart for one or two anyway if they fail the exam or the course. Take care my friend!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent suggestions, Teresa! It was so hard as a teacher to fail someone who I knew was trying hard. On the flip side, it was so exciting to see them succeed later on.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks tirelesstraveler, it is so true. If we can learn from our "failures" then they really weren't failures after all! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      These ideas are critical for helping students. The idea that you are a failure if you don't do well on a test permeates society.

      The first time I took the G.R.E. I had pneumonia and coughed throughout the entire test.

      The room was all wood and echoed with each cough. I was so embarrassed. I don't remember the results, I threw them away.