Career / Career Progression

Top 10 Ways to Rebound from Failing an Exam

by Raju Woodward
Top 10 Ways to Rebound from Failing an Exam picture: A
Published on July 2, 2014

So that exam threw you a few curveballs, and unfortunately, you didn't achieve the results you hoped for. You crawled into a hole, shed a few tears, and blew off some steam. Now it's time to pick up the pieces. But sometimes, that's easier said than done.

We reached out to our trainers and our social media fans for advice about how to deal with failing  — and get back on track to conquering! Here are the top 10 ways to rebound from failing an exam:

10. Schedule an exam retake ASAP. We know what you're thinking: "Whaaat? I'm still reeling — and you want me to think about the taking exam again already?" Hear us out, or rather, trainer Chris Ward: "Having failed an exam recently I can honestly say that scheduling the retake ASAP is vital," Chris said. "It helps get through the, 'Dang it! I failed it!' to 'OK, I've seen the exam and now I know where I need to concentrate harder.'"

9. Look on the bright side. Trainer Ben Finkel argues that failure should be viewed as a positive, because it means you stepped outside of your comfort zone and are learning something new. So in that regard, even though you failed, you still made progress toward learning a new technology. The bottom line: Keep at it!

8. Take a break. Do something fun to decompress and re-energize before you attempt retaking an exam. Trainer Garth Schulte recommended reading a book or taking a quick vacation, or both. Reading the latest John Grisham novel while lying on a Caribbean beach sounds like the perfect way to recharge your batteries, doesn't it?

7. Remember the end goal. Think of the exam process as a marathon, not a sprint. What matters in the end isn't how quickly you earn a cert, but that you actually understand and can apply your knowledge and skills. It can be better to pass an exam with flying colors the second time around than to barely pass on the first try. Mastery, not just knowing the right answers, should be your end game.

6. Target your weaknesses. One of the benefits of failing an exam is that you know what to expect when you take the exam again. Taking that a step further: You know what you struggled with on the exam, so use that knowledge to guide your studying the second time around.

5. Don't just focus on the answers. It's easy to get caught up in right or wrong answers. But people often choose the wrong answer because they didn't fully understand the question. So take note of the questions you missed, review them, and make sure you thoroughly comprehend them. Think of it as a self brain dump. [Please note that this self brain dump is meant for your eyes only! Don't even think about violating non-disclosure agreements you might have signed. And remember that using brain dump sites constitutes cheating.]

4.  Share your knowledge.  You'll probably feel pretty down after failing an exam. But teaching someone else what you DO know can help remind you that your efforts weren't in vain. The process also can help reinforce your knowledge, and more importantly, help you regain the confidence you need to take that exam again.

3. Lab it up. Hands-on experience is one of the most effective ways to learn and retain knowledge. So set up a lab if you can, and approach studying from a real-world perspective. It could be the difference you need this time to pass the exam. [For resources on setting up your own labs, check out tip #2 in our Top 10 Ways to Up your Study Game post.]

2. Learn with others. Some people learn best with their peers. So why not try studying with the help of your fellow students or coworkers? Hold a quick discussion group during lunch. Use a whiteboard and draw out concepts. You'll be surprised how much you can learn — and how much people want to help you succeed!

1. Don't give up. Sure, failing an exam stinks. But you've come too far (and spent too much time and money) to abandon your certification journey just because of ONE setback (or two, or…). Refocus and reorganize, take advantage of retake vouchers, and try again. There's a good chance the next try will pay off — because you've learned from your experiences!

Failing is never fun but it's the not the end of the world. With the right attitude, you can turn it into a positive. Consider these words of wisdom from trainer Scott Morris:

"If you believe you will get through life without failure, then you are definitely not trying hard enough!  Everyone fails at one time or another… Some more spectacularly than others!  But what makes someone great is how they deal with it." 

What are your tips for rebounding from failing an exam? Share yours in the comment section below!

Reminder: Our Premium subscriptions include accountability coaching services, which can help you reach your certification goals.


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