Tips to Transform Failing Grades into Academic Success

We’ve all been there. Well, most of us; some people were born genius 😉 But really, there have probably been times in our lives where we didn’t meet our academic expectations because of one reason or the other. In most academic systems, many factors of testing add up to getting good grades in a class. They include homework, quizzes, tests, research papers, group, and individual projects, attendance and participation, and examinations. These factors weigh different percentages, depending on the teacher or institution marking scheme, and lagging in one or more of them may result in less expected grades or failing the class altogether.

In any class or subject, asides working hard generally, it’s important to know the grading systems and what testing factors weigh the highest, so you can actively work on those. You should also be able to track your grades and know how well you’re doing anytime during the semester or term.

This onus rests even more on students in tertiary institutions who don’t have teachers that reach out to them to help, unlike primary and secondary institutions. For example, some courses put more weight on attendance and participation, and you may be working so hard to study and pass your exams and tests when the most work you have to do is answer questions and be actively involved in class discussions.

You should definitely study for exams, but knowing where to put more effort than others is equally important.

If at any point you’re failing a course or a subject, here are a few tips to help you get back on track:

1. Breathe

Getting your scores back from a huge exam that weighs a lot and finding out that you didn’t do as well as you hoped to can be quite disappointing, especially if it’s a core class. However, take a deep breath and try to be calm. Remind yourself that, like any form of failure or rejection, your grades don’t define you. They literally don’t. The real measure of academic success is actually learning and being able to apply what you’ve learned in the real world. We, however, still have to be excellent in school for many reasons. So, while trying not to be disappointed in yourself, calmly think of active ways you can get back on track in the class.

2. Talk to Your Teacher

While many courses and subjects are different, and require different approaches to succeed in them, an excellent resource to approach for help is the teacher of the course or subject. I mean, who better to help you than the person who knows all about the subject and partially determines if you pass or fail the course?

Ask them why they think you didn’t do well on the test you flopped or why you’re failing the class generally and what you can do to improve. Regularly use their office hours if you have questions you can’t ask in class. This will help them know your face when you do participate in class like answer questions, especially in large classes.

For students in primary and secondary institutions, this part of the job may be cut out for you because teachers are more concerned and will reach out to you themselves. Some may even request to see your parents if they see that your grades are not getting any better. For higher education students, professors and lecturers are not as forthcoming. However, if you reach out to them intentionally, they are more than happy to help. Unlike what we may think of them, no teacher likes to fail their students. For some of them, their jobs depend on the percentage of students that succeed in the class, so don’t feel shy or ashamed to approach them for help.

3. Everything Matters

At this point in the semester or term, everything that contributes to your grades should matter. Attend every class, prepare ahead so you can answer questions and participate in class discussions, take advantages of extra credit points, study well for every test and exam and put your all into any assigned project. Take every opportunity to improve your grades from here on out. It’ll all add up in the end.

Academic success is a feat we all seek to achieve in every one of our classes. However, you don’t have to wait until you’re failing to use these tips. They are lifesavers if your academic boat is sinking and also good skills to help you scale through regardless.

Remember, in any phase of education you find yourself, seek to actively learn and be able to apply what you’ve learned in real life situations. This, and more makes you an all-rounded student.

Related: Proper Techniques of Handling Academic Failure


Have you ever failed academically and eventually worked it out? How did you do it? Feel free to share in the comments below for others to learn.

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