How to deal with a low uni grade

You received a low grade on an exam, now what?

At one point or another during your university journey, you may experience disappointment over an unexpectedly low grade. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us! I have been enrolled in uni for the last three years and I feel that I have seen it all – the good, the bad and the ugly. Even those students which I stereotype as the ‘really smart’ ones, who sit at the front of the class (you know the ones that I am talking about), are bound to have had a poor grade at least once during their degree. Find reassurance in knowing that you’re not alone. You are not the first person to get a ‘low’ grade, and you certainly won’t be the last.

From seeing firsthand how people deal with this, here is my advice. The first thing to do is to take a deep breath and, if needed, express your frustration - in a safe and healthy way. Some friends of mine find it best to vent to family or friends; others find it helpful to clear their head and go for a walk or bike ride; and some just cry it out. This acceptance phase is normal, but the key is not to dwell for too long! As clichéd as it sounds, life goes on. You still have other exams and assignments to focus on, so don’t let this one grade defeat you.

Caution! Never think that a low grade, be it in an exam or assignment, is reflective of your intelligence. It isn’t! You are worth more than a grade on a piece of paper. Exams, as crucial as they are for testing your knowledge, test your ability to remember a large portion of information in a short period of time. So it’s not worth beating yourself up over. It’s not the be-all and end-all, although at the time it can feel like it, but there is always another chance to “redeem” yourself.

Next step is reflection. Examine where you think the issue came from. Take responsibility for the result and reflect on your study plan leading up to that exam. Did you really study as hard or as effectively as you could? Did you focus on the right topics? If this wasn’t the case, possibly try to book in a meeting with your tutor to review these concepts and find where you went wrong. Keep in mind that your lecturers and tutors are always around to help you with this sort of stuff, and they only want to see you succeed. Perhaps you dealt with a personal situation, which may have been out of your control, which threw your performance off? This can be a tricky situation, and possibly you may be required to postpone studies for a semester while you deal with life. At the end of the day your mental wellbeing comes first. Make sure you talk with a close friend or family member. UQ even have free counsellors who you can visit for a confidential chat.

Most importantly, don’t give up! We hear this phrase so often that it has lost its impact, but it’s just as important as ever. Use this setback to motivate you to do better next time. So if you ever receive a lower-than-predicted grade in the future, remember to take a deep breath, reflect and take action. Step out and turn that C- into an A.

Until next time, happy learning.

Meet the author...

I’m Precious a third year pharmacy student. Although I am a science enthusiast with a love for all things health related, I am a creative at heart. My ultimate goal is to combine my love of health, nutrition, education and fashion into a long-lasting and rewarding career.


Last updated:
26 September 2016