Academic Study Skills, Health and Wellbeing, Managing your money, More, Supporting your study

Re-sitting an exam? Top tips to keep you on track

Our student intern Victoria shares some advice for students re-sitting exams this summer.

After months of lectures, work and revision, it can be really disheartening to get your results only to realise that you have failed an exam. As a previous student shared, ‘nothing can prepare you for that sinking feeling’, and whether the news is expected or a complete surprise, the thought of re-sitting exams during the summer can be really daunting.

Despite the set-back, there is every chance that you can get the results you want the second time around and no reason why this hurdle should ruin your entire summer. Here are some simple steps to approach the situation calmly, so that you can confidently pass the re-sit and progress to the next stage of your degree. Firstly, make sure you’ve read our guidance for students who have failed their exams which contains lots of information on result codes and extenuating circumstances.


Try not to be too hard on yourself

 You may feel sad, shocked or filled with dread at the thought of re-sitting during the summer months, but please try not to be too hard on yourself. Unfortunately, these things do happen (to more students than you think) and you should not let it define you.

The news may take a toll on your self-esteem, especially if the news was unexpected or if you’re the only person who failed (on this note, remember that not all students do not feel comfortable sharing with course mates that they have failed). Holding onto negativity will do you no favours so, after letting the news sink in, try to be as positive as possible towards the coming re-sit. Read our blog on spotting negative thoughts and overcoming unhelpful thinking habits.

Talking about things with someone can help you get your internal struggles off your chest and put your initial panic into perspective. You could talk to a friend, course mate or one of our Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team who are available at the Student Support Centre during the summer months. They can provide face-to-face support or you can arrange to speak to you via telephone, email, instant messaging or Webcam.

You’ve fallen at a hurdle, but that in no way means that you can’t jump over it this time, so please don’t be too hard on yourself.


 Contact your lecturer or tutor

You may already have an idea of why you didn’t perform as well as you could have, or you may be dumfounded at what you thought was at least a pass. Either way, it’s worth discussing what went wrong with those who know best.

Your lecturers can provide you with feedback and specific advice related to the course content. They may be willing to talk through what went wrong in your exam and give you a head start in preparing for August.


Ask your course mates for help

Ask for useful preparation tips, or if you feel your revision materials were not originally up to scratch, you could request any books or revision notes to help you be fully prepared this time.


Get into a revision routine

Advice from friends and tutors can go a long way, but only so far. At the end of the day, the only one who can pass the exams is you. You have to get back to the grind, but when you do, try to recognise any of the factors which may have affected your performance last time.  Try to allocate a specific number of hours a day and avoid distractions during this time.

Remember that revision does not have to be a prison sentence. Three hours of productivity can be far more useful than six or seven hours staring at a book and waiting for something to happen! Use your time wisely and ensure that you have some spare time for summer activities. You will often be more productive when you have some rewards to work towards.



Keep in mind these in-exam tips:

Ensure you answer the title you’re given, not the title you wish you were given!

  • Highlight the subject on which the title is based – what is the topic actually about? This will direct your research and reading to ensure you are planning for the assignment in front of you. Keep your focus – ensure all reading is relevant to build your argument. In an exam – keep your focus on the topic to help your writing remain relevant and to stop you from going off on a tangent.
  • Highlight the key words within the title – what is the essay asking you to do? Explain, Compare and Contrast, Describe… This will set the tone for how you approach and construct the main body by using the relevant approach of writing style.
  • Once you’ve planned your essay- go back and check that it outlines the answer to your essay title. No matter how well you write it, if it doesn’t answer the title given, you won’t be awarded the marks.

Manage your time wisely!

  • Make a plan – a plan helps you focus and allows you to quickly note down all your key points. If you dive straight in you risk forgetting ideas along the way and going off on a tangent. Plans can take any form you like; linear, mind map, bullet points – choose the method that suits you best, but don’t just re-write your revision notes. Think about the question and jot down the relevant information.
  • Be strict with your time – don’t be tempted to spend too long on any one answer – even if it is a question on your favourite topic. Look at the weightings of each question and spend the appropriate amount of time planning and answering them.
  • Proof read – in your time plan allow at least 5 minutes per essay to proof read what you have written. Sub-vocalise (i.e. imagine you can hear each word in your head- obviously don’t speak) or use your finger to focus on each word, as you are more likely to spot mistakes this way.



Learn and improve

If you aren’t re-sitting an exam in order to graduate, but revising in order to progress onto your next programme of study in September, you should re-evaluate your approach to future exams or essays. You don’t want to face re-sits again, so you will need to determine what led to you initially failing and what you need to do to prevent a reoccurrence.

Ask yourself…

Did you do enough work during term-time?

Evaluate your work-life balance. Whilst university is a good opportunity to meet new people and try new things, these things should not come at the expense of your academic work. Keeping a balance between university work, leisure and social or other commitments is key.

Did you select a module that you weren’t suited to, or didn’t enjoy?

You may have to be tactical and adapt by changing your module choices in order to match what you are most comfortable with. You should consider this and discuss it with your lecturer. If there are core modules that you can’t change and find difficult – you should dedicate a lot of time to the module. They say you should dedicate the most time to the module you find the most difficult.

Were your revision notes good enough?

If your revision notes weren’t good enough, or you didn’t have enough of them, make a resolution to improve your attendance, alter your note taking techniques and increase your productivity during lectures and seminars throughout next year.

You may not be sure of your preferred revision style and be struggling to know how to take the necessary information in. Experiment between several techniques and you will gradually learn which one is best for you, or consider if our Academic Study Skills service could help. 

Did you experience any issues or problems that became a distraction?

Our Counselling, Health and Wellbeing service offers a range of support such as wellbeing drop-in sessions and counselling, either one-to-one, via telephone or online, as well as self-help resources and interactive workshops. No matter what issue you may be dealing with, however big or small, you do not have to face your struggles alone. Support is here so you can achieve the results you deserve.

Read our blogs for more tips

We have a whole host of blogs on exam and assessment tips – and you can find them all here.


Your feedback and help please

Have you found this blog post useful?  Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and  if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.

We’d also be grateful if you can share this information by re-tweeting or sharing with your fellow students who may find this useful – you can do this by using the share buttons or via twitter and facebook.


Best wishes
Victoria, student intern.


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The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.

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