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Ouch, I Flunked: Dealing with Failure

It’s easy to get discouraged when you embark on a project with high hopes and a vision, only to fail. It can be especially hard when you’re a teenager. However, you must realise that not succeeding at first doesn’t mean you have failed; unless of course, you stop trying, in which case you really have failed.


If you write an exam and fail it, it could mean different things. It could be that you didn’t study your course materials enough, or you didn’t study the right way, or you went about answering questions the wrong way. There’s always something to learn.


Re-sitting an exam is an opportunity to do better than you could ever have imagined— if you remain optimistic. Choose to see the opportunity and advantage this gives the new you. Yes, the new you; you are not the same person who took the exams the first time.

    • Go through the steps you took and methods (acronyms, songs, straight cramming?) you used while preparing for the exam; what worked? What didn’t?


    • Talk to your teacher about why you didn’t pass. Were your answers wrong or did you answer off point? Was it your grammar or spelling?


    • Assess your reading/study habits. Are you an owl (a night person) or a lark (a morning person)? You don’t have to wake up at night to study just because everyone else seems to be doing so. If you force yourself to study at a time that isn’t favourable for your assimilation, you’ll end up wasting precious time. If you feel more alert in the mornings, then wake up an hour or two earlier to study. If your energy levels are up in the evenings and not in the morning, stay up late to study before you sleep. Morning, afternoon or night, choose a time that works best for you.


    • Create a discussion group, or find a study partner. Most young people don’t tap into this great resource early enough. I didn’t discover discussion groups until University. Talking about a topic with someone else is a great way to make it stick. And playing “you teach me, I teach you” can be real fun as well.


    • Keep the big picture in mind. Never lose sight of where you are going and who you want to be. A doctor, lawyer, architect, journalist…most professions require a degree, and to get that degree you need to pass JSCE, then O’ levels and sometimes A’ levels. Then there’s UME (popularly called JAMB), and some people even had to do POST UME to get to the University. And even if you want to be in business for yourself, you still need an education.


    • Remember the other exams you’ve passed, especially those you passed very well. This helps to boost your confidence as you prepare to rewrite your paper. You can do it!


    • Ask God for help. David said in Psalm 121:1, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from Jehovah, maker of heaven and earth.


Go give it your best!


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Joy Ehonwa

Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at]

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