Receiving a failing grade on an exam in an important college course is best described as a(n)

Note that the individual academic departments are responsible for managing the following exceptions and special circumstances for repeat courses. When questions arise, it is always best to consult first with an advisor in the specific academic department for guidance.

Courses at a different level

CHEM 203/204 can be used as a repeat of CHEM 171/172.

The following lower-level Physics courses can be used as a “repeat” of their respective upper-level course. Please note that in these cases, only the grade for the lower-level physics class will be factored into the GPA. All grade and credit for the upper-level physics class will be forfeited.

  • PHYS 121 can be used as a “repeat” of PHYS 141.
  • PHYS 122 can be used as a “repeat” of PHYS 142.
  • PHYS 123 can be used as a “repeat” of PHYS 143.

PHYS 121 and PHYS 122 can be taken as a repeat course for PHYS 121P and PHYS 122P, respectively. Or vice versa.

If students earn a C-, D+, D, or D- in Math 161, they can choose use MATH 142 as a repeat. In this case only the 142 grade will be in the GPA, and any credit for 161 will be forfeited. However, students who are satisfied with their 161 grade can take 142 without losing credit for 161. Students who choose the second option do not need to complete the Repeat Course Request form.

Students who do not pass MATH 161 have two options:

(1) They can take MATH 161 as a repeat; or

(2) They can take MATH 141 and then proceed to MATH 142. Upon completion of MATH 142, the failing grade for 161 will be removed from the GPA. The Department of Mathematics allows this because no more than one-third of the material in the two courses overlaps.

Students who are interested in using MATH 142 as a repeat for MATH 161 will need to email Jordan Ratzlaff at . Otherwise, students will receive credit for both classes, and both grades will be kept and factored into the GPA.

Writing Courses

Students who pass WRTG 105/105E with a grade below “C” can choose to take the course a second time for four additional credit hours, and with both grades in the GPA, or can choose to follow the standard repeat policy. This decision can be made through the Repeat Course Request Form.

Any of the following three courses can be used to repeat the others:

  • WRTG 105
  • WRTG 105E
  • WRTG 105A&B

WRTG 105 or WRTG 105E can serve as a repeat course for WRTG 105A under two circumstances:

  • When a student has received below a C in 105A


  • When a student has received above a C in 105A, but has special circumstances that warrant completing the primary writing requirementwith WRTG 105 or WRTG 105E (e.g., s/he must complete the requirement in the summer when only 105 is offered)

Students who complete WRTG 105A with a C or better and then complete WRTG 105B with a grade lower than C should just repeat WRTG 105B.

Students who want to take WRTG 105 a second time for an additional four credits will need to email Jordan Ratzlaff at . Otherwise, a students’ registration for a second WRTG 105 will automatically be considered a repeat.

First-Year Only Courses

Some courses, because of the way they are offered, cannot be repeated. PHYS 143 is one example of a course that is for first-year students only. A student who fails PHYS 143 should take PHYS 123 in the second year.

BIOL 112, another course that is for first-year students only, cannot be repeated. A student who earns a grade below "C" in BIOL 112 and wants to continue in biology may repeat the course by taking BIOL 110.

Courses that CAN Be Repeated for Credit

Some courses can be taken more than once with a credit and a grade earned each time. This is because the class number stays the same, but the topic and the content within the course changes. The most common such course is Applied Music: Lessons at Eastman with 130 or 160 as the course number.

Students can also take two-credit foreign language conversation courses such as FR 114 more than once. Students may take RUSS 126 no more than twice.

Students can earn credit for both ECON 207 and ECON 207H, and for ECON 209 and ECON 209H.

A student can receive credit for both CHEM 208 and CHEM 210 if they choose to take both. A student can also elect to replace a grade in CHEM 208 with a grade earned in CHEM 210. Students cannot, however, use a grade in CHEM 208 to replace a grade in CHEM 210.

Beginning in spring 2019, students may not earn credit for FIN 204 after having completed FIN 205.

Students can enroll in HIS 100 and earn credit more than one time; however, a student who wishes to repeat the course and replace the original grade must repeat the course under the same topic

Additional Special Circumstances

Of the following bullet points, each bullet point contains two courses in which students cannot earn credit for both courses:

  • PHYS 121 and PHYS 113
  • PHYS 122 and PHYS 114
  • CHEM 171 and CHEM 203
  • MATH 161 and MATH 171
  • MATH 162 and MATH 172
  • BIOL 190 and BIOL 198
  • MUSC 101 and MUSC 110
  • FIN 204 and FIN 205 (beginning in spring 2019)

Students can receive credit toward the degree for only one of the following courses—STAT 211, STAT 212, STAT 213, BIOL/STAT 214, CSSP/PSY 211, BCSC 200—students wanting to repeat a course must take the exact same course again for the repeat policy to apply. Questions about statistics courses should be directed to an advisor in the Program in Statistics.

In certain disciplines (e.g., modern and ancient languages, mathematics) students cannot register and receive credit for a lower-level course once the higher-level course is successfully completed.

PSC 200 can be used as a repeat for PSC 201 (PSC 201 is no longer offered).

Students may repeat BIOL 110L with BIOL 110. Note that BIOL 198 can be used as a repeat of BIOL 190.

  • A failed exam can come as a shock but shouldn't define your entire semester.
  • Avoid the temptation to quit a subject or ignore studying because of one bad grade.
  • Use the experience of failing an exam as an opportunity to work on your weaknesses.
  • Remember to stay calm and ask your professor for advice on how to improve.

I still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach my first year of college when our TA handed back our inorganic chemistry midterms. As a straight-A student in high school, I dreaded the thought of failing an exam.

When I finally worked up the courage to look at my test, I saw I'd earned a 61 — a failing grade — according to my chemistry professor. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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What I did next was a huge mistake: I put the exam away and decided right then I was bad at chemistry. A year later, I'd given up on my natural sciences track and moved over to the social sciences instead. Thanks to hindsight and my experience as a professor, I now know what I should have done differently.

Rather than taking proactive steps, I simply ignored the bad grade. Below, we'll go over how to avoid making some of the common mistakes if you (like me) have failed a test.

Failed an Exam? 5 Essential Steps to Take

Almost every college student receives a failing grade at some point during their program. Whether you forgot to study or simply don't understand the material, failing grades happen. So what can you do if you receive a low test score?

1. Don't Panic

If you've always done well in school — or even if you haven't — a failing grade can come as a shock. College classes raise the bar on expectations, and many first-year students struggle to keep up. In 2019, nearly 1 in 4 first-year students decided not to stay in college for their sophomore year.

This is why the first step to take if you've failed a test is to stay calm. Instead of panicking or falling into a spiral of test anxiety, take a deep breath. Failing grades are part of college, and an F on a test can teach you a lot — but only if you're willing to learn.

When I failed my chemistry exam, I barely looked at the test. The big red ink at the top told me everything I needed to know. But that approach meant missing out on a huge opportunity.

Reviewing your test is the best way to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Reviewing your test is the best way to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Did you miss points for not showing your work? Do you need to bring in more examples in your essays?

It's also possible you'll identify an error in your score. As a professor, I graded thousands of blue book exams. In a handful of cases, I added up the total incorrectly. That said, avoid searching your exam for every chance to pick up an extra point. Many professors will regrade your exam if asked, but they also reserve the right to lower your original grade.

Rather than trying to raise your current exam score, focus on the next test — even if you failed a final exam. In the long term, you'll gain much more by learning from your failing grade than trying to get an extra point or two.

3. Make a Plan

As a professor, I found that one of the most painful moments in class was handing back exams. Some students looked at their grades and then immediately tossed their blue books in the trash. I always wrote comments and feedback on every exam, and those students missed out on valuable information to raise their next test scores.

Not all graders leave comments, but you should still take notes as you review your exam. Once you've scoured the test for information, you can start making a plan for the next one.

Treat the exam like an assignment: Dissect it, analyze it, and draw useful data from it.

A test score offers valuable feedback on your study skills and your preparation for class. Did you spend too much time studying a concept that didn't come up on the exam and not enough time on the material that appeared on the test?

In my history classes, I divided in-class exams into short-answer identification questions and long-form essays. Many students were stronger on one part than another. Understanding your weaknesses can tell you what to do differently next time.

Maybe you need to drill the key terms more or focus on writing a strong thesis statement. Treat the exam like an assignment: Dissect it, analyze it, and draw useful data from it.

Plan to attend your professor's office hours as soon as possible after you receive your exam. Before that, though, make sure you carefully review your failed test and bring it with you. I still remember a student who cried in my office hours because she'd received a low grade on an exam — and she hadn't even seen it. A friend picked up the test and texted her the score.

Ask your professor for tips on how to improve for the next test.

Approach office hours strategically. You'll get nowhere by insisting on a higher grade or by complaining that you shouldn't have failed. Instead, focus your attention on preparing for the next exam.

Ask your professor for tips on how to improve for the next test, and see if they can offer any tips regarding review sheets, study guides, and/or study groups. Also, ask if you can email questions while you study for the exam.

Going to office hours can be intimidating, especially if you haven't done it before. But most professors want to help you succeed and are happy to discuss study approaches.

5. Prepare for the Next Exam

A failed exam can feel like a big blow. It can even cause test anxiety for the next exam. But try to stay focused on the ultimate goal: mastering the material and earning your degree.

Instead of wallowing, prepare for the next midterm or final. Implement the new study techniques you learned in office hours or gained by dissecting your previous exam.

Set aside more time to prepare for the exam and attend any review sessions your professor offers. Professors often drop hints about the material that will show up on the test during review sessions.

Focusing on the next exam shifts your attention from an area in which you have no control — the failing grade on your last exam — to an area in which you do have control: your score on the next test. Emphasizing improvement can also help rebuild your confidence.

Recovering Strong After a Failed Test

No one wants to fail an exam in college. But instead of falling into a spiral of self doubt or anger at your professor, learn from the experience. I gave up on chemistry very quickly after one failed test. With more confidence and practice, I could have turned that exam into a learning opportunity.

Don't let a single F define you as a student. In college, as in life, you'll always face setbacks. Learning how to gracefully respond to failures will shape your future more than a poor grade.

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