How to Deal with Failure: Midterms

With midterm exams coming to a close (unless you are the unlucky few in classes with more than one midterm), and with the arguably worse midterm exam mark returns coming up, some might find that they have failed an exam or two. The ringing of defeat, and perhaps some self-deprecating jokes towards your peers about how you did so bad.  If it’s your first year in post-secondary, there is nothing like the first exam heartbreak. In the famous words of Sheryl Crow, ‘The first cut is the deepest, baby I know’.

I remember receiving my first failing grade on an exam in my post secondary years. After a relative breezy first semester in Computer Systems Technology, I was struck by a fatal blow, a 30% on a coding exam in the winter semester of 2017. Needless to say, I was devastated. Sure, it was in the class I knew I was currently performing the worst in so far, but to fail so spectacularly was not in any of my considerations.

The aspect I dreaded the most was people asking about each other’s grades. I was certainly not comfortable even knowing my own failing mark, let alone other people. However, I learned to just say “should have studied more” and give shrug. Often this is enough to get people off your backs, especially if your peers tend to be more academically competitive than you are.

Moving Forward

Another note I would like to tell newcomers about failing exams is that it is not the end of the world. With failure comes learning, and a better understanding of where you are at. I knew in particular that if I were to make it up in time for exams, I would have to change the way I approached the course. With that in mind, here are my three biggest personal suggestions for those willing to make a change.

1. Go to Office Hours

To put it plainly, there shouldn’t be a more primary source of help for a course than the person who presumably teaches them. I have found not only does attending office hours (with questions prepared!) not only increases your level of understanding, but puts you in a better light in your professor’s eyes. Not all professors are created equally, and some will be more helpful than others. In that case…

2. Go to Peer Tutoring

This free drop-in option to get help from students who have already taken the same courses at the Burnaby campus library is an underutilized source of help. Sometimes stubbornness gets in the way, other times social anxiety is the blockade. More information can be found at

3. Group Study

No man is an island, and no student in need of help should let themselves become one. Having others around you during studying periods keeping you accountable and to have another resource of help is a very powerful method to change studying habits. I found increasing the amount of time I spent studying (with the right people!) really did help with my marks. Be careful to stay on task, and not dine out too much after studying.

With an openness to change, and accepting that a failing mark or grade is not the end of one’s educational journey, one can overcome a lot. Especially if it’s in coding. Seriously, who makes exams marked out of 20?

Until next time,
Merina Leong

Got any feedback or new ideas? Let’s grab a coffee and chat!

2 thoughts on “How to Deal with Failure: Midterms”

  1. Hi Merina,

    Thank you so much for this post! Currently in semester 2 of CST and this is a dreaded fear (even though I have already failed a course within my post-secondary years; it just never disappears!).

    To read that someone as successful as you also went through that somehow comforts me. Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. Hi,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I recently just failed a midterm exam. I got 0%
    I am a hardworking individual but I made a big mistake. Sad

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