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Dealing with Exam Failure

Sad student lying on books

You emerge from the exam with a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. The possibility of failure suddenly feels very real and imminent. But within the high-pressure environment of law school, failure is a reality that is neither shameful nor uncommon. Rather than viewing a failure as a permanent blemish on your otherwise immaculate academic record, a little bit of perspective is essential. It’s important to rise above it and learn from your mistakes.

It’s not embarrassing

One of the most saddening and common elements of law student behaviour is the fear of judgment and comparison. Failure is not a thing of deep shame and whether or not you choose to tell others, the only person who truly has a right to judge the outcome is you. If you’ve accepted failure and feel at peace with it you’re more likely to succeed the next time around. Any additional pressure is unjustified and likely a result of that little negative voice in your mind. It’s hard to believe that everyone wants you to do well when law school is such a competitive environment, but truly, people are too consumed in their own studies to be giggling about your shortcomings.

There are ways around it

This is something that people seem to forget when they’re awarded a mark that is less than satisfying; universities have safeguards to protect you from failing several times. Just because you flunked property law the first time around, it doesn’t mean that you’ll end up repeating and repeating the subject until you eventually graduate in 2034.

Unis allow students to sit supplementary exams, study externally, partake in summer semesters, and if you’ve had a rough semester physically or mentally you may be eligible for special consideration to boost your grade. If not, sitting the subject the second time around allows for a deeper understanding of the content and you might just surprise yourself with how well you do next time.

Failure is an important lesson

Pffft… I know, right? It sounds like I’m clutching at straws to try and justify the deeper reasons we fail. But failure is absolutely crucial at some stage of your life, so why not get it over with in your university years? Many very successful lawyers admit to failing subjects (sometimes multiple times) and as a result have had the opportunity to hone in on that particular area and ended up specialising in it.

Failure is also the perfect time to apply some perspective to your study habits and evaluate where you went wrong – perhaps you exerted yourself too much, overcommitted at work, socially or just didn’t understand the course. Sometimes there’s no better catalyst than a tiny bit of hardship to put you in the right direction.

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