Failing a subject
Information on what happens if you've failed a subject and what next steps you should take.
About failing a subject
Failing a subject can be disheartening but it is a good opportunity to review whether you’re studying subjects that engage and motivate you, whether you need to improve your study techniques or whether you need to adjust your study load. It is important to reflect on why you failed a subject and come up with some strategies to improve your performance for the following semester.
For student visa holders who fail a subject, this may mean you are no longer able to complete your course by your visa end date. You will need to plan how to catch up in case your visa cannot be renewed.
If you have failed a subject, the credit points won’t count towards your degree, but it may affect your WAM. You will need to repeat the subject, in the case of a core or compulsory subject; or ‘replace’ the subject with a different subject.
Considering withdrawing from a subject early in semester?
Visit the subject withdrawal page to learn about the consequences of withdrawing from a subject, important subject key dates, and the support available to help you make a decision.
How to know if you've failed a subject
You will only know if you have failed a subject once you see the final grade for a subject recorded in my.unimelb.
How it can affect your academic progress
The impact of failed subjects on your studies depends on how important the subject is in the progression of your course (ie whether it is a core, prerequisite, elective or breadth subject). Depending on what type of subject it is, you may decide to change direction in your course or change your major.
A failed subject may also extend the duration of your course, but it is often possible to catch up and graduate on time by enrolling in Summer and Winter Term and/or intensive subjects or overloading in future semesters.
If you fail a core or compulsory subject
If you fail a core or compulsory subject, you will not have met the academic progress requirements for your course and will receive an email with important information about your academic progress once results are finalised. If you’re “At Risk” of making unsatisfactory progress then you will be asked to complete a Return To Good Standing Plan. If your progress is deemed unsatisfactory, you may be invited via email to attend a meeting with the Course Academic Progress Committee (CAPC).
Find out more about unsatisfactory academic progress.
You will also need to enrol in that subject again to meet your course requirements.
If you fail more than one subject
If you fail 50% or more of your enrolled subjects within a half-year period, you will not have met the academic progress requirements for your course and will receive an email with important information about your academic progress once results are finalised. You will be invited to an appointment to discuss your progress and receive advice and guidance about getting back on track. Find out more about unsatisfactory academic progress.
If you fail a prerequisite subject
If you have failed a subject which is a prerequisite for a subject that you are currently enrolled in, you will be withdrawn from that subject as you will not have met the prerequisite requirement. You will be sent an email regarding the withdrawal.
If this occurs, you will need to either:
- Enrol in a new subject to replace the withdrawn subject:
- Check which subject is missing on your Study Plan in my.unimelb.
- Check the Handbook to view your course requirements and choose your new subject.
- Log into your Study Plan via my.unimelb, then enrol in the new subject.
- Apply for approval to remain enrolled in the withdrawn subject:
- Get written approval from the Subject Coordinator of that subject.
- Submit an Enrolment Variation request for a requisite waiver.
- Enrol in a new subject to replace the withdrawn subject:
If you are in your final year of study
If you have recorded a close fail grade in a subject, and you are in your final year of study, you may be eligible for additional assessment under the final subject assessment rule. The final subject rule is not something you can apply for. You will be contacted if you are eligible. Find out more about final subject assessment.
If you are planning to graduate this year, you will not be able to graduate if you have:
- failed subject/s in your final study period, or
- been offered a special assessment, and don't decline it before the deadline.
Visit the graduation eligibility FAQ for more information, including when and how to decline a special assessment.
If you are in a Commonwealth Supported Place or in an Australian Full-Fee place and are accessing a HELP loan
Legislative changes made by the Australian Government mean that from 1 January 2022, students who commenced their course from 2022 onwards must successfully complete at least 50 per cent of your subjects and avoid a low completion rate in order to maintain Commonwealth assistance. The Australian Government defines a low completion rate as:
- For bachelor level or higher course, failing more than 50 per cent of the subjects you have attempted, after you have attempted eight or more subjects.
- For a higher education course lower than bachelor, failing more than 50 per cent after you have attempted four or more subjects.
Any subject with a census date from 1 January 2022 onwards that you are enrolled in past its census date will be included in your completion rate calculation.
Subjects that you fail, or from which you withdraw after the census date (including before the last date to withdraw without fail), will count as a fail toward your completion rate.
If you can prove that special circumstances led to you withdrawing from, or failing, a subject, you will be able to apply for that subject to not count toward your completion rate.
If you have failed a subject, check your email at least twice per week after you have received all of your subject results, as you may receive an invitation to attend a meeting to discuss your academic progress. It is important to attend this meeting as it is an opportunity to address what went wrong and discuss options to help you improve your performance in the future and get your academic progress back on track.
Planning your next steps
Once a final grade for a subject has been recorded in my.unimelb:
- Confirm if you would like to make any enrolment changes for future study periods (change a subject, adjust your study load, withdraw from your course, or take a leave of absence) and check your eligibility to do so. You usually need to complete 50 points at one level before moving on to the next level of your course - for more information see Course progression rules. The Handbook provides information about course requirements, subjects offered for your course, and subject key dates (eg last date to self-enrol, census date, last date to withdraw without fail).
- Update your Study Plan via my.unimelb
- Continue to check your University email account at least twice a week for updated advice about your enrolment and academic progress, and respond by the due date provided if you need to take action.
Failing a subject might also be an opportunity to review or change your course plan. Find out what options are available to make changes to your course.
For international students on a student visa, unless you are in your final semester, failing a subject is not grounds for an extension of your student visa. You should plan to enrol in an additional Summer or Winter Term or intensive subject to remain on track. If your course structure does not allow for this, please book a course planning appointment.
Assessing why you failed
It is important to consider why you have failed a subject as this will help you to improve your study approach next semester and consider the impact on your academic progress.
- Exam performance
- Study techniques
- Eligible circumstances
- If your assessment was affected by circumstances such as illness or bereavement, check the eligibility requirements and deadlines for Special consideration.
- If your studies are affected by ongoing circumstances, you can Register for ongoing support.
If you have considered the above reasons and believe that your grade is not a reflection of your efforts, you can also request a review of your results.
If you performed below expectations in an exam, it is important to review your exam performance. Some departments, schools and faculties offer students the opportunity to have an exam review session. These discussions can help you understand your overall result; they are not an opportunity to request that your exam paper be re-marked or that your mark be adjusted.
Failing a subject may also indicate a need to review your study techniques, exam preparation or time management skills. Academic skills appointments and information sessions are available to help you build your study skills to maximise your chance of success.
Unforeseen or unexpected circumstances
If you failed a subject due to unforeseen or unexpected circumstances, you should familiarise yourself with the University's special consideration policy. After the final results release date, you cannot apply for special consideration. The only exception to this rule, is where you can demonstrate that exceptional circumstances prevented you from applying for special consideration by the due date. For more information about application deadlines visit special consideration.
If you have an ongoing issue that impacts on your study, you can register for ongoing support through your studies.
If you have considered the above reasons and believe that your grade is not a reflection of your efforts, you can request a review of your results.
Frequently asked questions
I haven't got all my results, but I think I've failed a subject. What do I do?
You will only know if you have failed a subject once you see the grade recorded in my.unimelb. See the results release schedule to know when your subject result will be available.
I’ve failed a subject but am enrolled in a quota subject in a future study period. What do I do?
If entry into the quota subject is based on academic merit, you may need to enrol in another subject. Please refer to the Handbook for subject-specific quota information.
I hold a student visa and was due to complete my course but have failed a subject in my last study period. What should I do?
You will need to:
- Enrol in remaining subjects on your study plan via my.unimelb.
- Request a Confirmation of Enrolment extension.
- Renew your visa by applying for a new student visa. Learn more on how to renew a student visa.
- If you need further assistance with course planning, wait until you have all of your results finalised and then book a course planning appointment.
- Read our Coping with failure tipsheet or browse our free Counselling & Psychological Services workshops
- Talk to Counselling and Psychological Services if you need further support with your mental health or developing skills to better cope with setbacks. You can book a confidential appointment online.
- For mental health support and advice after hours (including 24 hours on weekends and public holidays), students can contact the University’s After-Hours Mental Health Crisis Support Service (Phone: 1300 219 459, Text: 0480 079 188).