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What If I Fail?

If you find that you've failed an exam or assessment, it isn't necessarily the end of the world. This page explains how the University organises resits and supplementary years. It should be read in conjunction with the University’s Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes and your school handbook. If you have any further questions, please contact Just Ask

Most taught programmes at the University of Bristol are modular, which means that they are broken up into units, each of which carry a certain number of credit points.  The exceptions are professionally accredited courses such as Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, PGCE and Social Work.

At the end of each year, the amount of credit points that you have gained are calculated and, if you’ve passed them all you can progress to the next year or stage of your programme. 

If you've failed a unit, then you're likely to be offered a second attempt (resit). For undergraduate students who aren’t in their final year you must have passed at least 40 credit points at the first attempt for this to be possible. For some courses there are additional criteria, so check your course handbook. For taught postgraduate students, you must have passed at least half of the credit points in the taught component before you will be allowed a second attempt at any failed units. 

How are resits marked?

Resits, or second attempts, are usually capped at the minimum pass mark. For undergraduate level units, this means that you will only be able to achieve a mark of 40/100 even if your work is of a higher standard. For postgraduate level units, the pass mark is 50/100. 

Even though marks for second attempts are capped, the school and faculty exam boards will be able to see what the actual scores were for all second attempts. In some circumstances they can make adjustments based on this. 

If you have extenuating circumstances that affected your performance in your first attempt, you may be offered a further first attempt at the assessment during the resit period. You must have submitted an EC form before the deadline so that the exam board can take your ECs into account. If you have a good reason why you were unable to submit your EC form before the deadline, you can appeal to ask for your resits to be considered as first attempts. Please see our page about Academic Appeals for more information. 

When and where do resits take place?

Second attempts at exams usually take place during August/September each year. The resit exam timetable is released in early August. In 2021 resits will be online for the majority of programmes. 

If you are on a non-modular programme your resits may be outside of the normal exam periods. 

What happens if I need to resubmit coursework?

If you need to resubmit some coursework, you will be given a deadline for this by your school office. It’s likely to be at some point during August, but this may vary. 

When do I get the results?

Resit results are released during mid-September each year. You will receive a faculty decision letter to let you know whether you have passed or not and whether you are able to proceed to the next year of study. This letter is usually attached to an email. It’s possible to appeal against faculty exam board decisions. Please see our page about Academic Appeals for more information. 

What happens about my postgrad dissertation?

If you are on a taught postgraduate modular programme it’s likely that you will have a dissertation or project to hand in during early September. If you have to take resits during August/September you should be allowed an extension on your dissertation deadline. This sometimes happens automatically, but you should double check with your school office. 

I’m on a non-modular programme, what will happen for me?

If you've failed an assessment in a professionally accredited course such as Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, PGCE or Social Work the rules are slightly different. These courses are non-modular and assessments often take place outside of the main assessment periods. 

You are likely to be offered a second attempt at an assessment fairly quickly. Depending on the situation, you may have to fulfil additional criteria. If you fail more than one assessment or fail again at second attempt but have validated extenuating circumstances, you may be offered the opportunity to repeat the entire year. 

What happens if I fail my resits?

There are a number of possibilities depending on the circumstances.

Undergraduate students on modular programmes: 

  • If you have failed less than 20 credit points at second attempt and these are not ‘must pass’ units, and your overall average for the year is at least the pass mark, you may be able to ‘conditionally progress’. This means that you’ll be able to retake the unit(s) you have failed alongside your next year’s study. However, this is only possible on certain specific programmes so you should double check your course handbook to see if it applies to you. Seek advice from your school office if you are unsure. 
  • If you have failed less than 20 credit points at second attempt, and the conditions above don’t apply, you can be offered a third and final attempt at the unit(s) during a supplementary year (see below). 
  • If you have failed more than 20 credit points at second attempt, you may be required to withdraw from the University.  
  • If you have extenuating circumstances you may be offered a further attempt at any number of units during a supplementary year, or the option of an entire repeat year. 

Undergraduate students on non-modular programmes: 

  • Students on professional programmes such as Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science will be expected to repeat the entire year as opposed to just the units that they have failed. This is because the professional bodies who accredit the courses require students to show that they can manage the workload within the time available.  

Taught postgraduate modular students: 

  • If you have failed any of the taught component at second attempt, you may be offered a further attempt at the assessment(s) you have failed if you have extenuating circumstances. 
  • If you have passed the taught component of your course but you receive a mark of less than 45 out of 100 for your dissertation, you will be required to withdraw with a Postgraduate Diploma, unless there are extenuating circumstances. 
  • If you achieve a mark between 45 and 50 out of 100 for your dissertation, you will be offered a chance to resubmit your dissertation. The resubmitted dissertation will be capped at the minimum pass mark unless there are extenuating circumstances, in which case the resubmission can be considered as a first attempt. 

Students on postgraduate programmes that include placements such as PGCE or Social Work may be able to repeat their placement if they fail that element of their course. 

What is a supplementary year?

If you need another attempt at an assessment to be able to progress to the next year of study, you're likely to be offered a supplementary year. You may be offered a repeat year if you are on a non-modular programme, or if your whole year has been affected by extenuating circumstances. 

Doing a supplementary year, although it can be a bit of a shock to suddenly find out you have to do one, can be a great opportunity for you to spend some time doing other things outside of your academic work. Here are just a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Kick start your CV by getting work experience/internships. The Careers Service is a good place to start. 
  • Get involved with the SU. We have loads of societies and sports clubs, and there are lots of ways to get involved with student democracy and representation. 
  • Get involved in the community by volunteering.  
  • Attend skills workshops  

Supplementary years can be 'exams only' which means that you would not have to attend teaching, or they can be 'with attendance' in which case you will be expected to attend teaching associated with the unit(s) you are taking.  


If your supplementary year is with attendance, you will only have to pay tuition fees for the units that you are registered for, which means that the fees will be much less. For ‘exams only’ supplementary years there is normally no charge.  

Student finance:

If you are receiving student finance, it’s likely that your funding will cover an additional year should you need it. You will receive student finance as normal as long as you are registered to attend some teaching in each teaching block. If the assessments you need to repeat are only in one teaching block, it may be that your school can register you on extra units so that you can attend throughout the year. If you are an 'exams only' student you will not be entitled to any student finance.  


If you require a student visa, this will be fine as long as you are registered to attend teaching throughout the academic year. It may be possible for your school to register you on additional units so that you can attend throughout the year. 

I’ve been ‘required to withdraw’, what can I do?

If you receive a faculty decision letter that says that you are ‘required to withdraw’ you will no longer be a student at the University unless you appeal against the decision and your appeal succeeds. Please see our page about Academic Appeals for more information and contact Just Ask for advice. 

If you are required to withdraw it means that you will no longer be able to access University facilities. 

If you have a student visa, the University is obliged to inform the Home Office that you’ve been required to withdraw and you will receive a letter saying that you have 60 days to leave the country. However, if you appeal the University's decision and your appeal succeeds, the University will update the Home Office and your visa will be reinstated. You can get more advice on visa issues from the University's Student Visa Services. 

If you are living in student housing but you stop being a full time student, you are likely to become liable for council tax for the property. If you are the only person in the properly who isn’t a full time student you will be able to apply for a single occupier discount. If your name is on a Council Tax bill and you are on a low income without any capital you may be entitled to Council Tax Reduction.