Whether you’re in high school, college, or graduate school, failing a class can be discouraging. However, most schools give students the option to retake a failed class in order to improve their grade. This raises an important question: Does retaking a failed class replace the grade?
The Short Answer
The short answer is: it depends on the policies of your specific school. Many schools allow students to retake a failed class, but have different rules regarding how the new grade will be counted toward your GPA. Some will replace the F with the new grade, others will average the two grades, and some keep both grades on your transcript.
Why Schools Allow Retaking Failed Classes
Schools allow students to retake failed classes for a few key reasons:
- To give students a chance to truly learn and master the material
- To allow students to recover from a particularly difficult semester
- To help students improve low GPAs that could prevent graduation
- To provide an opportunity to improve grades for graduate school applications
While the exact policies vary between institutions, most schools want to see their students succeed and so allow second chances on failed courses.
Types of Retake Policies
When it comes to how retaking a course affects your GPA and transcript, schools generally take one of these approaches:
With grade replacement, when you retake a class, your new grade fully replaces the previous F or low grade in your GPA calculation. For example, if you first got an F in Biology 101, but then retook it and earned a B+, your GPA would simply reflect the B+, not the failing mark.
With grade averaging, when you retake a class both the original grade and new grade are included in your GPA calculation. However, they are averaged together based on credit hours. So if you first got an F in a 4 credit class but retook it for a C, those grades might average out to a D in your overall GPA.
Original Grade Stays
At some schools, retaking a class will not replace your original failing grade at all. In this case, even if you pass the class the second time, your transcript will still show the original F and your GPA will continue to reflect it.
The Possibility of Grade Forgiveness
Some schools have grade forgiveness policies that allow failing grades to be omitted from your GPA after retaking a class. This is less common than replacement or averaging policies. Grade forgiveness is often only allowed for a limited number of classes.
At most schools, even if retaking a course changes your GPA, your original failing grade will still appear on your transcript. This means graduate schools and potential employers will still see that you failed a class, even if your improved grade also appears.
However, some institutions completely replace the original class on your transcript as if you took it only once. This approach gives students a true fresh start, but is rare among colleges and universities.
When Retakes Are Allowed
Schools often place limitations around when and how students can retake courses, such as:
- Allowing retakes only for classes you failed, not ones you passed but want to improve
- Capping the number of times you can retake a given class (e.g. only once)
- Requiring you to retake the class before earning a certain number of credits
- Only allowing retakes when space is available after new students enroll
Be sure to check with your advisor so you understand the exact requirements before registering to retake a course.
When Retakes Are Required
In some cases, your school may require you to retake a failed major-related course before allowing you to move forward in that field of study. Failing key prerequisite courses in your major often leads to mandated retakes.
Additionally, if you fail too many classes in one term you may be placed on academic probation and required to retake those courses to avoid dismissal. So re-enrolling in failed classes can be mandatory if you want to remain enrolled.
Strategies for Successfully Retaking a Class
If you end up needing to retake a failed course, here are some tips to help you succeed on your second try:
Reflect on What Went Wrong
Think about the factors that led to failing the class initially. Were you not putting in enough time studying? Struggling with key concepts? Dealing with outside stresses? Identifying the issues can help you address them.
Speak With the Instructor
Have an honest conversation with the professor about why you struggled. Ask for advice on how you can improve and what resources are available for extra help.
Change Your Study Habits
Modify your approach to learn more effectively. Increase study time, get a tutor, form a study group, or utilize office hours for more support.
Improve Time Management
Get organized so you stay on top of readings, assignments, exam prep, and other expectations. Manage your schedule wisely to meet course demands.
Focus on Weak Areas
Use practice exams, review sessions, tutoring, and other methods to strengthen the concepts, skills, or topics you struggled with most.
Find healthy stress relief outlets like exercise, socializing, or meditation to avoid burnout and stay mentally balanced.
What to Do If Retake is Not Permitted
While most schools allow retaking failed classes, some have policies that prohibit it. If you are not permitted a retake, here are some options:
- Request an exception: Appeal to an academic advisor or dean, providing reasons you deserve a fresh start.
- Change majors: Transfer to a new major where the class is not required.
- Withdraw and restart:Completely withdraw from the school and re-enroll later.
- Accept the failure: Learn from mistakes made the first try and move forward.
Here are some of the key points to keep in mind when retaking a failed class:
- Most schools allow retakes, but policies vary on if/how new grades replace old ones.
- Some schools average initial and retake grades, while others keep both grades.
- Reflecting on issues, improving study habits, and managing time and stress can help you succeed the second time.
- Policies may limit when and how often courses can be retaken.
- Even with retakes, the original failed grade often remains on your transcript.
The Bottom Line
While retaking a class allows a chance to improve your grade, it’s not guaranteed to replace the original failed grade in your GPA or transcript. Carefully review your school’s specific policies to understand the implications before re-enrolling. With strategic preparation your second time taking a class, you can often significantly better your grade and get your academics back on track.