TAKE NOTE: The content on this page is only relevant for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Education (B.A.(Education), B.Ed. and B.Sc. Kin). Undergraduate students in other Faculties and graduate students should contact their Faculty for the appropriate information.

Help with Academic & Personal Problems

 On This Page:


Failing a course

If you fail a course, you may wish to consult your departmental academic advisor to discuss your options. Depending on the type of course (required or elective course), the grade ("D", a conditional pass, or "F", failure), your performance in your other courses, and the attendant circumstances for the failure, there are three alternatives:

  1. repeat the course;
  2. substitute another course for the one you took;
  3. apply to write a supplemental examination.

If you fail a required course, you should consult with an adviser about modifying your course choice. For example, you should not take Calculus II when you have failed Calculus I.

Required courses (including subject area courses in the B.Ed.) and prerequisite courses must be passed with a "C" or better. You must either repeat required or prerequisite courses in which you received a grade of less than "C", OR you may choose to write a supplemental examination. Ordinarily, you may replace complementary courses with other optional courses. If you fail an elective course, you may replace it with a different elective course

If you repeat a course for which you have already earned a grade of "D", you will receive credits for the course only once.

You should apply for a supplemental examination only under the following conditions: your GPA is 2.50 or better; you have reduced your course load for the Winter term or you do not have a heavy summer schedule; or you know the material well and will have little trouble studying for the supplemental exam on your own.

Illness (in course, during exam)

Missed assignments

If, due to illness, you have missed assignments or mid-term examinations, see your professor and try to make alternative arrangements. You must be prepared to provide a medical certificate to confirm your illness. Examinations for multi-term courses during the Fall-term final examination period in December are treated as mid-terms and alternative arrangements must be made with the professor.

If you have fallen too far behind to catch up in a course, contact ISA for an appointment with the Student Affairs Director to discuss possibilities such as withdrawing from the course (even after the withdrawal deadline) or to make arrangements for you to write a deferred examination. If you are too ill to come in person, email isa.education [at] mcgill.ca . All requests for late course withdrawals and deferred exams are handled by ISA.

Missed final exam

If you miss a final examination, come to the ISA counter with a medical certificate within one week after the examination date to apply for a deferred examination. The medical certificate must cover the date of the missed examination and indicate the nature and duration of the illness.

If you become ill during a formal examination, tell the invigilator that you are ill. You will be escorted immediately to Health Services. Bring a medical certificate to the ISA counter within one week after the examination date to apply for a deferred examination. The medical certificate must cover the date of the missed examination and indicate the nature and duration of the illness.

If you complete the examination in routine fashion or simply walk out of the examination without notifying anyone of your situation, the grade you receive will remain on your record and cannot be changed.

Making Academic decisions

1. What is the difference between an uninformed and an informed decision?

Uninformed decisions are often made when a)It doesn't seem all that important which choice you make, or b) the problem is not that complex and the decision doesn't have large consequences.  

You can make uninformed decisions either intuitively, impulsively or randomly.  However, one of these methods of decision-making is necessarily inappropriate.  For example, you might decide intuitively to wear your raincoat because you have a feeling that it might rain.  You might decide impulsively to go to a concert at the very last minute. You might pick your choice of movie randomly by flipping a coin.

If your decision involves more complexity and has larger consequences, you should make an informed decision.

Informed decisions:

  1. Lead to focused, planned action.
  2. Are the result of gathering information, identifying alternatives, visiting your values and designing strategies

Choosing your departmental program of study, or where you want to live, are both examples of consequence-holding decisions that can benefit from informed decision-making.

2. How can you make an informed decision? - a decision-making method:

  1. What is the problem? Identify and name the problem.
  2. What are the possible solutions? List all possible solutions.
  3. What do you need to know in order to choose a solution? Gather information that will help you decide what to do.
  4. What would happen if you chose a particular solution? Identify the outcome of each solution by listing the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  5. How do you decide which solution to choose? Prioritize the advantages and disadvantages in order of their importance to you- check your values.
  6. Choosing a best solution. Choose the solution that has the greatest number of most important advantages and the least number of disadvantages.
  7. What if there is no 'best' solution? Choose the 'next best' solution, one that is not ideal but which you can accept and live with.
  8. Putting your solution into gear. Make an action plan.
  9. Act. Carry out your action plan.
  10. Monitor. Observe and evaluate the results of your actions.
  11. Apply what you have learned for next timeKeep actions which generated positive results; eliminate those that didn't.

On-campus resources:

Departmental academic advising. Your academic advisor can support you in your decision making process.

Student Wellness Hub (Student Services)


Self assessment is the key to academic success. External factors are often the root of academic problems, but they are not always a direct cause of poor grades. Rather, it is often the decisions you make in dealing with your problems that have a direct effect on your grades. You have a great deal of control over your academic success.

For example, you may describe your academic performance this way: "Being ill with mono all term, I was forced to miss classes. I decided to keep all of my courses because I didn't want to fall behind, and I wrote all of my finals even though I was tired all of the time. Having mono is why I got poor grades."

This differs from: "I was ill with mono all term and I knew I couldn't carry a full load. I should have withdrawn from some of my classes, but I didn't want to fall behind. I made a mistake believing I could write all of my finals when I was still sick. My decision to keep a full course load when I was tired all of the time resulted in poor grades."

To assess your own academic performance, look at the categories below and pinpoint which category applies to your situation. In fact, you may find that more than one category applies, and a combination of factors reflects your situation. When you read the questions, take note of any that you can answer with a "yes". This list is not comprehensive, so your own list may include factors not described here.

External factors

  • Did you have financial problems?
  • Did you have too many extra- curricular activities?
  • Did you do too much socializing?
  • Did you have a job outside school?

Personal factors

  • Were you not ready for school (unmotivated)?
  • Were you here only for your parents?
  • Were you unhappy with your program or faculty?
  • Did you feel you didn't "belong" at school?
  • Were you bored?
  • Did you experience test anxiety?
  • Were you unable to handle stress?
  • Did you have language difficulties?
  • Did you suffer from isolation or loneliness?
  • Were you ill?
  • Did you experience personal problems?
  • Were you unable to evaluate the effect of your problems on your school work?
  • Did you fail to take the initiative in seeking help for your problems?

Academic factors

  • Was your course load too heavy?
  • Were you uninformed on university policies, procedures & resources?
  • Did you not study enough?
  • Did you fail to go to lectures, conferences or tutorials?
  • Did you lack a proper environment for studying?
  • Were you unable or unwilling to identify weaknesses in your study skills?
  • Did you lack organizational skills?

Think about the items you have listed. Then, in a few sentences, describe how the choices you made or the actions you took (or did not take) affected your academic performance. Be honest with yourself: were the factors that affected you beyond your control, or could you have done things differently? The answer to this question is key to how you propose to improve your academic performance in future terms.

After having evaluated the factors that affected you, and examining your choices and your actions, make a list of concrete steps you plan to take to overcome your academic difficulties. Your plan might include some of the following suggestions:

  • Reduce your course load, the hours you spend at your job or at extracurricular activities.
  • Learn time management techniques.
  • Learn to be more proactive when assessing your progress in school (e.g., talk to professors, T.A.s, other students; don't be afraid to ask questions).
  • Learn how to evaluate courses in order to make appropriate, timely academic decisions (e.g., before the withdrawal deadline, ask yourself key questions like "do I understand the material", and "am I keeping up with the work").
  • Familiarize yourself with university rules and deadlines (it may be boring, but it's important).
  • Participate in study skills workshops, hire a tutor, form study groups with other students, or find useful self-help and study skills information at the library or on the Web.
  • Take advantage of resources available on campus to help you when you have health or personal problems, or to advise you on academic matters.
  • Learn to recognize your limits and what is realistic for you to accomplish given your particular circumstances, talents and skills.

If, after working through this exercise, you still have unanswered questions, please consult your departmental adviser for academic questions related to your program, or staff in the Internships & Student Affairs office for other academic questions related to Faculty of Education policies and referral to other Student Services.




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