Causes of Academic failure

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The importance of academic success cannot be overemphasized. Getting high marks at school usually implies that we are very competent students. Moreover, it increases our chances of getting a highly rewarding job after school.

Although, every one of us is cognizant of this fact, why do some of us still experience academic failure? 

Academic studying, which is often accompanied by the pressure to get satisfactory marks, is different from other forms of studying. Studying for non-academic purposes allows you to study freely without having the fear of being evaluated. You do not write tests or exams, and you are at liberty to stop studying whenever you feel like it. You can also afford to forget some of the things you have learnt without paying dearly for it.

Studying for academic purpose, however, is a different case entirely. You are evaluated and have very limited time to prepare for your examinations. You may also be asked to write essays, and your ability to argue a case will be tested. More so, one’s performance in academic examinations remains one of the determinants of one’s economic and financial success in later years. 

When you study for non-academic purposes, you study to understand, but there’s no pressure to remember what you are learning or what you have already learnt. However, when you study for academic purpose, you read to comprehend, to remember key points, and to pass your examinations. And since we all want to be economically and financially successful in later years, getting satisfactory marks at school is very important. The ability to ace our examinations therefore depends on several factors. 

Poor study skills

Although, comprehension is paramount, comprehending alone may not help you ace your examinations, since you may forget some key points, or be unable to answer questions in the ways that appeal to your examiner. Don’t get me wrong; comprehension is important, but it is not enough. When reading academic materials, three skills are very important: Note-taking, note-making, and final revision.

Note-taking is the act of taking down the important points that a knowledgeable speaker is saying. The knowledgeable speaker could be a teacher, a lecturer, or a tutor. This skill also enables you take down ideas that you may not find in your textbooks. 

By note-making, you take down points and ideas from the books you read. When note-making, you should focus on the main ideas from the books you are reading. After comprehension, you will often spend a lot of time studying your notebook to remind you of all the things you have read.

All the important details from your lectures and private studies should be put down in your notepad/notebook. This notebook (which is an abridged version of all that you have learnt) may then be revised before your final examination. How often you revise this notebook also matters. It is, of course, very important that you carry out a rigorous revision few days before you sit for your examination.

Self-diminishing thoughts

There is a positive relationship between high self-confidence and high academic performances. People who believe they are intelligent and therefore actively seek knowledge get to reinforce their self-confidence because their healthy beliefs tend to be validated by the positive results they get. In other words, healthy beliefs bring about desirable outcomes, and desirable outcomes validate healthy beliefs.

Similarly, toxic beliefs bring about undesirable outcomes, and undesirable outcomes validate toxic beliefs. Therefore, it is wise to choose healthy beliefs. 


Some people are just downright lazy; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. They truly want to excel, and they probably daydream about it. But living their dreams becomes a difficult task for them. For such people, the idea of studying their books feels torturous. They may have the ability to excel, but this ability is subdued by their lack of will. 

Dealing with academic laziness is not an easy task at all. If studying your books makes you depressed, there is very little you can do about it; as it can be likened to a very fat woman who wishes to lose much weight, yet despises physical exercise. It’s not easy to overcome laziness, but it is not impossible either. What you need is a strong reason to learn and a strong reason to succeed. To learn more about this, read my article ‘The value of learning’.

Poor prioritization

Some people are just too busy doing other things; spending far too much time on them to have enough time for academic studying. Treating your school work as though it is less important to that computer game you love, those television shows you adore, endless timeout with friends, or other kinds of distractions that take much of your time, will no doubt adversely affect your academic performance. The more distracted you are from your academic work, the greater will be the negative impact of such distraction and vice versa.

If you are easily distracted, which is likely a difficult habit to break, you may want to do away with these distraction(s), however uncomfortable you feel in doing so, by acknowledging the fact that if you let the habit endure, it will constantly impact your academic performance in a way you do not like. Most of the things we prioritize can be postponed to a later time. Many of these activities know no bound (have no limit), and constantly keep us away from important activities. We can always postpone those less important activities we love to engage in, or apportion less time to them, so that we can have more time to study our books.