I study Msc in Belgium and I just got my exam results back. This was my first semester and I was 5 weeks late into the semester due to visa and immigration issues. Out of 4 exams I got 16-15-15-9 out of 20 scale which is like A, B+, B+, F on the US scale. This is the first time in my life that I get F for an exam and I’m freaking out as I wanna apply for PhD starting this summer. The F is not directly related to my field of research but I have no idea how it will affect my chances for PhD admissions. The exam resit is apparently normal in Europe but I haven’t had any experience like this as I did my undergraduate in the UK. Please tell me if I’m screwed already? I did apply for the exam evaluation but I’m not counting on it. I only need one mark to pass the subject but I have to deal with three professors for this subject.

  • It seems unlikely that any single thing like this will end your career. – Buffy Feb 4 at 11:44

Exam resits are quite common at Belgian universities; in the more difficult MSc courses 15 - 25 % of students will fail their first try.

For a PhD in Belgium, a typical formal requirement is an average of 14 or better; if you have 16 or more that should give your application a bonus point.

At this point there's no reason to bury your PhD plans, but you should aim for results on the level of your other 3 courses in general. Definitely go to the exam feedback - not as a way to try to change the result, but to learn what was missing and what you should focus on for the resit. In the end, a result of 14 or better in the resit will be more helpful for a PhD application than arguing your way to a 10 from the first exam.

Regarding the timing for PhD program applications, if you have a 2 year MSc program and you want to start a PhD in Belgium then it's better to wait at least until December / January of your 2nd year with the applications.


At my university (which is not in Belgium, but not too far away), when you take a resit for a course, your final transcript will only show the best of the two grades you obtained; the worst of the two grades will basically disappear. You might want to check if the same holds for your university. If so, you can fix your entire problem by doing well on the resit.

  • Apparently it's the same here but the first result appears in the transcript just to show I failed the first exam. I'm honestly lost and don't know whether I should beg the professors to pass me or retake it in the summer to improve my average. How would this look in my PhD application thats my real concern. – Blacklist007 Feb 4 at 15:08
  • Well, you can see this as your chance to display that you learn from your mistakes, and that you work hard on improving yourself. If you do well on the resit, your transcript will show that you get great initial results in most courses, and for those few courses where the initial result is not great, you work real hard to ensure that your resit result is great. This willingness to learn and to work on improving yourself is one of the most important characteristics in a prospective PhD student. – Wetenschaap Feb 4 at 22:28

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