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Exams failure

What to do in the worst case scenario?

Unfortunately at the ETH, there are cases where students do not pass an exam with a satisfactory grade.
If you did not pass the exam on the first try, we advise you to contact fellow classmates or your student association. They could provide old exams, summaries or tips and tricks pertaining to that class or professor. Do go to the exam inspection, where you can look at your mistakes. Your rights during the exam inspection are written below. We wish you all the best on your second try!

Below you find other possibilities you are able to do if you don’t pass your exam. It is mainly important if you failed on your second try.

Article 14.1 in the Leistungskontrollenverordnung ETH Zürich states that an exam or exam block may only be repeated once. Article 7.2 further explains that one will be excluded from a degree programme after failing an exam twice, when the required number and category of credit points cannot be fulfilled. Please read your Programme Regulations, usually found in the Rechtssammlung. Try to look for compensation courses to prevent exmatriculation. If this is not possible, we recommend you to read the «Merkblatt Rechtsmittel und Rechtsbehelfe” This document informs you of different follow-up options and their intended purpose. If you decide to appeal against the results you need an appealable order from your study secretary. You have time until 30 days after you get your results.

When you have read up on all the information, contact your study director. He is there to help you and will direct you appropriately. Inform him of your situation including information such as why you didn’t pass, why you would like to continue studying that subject and what you would like to accomplish in the future. After receiving their opinion and help, you should decide if you would like to continue with the entire process. Please remember, if you choose to pursue an appeal, the process is lengthy and if not successful, you lose a lot of time.

There are three other possibilities, should you want to continue studying:

  • Change of degree programme within the ETH Zurich

Only possible if the new degree programme is not a “related” degree programme to your previous one. Change of degree programme

  • Change of degree programme to the University of Zurich

A change is only possible starting in the autumn semester. Be aware of the registration deadline! Merkblatt Wechsel zu Uni (only in German)

  • Orientation Semester

You may still stay enrolled for one semester, even though you didn’t pass your exams twice. You are excluded from your degree programme, but you have time to re-orientate yourself and still be enrolled as a student for one additional semester. You are allowed to write exams and get ECTS. Directive concerning the Orientation Semester

We wish you all the best! Should you have any further questions orare in need of support, please do not hesitate to contact us at hopo@vseth.ethz.ch. We will aid you as much as we can with our experience and contacts.


Exam inspection

What rights do I have?

There is an official general set of instructions as to how the exam inspections should be conducted. However, every department is allowed to grant their students more rights. Here is a short summary of the general rules:

A professor usually offers a few inspection dates following the exam grade conference. If this is not the case you can request an individual meeting during  6 months after you get your results.

During the inspection the following points must be respected: There must be a person available at all times, who is able to answer questions concerning the grading and the point distribution. This is usually an assistant who was involved with writing/correcting the exam. A secretary who can only answer administrative questions does not suffice.

These items need to be shown at the inspection:

  • exam questions
  • student’s answer with corrections
  • maximal number of points assigned to each question
  • gading scale
  • sample solution (if available)


Students are allowed to take handwritten notes of the test and solutions. However, students do not have the right to receive a full copy of the exam or the solutions. Should you have any difficulties with the assistants or professors, refer them to the directive Viewing and transfer of performance assessment records. If there are further problems, contact your student association.

Again, should you have any questions please contact us at hopo@vseth.ethz.ch.