Higher education students' beliefs about the causes of examination failure: A network approach

Jonathan Ling, Tom Heffernan, Steven J. Muncer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Examination failure is of paramount importance in higher education, affecting educational institutions, teaching staff and students alike. In spite of this, little quantitative research has attempted to examine the perceived causes of exam failure. In the present study, 73 participants completed a questionnaire in which they rated the importance of various predetermined causes of exam failure. These 11 causes were derived from previous research and included lack of studying, little intelligence and biased teaching. Participants were asked to decide how likely it was that each of these causes led to the others. Responses were examined using network analysis. Results indicated several perceived causes that led directly to exam failure. These causes were sickness, lack of intelligence and little studying. Students also linked poor time management and mind wandering in the exam with failure. These findings are discussed in terms of previous research on exam failure, as well as different approaches to network analysis. We argue that network analysis is a valuable tool for the survey of student attitudes towards their education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-170
JournalSocial Psychology of Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2003


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