Stress as the Main Cause of Students’ Academic Failure

Being an inefficient learner is one of the fears that most students have once they start their academic progress. However, for most students, this fear becomes comparatively manageable as they learn to build a skill set needed for adequate management of school tasks. Nonetheless, some students fail to gain relevant skills, which leads to them failing their exams and, eventually, having their literacy levels drop tremendously. Although academic failure can be caused by a range of adverse factors, some of which include poor socioeconomic background, language difficulties, and developmental health issues, a range of students tend to fail due to extreme levels of stress. The specified issue includes not only the inability to attend classes and meet the test deadlines properly but also a more general problem with arranging tasks on a time scale.

The connection between stress and the resulting academic failure of students is quite explicit. Specifically, being unable to cope with the emotional strain and manage their time properly, students fail to learn respective rules, principles, and theories, which translates to their mismanagement of tasks and tests, thus, leading to poor performance and eventual academic failure. However, a further look into the subject matter shows that there is more to the described issue than meets the eye (Oduwaiye et al., 2017). Another study shows that the presence of stress affects students in the higher education setting as well.

Namely, the paper by Lee (2017) proves that the disproportionate perception of personal abilities, specifically, the propensity toward underestimating one’s academic potential and the ability to build an academic skillset accordingly, will inevitably cost students a significant amount of their performance success, possibly causing them to fail. Notably, Lee (2017) attributes the inability among learners to cope with their fear of failure to the lack of grit, which the author positions as the solution to the observed problem.

What makes stress a particularly difficult factor to manage when increasing the efficacy of students’ performance is the vast variety of factors that may produce it. For instance, the pressure of time and the failure to manage deadlines can become a profound source of stress for students (Behnam et al., 2020). Likewise, the presence of learners who show a significantly higher rate of performance, combined with the increased competition rates within the class, also causes students to experience massive distress (Behnam et al., 2020). Finally, learners may fall victims to stress due to the lack of understanding of the material and the resulting inability to apply theoretical concepts to practice, which, in turn, causes them to fail to build the required skills (Behnam et al., 2020). Thus, due to the high variability in the factors that may cause students distress, the problem of stress management and the possibility of academic failure become excessively difficult to control.

The presence of emotional strain as one of the primary contributors to academic failure can also be explored from the perspective of self-regulatory skills and individual characteristics of learners, such as their sex-based differences. Namely, the research by Franklin et al. (2018) points to the fact that the levels of stress in students vary significantly depending on their biological sex. Although the phenomenon of trait anxiety was observed across all groups in the study, women with the specified condition turned out to be especially prone to stress and, therefore, vulnerable to the threat of performance failure (Franklin et al., 2018).

The specified phenomenon can be explained by the differences in stamina, as well as the different behaviors and attitudes developed by the participants due to the expectations set within society due to gender-based prejudices (Franklin et al., 2018). Therefore, the levels of exposure to stress positively correlate with the possibility of academic failure; moreover, there is an indication of not only correlation but also causation between the specified variables.

The cause-and-effect connection between stress rates and poor academic performance, particularly, the possibility of academic failure, becomes especially evident when considering the records of students within the higher education system. Namely, studies show that the extent of dropouts increases along with the rise in the levels of stress among students due to the amount of information that they have to learn and the range of quality criteria that they have to meet (Lee, 2017). Consequently, the rise in the levels of workload and demands on the quality of students’ skills remains one of the main sources of stress. Amplified by the competition and the willingness to meet one’s perception of oneself as a successful learner, the increase in stress levels will ultimately fail, as the study proves.

When considering the effects that stress has on students’ performance, one will also need to address the pressure of expectations, as well as socioeconomic factors and the perceived need to succeed at all costs as the means of gaining financial leverage in the future to pursue better career opportunities. Although being understandably more prevalent in older learners, particularly, middle and high-school students, the specified factor may produce a tangible effect on younger students as well (Georgakopoulos et al., 2018). Specifically, when supported by the presence of significant pressure from parents, the observed phenomenon causes a sharp rise in stress rates and, thus, leads to a student’s failure.

To address the problem described above, one should consider tighter collaboration between parents and teachers. Namely, educators must instruct parents on the methods of supporting their children throughout their academic progress without putting significant strain on them (Arif, 2017). The suggested solution may assist in decreasing the levels of stress in learners and creating an environment in which they will feel more inclined to rain the necessary skills.

Although there are general principles of establishing a more welcoming setting for students, the individual needs of learners must also be taken into account, which is why communication with parents as a way of eliciting information about the student’s unique needs is vital. Therefore, the promotion of an open conversation between educators and parents must be seen as one of the possible methods of addressing the drastic effects that increased levels of stress have on students.

At the same time, it is worth noting that the suggested framework is likely to produce an effect mostly on young learners, who still require the direct assistance of their families to manage school assignments. For older learners, who handle their assignments independently, an entirely different method of managing stress will be needed. While the reconsideration of the classroom environment will still be a necessity for educators to boost the extent of students’ performance, the problem of stress observed in students will need to be resolved by considering the internal stress factors for each learner.

These may include the lack of self-sufficiency and self-assurance, the failure to develop a pace required for gaining crucial skills promptly, and the lack of ability to cope with a massive amount of information obtained during lessons. The latter should be interpreted as the main impediment and addressed accordingly by promoting innovative time management techniques among students and encouraging them to rethink their priorities, thus, spending a greater amount of time on learning as opposed to leisure.

Judging by the evidence provided above, the increasing extent of stress as one of the main contributing factors to students’ academic failure serves as the signifier of a much greater underlying issue. Specifically, high rates of stress indicate that students are mostly unaware of their learning process and the extent of their academic abilities, which leads to their distress and the failure to pull the available resources to manage key tasks. Indeed, the inability to meet deadlines and arrange the available time to learn new information and develop their respective abilities often indicates that students are under a significant amount of emotional strain and are incapable of coping with the level of workload or the pressure of time.

Moreover, the increasing stress rate also serves as proof of the absence of sufficient motivation levels in students. Indeed, without being motivated to the required extent, learners tend to lose interest in the learning process since they perceive the criteria set for successful performance as unattainable and, therefore, not worthy of their effort (Georgakopoulos et al., 2018). As a result, the extent of their performance leaves much to be desired. Indeed, a study by Pascoe et al. (2020, p. 107) shows that there is a clear connection between stress management skills and motivation rates: “the academic-related stress that secondary and tertiary students experience constitutes a major factor affecting their academic achievement. Students with higher perceived stress are likely to have lower academic achievement.”

Although the specified study addresses the academic progress of secondary and tertiary learners specifically, the consensus is that the problems in managing stress are strongly connected with the extent of students’ willingness to learn a specific subject and perform a certain academic activity. Namely, the author explained the following: “the population-level implementation of stress management and coping skills programmers would help young people to develop healthy coping strategies to deal with the inevitable stressors of life” (Pascoe et al., 2020, p 109). Therefore, the extent of stress skills in students is in inverse proportion to the level of their motivation, yet the observed phenomenon can be managed effectively by changing the extent of learners’ stress by shifting their focus and helping them to build coping mechanisms.

Due to the ineffective time management strategy, several students fail to accomplish the set academic goals and meet the standards set for passing their respective tests. The problem of managing time stretches far beyond the concept of failing to meet the deadline for a specific test and, instead, should be viewed as the inability to arrange one’s schedule to develop and train the required skills.

Given the fact that significant correlations between the nature of poor time management and the lack of motivation in learners have been discovered, the focus on engaging students emotionally and helping them to become invested in the process of learning should be regarded as a possible solution. With the introduction of strong motivation techniques, learners are likely to be less reluctant to perform the tasks that they used to perceive as stressful. Moreover, the creation of a more relaxed environment that will lead to building the development of grit in learners, will entail a noticeable change in students’ perception of key challenges in the classroom.

The proposed change does not suggest that the level of academic challenge in the educational setting should be reduced to zero since, understandably, the described practice will cause students a significant amount of their progress and will lead to them failing to develop any skills. Instead, the classroom setting should be made physically and emotionally comforting to students so that they could focus on the process of learning as opposed to being distracted by other factors, such as the presence of unrelated noises or the prevalence of colors that are far too bright.

Finally, the shift from competition to collaboration in the academic environment will help to relieve students of a significant part of their stress, allowing them to adjust to the educational environment and learn at the pace with which they feel most comfortable. Furthermore, the introduction of peer learning and peer assessment will help students to feel more relaxed and, therefore, allow them to concentrate on the task at hand. Thus, the extent of learners’ academic performance can be enhanced by reinforcing the role of support from teachers and peers alike, as well as changing the classroom environment slightly to create a soothing effect.


Arif, I. (2017). Effectiveness of an intervention program in fostering academic resilience of students at risk of failure at secondary school level. Bulletin of Education and Research, 39(1), pp. 251-264.

Behnam, B., Paknazar, F., Mirmohammadkhani, M., Akhbari, M., Hoseini, S. M., & Sabahi, P. (2020). Personal, familial and social factors associated with academic failure in university students: A case-control study in Iran. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, 19(3), pp. 36-47.

Franklin, P., Tsujimoto, K. C., Lewis, M. E., Tekok-Kilic, A., & Frijters, J. C. (2018). Sex differences in self-regulatory executive functions are amplified by trait anxiety: The case of students at risk for academic failure. Personality and Individual Differences, 129, pp. 131-137.

Georgakopoulos, I., Chalikias, M., Zakopoulos, V., & Kossieri, E. (2020). Identifying factors of students’ failure in blended courses by analyzing students’ engagement data. Education Sciences, 10(9), p. 242.

Lee, W. W. S. (2017). Relationships among grit, academic performance, perceived academic failure, and stress in associate degree students. Journal of Adolescence, 60, pp. 148-152.

Oduwaiye, R. O., Yahaya, L. A., Amadi, E. C., & Tiamiyu, K. A. (2017). Stress level and academic performance of university students in Kwara State, Nigeria. Makerere Journal of Higher Education, 9(1), 103-112.

Pascoe, M. C., Hetrick, S. E., & Parker, A. G. (2020). The impact of stress on students in secondary school and higher education. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25(1), 104-112.

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PsychologyWriting. "Stress as the Main Cause of Students’ Academic Failure." January 5, 2023.