Being fresh out of school, many interview processes will ask for a resume and a copy of my latest official grades from college/university.

I happen to have one of the classes I have taken, that was particularly relevant to my field, that had me finish with a terrible, but still passing, grade. (I needed 60 to pass, and got 61.4).

I figured that there must be many people who pass by the skin of their teeth, therefore it shouldn't be such a surprise to an employer. But I also happen to have very good grades in basically every other course, almost always above 85, so I don't want to come across as one of the people who pass with bad grades because of their abilities.

The thing is, I almost failed that class because I skipped the final exam, that was Worth 35% of the grade. This is because I had two final exams that were scheduled at the exact same time, so I went to the other one, since I could pass that course without it (I would have failed the other course by missing their exam).

I had tried basically everything with the school to either move or retake one of them, but the only options available were creating other conflicts, therefore not solving the problem. I was following a non-standard study path, and ended up with many courses that were not expected to be taken at the same time during that semester.

How can I explain that grade without sounding like I'm making excuses, in the context of a job interview?

I feel like I have a good reason, but I guess everyone probably feels that way and the interviewer most likely heard every excuse in the book already.

  • 180
    This is VERY strange. How is it that an accredited school would allow two finals for a student at the same time?
    – Beska
    Jul 12, 2017 at 20:43
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Jul 13, 2017 at 4:41
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    downvote, &vtc, i have no idea what the question is here, seems the question has the solution in it. this seems to be a humble brag?
    – bharal
    Jul 29, 2018 at 17:14
  • because I skipped the final exam, that was Worth 35% of the grade -- why did you do this? Were you ill?
    – Neo
    Aug 3, 2018 at 11:43
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    @Beska Yeah this doesn't happen at any reasonable school. Even if it did, administrators would not force you to skip one. I would laugh if I heard this as an excuse because it shows you are either a terrible liar or put no effort into rescheduling an exam worth 35% of your grade.
    – dfundako
    Aug 3, 2018 at 13:17

7 Answers 7


Don't bring it up.

I doubt anyone would care, and making excuses would indeed just sound like making excuses.

Even if it's the most important course in your degree, there still isn't a big benefit to bringing it up:

  • A pass is a pass
  • Being able to do the job and being a cultural fit tends to be more important than your marks
  • Getting to the interview stage means they've likely already decided your marks were good enough (interviews are more about proving you can do the job and getting to know you than justifying what's in your resume)
  • Anyone can make hard-to-verify claims, at best it has no effect, at worst it seems like you're lying

If the interviewer is the one to bring it up: (which I doubt will happen)

If they just casually or jokingly bring it up, it might be best to just shrug off or joke about those marks. If they ask a totally serious question about it like "I see you got X% for subject Y. What was the reason for this?" (again, very unlikely), being open about what happened would be your best option.

Keep in mind that exams taking place at the same time or students being unable to attend exams for some other reason is fairly common and there are usually provisions made for students who go and ask about this, so your argument could very well make it seem like you didn't care enough to do this and you're happy putting in the minimum amount of work, which might simply have worked out well thus far thanks to your intelligence. I'm not saying this is true, but it could seem like it to those who don't really know you. You may want to follow that up with "In hindsight, I should've asked to have the exam rescheduled" or "At the time, I didn't think to...". Unless you did put in a significant amount of effort in an attempt to get the exam rescheduled, in which case this does not apply.


This answer offers specific wording if you are directly asked why this particular grade is so much lower than the others. Like others have mentioned, don't bring it up yourself.

Unfortunately, due to my non-standard class schedule, the school was unable to accommodate all my final exams so I had to prioritize which final exams to take. Because I was in better standing in this particular course compared to my others, missing this final to take another was the best option.

This implies you tried to find a solution (i.e. take ALL exams) but you were not able to make that happen, so you found the best course of action with the situation you were given.

You cannot always find a perfect solution but if you can assess, prioritize, and compromise then you can find the optimal solution.

  • 5
    I would not word it as 'unfortunately' but simply state 'I made a choice because of the class schedule and that is the planned (best possible) outcome'. Way more positive in my opinion.
    – Paolo
    Jul 12, 2017 at 21:07
  • @Paolo: That sounds awful. It sounds like you just had a good enough grade in one of your classes and figured doing some assignment or exam just wasn't worth {other priorities in your life}.
    – user541686
    Jul 12, 2017 at 21:58
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    @Paolo this shouldn't necessarily be a "positive" statement. OP received a D on their transcript, not a positive thing. What is positive is that OP handled the situation they were in by compromising and prioritizing, two very important skills in the professional world. First sentence explains circumstance, second explains actions to overcome that circumstance to create the most positive outcome OP could
    – cheshire
    Jul 12, 2017 at 22:23
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    @cheshire what IS positive is that OP knew they could take a 35% hit to their grade and still pass -- which means the non-exam component of their grade for this course that is relevant to their field was effectively 94% (61.4 / 65)... and chances are, had they taken the exam they would have scored at least as well.
    – Doktor J
    Jul 14, 2017 at 13:25

I think that your explanation is already good - if an interviewer actually drills down enough to get to the detail of that subject, he will be expecting an answer like that already.

However, be ready to answer technical questions about that subject should he decide to test your knowledge! (specially if it is quite important in your field).


Employers generally don’t care much about grades; they typically don’t even look at transcripts unless you have no job experience, and even then only after extending you an offer. It’s part of the background check process, to make sure that you actually have the school experience and degree that you claim. Thus, this should never even come up in an interview unless you volunteer the information. (Anecdotally: I failed my compilers course, and still got hired for a compilers job.) As a regular interviewer in the tech industry, I have never seen a transcript in a candidate package, only resumes.


This answer may not be relevant for all countries and educational institutions. If you attended a college that is certain to be known to your interviewer as a reputable establishment, disregard this answer.

Say nothing about it unless asked. If asked, don't lie, but don't explain fully. Simply say you chose to prioritise the other subjects, but don't go into details about the clashing exams.

I doubt many people would believe that the event you described could occur at a reputable educational institute. Unfortunately, what an interviewer believes is more important than what is true.

So if you explain it, you are quite possibly leaving the interviewer believing one of two things:

A) You just lied to them.

B) The educational institute you went to is not reputable.

Either of those statements, if believed by the interviewer, are orders of magnitude more damaging that a single low mark in an otherwise great transcript.


Unless the interview process is very long and articulate, meaning that every single aspect of the candidate is evaluated in great detail, if a company is going to spend a sensible part of the time dedicated to each candidate to go look every single grade he got probably it`s not that great of a company.

In my short but not meaningless experience formal education is important but once you made the cut to get the degree from the institution of your choice your personal characteristics are an order of magnitude more important that the grades in determining you fitness for a position.


This idea of he won't mention it might be true, but don't forget other people will. I mean as a developer I get asked to take glances at resumes all the time.

That said don't mention it yourself, but when you do, please don't make it seem like you did poorly, because of other people (your school). Because from my experience I feel like people want you to own your poor result.

So I would advice you to say you made an decision to focus on more important exams as you already had enough points to pass this one. AND NOW YOU REGRET IT.

With this; "we live and we learn vibe".

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