Solutions following failure

Too often one observes

  • lack of information, ignorance of regulations and deadlines
  • poor knowledge of other educational possibilities at EPFL or University
  • problems in envisaging alternatives, lack of clear vision on one’s possibilities and limits

Students actually have several possibilities in case of failure

You may have two attempts at the same exam.


Failure at the preparatory cycle exam: repeating the year If you decide to repeat the year, we advise you to seriously think about the reasons for your failure and to rapidly take measures to remedy this.  A personal self-assessment (personal situation, working methods and how to increase your chances of success) may help you to do so.

Get all the information on this page.

Persons who have failed an exam in a Programme for good are excluded from the EPF schools.

Going to university or to ETHZ

Going from EPFL to university is likely to represent a major change in the subjects studied. However, requirements relating to your work autonomy and personal responsibility will be the same, or possibly more stringent. In order to decide whether such a change is relevant, we recommend that you conduct a personal self-assessment to analyse your academic and personal situation. Do not forget the deadlines!

Transferts from EPFL to other universities

  • See conditions of the arrival university. Deadlines are specific to each university.

Transferts from other universities to EPFL

Do not forget that

  • registration deadlines may be different from Swiss universities
  • it might be more expensive
  • admission and registration conditions may be different

In case of final failure

It is possible to pursue the same study track abroad. However, you are strongly advised to reassess your educational project. Use the documents in this site and talk about it with a professional or someone you trust. Information about studying abroad

Advice from recruiting consultants and employment specialists:

According to these HR professionals, it is difficult to get a job with just a secondary school-leaving certificate; but it is possible.

Intermediary university degrees as such currently have no value on the employment market. They only serve to certify the knowledge acquired.

If you do decide to get a job, there are several issues to be considered:

Assess your situation

  • What have you gained by studying at EPFL?
  • What are your new objectives?
  • What means are you prepared to use to get there?

These questions must be answered, either on your own, using the tools on this site (self-assessment), or with the support of a career advisor.

Think vocational training

  • As your school-leaving certificate does not prepare you for work, learning a trade – even quickly – could well be an option.
  • Remain open to fast apprenticeships, in-company training or evening classes.


Do not send job applications immediately to everyone. Take time to think about the various sectors of interest to you or even discover different fields. Target the companies which appeal to you and offer career prospects. You may get in through the back door, but think of your future career within the company if you have potential. Target your covering letters by putting together a file specific to each job opening.

Put yourself forward

Do not demean yourself (“I only have a maturité\

Opting for technical training in a college of higher education (HES)

This solution enables you to remain in the same field of interest (not strictly speaking a track change).

Main differences from EPF education:

  • more specialised training (e.g. electronics, telecommunications, electrical engineering)
  • structured environment (small classes, continous control, better supervision, more deadlines, etc.)
  • teaching focused on a more practical and applied approach.


  • to enter an HES, the holders of a “maturité” must first complete a practical internship. Some HES offer an internship integrated into the school (EiVD or EIV) while others require an internship in industry and help you to find one. Contact your prospective HES for further information.
  • if you have succeeded in your preparatory year, admission may be easier.  Please find out from the relevant HES.

Tip: why not consider the German part of Switzerland? A year’s internship is ideal to practise your German so that you are ready to start studying in that language. Language skills are highly appreciated and a change of air may do you good

List of all Swiss HES (technical and non-technical)

Opting for a different education (medical, teaching, economics, social, tourism, art…)

Please look up the Wesite “” – an up-to-date directory of all professions and educational offers in Switzerland.

The fast track

Fast vocational training: The Canton de Vaud offers fast training for about twenty professions. The courses generally take 2 years and are open to the holders of a “maturité gymnasiale” or certificate from a diploma school (EDD). Further details and contacts

Allround banking training. Banks offer “maturité” holders 18-24 month internships leading to a certified banking diploma.  Swiss Bankers Association.

Warning: You should prefer vocational training leading to a recognised diploma. The courses listed on “” are all acknowledged. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) can also provide information on the subject.

A few words about sabbaticals

According to the Student Affairs department, a sabbatical should not be your preferred option further to exam failure. Note that:

  • resuming science or technical education after a sabbatical year is difficult and requires enormous motivation
  • if you decide to remain in the same Programme and repeat the year, you will find that the repeat year has easier schedules (if you have passed the practical subjects) which will give you more spare time as well as time to stand back and relax (not too much!)
  • as from the 3rd year the EPFL curriculum favours mobility (student exchange) and internships. This will give you an opportunity to get a breath of fresh air while pursuing your studies.

But if you do feel an urge to leave academia for a year, try to make this a constructive experiment by learning a language, joining a humanitarian project or doing an internship…