Exam results can be so stressful and students can put so much emphasis on passing and succeeding. As a society, we don’t really help much to ease this stress - the UK education system seems to add to the problem. When students don’t achieve the grades, they wanted, this often leads to “all or nothing” thinking – focusing on the negative, rather than the positive. Gaining good enough grades are made out to be THE most important thing when you’re due to receive the results, but if you ask a 25 year old, a 30 year old, a 40 year old… they will tell you that other things take priority soon after. You may not have done as well as you’d hoped or you may not get into your chosen university, BUT there is so much more to life than this. You are a person of worth, regardless of your exam results, and you have a valuable contribution to make to society. Remember that! Please don’t be tempted to define yourself by your grades because you are so much more than this. However, if you are feeling distressed, ensure you gain the support and care from those close to you. But if you feel as though there isn’t anyone who really understands, there are ways of reaching out for support (see links at the bottom).
In the meantime, I would invite you to consider some of the following strategies if you are feeling disappointed with your exam results today:
Gain some perspective: In 5 years’ time (or less!), these exams are highly unlikely to matter. You will have moved on to other things, you will be in a different place with different commitments, so try, if you can, to put some perspective on things. Some of the most successful and interesting people still don’t know what they want to do at age 40+. It never ever is too late, so don’t feel as though your entire future rests on these exams! I know of various people who have tried and tried several times to gain the grades needed to study, for example, physiotherapy, and after several attempts over many years, they finally made it. Others I know of decided their initial choice wasn’t for them and went down a different path…which, incidentally, they thoroughly thrived in. I invite you to ask yourself: “If I look back on these exam results in 5 years’ time, what will I be thinking?”, “Will I be focusing on any different part of my experience?”.
Learn from this experience: If we really don’t do so well in our exams, there is so much learning that can take place from this experience, even if it feels dreadful at the time. We all learn through adversity and we can develop resilience when things don’t go our way. There’s always a positive to be gleaned. Remember, it’s never the end of the world and there’s so much more to life!
Challenge your negative thinking: Often we live with the worry and anxiety of what our exam results may mean to us, whether that’s failing exams, not getting the grades we really want or feeling that we have let others down. However, rather than seeing this as a failure, look for the opportunities. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to resit the exams, perhaps there’s an opportunity to investigate a different university or college, perhaps the course that we had our eye on isn’t necessarily for us and this will give us an exciting opportunity of travelling down a slightly different path.
Stop comparing our own results to others. We all learn differently and at different paces so if we are comparing our results with those of others, we are doing ourselves an injustice. Maybe we haven’t yet found our niche, maybe there are other exciting things waiting for us around the corner.
Compassion not judgement: Rather than judging yourself, try to work towards self-compassion. We don’t learn as well from judgement as we do from acceptance, so if we can be sensitive towards ourselves, thinking about what we may need in this moment, whether that’s cheering ourselves up by going to watch a movie with friends, having a quiet time with caring and compassionate family or friends or engaging in some exercise or mindfulness strategies. Aim towards doing something for you!
Finally, remember, you are not defined by your grades. You are an important, valuable human being who has important qualities to share with the world. Don’t allow this set-back to rule your way of thinking.
UCAS Exam results helpline:
Scotland Exam Results helpline
Distressed about exam results or any other issue (service for under 25s):
SANEline: Out of hours mental health support line (4.30-10.30pm):