Dealing with exam results

It's normal to feel a whole range of things before or after you get your exam results. How you feel is probably related to your expectations, and those of people close to you.  There are ways you can deal with the pressure of expectations. No exam result is so important that it will stop you achieving your goals in the long term.

This will be useful if:

  • You're waiting for, or have just received exam results
  • You're feeling anxious or stressed around the results of exams you've taken 
  • You need to manage your, or other people’s exam expectations 
  • You want strategies to deal with pressure 
  • You're disappointed by your results
boy with headphones using a laptop

Dealing with exam results

Getting exam results, especially for big tests like the ones at the end of high school, is a stressful experience. It can be really devastating if your marks don't immediately get you into the course you wanted, or you feel like you haven't done well enough to live up to expectations – whether they're yours, your family's or someone else's.

How results can affect you

Whether you're waiting for results, or you've already got them, you could experience any of the following as part of 'exam panic':

  • Disappointment or depression
  • Stress or anxiety 
  • Happiness or excitement
  • Guilt, confusion or sadness 
  • Illness 
  • Numbness 
  • Anger

Dealing with pressure and expectations

You could be someone who gets motivated and energised by pressure and expectation. But even if you are like that, both pressure and expectation can become too much, and end up harming your performance and outlook more than they help. There are some things you can do to deal with pressure. They include:

  • Talking to someone outside the situation, like a friend or counsellor.
  • Talking to the person setting the expectations, and try to make it clear they're not helping.
  • Re-setting your own expectations – they could be unrealistic or just unhelpful.
  • Taking some space – go for a walk, play sports or video games and give your brain a break.
  • Writing down your feelings.
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol – they just help compound stress.

Also remember that your exam results are just that – marks given to one thing you wrote down, once. They're not a number that reflects your worth, and they won't stop you doing what you want in the long-term. It's surprisingly easy to transfer between uni courses if you do well in first year, and if you go into uni later in life, your exam marks now are quite likely to be irrelevant.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 22 July, 2016
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  • michine    (1407 days ago)

    Hey powerm :) Through highschool and uni I've done plennttyy of exams and quite a few of them have been pretty poor :( To deal with the disappointment I've always reminded myself that exams are not the be all and end all. Even if you do poorly, rather than beat yourself up about it work out where you have gone wrong and where you can improve next time. This way you are not wasting energy grilling yourself but using it constructively to ensure that you will be better prepared in the future.

  • powerm0142    (1418 days ago)

    this article is helpful but i am unsure how i can bounce back from poor results in exams