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Exam Results Day 2022 – Stresses, Surprises and Uncertainty

In the UK this year A-level and AS level results day is Thursday, August 18th and GCSE results are released on Thursday, August 25th.

Previous generations of students will remember the nerves and excitement of sitting exams, in big school halls with all their friends. They will remember the excited buzz of finishing an exam, meeting friends and family afterwards to celebrate and discuss how well they thought they had done. They might remember the encouraging conversations with teachers, and the emotional support they received from school staff. Then exam results day – usually a hot August day, gathering with friends in the sunshine anxiously opening results envelopes together, sharing the joys and disappointments, and celebrating successes and consoling losses.

The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has had an enormous and hugely detrimental impact on education overall. Most students missed many months of face-to-face schooling and the GSCE, A level and AS exams were not able to take place. Results were to be calculated on predicted grades and in some cases for A-levels in England, a “triple lock” system is in place whereby the highest grade from an autumn written exam, a mock exam, and an estimated grade could have been awarded, dependent on a successful appeal through the school. This has led to many students feeling lost, confused, and cheated out of an experience which has traditionally been seen as a rite of passage for any teenager, especially now if considering those doing GCSE will have reflections of these now with A levels.

For many, opportunities to go through Mocks were missed and experiences others will have benefited from in preparation for their actual exams was lost. If you were one of the students from this cohort of leavers, you might have experienced a huge range of emotions during this period. All these feelings and responses are valid and normal.

2021-2022 has continued to be loaded with vast change for many following the lasting impact of the COVID pandemic. In the UK at least, it appears we have moved forward considerably towards getting back to some way of how things used to be pre-pandemic. But understandably it still can take time to re-adjust again to previous norms, in-school attendance at schools, colleges, sixth forms and university have still faced challenges and disruption. This has remained the cases for many students struggling to re-integrate into education and return to previous educational and social norms. 

The last few years have brought up or installed varied anxieties and other symptoms in our young people, from feeling unsafe among others from covid or health generally, death anxiety, worries of further disruption, grief and other losses, feelings of helplessness, having no control, the list could go on much further. Many of these thoughts and feelings are normal and can be processed healthily without more considered intervention from trusted adults and professionals. 

But for those who struggled or are still struggling, be it a little or a lot during this time, many services for support have and remain to be under immense pressure with many unable to provide needed care and support adequately. GP’s, Mental Health Professionals, Hospital staff, Social Services, Charities, Educational Organizations, and various other employers and have been seriously challenged by the demand, especially for mental health support or based concerns. This means too many students have not received adequate support if any, particularly when focusing on mental health during this time which only adds to their distress and upset, so understandably results day will be very daunting for some students this year more than typically. Though perhaps we should not forget the energy this takes to still try and achieve during extraordinary times, and the potential for longer term impact may continue to ripple in this generation.

There’s still many who have sat their exams and about to receive their results who have also shown great resilience, adaptability, and a wealth of personal strengths that can easily be found.

Whether you or your child are excited, nervous, or neutral anticipating results day, be kind to them and yourself. Maybe you recognise yourself or your child in any of these example student

If so, in what ways? What other feelings might be coming up for you or a student you know?

  • Megan didn't do very well in her mock exams, but this prompted her to work harder and focus on getting good grades in her final exams. Megan was really disappointed not to sit her final exams. She feels cheated and that it is pointless putting effort into anything ever again. On results evening she has an argument with her parents.
  • Jesse felt relieved not to have had any exams in 2020. However, they felt guilty that they are passing through the system without any real challenge. Their younger sister is teasing them, saying that they haven’t got any “real grades” and “had it easy” unlike them. They spent results evening secretly binge eating. They have been struggling at 6th form/college.
  • Kai in their mocks felt let down by their results as many grades were quite low. This pushed them to revise harder but still feel they haven’t been able to catch and struggled when back at school learning. Kai’s results were better than their mock results, but some were still lower than they liked or needed. Unsure what they can do next with their results, Kai went to a party at a friends but was not honest about all their results when asked.
  • Bidisha has been a model student through all of her school life. She was looking forward to proving herself in her final A-level exams and hoped to get a place in a top University. She feels angry, frustrated, and has a real sense of loss and grief. She spends results evening crying alone in her bedroom after receiving her results.
  • Felix did not always do well in school and he is not bothered about missing exams, nor about what grades he is awarded or misses. However, he is sad that he never got to say goodbye to his friends and the learning support assistant who emotionally supported him through school. He spends results evening drinking in the park with two mates.
  • George often felt they struggled in class to concentrate, he wasn’t disruptive and would quietly appear to get on and get by best he could. George wasn’t looking forward to getting his results as wasn’t expecting to achieve the same higher hoped-for grades as his friends. George brought little attention to results day at home, avoiding the topic when possible, and stayed in for the evening in his room on his own.
  • Rhianne had been working very hard towards their exams and achieved very high grades in the mocks, despite struggling being in school again and working for a brief period on a reduced timetable to be in school. They are worried their results will be impacted by this and very nervous to collect their results. Rhianne did very well, and their results were celebrated by their parent at home with them. 

In time, things may have a way of working out that happens or you can find, or you can follow your original plan or create a new plan. However, if this doesn’t feel the case for you, discussing how you felt and are feeling now with a trusted adult may provide the light at the end of the tunnel you need. This doesn’t always need to be a counsellor, you may choose to speak with friends, family member or teaching staff maybe. But if you do look for a counsellor, look for someone accredited by, or a member of, the BACP/UKCP (like us!) checking their membership registration, qualification certificates, and DBS records.

Top Tips for Coping with Results Day

1. It is normal to feel anxious about receiving your results. Remember that you are not alone. Your friends are likely to be nervous too, even if they are hiding their feelings. Your older relatives will have been through similar nerves when they received their results. It is important not to bottle up your feelings - talk to a trusted friend, a relative, or a teacher about how you feel.

2. Think about your next steps. Your results are likely to lead to another experience in life, whether this is moving onto a job or further qualifications. However, you may not get the results you want or need to do this. Having a plan B will help you feel more in control. Remember that if Plan A doesn't work there are another 25 letters in the alphabet.

3. Don't feel pressured to share your results. With the excitement of the day there may be increased pressure from your friends to share your results. But your results are your own private information, and you should only share them if you feel comfortable. It might help you to avoid social media for a few days to avoid some of that pressure. 

4. Only ever judge your success by your own standards. Effort is far more admirable that attainment. Be proud of any improvements and if you know you have done your best, that is all that matters. 

5. Avoid unhealthy habits. Drinking, smoking, drug-taking or punishing yourself through self-harming behaviours and poor diet won’t make a problem disappear. These are all temporary solutions to a longer-term problem. These unhealthy habits might even make things worse in long run. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling with any of these behaviours. 

6. Be kind to yourself. Practice talking kindly to yourself and be your own best friend and motivator. Compliment yourself on any small achievements and focus on the things you have done well. 

7. You might feel cheated out of an experience this year and that you haven’t had a chance to prove your worth in some way. Remember that there will be future opportunities. You might be able to take your exams at a later date. Or you can just use these grades as a springboard to other opportunities for success, such as moving on to further or higher education. 

8. Remember exam grades do not define you and do not define your future, and this is just one small piece of the very large puzzle of your life. 

9. Celebrate your achievements. And even if you do not quite get the grades you had hoped for celebrate anyway. Celebrate that you have done your best. Celebrate that you have finished school. Celebrate that you are wonderful in so many other ways which cannot be measured by grades. If celebrations cannot be as big as you might have hoped for due to social distancing, find small ways to mark your celebrations at home.

10. Finally remember that these grades do not define how successful you will be in the future. Some of the most successful people you know, or have seen in the media, failed at some point in their life. It was their mistakes, followed by determination, that made them grow. 

Take a look at this list of celebrities and how they grew from their failures to be some of the most successful people on the planet!

This Blog was written by and for Teenage Mental Health Ltd, and should not be used or shared, wholly or in part, without credit mentioned to Teenage Mental Health Ltd / if using with or without requesting permission.