About: Rachel, 24, looks back on GCSE and A-level exams and results days, the impact on her mental health, and shares her tips to help you feel more prepared.
This blog contains reference to suicidal feelings. Please do not read on if you think the content may be triggering for you. If you are currently struggling with your mental health, please visit our find help page for information, advice and guidance on where to get support.
I want to share my tips and hopefully help anyone feeling disappointed by an envelope that has more power over us than it should.
My experience of exams and results days
I’ve experienced both positive and negative results days. My school, my family and I have always placed an importance on learning and I felt a lot of pressure around exams, as if there was an expectation that I would sail through. While studying has often given me a reason to fight through each day, I have sometimes let this define me. This led to punishing revision schedules and isolation from my family.
At GCSEs, I achieved the grades I was hoping for but struggled to feel I deserved them. I convinced myself that there'd been a mistake and they weren't as impressive as other peoples’ results. When others celebrated my results, I found this anxiety-inducing and put more pressure on me for A-levels. Even though I’d done well, somehow my mental illnesses still won.
After my AS exams, I missed a grade and was devastated. I felt that because all I did was study, a bad mark made me a failure and worthless. I experienced suicidal thoughts and felt that my whole future was over. However, I regrouped and tackled the daunting task of changing my university plans. Without this, I wouldn’t have still made it to the university I had been aiming for.
Accepting that results day will be stressful has helped me be kinder to myself and plan to feel more prepared. Looking back now as I wait for the results of my university finals, I want to share my tips and hopefully help anyone feeling disappointed by an envelope that has more power over us than it should.
Don't feel pressured to share your results if you don't want to.
Before results day
Once you feel prepared, try to do something relaxing the night before results day – the day will be harder with no sleep!
- Will someone go with you for support?
- If you can, will you walk to burn off nervous energy?
- Allow time for transport delays.
- What time do you want to get there? Decide if you want to get there earlier or when it's quieter.
- Have somewhere quiet in mind if you need space.
- Write down your coping strategies for if you feel overwhelmed.
- Decide whether to check UCAS before you collect your results. I only checked UCAS after I was ready to leave as I knew bad news would stop me from focusing on what I needed to do.
- Check if you need to send any information to your university on results day.
- What will you do if you miss your grades? You could check how to contact your university about mitigating circumstances, apply for a foundation course, consider your second university choice, or go through clearing.
- My school ran a mock clearing scenario - you could try this yourself and read up on the process to help you prepare questions and responses.
- Whatever your results, how are you going to reward yourself?
- Who do you want to share your results with?
- Don't feel responsible for looking after others getting their results too if you don't feel able to.
- Who do you want around you on results day? For some people being with friends can really help, but for others this can increase anxiety.
- Don't feel pressured to share your results if you don't want to.
Appearances and grades don't always reflect circumstances and only you know the work you put in.
On results day
- Follow your usual routine - this helped me feel more settled.
- Be flexible - it's hard to know what you'll need ahead of time so change your plan if it doesn't feel right.
- Try not to panic - it may feel like if you miss your offer you have to make a decision right away, but slow down. You don't have to decide on the day.
- Let yourself feel - good or bad. You don't have to be modest or put on a brave face and mixed feelings are okay. Your feelings are valid. Give yourself time to process them and speak to someone you trust.
- Try not to compare yourself with others - their success is not your failure. Appearances and grades don't always reflect circumstances and only you know the work you put in.
- Celebrate and look after yourself - remember, you deserve to feel proud of yourself for getting through GCSEs and A-levels, whatever your results.
You are allowed to pause and take time to work out your next steps.
After results day
- Keep it in perspective - although results day is built up to be a life-determining event, there are many new days and new opportunities ahead of you.
- Take it slow - replanning takes time and the stress of exams and results day is exhausting. You are allowed to pause and take time to work out your next steps.
- Don't give up - there is always more than one route to get to where you want to be. It doesn't matter how long it takes or how you get there.
Although results day is built up to be a life-determining event, there are many new days and new opportunities ahead of you.
More information and advice
We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
Exam Results Helpline
Provides careers advice to help young people and their families decide on options following GCSE, A Level and Nationals results days.
Usually available through August. Opening days and hours may vary each year - check website for details.
If you live in Scotland, call 0808 100 8000.
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
- Opening times: