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How to Survive Exam Results Day

By Sabrina Collier

Updated April 5, 2021 Updated April 5, 2021

Since the last day of term, you’ve been enjoying your summer break so far in a blissful state of denial about what we all know is coming – exam results day. (Shudder). No matter how well you think the exams went, it’s natural to feel on edge as the results day approaches – especially if your results will determine whether you can attend your chosen college/university, or enter your chosen career path.

Emotions may run high, but panic not, because we have some tips for you to make it through unscathed…

Think positive – or distract yourself!

 Waiting for exam results

The night before exam results day is bound to be tense. Try to take your mind off things by doing something you enjoy, whether it’s hanging out with friends, playing games, distracting yourself with a Netflix binge or immersing yourself in a good book – basically anything that will stop you from worrying about your results.

Of course, if you’re feeling really anxious, it’s best not to bottle things up. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling, and remember that this tension will pass, and that there’s no need to be embarrassed about your feelings.

If you’re waiting to receive your results online, try not to get up at the crack of dawn to refresh the page again and again until the results appear – this will only make the wait more agonizing. Give yourself a specific time to check, and plan other activities to keep yourself occupied.

If you’re heading to your school or university to collect the results in person, it might be worth bringing along a friend or family member for support on the day – this is a particularly good idea if you’re getting there by car and they can give you a lift.

What if I did better than expected on exam results day?

Great exam results

Well done! First of all, resist the urge to brag on every social media platform under the sun (a quick status update on Facebook is fine, as long as it doesn’t read ’10 A*s! Off to Oxford guyzz’. This might be a little insensitive to any friends who didn’t do so well, and will be especially irritating if you’re one of those students who claim that they failed every exam but then turn out to have achieved the top grades in every subject (there’s always one).

Once you’ve finished jumping up and down with joy, the good news is that if you’ve achieved the grades required for your place at university, you don’t normally need to do anything at this stage. However, if in doubt, check this with your institution beforehand. In general, you can just spend the rest of the day relaxing with friends or heading out to celebrate with a family meal (warning: parental pride levels may become overwhelming).

Once you’ve spent some time celebrating, it’s time to double check that you’ve sorted out your finances, accommodation and any other important tasks, and try not to leave anything to the last minute! If you’re heading abroad for your studies, take a look at our study abroad checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything. Keep your university acceptance letter safe – you’ll need it if you’re applying for a student visa.

What if I didn’t get the exam results I need?

 Didn't get the results you wanted

The first thing to mention is, don’t panic! All is not lost. If you missed out on getting the grades required for a place at your ideal university, it’s worth checking whether they might be willing to accept you anyway – this is especially likely if you were very close to the grades you needed, and/or really impressed the admissions officers during your admission interview or in your personal statement. It might also be possible to be accepted if you explain any extenuating circumstances that affected your exam performance.

Otherwise, there might be other universities that will accept you – in the UK for example, you can search for courses with places remaining using the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) Clearing service.

You could also consider re-sitting your exams – check with your school or college to see whether this is possible. While this can be a bit disheartening, it could be a valuable learning experience, and an opportunity to connect to your core motivations. Talk to a teacher who you feel could offer their support, and ask their advice on the next steps you could take, including whether you can re-sit the particular exam/s you didn’t do so well in. If you do re-sit, it’s vital to spend time identifying where you went wrong in your exams or coursework. Did you fail to revise certain topics, or did you need more practice with past papers?

Not getting the results you wanted could even be a blessing in disguise (really). You can take the opportunity to consider alternatives, such as diplomas, apprenticeships, gap years and international study. Cheesy as it may sound, many of the best experiences in life are unplanned and unexpected, so keep an open mind. And whatever you decide, don’t beat yourself up – you still have plenty of time to achieve your goals.

Want to celebrate your exam results with us, or ask a question? Leave a comment below, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published in August 2016 . It was last updated in April 2021

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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