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5 tips to help students on results day

3 min read
  • Stress management & well-being
  • Study skills & exam prep

Results day will soon be upon us. For many students across the country, it will mark the end of one journey and the start of a new one. Most will get the grades they want and be rewarded for the many hours of revision and hard work. But some will fall short of their expectations and have to make important decisions about what to do next. Teachers are often the first point of call to help navigate this difficult moment.

Here’s what your students need to know:

Failure need not to be fatal

There is a fantastic scene in Charlie Wilson’s War where Philip Seymour Hoffman tries to explain to a rather drunk and jubilant Tom Hanks that it is a mistake to get too high after a success or too low after a failure, as you can never be sure what either will lead to.

For many students, disappointing exam results may well be life-altering, but they need not be life-defining. It may even be the making of them.

Those who have experienced some setbacks in their life often perform better under pressure than those who haven’t been fully tested, suggests recent research. Teachers should encourage students to reflect on how well they prepared for their exams, what they would do differently next time and what they want to achieve in the future – regardless of what grades they achieve.

A sense of perspective

Keeping a sense of perspective is essential to success, according to a recent study on student resilience. The key is to consider the big picture as well as the small details. Keeping the end goal in mind will help students to stay motivated if their results weren’t what they were hoping for, while concentrating on the next steps helps maintain focus.

Keeping a sense of perspective is also helped by being flexible. “The human capacity for burden is like a bamboo – far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance,” writes Jodi Picoult in My Sister’s Keeper. Encouraging students to be adaptable is a life skill that pays dividends long after results day is over.

We will teach your students to thrive under pressure with key stress management skills. Ideal in the lead up to exams.

Positive visualisation may not help

Most self-help or pop psychology books encourage people to visualise their dream outcome as a way of managing any nerves or doubts. But when researchers from the University of California put this to the test, they found that those who visualised a positive outcome were more likely to report higher levels of anxiety. Similar studies have found that students who visualise their dream job after school were less likely to receive a high number of job offers and were paid less once in employment.

Excessive time spent fantasising about an ideal outcome can often lead to being ill-equipped to handle setbacks. Strategic planning around “hoping for the best but planning for the worst” will ensure a balanced approach and reassure students that they have a back-up plan. Students should go into results day knowing the potential implications of different results and with a clear plan of action of who to call if they haven’t achieved their goals.

View decisions as active choices, not sacrifices

Teachers should also encourage students to view important decisions as active choices and not as sacrifices. This approach will keep motivation levels high, especially after a setback, as it encourages students to focus more on what they are trying to achieve and less on what they are missing out on.

Don’t do it alone

The more students isolate themselves, the more likely they are to brood over bad decisions. This leads to an increase in stress and frustration, but students who surround themselves with good people and ask for help are better equipped to handle stressful situations.

Teenagers often see asking for help as a sign of weakness, but encouraging students to use the support available may help them see things from another perspective, and make more informed decisions at a crucial junction in their life.

If you’re already thinking ahead to the next round of exams, who not check out our blog 5 Proven Hacks to Help Students Tackle Revision?

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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