How to get back on your feet after bad exam results
Results are out, and we’ve had our annual reminder about the capacity of NZQA’s servers (a potato and some wire, maybe?)
Feelings are always mixed around this time; positive when we pass the papers we thought we were sure to fail; and disappointment when we put a lot of effort and study into an unfavourable outcome.
For of all those in the latter department, let’s breakdown how to bounce back from results so you can go into your next year of study with minimal disdain for a system you’re forced to participate in (no cynicism intended).
Before we dive into the article, let’s put the disclaimer/main message out there: what’s done is done, and (for the most part) it can’t be changed. By this, we can only accept and improve for the future.
There’s an infinite range of possible ways to respond to disappointing results and only a few of these will be beneficial. Therefore, we need to reflect on our results and our actions during the study season and do our best to turn it into an experience that will improve our future selves.
Failure only exists if a situation, outcome, or event isn’t learned from, making efforts to inform yourself and fully understand why your results are the way they are is the best we can do. We’ll flesh some common responses, the good the bad and the ugly to get you through the last of the 2018 exam season.
Feel sorry for yourself
Probably the most natural and automatic response to bad news. Everyone is entitled to spend some time enjoying being irritated, but it needs to be balanced with an awareness that it’s unlikely to be productive for you.
We have to be able to move on from our negative mindset to make progress for our next year of study, whether that takes place in a high school or not.
Nothing positive ever comes from dwelling on why and how it all went wrong (unless you’re doing some conscious reflection to unpick how you’re going to avoid those mistakes in the future).
If in doubt, try your best to think of yourself as you would a best friend, or even your childhood self. Notice every time you’re being mean or cruel to yourself, and then pretend you’re speaking to someone else instead.
Would you tell a friend: “You’re so stupid, there’s no point in even trying anymore”?
Nope. Because that would be an awful thing to say. Instead, you might suggest they take a breather, kindly indulge them in some dignified venting about the evils of standardised education, and then encourage them to dust themselves off and keep trying – because an exam is just an exam, after all.
There’s not much more to say about this one, except maybe that it’s the worst one to be stuck on so let’s move on.
Have a kōrero
Talking out worries is a great way to vent and organise your thoughts and feelings.
Also, others can validate your feelings and help you wash out the bitter taste NZQA often leaves in your mouth.
Speaking to others also allowed for perspectives you may not have otherwise thought of. It can also be a great way to help you zoom out of your results and see the big picture.
The results aren’t your life and do not measure so many other qualities that people have. If you feel like talking about specifics, head to our Help, Resources and Banter page to post about your woes. Chances are, thousands of students will be feeling the same as you, and will appreciate some honesty amidst a sea of Becky’s bragging about their E endorsements.
So, even if you don’t hear that from anyone else, you have here team.
Start 2019 on the right foot
You wouldn’t try to fill up a leaky bucket with water. But this is exactly what we do when we spend time learning passively at school without coming back to what we’ve learned regularly.
Sometimes the fate of our exams is determined as early as the first day back at school, without us even realising. We fall into some poor habits, our motivation wears off within the week, and before we know it we’ve subconsciously written off the year.
The formula for success is pretty simple. Consistent study + smart strategies. It’s just harder when there’s nothing there reminding you of this formula.
Our Walkthrough guides are designed to help students keep up good study habits throughout the year, and come back to the material they learned whenever they get a spare five minutes.
Covering exactly one current NCEA standard each, they’re the perfect resource for anchoring you in your material, and keeping you on track for building the foundational understanding that will save you stress down the line. Learn more about their benefits here.
Getting your hands on one of these bad boys now is the perfect motivation for starting 2019 with a bang, and having answers at your fingertips.
We’re currently offering 20% off all Walkthrough guides to give you a helping hand while the sting of results are still fresh (use discount code: PASS2K19) at checkout.Turn all those negative feels you’re feeling right now into ones of brightness and opportunity for the growth that’s yet to come.
And get in quick, before Becky does.
We’ve felt sorry for a bit, talked it out with anyone willing to listen, and added every relevant “StudyTime Walkthrough Guide” to our stationery list for 2019. Now it’s time to put measures in place which mean we won’t find ourselves in the same situation again.
What this means is being critical of ourselves and the expectations we have (because we all do). Here’s some questions to ask yourself:
What habits did I set for myself for the year?
What habits did I fall into during the exam season?
How do I study? (If at all)
What kind of people am I surrounding myself with?
Am I achieving to a level I feel I am capable of?
To improve, we have to be really specific about the things we need to improve on.
Someone who has beautiful handwritten notes may be in the same boat as another who doesn’t study because they never bothered to read what it is they copied word-for-word from a textbook.
Sometimes, being real with yourself is the best self-care strategy there is.
So many things influence your productivity and ability to perform in exams so it’s not enough to just promise ourselves to do better. How is it that we’ll do this?
Without establishing this, our resolve to improve can easily become a vague, eventually forgotten resolution once school starts back up and we get caught up in the hustle. Actionable steps are crucial in making sure we keep up with the goals we’ve set ourselves.
For example, if we felt we knew the content but we tripped up on some of the formatting, a way to better ourselves may be to look at marking schedules and common mistakes that markers identified.
Don’t satisfy yourself by making the argument that it doesn’t matter because you’ll never sit that standard again. NCEA follows similar patterns in their marking schemes, and so it’s definitely worthwhile to understand what they’re looking out for when they use language such as ‘in-depth’ or ‘comprehensive’.
For those seeking reassessment
Alright, sometimes NZQA does muck it up and we’re given an unfair mark. Before marching to the gates, paper in hand, there’s a few things to consider:
Are you close to the next mark up? (Like, one or two points off)
Are you close to the next endorsement? (As in, did that one paper distaste the mark you got)
If you answered no to either of these, it’s unlikely that the admin involved in applying for a reassessment isn’t worth it. As a rule, markers don’t like to bump up grades after results are out so unless you’re confident there’s been an error and you’re on a grade boundary, sending away your paper probably won’t change a lot. Also, doing this can sometimes unnecessarily drag out the whole process.
In saying this, if you are close to the next grade up and it is important for either an endorsement or UE, pursuing this can be really game-changing.
Laugh at yourself
One of the best pieces advice I’ve ever received is “control what you can”.
Here’s what you can’t control: your marks, those stats lessons you wagged or the fact that you binged Riverdale for a month straight while you should’ve been studying. Here’s what you can control: how much weight you place on these missteps, the actions you take from now on, and the amount of fun you have while dwelling on your stupid-endearingly-human mistakes.
Humour is the best remedy. That’s a part of the reason StudyTime is such a big fan of memes. They poke fun at the silly expectations we place on ourselves, they force you out of your own cruel head, and help you come to realise there are thousands of other students who feel exactly like you do right now.
In five years time, you won’t even remember your marks now. When it comes to school, the “my-grades-are-the-be-all-or-end-all-of-my-life” placed students is really harmful.
It’s important that you try – it’s less important that you have a pristine track record of academic excellence in every exam you ever sat.
Feeling bad does no good for anyone, so you may as well get some endorphins in you while you reflect.
In other words – stop taking yourself so seriously, you wet blanket.
To finish up…
Getting results back sucks, it can be stressful and upsetting. If you find yourself in this boat, do your best to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and see what you can do to make 2019 better than the year before.
There’s always much more to a person than they’re academic ability. Find what makes you excited and pursue that.
Take our new year as an opportunity to get started doing all the things that will make our lives better.