Dealing with Exam Results

Getting exam results can be a stressful experience even if you do better than expected. But it can be devastating if your marks don’t live up to your expectations - whether they’re yours, your family’s or someone else’s. Remember, exam results do not reflect your worth and they won’t stop you from doing what you want long-term. 

Failed a course?

Success is not linear, and although it can be frustrating when things don’t work out as planned it doesn’t mean we have to give up on our dreams. There may be things you can do like taking a supplementary exam, transfer between courses or makeup subjects in the summer semester. Speak to your Academic Advisor or a Student Support and Success Advisor for advice on what the next steps are. 

An important part of learning from failure is understanding why we might have failed. Some common reasons are:

  • Taking too much on - Fitting study into a hectic schedule can sometimes be a hugely overwhelming task. Deciding what your priorities are, time management and having the ability to step back and say no is key. 

  • Not liking your course - You might like your course at the start then realise it is not for you. It is ok to change your mind and look at other subjects that appeal to you more.

  • Not keeping up - Everyone has different learning styles and speeds. Identify your style and seek support or help from your lecturer or tutor to help resolve any issues. Your speed of learning doesn’t reflect anything about your intelligence or ability

  • Health issues - If you have a physical or mental health problem, it can sometimes make exams more challenging. If it is impacting your study seek professional help and speak to an Equitable Learning Facilitator

  • Not able to complete the course - For whatever reason, sometimes we just have to bow out of a subject that’s not working well. It is nothing to feel bad about.

Managing pressure and expectations

You could be someone who gets motivated and energised by pressure and expectations. But even if you are like that, both pressure and expectation can become too much, and end up harming your performance and outlook more than they help. 
The Psychology and Wellness team share their top tips on managing pressure and expectations:
  • Talk to a friend or professional like a psychologist or student advisor
  • If the expectations are set by others; talk to them and explain the extra pressure it is placing on you
  • Re-set your own expectations 
  • Spend time on other hobbies - go for a walk, play sports or video games and give your brain a break 
  • Write down how you are feeling (journaling)
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol to relax, they make us feel more stressed in the long term.

Additional resources

Support is available

We can feel a range of emotions after receiving results, or sometimes nothing at all. All reactions are normal, but it is important to reach out for support if you need it. 
  • UNSW Psychology and Wellness (9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday): 02 9385 5418.
  • Out of hours? Call UNSW After Hours Mental Health Support Line (5pm-9am and 24 hours on weekends): 02 9385 5418
  • Text a counsellor after hours (5pm-9am and 24 hours on weekends) on 0485 826 595
  • Not in Australia? Call Medibank 24/7 Health and Support Line any time of day: +61 (2)89050307
  • If you need immediate assistance call 000 or Lifeline on 13 11 14
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