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Managing worries around results day – some strategies that might help

When we talk about worry around exams, we often focus on the exams themselves, or the process of revision and can forget that waiting to receive your results and results day itself can be just as worrying. This may be especially true while things are still different to ‘normal’.

We have been speaking to students preparing to receive GCSE results without exams, and hearing about the things that are worrying them. Here are some of those things, as well as strategies that might help if you feel the same way:

What if my grades aren’t accurate?

Some students we spoke to thought that their teachers might not know them well enough to give them a grade, or might even mix them up with someone else in the class. Others worried that teachers might be biased towards different students.

There were also concerns around the process and worries that grades might be put into the system wrong, or that they wouldn’t be checked.

It’s important to remember that schools, colleges and exam boards are all involved in checking grades to make sure they are accurate for students, and consistent across schools. This year there has been time to plan in advance, and to learn from how things were done last year.

It might also help you feel better to understand how grades have been awarded this year and know that if you think a mistake has been made, you can appeal.

Will colleges, employers, or universities treat my grades differently?

With grades being awarded differently, students had worries around grades being seen differently by others in the future. They were concerned that universities would be less likely to accept them, or that employers see them as ‘fake grades’.

It’s important to understand that everyone is in the same situation, and that all the organisations that deal with exam results (colleges, universities, employers) are aware of the system this year and will not treat you or your grades differently because of how they were awarded.

What if I don’t get the results I wanted?

Students we have spoken to have told us that their main worry was that they wouldn’t get the results they hoped for and what this might mean for their next steps.

Not getting the results you hoped for is never ‘the end of the world’. We say this because most people at one time or another do not get the results they hope for but do go on to have a successful life. It might be upsetting, disappointing or embarrassing but there would always be ways forward. Planning for what you would do if this happened allows you to see this and also means you have a plan to put into action should this happen.

You might find it useful to:

  • explore options for re-sits, which are happening next term. This might be through your current school or college, or somewhere else. Your school or college website or staff will have information about possible options
  • look at options for alternative options or courses. If you don’t get the results you need to get on to a specific course, there are always other options available with the results you do have
  • look into professional courses and apprenticeships. Do some research into options available through local colleges, and look at the UCAS information on apprenticeships

Of course, you don’t need to plan the rest of your life. You should take one step at a time. Start by finding out who can help and then once you’ve got all the information you need you can plan for next term or next year. Things will change – they always do – so sometimes it’s actually good not to make long-term plans too definite as that can give you more to worry about.

What will I tell other people if I don’t get the results I wanted?

Students often worry about how other people will react if they do not get the results they hope for. This is especially true for parents and family members who may themselves feel apprehensive as results day approaches.

When you plan for different outcomes, it can be helpful to share these plans with the people around you. This helps them to realise there are other options available if things don’t go to plan, and allows you to quickly pick up a constructive conversation when you find out your grades.

It’s also important to give yourself and other people time to adjust. Moving on from receiving news about grades is a big change and adjusting to any change is a process; it doesn’t happen overnight.

How can I cope with feeling worried about my grades?

Feeling apprehensive and worried, or anxious, about any important news is normal. This is a natural human response designed to help us deal with important things ahead. And of course, your exam results are important. For many students, the results they get will influence what they do next – perhaps which course, college, university, or job they take – which means most people will feel some level of nerves around receiving their results. It can help to remember that this is a normal response and that it doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong.

Sometimes, we worry or feel upset when we think about how things might, or should, have turned out – psychologists call this ‘ruminating’ –  and it can help to remember that even if there hadn’t been the change to teacher assessment, there would still have been uncertainties in the ordinary exams. Everybody ruminates a bit sometimes, and that can be okay, but if we do this too much, it can be unhelpful. Thinking through realistic plans for different possibilities can help with this.

Our research has shown that it can be difficult for students if they feel that grades mean something about them as a person, or make them a different kind of person. Of course, when we get the grades we hope for, we feel pleased with the achievement and want to celebrate. But it can be unhelpful to think of your grades defining you as a person. You are not your grades. They are just a snapshot in time of how you were doing in certain subjects and don’t change who you are, or who you will be in the future. It’s more helpful to our wellbeing to keep our achievements a little bit separate from who we are as a person. That way, we can take charge of a situation, good or bad, without taking setbacks too much to heart.

What if I feel very stressed or worried, or this feels out of my control?

During this period of disruption, people have been reassured by connecting with others who are going through the same thing. It can help to talk to other people who might be feeling the same way and hear about how they are finding ways to cope.

You may find it helpful to talk with others in your year group who are getting their results. Or you might find it helpful to talk about your own experiences and share you own feelings with trusted friends or family.

At very stressful points, some people find it helpful to use breathing techniques to reduce physical symptoms of stress and to feel calmer. If you think this might work for you, you could try ‘four square breathing’. This works by deliberately breathing in a slow pattern:

  • breathe in slowly for 4 seconds
  • hold the breath for 4 seconds
  • breathe out slowly for 4 seconds
  • hold lungs empty for 4 seconds


An arrow diagram illustrating four square breathing with each step on a different side of a square: breathe in slowly for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds, breathe out slowly for 4 seconds and hold lungs empty for 4 seconds, then repeat.


Professional services and organisations are also available:


Prof. Kevin Woods
Dr. Tee McCaldin
Dr. Kerry Brown
Dr. Rob Buck
Dr. Nicola Fairhall
Emma Forshaw
Dr. David Soares
Dr. Beverley Tyrrell

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