How can candidates best prepare in the run up to exam results?
We’re approaching that time of the year that students across the UK await results from their GCSEs, A-Levels and Scottish Highers. With this in mind, we want to start the conversation about how to prepare ahead of opening those much-anticipated results.
In the wider assessment space, exams remain a predominant way of testing knowledge on a given topic. However, as the adoption of technology becomes more widely anticipated, more skills-based methodologies are emerging to reflect the working world we currently live in. And with it, the possibilities of more diverse, authentic, and accessible teaching and learning for all. Whichever format the assessment takes, the impending results can often be a source of stress for candidates who have placed great weight on the outcome.
To provide a holistic view of how best to prepare for results day, we gathered opinions from different sides of the assessment divide: a lecturer, a headteacher and a student. It’s integral we acknowledge this part of the assessment process, and this article aims to provide some guidance to those anxiously waiting for results.
Barry Cooper Founding Principal at The Global College, Madrid, Spain
“'You are not your exam results.'
It’s an easy thing to say, but a difficult thing to embrace. As humans we have this desire to measure, to compare, to rate and rank. Over the last two years you have all tried as hard as you can to learn, to understand and to prepare for what should be best described as a snapshot of your ability. Not a picture of how you think or create, but a snapshot of your ability to do exams. As a system it is flawed and there are many of us working hard to create a better way. But that doesn’t help deal with the inevitable. The results. But I say anyone who opens that envelope for a reflection of themselves is wrong. You are not your exam results: you are what you do next. You are the plans you put into place, the dreams you carefully cultivate; you are the friends you make and the promises you keep; you are ten years from now looking back at a life you couldn’t imagine. Results will steer you this way or that. But who you are, that’s bigger than any test, quiz or exam. Life is a journey, and every student opening the proverbial results envelope needs not to ask despondently ‘what now?’ But regardless of the scores; say to themselves; ‘OK! what’s next?’"
Claire O’Neill University Lecturer
“Failing an exam does not make you a failure.
Pending results may be the ‘be all and end all’ right now, but trust me, if you don’t do as well as expected, it is not the end of the world. Every successful strategy will encounter setbacks, and you know what…. that’s ok! Any setbacks can often be an opportunity to reassess and consider alternatives. You might decide to travel, undertake work experience, or try something completely different. Some of the strongest candidates I have encountered, both in industry and academia, have experienced unplanned and unexpected changes in their path of studies and /or their career. After all, such life experiences make us more resilient. If you get the grades you want – well done! If you don’t, well, there are options. Plenty of them. Failing an exam or assignment does not define you. In the words of Albert Einstein ‘Failure is success in progress’."
A-Level Student Magdalen College School, Oxford
“The run up to results day can be the most stressful time for some. You feel helpless and unable to change the outcome of what your future holds. However, these exams can also be seen as merely a steppingstone to your next chapter in life. They are not the end of the road. It is understandable to worry when the day of results is upon you but, until then, the two-month period is also a time to relax without knowing what the results hold.
Teachers are always asking us: “Do you have a plan B?” and so perhaps this is a time to consider other potential courses or universities or a gap year for when the dreaded day arrives - I know I put these questions at the back of my mind during exam season. I would recommend using this time fruitfully because no matter what happens next, there will be hard work ahead. The waiting game may be a painful process but, reassuringly, all those across the country fortunate to have this opportunity are going through it too!"
Our message to your candidates
For those waiting to find out their results, there’s a clear message: exam results do not define you, your ability, or your journey. They can be a stepping stone towards a planned goal, or an opportunity to consider a different path you otherwise might never have – but you’re not alone in this experience.
Looking back, setbacks or unplanned circumstances ultimately shape resilience and character in candidates. Looking ahead, the most important takeaway from assessment and results is the experience, and what you choose to do next.