It’s the big day that you receive your results. The ominous day that has been looming over your head like a large, menacing, swinging axe has finally arrived. You are apprehensive, anxious, restless. You force yourself to inhale deep breaths in an attempt to calm yourself down. You walk, your legs feeling both like lead and jelly, forcing one foot in front of the other, dragging yourself to the place of revelation. An envelope is pressed into your shaking hands. You squeeze your eyes tight, whisper a prayer for luck. You are unsure whether to tear it open quickly, like ripping off a plaster or open it slowly. You decide on the latter. Slowly, you rip through the seal and screw your eyes tightly shut again. You vow to open them and peek at your grades in three seconds. Two seconds. One second.

Examination Paper




No, no, NO! This CAN’T be happening! You rub your eyes almost raw and look again, reeling, willing the results to morph into something more favourable.

Transform! Abracadabra!

But they’re still the same – no such luck!

There has to be some sort of mistake! Is it some sort of sick joke? Has someone mixed up your results with someone else’s? Have you been given the wrong grade? You have done all of your calculations and considered all the possible permeations over and over again, and even in the worst case scenario imagined, it was NEVER as bad as this!

Hot tears start to prick the eyes and rivulets threaten to flow uncontrollably down your cheeks. Your breathing becomes rapid and you’re at serious risk of hyperventilating. Panic! You are frozen to the spot, moist eyes wide and fixed on the horror of your ghastly and grim grades.

You have spectacularly flunked your exams!

As if that revelation isn’t bad enough, you then have to deal with the other added miseries. How will you break it to your parents and family? What will you say to your friends? Will it seriously ruin your prospects? You attempt to tune out the cheering and laughter of those around you who have passed (rubbing salt into your gaping wounds!), some with flying colours. Their faces are beaming, adorned in a beatific smile, in stark contrast to your own (the best you can manage (if at all) is a rictus grin!), but there is not much to worry about here – in the height of their ecstasy, you are totally invisible.






Dejected, you stumble to the nearest toilets, lock yourself in a cubicle and give into grief.

Failing exams – I’ve definitely been there before! It may feel like the world has ended and the sky has crashed onto your head, especially if you have tried your best. It is devastating, whatever method of communication is used to relay the reeling revelation, whether via letter, phone, email, internet, or posting board where others can see etc. It feels absolutely awful and you can feel inadequate, lost and miserable. Once I was so dazed and confused from the shock of failing that I walked around blindly for over an hour before managing to board the wrong train!

What should you do?

Allow yourself time to give in to grief. You need to be able to process that raw emotion and the situation that has befallen you. Cry. Scream. Shout. Rage. Then breathe.

As for telling others?

What worries you more – the fact that you haven’t passed or what other people will think? If it is the latter, try to just think about yourself for now (I know it is easier said than done). I dreaded the thought of telling others and the fear of hearing snide comments, or disappointment conveyed in their voices or eyes. Worrying that you have disappointed others will just make things worse.

And comparing yourself to others?

Don’t. There will always be those who do better and worse than you. At the end of the day the competition is solely between you and that paper!


Find out where you have gone wrong. Arrange to speak to your teacher, lecturer, professor, etc. and ask them to advise you on the areas you fell down on. Sometimes (if you are lucky) you might find that a genuine mistake has been made and that your results were incorrect – you actually passed! If this is you – congratulations! If it isn’t, however, then this session can be very useful in preparing for your…


Yes, if you have the opportunity to, then grab it with both hands. And because you how been advised as suggested above, you now know what NOT do to – no more repeating the same mistakes! Psyche yourself up to do it again and make sure you smash it the next time. Having to revise once again and re-sit is annoying (I know!), but if it will help improve your prospects then it must be done. It is a temporary setback (not a dead end!) that you are more than capable of rectifying, so rise to the challenge with a happy heart. And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

And if it wasn’t due (entirely) to academics?

Don’t waste time living in an alternate reality fantasising on the ‘if only’:

  • “If only I had revised more!”
  • “If only I had spent less time with X!”
  • “If only I had been more disciplined!”

And so on.

Too much becomes indulgent and takes away from your present and the opportunity to revise. Now is not the time for science fiction – work firmly in reality! You know what you must (not) do to achieve your desired outcome. And just like my favourite sort of science fiction books, there will be a happy ending!

Failure is just a learning tool – treat it like your teacher and emerge wiser.

And believe in yourself – you can do it!!

Credits: Picture by GraphicStock



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