Most students have experienced the disappointment of a bad grade – that sinking feeling of realising you did worse than you thought – but the trick is learning how to cope with it.

A lot of people can quickly recover from bad results. But for some, it brings a spiral of shame and sadness from which it’s hard to climb out of. For anyone who belongs to the latter group, here are some tips to cope with bad exam results.

Let yourself be sad

Accepting your grade is important, but you should also allow yourself to feel sad first. Putting a lot of effort into work and not reflecting in your grade is frustrating. But failure is part of the human experience and we shouldn’t be surprised by the feelings that come with it. Taking time to process everything is necessary to avoid burnout.

woman covering her face with white book
Photo by Siora Photography on Do something nice for yourself

As a student, it’s easy to get tunnel vision around exams. You focus so much on work and grades that it’s easy to neglect your own needs. Post-exam relief doesn’t just come from high grades but finally allowing yourself to relax. Take a trip, get a massage, and buy something you don’t need. Treat yourself!

Talk to someone

Talking helps to process difficult emotions, you get a sense of how you’re really feeling and start to see things clearly. Go to a friend for reassurance. Or schedule a chat with your tutor to express your concerns.

man drawing on dry-erase board
Photo by Kaleidico on Imagine the bigger picture

As much as it feels like it, receding bad results isn’t the end of the world. Try to take yourself out of the present discomfort by imagining the bigger picture. There are steps you can take to make the situation less dire. How much will this affect your overall grade? Calculate what mark you need on the next exam and work towards it.

Remember your grades don’t determine success

Try not to think of your grades in terms of failure or success. They don’t determine what you will achieve or what you already have. They only summarise a specific area of study. If you aren’t convinced, take a look at these celebrities who didn’t do too well at Uni.

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