Having to undertake exam or coursework-based assessments are a given part of university life. Unfortunately, however, they don’t always go to plan.
We’ve all been there. Your result date approaches, you look online, and your grade is lower than expected. This can be a really disheartening experience, especially if you feel like you’ve put the work in. Equally, you may have been expecting a bad grade if things didn’t go well at the time. This may lead you to question your own abilities; I’ve certainly experienced this on more than one occasion. Whilst it can be easy to let a bad grade affect you, being able to reflect on the situation and pinpoint what went wrong can be a productive way of dealing with it. Here are some things to consider when your results don’t go to plan:
Rationalise the situation. One bad grade isn’t the end of the world. We all have days when exams don’t go as well as they could have, or a piece of coursework feels particularly challenging. This won’t make or break your overall grade. Whilst it’s important to learn where you could have made improvements, you also need to step back and look at the bigger picture. How significant is this piece of work overall? Odds are, it’s a very small percentage. So don’t be too hard on yourself. If it’s a string of grades that aren’t up to your usual standard, this may indicate an underlying issue that needs to be tackled.
How did you feel that the assessment went? Sometimes I can walk out of an exam or submit a piece of coursework knowing that things didn’t go as well as they could have. Other times, I can feel confident in my performance right up until I receive a lower grade than I anticipated. This can make it really difficult to accurately gauge how an assessment went. In the case of knowing things didn’t go well, it’s important to ask yourself why they didn’t. Did you find the assessment particularly hard? What was difficult about it? How were your time management skills? Did you answer the question properly? These are also important things to consider if you felt confident, but were disappointed by your result. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush and panic of exams, or the length and intensity of coursework, and overlook where things could have gone wrong. Take a realistic and rational review of your performance to most effectively make future improvements.
Was anything else going on at the time? Health, mental health and family issues are just a small number of personal circumstances that can significantly affect your academic performance. Consider things that could, or are continuing, to have a negative impact on your assessment results. It’s important to talk to your personal tutor about any such issues that arise throughout the course of the year; you may be eligible for extenuating circumstances. It’s also worth considering other distractions that may be hindering your performance. We’re all guilty of deciding to go on a night out and ditching those troublesome 9AM’s from time to time. But it’s important to create a strong work-life balance where you can both enjoy yourself, and dedicate enough time to your studies.
Have you read your feedback? Reading critique of your work can be the last thing you want to do after receiving a bad grade. However, it’s a great way of gaining an impartial insight into your performance that highlights errors you may have overlooked. Whilst exam feedback tends to be somewhat limited, coursework comments are generally a lot more comprehensive. These comments can be invaluable in helping you make improvements to your work. They’re not there to discourage you, they’re there to support and guide you. So be sure to read them thoroughly, and take any feedback on board.
Do you need further support or help? Trying to deal with bad results on your own can be overwhelming. But there are people out there to help you; your personal tutor should always be a first point of call. No issue is too trivial, so be honest and open with them if you feel like you’re struggling and are in need of further support. Most tutors are more than willing to go through feedback with you, or point you in the direction of services such as academic writing support that can help improve your academic performance. But you have to be proactive. Seek their help rather than struggling in silence.
These are all important points to consider when recognising and working through issues that may be affecting your exam and coursework results. Be realistic, be proactive, and be willing to make the changes to improve your work.
Ellie is in her third year at Cardiff University, studying English Language. She also writes a blog ‘Forget the World’ about lifestyle and university experiences.
Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.