How to handle exam results anxiety

Find out how to support yourself when waiting for exam results.

Written by spunout


Waiting for exam results can be a challenging experience, especially when you are expecting results from the Leaving Cert or college summer exams.

You might feel anxious leading up to results day, and this is very normal. However, if the anxiety becomes all-consuming and it’s hard to take your mind off of it, it is a good idea to talk to someone about how you are feeling.

Anxiety at exam results time

If you are feeling anxious about receiving your exam results, know that you are not alone.

Understanding exam results anxiety

Some of the reasons you might be anxious about your results include:

  • The pressure to get good results for the course or career you want
  • Pressure from family or teachers who expect you to get good results
  • Comparing yourself to other people in your class or on your course
  • Worrying about what your results might mean for the future
  • The uncertainty of not knowing and having to wait

These feelings are normal. Your friends are probably feeling the same way, so it is a good idea to talk to them about your worries.

What to do about exam results anxiety

There are a number of things you can do to minimise the impact of stress and anxiety around the time of exam results.

Know that failing an exam does not make you a failure

Remember, if you fail an exam, you are not a failure – you are still a good person, just a good person who failed an exam. Sometimes, failing an exam means you have to repeat, and you’ll have plenty of time to prepare. This might delay your plans, but having to repeat is not the end of the world.

Failing an exam may also lead to a change of direction to get to where you want to go, or it could open up a new path entirely. There is always another way to achieve your goals.

Try to stay calm

There are things you can do before and when you get your results to help you to stay calm. Practicing mindfulness exercises such as mindful breathing can help you to stay in the moment and manage stress or anxiety. Read more about mindful breathing and other mindfulness exercises.

Sometimes, having someone with us can help us to stay calm. Decide whether you want someone with you or if you would prefer to look at your results alone. Whatever you choose, make sure to talk to someone about how you’re feeling after you see your results.

Avoid people who could make it more difficult

Sometimes, friends or the people around us can make us feel worse about a big event like exam results coming up. Try to get some space from these people and focus on yourself.

Make time for self-care

One of the best ways to handle anxiety is to make time for ourselves. Think of something you like to do, whether that’s playing sport, reading, watching films, or any other activity that makes you feel good. Try to spend some time doing these things as a way to unwind and take your mind off exam results.

If you have a friend who’s also feeling anxious, there are plenty of things you could do together.

Know that you have options

If you are waiting for Leaving Cert results, it’s normal to be feeling confused or unsure about what will happen next. Remember that no matter what results you get, you have lots of options, including appealing your grade or doing a PLC. If you want more information on Leaving Cert results or you would like to talk to someone about your options, you can chat live with a Youth Information Officer.

Talk to someone

You may be having a mix of feelings about your results. This could include confusion, relief, guilt, disappointment, frustration, or other emotions. If you’re feeling upset or overwhelmed about your results, the CAO, or your plans for the future, it is a good idea to talk to someone. This could be a trusted friend, family member, teacher, lecturer or counsellor. You can also contact our anonymous 24/7 text message support service 50808. You will be connected with a trained volunteer who will listen to you and help you to move forward feeling better.

Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to get started.

Find out more about our text message support service.

Remember, not all of these suggestions will work for everyone. You may need to try a few different things before you find what works for you. Read our 10 tips for dealing with stress.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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