Your exam results do not define you

Bad results can knock your confidence, but don’t let them bring you down

Written by Ellen Devlin


The biggest thing that I learned in third year wasn't simultaneous equations or the passé composé or even the sraithpictúirs – it was that your exam results don't define you. I've always been really hard on myself, I put myself under a lot of pressure when it came to exams and anything under 95% was completely unacceptable. I always saw the flaws in everything that I did and I never felt any pride in doing well, I just felt relief. I let my results change the way that I looked at myself and I don't want anyone to do that, it's a horrible way to get through school. You are so much more than a number on a page and that is what I want to get across in this post.

When I went into third year, I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I was getting ready to do my Junior Cert. To say I was terrified would be a massive understatement, I was freaking out. I worked pretty hard and I was doing well but in around January before the mocks I hit a wall. I had tired myself out and was absolutely terrified about failing the mocks, I was convinced that I'd do terribly and that all my teachers would be disappointed in me. I hardly even remember the two weeks of the mocks, they're such a blur of anxiety and worry.

I was terrified to get the results back, and I remember one result in particular really knocked me. I got a D in English, a subject that I'm really passionate about, and I was heartbroken as silly as that sounds. Looking back now I know that I ran out of time in the exam, but when I got that result back it changed the way that I saw myself. I was so angry and disappointed, I was convinced that I hadn't studied hard enough or that I just wasn't any good at English. It knocked my confidence completely.


From February until May I continued to be really hard on myself, so much so that I stopped wanting to be in school as I felt so much pressure. I felt like I needed to do well for my teachers, at that point I didn't even want to do well for myself. In May my anxiety was so bad that it was looking like doing the exams wasn't even an option for me, but in the end I did them and I survived (just about!).

Looking back now, it makes me so sad to think how harshly I judged myself last year when it came to my results. Getting a D in English is far from the end of the world, and everyone learns from their mistakes. Give yourself a break, we're all human and there is more to life that getting an A, even if it feels like the most important thing in the world.

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