Helping you get through tough times

Coping with exam results

Not doing as well as you expected or hoped in your exams can be really tough. Footprints painted on concrete

It can also be tough if you feel you didn’t meet the expectations of others, such as family members or teachers.

How pressure might affect you

You might be experiencing a range of feelings after receiving your results including:

  • disappointment
  • happiness
  • excitement
  • stress or anxiety
  • anger
  • down or depressed
  • numbness
  • guilt
  • confusion
  • sadness
  • physical sickness
  • hopelessness

It can be especially difficult if you’re disappointed and your friends are celebrating and are happy with their results.

Expectations and pressure from yourself, family, teachers and friends may be a positive influence and help to challenge or motivate you to do your best. However, too much pressure to achieve can cause you to burn out. There are many lessons the Junior Cert can teach us, including how we manage pressure, stress and how our own and other people’s expectations influence us. Think of this time as a good ‘life-skill’ learning opportunity.

If you find that expectations or pressure about your results are interfering with your day-to-day life, it’s important you talk to someone about it, such as a friend, teacher, or counsellor. Check out face-to-face help.


Even though your results may not be what you were expecting or hoping for, it does not mean that your future isn’t still really bright or you won’t be able to achieve great things. Here are some suggestions that may help you manage the situation:

Talk to someone outside the situation

Talking to someone outside the situation, such as a friend, teacher or counsellor, can be a great way of expressing your feelings and exploring other options.

Talk to the person setting the unhelpful expectations

Sometimes the person might be unaware of the pressure they have put on you and how it affects you. When you talk to them, trying how to explain how unhelpful this is, it might be helpful to use a phrase such as “When you treat me like that, then this happens”.

Challenge and reset your expectations

Sometimes it can be helpful to re-think your own expectations. This may help you decide if they are achievable for you. Ask yourself “What would I suggest to a friend in this situation?”

Explore other options for the future

Sometimes expectations are only focused on one outcome and so if you don’t meet them you might feel disappointed or that you have failed.

Usually there are a number of ways to achieve a goal. It may help to talk to someone you trust about what the different strategies might be. This may be a teacher, a friend, counsellor or family member.

Take some time to chill out

Sometimes a change of scenery can be helpful – it’s important to give yourself permission to do this. This might include going for a walk or listening to your favourite music, reading a book, going to the movies – whatever works for you.

Express your feelings

Writing down your feelings or keeping a journal, can be a great way of understanding a situation and reducing the power of expectations. It can also help you think about alternative solutions to problems.

Other ways you might express your feelings in a way that won’t cause bodily damage to yourself, another person, or your computer might include yelling, punching, or crying into a pillow, or dancing around the room to loud music.

Look after yourself

Expectations can lead to a lot of stress. It’s important to take time out by doing something that you usually enjoy. Even though you might not feel like it or have time, exercising and eating well can help.

Getting plenty of sleep can also help. Exercise helps stimulate hormones, such as endorphin, which help you feel better about yourself and your life.

If you haven’t done a lot of exercise before, it might be a good idea to start doing something small a couple of times each week, such as a 15 minute walk or two or three laps of a pool.

Visiting your GP for a general check up can be a way of making sure there isn’t any physical problem.

Avoid drugs and alcohol

Try not to use alcohol or other drugs (including lots of caffeine or other energy boosting drinks) in the hope of feeling better or forgetting expectations and pressure.

Despite seeming like they provide a good release; this feeling is usually temporary and the after effects often make you feel worse.

This article was last reviewed on 12 September 2018

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