Don’t let exam setbacks derail you

Hattie / 8th Aug, 2017 / Advice

If you don't get the exam results you were expecting this week, don't worry, Dr Asha Patel is here to help...

This month, thousands of students across England will pick up their AS and A Level results. Sadly, not every student will feel like celebrating because they will not receive the grades they were hoping for.

That’s what happened to me when it came to my AS levels. I went with my two closest friends to pick up my results. I opened up the brown envelope and scanned the piece of paper.  That couldn’t be right. I was crying down the phone when I called my father to tell him the bad news. He came to pick me up and I sat in silence because I was so shocked.

My friend had got three grade As and I couldn’t even be pleased for her because I was so overwhelmed.  I just wanted to leave school immediately and never look back. I decided I would go to college instead and, without thinking it through, I phoned the local college to find out how to enrol. At that point I didn’t care what subject I chose, I just needed to fix the problem and have a plan in place.

During the day, the news that I had failed my exams spread among the family, and my realtions started to question if it was the right decision to quit sixth form. ‘Of course it is,’ I kept telling myself, ‘I have failed my exams.’

That evening, I sat on my bed, opened the brown envelope and scanned the results again.  At this point I was in a calmer place and found my Wise Mind, instead of my Emotional Mind.

I noticed that there was a theme: in every subject there was one exam where I had performed badly and which had dragged my grades down. So, I got out my calculator and started working out how many additional points I would need to improve my grades. At that moment, I found my inner confidence and thought, ‘I can turn this around.’ I made a plan whereby I would continue at school with the year 2 studies and re-sit one exam from each subject. I knew it was going to be tough but I had found a route that I felt was right for me.

A year later I celebrated my A level grades and went to Keele University to study for a BSC in Psychology and Criminology.  Now I have a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Birmingham and am CEO of my own company, Innovating Minds, a social enterprise that provides specialist, accessible psychological support for young people in education, training and employment.


That is my story. Yours will be different. University is not the only option for young people leaving school and times have changed so that now higher education may be a less attractive option than it was when I was a student.

What we have in common is that feeling of blind panic and distress when those exam results just don’t add up and we find ourselves at a crossroads that we did not choose.

Naturally we always search for reasons, and want the ‘why’ question answering. If we dwell on this for too long and continue searching for answers it can block us and lead us astray. We have to accept that we may never truly know why, what happened or what went ‘wrong’.

This is a crunch time when you need to make clearsighted decisions. Be honest: do you really and truly want to go to university? Maybe you stayed at school because everyone you knew was staying on, perhaps it was to please your parents, maybe it was because you couldn’t think of anything better to do.

Now the boundaries have shifted and there are many other possibilities – vocational courses, apprenticeships, starting your own business.

Get your Wise Head on. Instead of being locked into your disappointment, frustration and anger, look outwards at all the options which are available. Talk to family and friends, talks to teachers, use the web to research local offers and opportunities and make sure you check out unisnotforme. Not only is it a great source of careers advice, but it also has inspirational stories from people who have been in the same dark place as you and whose lives have taken a new direction.


Dr Asha Patel is CEO of Innovating Minds, a successful social enterprise helping young people with their emotional and mental health.  They focus on an early intervention model with specialist psychological support provided through schools, colleges or in the workplace.

For more information, contact Innovating Minds www.innovatingmindscic.com on 07854 585 946 or email info@innovatingmindscic.com


There are currently no comments

latest news, views & interviews

Hattie’s views on Big News TV

Sarah Wrixon / 30th Apr, 2018 /


The difference between boys and girls…

Hattie / 16th Apr, 2018 / News


What they don’t teach you at school…

Hattie / 28th Mar, 2018 / News


And the gold medal goes to…

Hattie / 16th Mar, 2018 / News


Reach for the STEM stars

Hattie / 5th Mar, 2018 / News