On passing exams and failing to meet expectations

I got my results today. They came in the post, in an innocuous white envelope.

I’d almost given up on them ever arriving. It’s been over a month since the exams. A long kind of month. A month with christmas and travel and parties and illness. I have no idea how I got through the long summers waiting for GCSE, AS or A level results to come out. That took 3 months.


The news is that I passed.

All three of the exams.


I scraped 2 passes, one of them 0.75 % over the pass mark, one 3%, and just about struggled through the third with a grand total of 68%.

I was peeved last time round, when I ‘only’ got around 75% average. This time, I have about 57%.

57 is a pass. I could be happy.

But I’m not.

I wanted to do well, really well, so I could cancel out the less-than-perfect grades I got in summer.

I don’t think I’m stupid. I don’t want to be anyway. And I don’t like giving up. But I’m not sure how I’m going to make the next exams go well enough to drag these grades up to somewhere I feel comfortable celebrating.

I’m also a bit stuck on how to act now. I passed, which tends to encourage people to congratulate one, but I don’t feel happy to have passed. Probably because I know I didn’t put in as much effort as I could have done. I don’t know, even with the benefit of hindsight, exactly what I should have done differently, given my time constraints and the ‘extracurricular activities’ I engage in, but I am sure it must be possible. I suppose I could have read more during my commute, re-read my notes and the textbooks before each new lecture.. not bought new fish, or worked on the book.

I am trying to tell myself that I did ok, considering. But I don’t believe myself. I don’t believe anyone else if they say it either.

I don’t deal well with failure, even if it’s only failure in my head. I had dreams of being good at what I do, and being brought back to the real world hurts. It shouldn’t. But it does.

I sat through almost 200 hours of lessons, gave up lots of lie-ins and otherwise-free-evenings, took a week’s holiday to sit in school and used another 10 days of what should have been a holiday to revise on the beach, and it still isn’t ‘good enough’.

Good enough for whom or for what isn’t clear. Even to me. 

I don’t know who’s keeping score. I’m not aware of anyone frowning down at me. I’m paying for the course myself, so it’s not as if I’m letting a sponsor down.
And yet… *sighs*

I’ve been told nobody cares about grades. Problem is, I do. Even though I know they’re just numbers, just hoops other people hold up for you to jump through. Despite all the head-y knowledge-y thoughts that none of it really matters, I am disappointed.

I could have done better. I should have done better.

 “Could do better” is something lots of people quote from old school reports. I didn’t often get comments like that. I did well. I was ‘conscientious’ and ‘diligent’. I passed exams, I functioned and I achieved. I wasn’t always the best (academically), but I was occasionally, and when I wasn’t, I wasn’t far behind.

I don’t know how to deal with not being good. I don’t even know how to function when I ‘fail’. Not that these results are even real fails. At least when I failed the practical part of my Meister exam I could resit and pass properly the second time round. Scraping through, when it didn’t feel like it should be such a struggle is just frustrating.

In theory I should stand up, brush myself off, tell myself it’s experience, and get my head down for the next round. Instead, I’m wallowing,  writing this when I should be sleeping, defeating myself before I even begin. Tomorrow I will be unable to fully concentrate on whatever new content we get presented with and be too tired to review it when I get home.

I need to get a new mindset if I’m to stand any chance of not going crazy between now and September.

Anyone got any ideas where they’re sold? Not that I have any money to buy one. Anyone got any ideas where they’re giving them away?

3 thoughts on “On passing exams and failing to meet expectations

  1. Ah! Don’t be so hard on yourself! You passed, Sure you wanted to do better but you didn’t. At least you now want to do better next time so that’s a grand start!
    I guess “new mindsets” are only available from within YOU!
    We probably all want certain things to be done/become/finsih up, better than they did. I think you have started well for next time by not blaming someone else that you didn’t do better.
    You’ve got it within you so GO FOR GOLD!

  2. You sound just like a younger me but I’ve mellowed with age ( or plain given up- not sure which some days). It was hard to face that I peaked young academically but I got used to it. I still want to be good at everything but I really don’t care about pass grades anymore – I care about “did I learn something new, am I better than I was, am I using what I learned, is my new knowledge important to my life/happiness?”. Until you arrive at this stage of life you will be hard on yourself and feel you don’t quite measure up to your own expectations. Hope you get kinder on yourself sooner than I did !

  3. Jesska, we are our harshest critics (as you are fully aware) – but sometimes we need to tell ourselves to shut up. I don’t mean to be harsh, but if this “just passed” mark makes you so unhappy then perhaps you should not continue along this road, unless, of course, it will have a significant impact on how you choose to live your life.. You deserve a life, a good life, filled with the things you want to do, some of which might be academic, but mostly should be filled “living” – that means reading, gardening, writing, being with your loved ones, or whatever. What do you want to remember about yourself, in 1 or 2 or 5 years time? Academic achievement, or for being a person who lived their life, and enjoyed it?
    For me, I put it in much simpler terms (not being of an academic persuasion): Do I want to spend a large amount of my time doing housework, and keeping it spotless, near to perfection (that mostly no-one else but me will ever see) OR, do I want to be a happy, appreciative, friendly person,and get out there and live.
    Apologies if this comes across as harsh – not meant to, just some of my life experiences prodding me here.
    kindest regards.

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