Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

UAE and A-levels: Dos and don'ts on exam results day

A psychologist offers up some helpful tips for pupils, parents and teachers

Parents and teachers should support pupils whatever their results and grades
Parents and teachers should support pupils whatever their results and grades

The wait is almost over for A-level pupils across the UAE, with exam results expected on August 15.

While revision preparation can cause untold stress in the months and weeks leading up to tests, results day can be just as nerve-wracking for students, parents and teachers alike.

While fussing and excessive pandering may seem like the best way to pacify worried teenagers, it could have the opposite effect.

Knowing when to step in and when to step back can make a real difference to a pupil’s results day experience — no matter their marks.

Here, Aisling Prendergast, a psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia, a counselling clinic in Dubai, gives her tips on the dos and don’ts on results day.

For students:

Don’t:

Don’t feel isolated because of the mix of emotions you are feeling. Stress, anxiety, nervousness, and everything in between, is totally normal on results day. Remember you are not alone. The outcome of your exams means a lot to you so what you are feeling is completely valid under the circumstances.

Do:

Try to keep as calm as possible. The past is out of your control so just focus on the now. Try some mindfulness or breathing techniques in the hours leading up to your results. There are some helpful mobile applications such as Headspace and Calm that can guide you. If apps are not your thing, try this simple grounding technique: identify five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel either on or around your body, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Utilising your five senses will help bring you back into the moment.

Don’t:

Don’t worry if you don't get the results you are hoping for. If you have your sights on a particular university but didn’t quite make the mark, your top university choice is still within reach thanks to a number of options such as clearing and retakes. If you feel university is now out of reach, don’t worry. Your results may open up other exciting opportunities for your further education and future career, so veering off the plan you had previously set isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Do:

Take a break from social media and online groups in the hours after opening your results, especially if you are feeling vulnerable. Spend time with people who support you such as friends, family or teachers. Comparing yourself to your peers online will only heighten the emotions you are feeling.

Supporting your children whatever their grades is crucial, says Ms Prendergast. Many universities offer clearing places or another opportunity to enrol. Courtesy: Gems Academy
Supporting your children whatever their grades is crucial, says Ms Prendergast. Many universities offer clearing places or another opportunity to enrol. Courtesy: Gems Academy

For parents:

Don’t:

Don’t assume what your teenager wants. The morning of the results, ask them questions. Do you want space? Do you want me to be there when you open your results? This will make your teenager feel in control.

Don’t:

Ask your teenager what grades their friends secured. Making comparisons could perpetuate feelings of disappointment, shame or embarrassment. Moreover, don’t start comparing their grades to that of siblings. It isn’t relevant. In today’s digitally-driven world, peer to peer comparisons are more prevalent than ever, so make an effort to avoid this happening by refraining from making comparative statements.

Do:

No matter the results, suggest doing something that you know your teenager enjoys. This is particularly important if your child’s grades were not what they hoped for. It could be taking them to their favourite restaurant or cooking their favourite meal. If they don’t feel comfortable talking about their disappointment, an activity like this will reassure them that you are not disappointed in them. It could also help them open up about their feelings.

For teachers:

Do:

If you feel like your personal experience with exam results will prevent a pupil from feeling alone, share your story with them. Maybe you didn’t get the results you were hoping for years ago. Explain to them how things worked out for you. It is also worth mentioning not all adults today are doing what they thought they would be doing when they were 18. It will give them some perspective.

Do:

Be aware of your surroundings and a pupil’s mood. If a pupil looks disappointed, don’t approach them by asking what grades they got. Let them know you are on hand to talk. Broach an open-ended conversation starter: ‘If you want to talk about your options, let me know.’

Don’t:

Put a lot of emphasis on good exam results. While exam results are important and should be taken seriously by pupils, let them know it is not the end of the world if they do not get the results they are expecting. Discuss alternative options with them such as changing university choice, retaking exams, university clearance options, or making a transition into a company internship.

Don’t:

Don’t feel like you have failed a pupil if they do not get the grades they were expecting. Exams can be very stressful for teenagers and quite often pupils buckle under the pressure. This need not be a true reflection of their ability, nor does it reflect on your teaching style. Speak to a senior member of staff at your school if you are feeling vulnerable. They can offer advice and help you cope better on the day.

Updated: August 15, 2019 04:27 PM

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