My, my… It’s been already two weeks since my last examination, and I am still all bubbly with the information gathered throughout this year, in which I attempted three modules instead of my usual two. I bet a lot of you are feeling the same, maybe with a bit of regret mixed in (“why did I not start earlier?” “I should have read that author”, etc.).
However, do not let the regret take hold of you, rather, take advantage of that spur to action by evaluating your past year. To gear yourself towards interpreting your results, the first thing you should do is make a fair evaluation of your efforts: did you encounter any difficulties this year? Was your planning too tight/too loose? Did you spread your efforts evenly across all your modules? These questions and many more can offer you a valuable view of your learning style as a student, and the input can then be used to improve your efforts next year.
Rest and evaluate your efforts
Maybe you are even tempted to start studying now, but as I have said before, efforts spent without a plan of action tend to die soon and rarely yield productive results. You can download study guides or even ask for advice on modules to seasoned students in the VLE, perhaps you can start to approach your next tasks by devising your reading list. However, bear in mind that you need to rest, and your brain needs rest too, especially after the stress and pressure of examinations. Take some time to reconnect with friends, family, that long-forgotten hobby or even to catch up with some leisurely reading. I took the opportunity to go on vacation with The Little One and the husband to Spain, where we enjoyed some much-needed quality time (and I came back a bit tanned, yay!)
After resting and evaluating your efforts as a student you can start thinking about results. They are scary, but they are so partly because we approach them the wrong way. First, we have to deal with the rollercoaster of emotions after the exams. For a week I was swaying between “I think I did pretty well” and “Oh God, this is going to be the greatest fail of my life”. Unless you get out of that mood-swing, you are not going to be prepared to process results. Second, you have to make a conscious effort to acknowledge that, regardless of the outcome, the process is what really counts. What truly remains is all the things you learned this year. You may think that you are getting nothing out of it unless you get a good mark, but I can assure you that if you have studied consistently you are now equipped with knowledge, opinions and tools that you did not have before. In my case, I keep seeing allusions everywhere, and I keep interpreting things I see in TV shows or movies in terms of feminism, post-colonialism or marxism.
Go through your bucket list
Well, now you have rested, evaluated your efforts and prepared mentally to accept your results, what’s next? There are many options. Until results come in the middle of summer you have to find some way to pass the time. My personal favourite is creating a bucket list, or maybe start tackling the one you have created while suffering pre-examination stress. I try to mix in highly physical activities with milder ones, so for example this year I will be tidying and de-cluttering my pantry (gasp!), but also improve my hand-lettering and drawing abilities.
The month and a half before results are released is the perfect time to do all those things you could not do before due to lack of time.
Interpreting your results
Okay, now you have rested, evaluated efforts, prepared to accept results and, finally, you have your results on your hand and everything went well. Congratulations for making it this far! What now? If everything went well, maybe you can start planning your next move. You probably know by this time which modules you are going to tackle, and maybe you can even have a reading list all ready. Start with your reading list or start with research or plan your studying schedule. This is a good time to devote yourself to careful planning and to consider your choices, no need to rush (yet).
Maybe you got your results and they are either worse than expected or, worst case scenario, you flunked. In this case the first step is avoiding getting carried away by despair and bad feelings. We all have bad days, we all struggle, you are not alone. I recommend to reach out to someone, maybe a seasoned student or an alumni ambassador, since they are or have been in a similar situation and they may have recommendations for you. If you are reluctant to reach out (although I heartily recommend it), you can analyse where things went wrong: did you try to tackle too much? Did you need more time to improve your essay writing? Did you struggle to determine the quantity of preparation needed for some areas? Although it is going to be hard, I recommend that you put yourself in the examination situation: what thought did persistently come up when you were attempting to answer the paper? It can be a personal insecurity or it can be the realisation that you should have prepared something else. In either case, that is where you should focus your efforts next time.
In the meantime
While you wait for results to come, I suggest you give yourself a pat on the back and make the most of the waiting time (a.k.a freedom). Regardless of results, you deserve a good rest.
Ana is studying the BA English by distance learning in Luxembourg.