Job market

Exam disappointment? It’s not the end of the world!

It’s summer, the weather is lovely and instead of being able to be out enjoying it, you’ve been stuck in revising. Now you’re worried that the exams haven’t gone to plan so you still can’t relax. Does that sound familiar? Most of you will be worrying to no purpose, it’ll all be fine, but what if you really haven’t done as well as you’d hoped?

exam_misery250What if you’ve failed an exam?

In many cases you’ll be able to resit later in the summer. You’ll need to try to find out what went wrong, talk to your tutors and get as much feedback as you can on your performance. Be honest with yourself. Was it a surprise? Could/should you have worked harder? Did something happen to interrupt your meticulous preparation? Once you have analysed the problem, you’ll be in a good place to start planning for your resit to make sure that it goes much better.

How does it impact your internship plans?

Part of the planning will involve thinking about any internships you’ve organised over the summer. Consider carefully the time you need to prepare properly for the exam and decide whether this is consistent with the arrangements you had made. If you have an internship then no doubt you’d be hoping to impress and convert it to a job offer. You will be well advised not to try to hide the exam blip from the graduate recruitment team, or to work through the revision time you need. Be honest, go and tell them what has happened. At the end of the day they will find out anyway if they offer you a job because they’ll ask for a transcript. Pre-empt that. Have the conversation, demonstrate self-awareness as to what went wrong and work your hardest to impress while you’re there, if you need to leave early to do the revision explain that too.

What if you’ve dropped a degree class and your job offer is at risk?

Full length of business man holding 'hired' and 'fired' board with colleagues

You may have a job offer which isn’t conditional on a degree class. Great! Put your disappointment to one side. Get ready to start work and try to enjoy your job. If you decide to move on in a few years’ time most employers will be much more interested by then in your work experience than in your university results.

It’s tougher if your job offer is conditional on a specific mark and you’ve not achieved this. It’s another situation where you need to be honest and talk to graduate recruitment as soon as possible. Don’t wait for them to find out from your transcript or degree certificate or just hope that that the conversation “won’t come up”. It almost certainly will and most employers place a high value on honesty! Get yourself ready to make the call. Be honest in your assessment of what went wrong. Reiterate your enthusiasm for the job. Try to remember that you are the same person who got the job offer in the first place. You may have had to jump through many hoops in the assessment process, application forms, on line tests, interviews, assessment centres? Some employers will be prepared to rely on their own recruitment system and take you regardless.

If you do lose your job offer then you will have to “go back to the drawing board”. Go and talk to your careers team. You’re not the only student this has ever happened to. We can help you reframe and look at other options. If you were going to join a big FTSE100 company or prestigious international partnership you may need to start your career with a small or medium sized enterprise. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will limit your future prospects, or that your job will be less interesting. It might just be fascinating and challenging in ways you had not envisaged.

Have a look at our earlier blog on getting a 2.2 which has some useful information and links.

What if you’re in your first year?


It doesn’t count, right? Just so long as you pass a resit (in the event that you failed a module) it’s all ok? Not necessarily! Some of the most highly sought after employers are looking for specific marks right back to your first year. (They might be looking at your A Levels and GCSEs too). Their application forms will ask you to disclose marks. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up on your dreams but you should be honest and realistic and you’re certainly going to have to work really hard if you want to keep those hopes alive.

The key to success might now lie in the networking you can do with these top employers. If they’re visiting your campus or offering the chance for you to visit them, make sure you seize the opportunity to meet them. Do your research in advance. Go along armed with some really good questions which show your interest (and which aren’t answered somewhere on their website).  Look smart, take the opportunity to chat. When employers are on campus they’re talent spotting, your aim is to get them to take your name and to regard you as a “prospect”. That might just get you over the exam blip. You’ll need to make sure that there are no more “accidents” next year though!

Make sure that you have a plan B if things don’t work out with the dream employer. A plan B is always good.plan_b300


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