Results day pressure – tips from a top sports psychologist

Wednesday 14 August 2013
Dr Tom Fawcett
Dr Tom Fawcett

Getting your exams results can feel like you’re about to take a penalty to win the cup or serve for Wimbledon – but it doesn’t have to.  So to beat those results day nerves, who better to ask for advice than Dr Tom Fawcett, a University of Salford psychologist who’s worked with elite sportsmen and women.

The main message to take on board if you don’t get your results is ‘don’t panic’. 

There are still plenty of courses and new subject areas you can apply to.  At Salford we have a wide range available on our Clearing website, as well as FAQs. Or you can call us directly on 0161 295 5533 to get put through to a tutor in your subject area.

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Of course keeping calm is easier said than done, so here are Tom’s top 10 tips:

  1. Accept that failure is only a ‘temporary setback’- it is not long term. Re-interpret the failure to being a short term issue. It is not an Olympic failure that will take four years to correct. It can be rectified within a short period of time, but will take increased effort. Place it all in perspective.
  2. View the setback as an opportunity to make you ‘mentally stronger’. Failure is what we all need to develop our strengths by targeting out limitations. Without the odd setback we do not advance and learn from our errors and mistakes. It is a necessary part of how we learn and vital for our progression and personal development. All high achievers have failed along the road to success. You are not different.
  3. Shift you focus of attention from worrying about what others think of you or what others have achieved to what you need to do to ‘put it right’. A large part of the distress is worrying about what others think and not what can be done to work ahead and progress. Focus on trying again.
  4. When you are ready – ask for advice as to ‘what is needed to correct the failure’. This may be hard to accept but be brave and take it on the chin.  Get specific feedback and address the issues. Listen only to those that know best.
  5. Ask yourself what you can do to improve? Be honest and truthful in your own analysis of ‘where it went wrong’ and identify how much you can change to correct the next attempt.
  6. Ask for advice in putting a plan together for immediate action in trying to solve the problems caused by the failure. We all need help and assistance in sorting out possible solutions.
  7. Recognise that emotions are very unstable and you will feel different in the near future when things settle down. Don’t panic or make any rash decisions based on the setback. If you feel unable to cope ask for help – this is a sign of being brave, not weak.
  8. Be proactive and make it a priority to put it right. Consider options and put it all in perspective. Re-consider what it is you wish to do.
  9. Review what you did – in terms of effort, quality study time, preparation for the exam etc. Debrief the previous performance and learn from it.
  10. Realise that getting over a failure and dealing with adversity are extremely important and it is easier to hide and do nothing than tackle it and put it right. Self-determination, courage and mental resilience are developed when we approach failure head on and we learn from our setbacks. If we consider the Olympians who won medals in London they have all had lots of failures in the past but returned to win in the future. See failure as a temporary setback and time will pass to provide another opportunity to be successful.

Learning to fail is one of the most important skills we have to develop and by knowing you are doing something about it can provide you with a sense of purpose. When you then succeed you will feel much different and proud that you have deserved the reward.

If that inspired you, then you can always even follow in Tom’s footsteps and study psychology!