Unexpected exam results? Read this

If you didn’t get the grade you hoped for – 3rd, 2:2, pass or DDH –you are bound to be feeling a bit floored by this and it will take time to think differently. But, as with any challenge in life, it’s what you do next that really matters

It’s easy for us at the Careers Service to say, and hard, in this moment, to believe, but there is definitely a career after a 3rd. We have worked with many students over the years who perceived their result as a disappointment and have gone on to have fulfilling, happy careers.  So take a breath, collect yourself and think about what to do next.

“Initially, [it] felt like my world was crashing down. Shortly after I realised that it opened me up to different possibilities” – NatSci graduate

Is the job/course you had lined up still possible?

Don’t stick your head in the sand on this one.  You need to find out either way, so you must talk to the organisation about this soon. Employers who want a 2:1 may still consider you if you have evidence of mitigating circumstances, and you’ve shown you have the skills they want, particularly if previous grades and coursework demonstrate the quality of your work. Some of the big employers like KPMG, EY, PwC have started relaxing their approach, realising that the skills they want aren’t necessarily reflected in an exam result.  If you still want a City-type role, think of other routes in, perhaps at smaller firms. Not many employers actually require skills in passing exams.  Those that offered you a job for your skills and experiences rather than exam performance may well admire your honesty and keep the job offer open. If there are have mitigating circumstances that affected your exam results, collect any paperwork you need –  doctor’s notes, documentation from exam invigilators, coursework grades, references from academics, etc. Prepare for the conversation.  It might be that a particular paper brought your overall grade down, but you did much better in other papers that are more relevant to the role.

There are some examples of people with a 2:2/3rd going on to further study as well…

“I applied for MScs which always require a grade in the application form. I almost always mentioned being more capable than my grade suggested” – NatSci graduate, now happily completing a PhD in the UK

Never lie about it!

It is ok to miss a grade off your CV, but it is never ok to lie about it. It’s inevitable that someone will find out at some point, and no matter how good you are at the job, by then you may well be sacked for dishonesty.

There’s more to life than a City job.

Some of those big City grad schemes may no longer be available to you. However, it’s a fact that the majority of roles are actually outside the City. Many employers just want you to have a degree and they aren’t that bothered about it being a 2:1. Look at Vacancies & Opportunities and search by ‘degree class’. You may well be surprised by the number of options open for a degree of ‘any class’. Have a look at Target Jobs for their list of employers across many sectors that accept less than a 2:1.

Not everyone is jumping for joy with their results, but this doesn’t mean you can’t have a fantastic career | photo: Sir Cam/University of Cambridge

What else can you offer an employer?

If you got a lower grade because you spent a lot of your time leading societies of some kind, directing plays or playing semi-professional sport, you may well have skills that employers value highly. Many employers say that they would rather see a CV with some life experience on it and a lower grade, than a first class degree but no other experience at all. Have a look at the skills pages of our CVs and Applications book to help you recognise the skills you have and how to present them in a CV. Highlight the parts of your degree that are most relevant to the job – note down ‘modules included…’ and your best grades, so you don’t have to list the modules you struggled with.

Ask for help

“I went to my DoS.  Together, we discussed how we can still reach my career goals despite the unfortunate results and made sure I didn’t give up on my dream job.  DoS’s are there for a reason, make the best use of them” – NatSci graduate

Talk to the Careers Service, parents, family, friends – anyone who you think may be helpful in helping you move forward from this point. We’re open throughout the summer and are your Careers Service for life.

Lacking career ideas as well?

If you’ve left it until now to think about what career direction you might go in, see our I’m looking for ideas and I’ve got a few ideas pages to get started. Think about volunteering as well as applying for work experience in areas you’re interested in.

You aren’t the first student to be disappointed in their degree result, and you certainly won’t be the last!  Don’t panic. Give yourself some breathing space to think, and work out a strategy for where to go from here. We’re here to help you anytime, so do get in touch with us if you get stuck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe By Email

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Skip to toolbar