Worried about your upcoming exam results? We get that. Three friends of Happiful share their experiences of unexpected grades and how they have succeeded, despite their results

You’ve probably heard it a hundred times by now: bad exam results really aren't the end of the world. Yet, despite this, it's still an anxious and stressful time. Not getting the exam results you were expecting can seem like a terrifying prospect.

But, bad (or good) grades don’t always have the impact you might think.

We spoke to three professionals who didn’t get the grades they expected at GCSE, A-level, or University about how it impacted their education and future careers.

J, Lead Designer


I had unexpected A-level results from my first year of college. I look back now and realise that I needed that first year to transition from my strict, Catholic school to a modern college as they were completely different.

I found it really difficult to manage the workload whilst also trying to make new friends and enjoy my time there. My results ended up spelling D U D E. After a few tears and lots of panic, I had to start college again.

They were the best three years of my life, though, and I wouldn't change much about it. It made me realise you need time to find out who you are and what you want to do. I went from studying chemistry, biology, maths and English to film studies and more creative subjects!

W, Senior Sales Engineer

I remember my GCSE, A-level and degree results days in vivid, painful detail. Opening up that envelope, slowly sliding out the results slip... Only to be hit by a wave of shock and horror. Seeing my low grades felt like a crushing defeat. But in each case, I'm pleased to say, my feelings about those low grades only really mattered for a few days.

While my results GCSE results weren't the A*'s and A's that I was hoping for, I found a path to get to the next steps to A-levels, and later uni. Getting those qualifications got me into a very successful job – they are still just a part of the equation – but the grades themselves weren’t the be-all and end-all.


If I could, I would have told myself at those steps, "Don't give up, you'll find a way." While many employers do care about your qualifications and will look at them, those results are just part of a bigger picture of you. It's just as important to be an interesting person, to show a good work ethic, to be interested in your subject, and to read up around it.

Nobody got great jobs on just being "book smart". Getting good results can make it easier to get into an interview but, once you're through the door, your interviewer isn't going to be as interested in your results as you might think.

In my first ever job interview, I even joked about "just about passing my degree" because I spent too much time socialising! A risky strategy, but my interviewers laughed along after I had shown how much I wanted the job. I showed a good work ethic in how much of my spare time was invested in learning outside of my University degree. I came to them showing an eagerness to learn more, and do my best. After my first "real" job, I demonstrated this in all of my interviews. Nobody has asked me about my results since.

G, Writer

I did better than I expected at A-level and GCSE. By the time it got to getting my university results, I was quietly confident I’d done well. Luckily I managed to surpass my own expectations, but that succession of better than expected results left me completely unprepared when it came to applying for actual jobs in my field.

Going into a creative industry, I knew competition would be tough, but I thought my grades would give me an edge on the competition. They didn’t. While I did go back to get my Masters degree, it still took me almost a year after that to land an internship in a related field. It left me feeling pretty disheartened.


Whether your grades are good or bad, all that really matters is that you have the piece of paper to show that you know the basics in your field.

If anything, the connections I made at college and university have proved to be far more useful than the qualifications themselves, as former coursemates and lecturers saw my passion and dedication within my field. Even years after graduating, they still keep me in mind when opportunities arise. I wish I’d known that a lot earlier!

For more information on how to prepare for exam results day, visit Counselling Directory.