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How to support students who fail exams

6 July 2021

UCL Student Support and Wellbeing share tips and highlight the help available for managing student disappointment on exam results day.

Staff and student in discussion at a computer

As we approach results day, we find ourselves celebrating student success, but also having to manage the disappointment of students who do not do as well as expected.

UCL Student Support and Wellbeing are on hand to support students with how they feel about their results. However, it is important that staff in departments are also available and able to assist students during this difficult time.

Tips for a supportive conversation

We should ensure that students are able to express how they feel about their results and know that they are supported by UCL, even if their results have an impact on their progression or lead to resits.

We recommend being supportive without offering false hope. Instead, support students to establish what they can do to move forward, even if they need to withdraw from their studies.

Here are some tips on communication and coaching principles that can help when having a supportive conversation with students about their results:

  • Follow the principles of active listening (pay attention, avoid interruptions, repeat what you have heard to check understanding, allow silence and show encouragement).
  • Try to view the situation from the student’s point of view.
  • Ask open questions to help establish what the student wants.
  • Help the student to identify opportunities to move themselves forward.
  • Establish the student’s ‘desired state’ – where are they now and where would they like to get to?

Support available at UCL

On results day and the following day, the Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing team within UCL Student Support and Wellbeing will be offering same-day appointments that students can book into, to discuss how they are feeling about their results. Students can book by calling +44 (0)20 7679 0100 or submitting an askUCL enquiry.

Care First offer 24-hour counselling support, 365 days a year, that can be accessed via telephone and online.

UCL Careers can talk to students about their future opportunities, be that further study or how to move into their desired field of work.

UCL’s team of Student Advisers are on hand to talk to undergraduate students about their results. Students can request to talk to a Student Adviser by submitting an enquiry via askUCL.

The Students’ Union Advice Service can support students who may want to review their next steps if things have not gone to plan.

Our Student Funding team are able to talk to students who may need to review their financial plans, such as if they are having to repeat or have lost access to a scholarship. Students can contact the team by raising an enquiry via askUCL.

The Student Support and Wellbeing UCLcares blog features a range of helpful articles for students to read, including several on the topic of addressing and reassessing failure.

If you as a staff member have significant concerns about a student and how they will receive their results, you can submit a Student of Concern and our team of Mental Health Coordinators and Wellbeing Advisers will follow up within 24 working hours.