Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset: Gutted by Grim Grades

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By Jolene Yee Xin Yi (23S03A) and Liu Yong Zhe (23S03H, Peer Helper)

Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to https://tinyurl.com/riadvice and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.

I failed my promos 😭

Disappointed David

Dear Disappointed David, 

We hear you. And, you’re not alone. Feeling crestfallen due to poor grades seems to be an inevitable experience in our educational journeys. Considering that the Promotional Examinations is arguably the most consequential checkpoint in Year 5, you must have been extremely disappointed by your results.

How then do we prevent ourselves from being devastated by the crushing weight of disappointment?  How do we move forward from here? Most importantly, how should we prepare ourselves to deal with dismay over exam grades?  


Here, we have a three-step strategy to offer – overcoming disappointment; looking forward; and last but not least, managing expectations. We hope this can aid you in coping with your feelings, regaining your footing, and building a healthy mindset moving forward. 

Step 1: Overcoming Disappointment 

The first (and perhaps the most urgent) step is to deal with the disappointment. Process your emotions – how are you feeling? Much as it might feel discomforting to do so, acknowledge the let-down you have experienced. This can help pave the way for you to overcome your disappointment later.  

As you grieve, you may feel yourself sinking deeper in negativity. Demoralising thoughts like “why am I so terrible?” may start to surface, further affecting your mood. It may be helpful to try reframing your thoughts so they are not as affected by your subjective feelings; rather, try focusing on objective facts. 

For instance, you could redirect a “why am I so terrible?” to a “why are my grades so upsetting this time?”. This limits your thoughts from being fogged by your own emotions, and instead helps you to focus on the objective reason behind your disappointment (which is your unsatisfactory results). 

Next, reflect. Identify what exactly you are disappointed with – is it the outcome (i.e. your results), or is it the process (e.g. the exams did not go the way you had expected)? 

Say you are disappointed with your grades – what specifically about your grades do you deem unsatisfactory? Are you upset because insufficient preparation led you to perform poorly, or is it because the grade itself fell short of your own expectations? Use questions similar to these to probe deeper and uncover the root cause of your disappointment. 

Of course, feel free to reach out to your own support network for additional support in overcoming your grief and disappointment. This way, grief shared can be grief halved and you may even find yourself refreshed by your friends’ commiseration and encouragement. What more, they can be your cheerleaders as you proceed with the following steps recommended below.

Step 2: Looking Forward 

Overcoming the disappointment in your promo results is a good first step! Next, it is essential to take decisive action to ensure that a similar outcome does not occur again. So… what can you do to improve your grades? We recommend the following actions:

  • Work harder

We know this is easier said than done, given how dreadful work is. However, working hard is crucial in ensuring that your grades improve.

To be able to work harder, you can try to adopt a different mindset when it comes to studying. Think of studying not as a means to an end, but rather as a process that will make you more knowledgeable about the world. Don’t just accept what you learn at face value and memorise blindly. Instead, try to genuinely gain a deeper understanding of the content. In the end, you will be able to appreciate the concepts more and as an added bonus, remember them better! This will make studying much less of a chore. Perhaps you will even enjoy it :)

It is also prudent that you stay focused while studying. Resist the urge to pick up your phone and immediately reply to the messages of your friends. One way to do so is to remove all distraction from your vicinity. Throw your phone on your bed or leave it in the living room to avoid its allure. We also know how tempting it is to stop work and lie on your bed and sleep after a long day. If you find it difficult to resist such temptations, we recommend you to find a conducive environment such as a library or even the windy benches in school to study. Studying at such locations will ensure higher productivity throughout your studying session.

However, while it is important to work hard, it is just as important to give yourself ample breaks to avoid burnout. Engage in your hobbies or go out with friends to give yourself a short escape. If you are unable to find the time to go out for fun activities with friends, you can consider planning study sessions with them instead. Your peers being there with you may give you comfort in knowing that you are not alone in the struggle, making revising less of a drag.  Seeing your peers fervently revising for the upcoming test can also motivate you to continue studying to achieve your desired grade.

  • Use resources available to you

Our tutors have uploaded a range of practices for the various subjects on the platform, Canvas. You can use these practices to apply the concepts you have learnt from your revision to further reinforce your learning. Resist the temptation to look at the answers before trying the questions as you will not be able to learn from your mistakes and hence will have fewer takeaways from the practice. Also, time yourself while doing them to stimulate an exam environment to train your time management for the papers, ensuring that you do not run out of time during the actual examinations.  

Do also review the mistakes from your promotional papers using the videos uploaded on Canvas by our tutors. Identify why you got the question wrong and internalise the key learning points to ensure that similar mistakes will not be repeated in the future. 

If there are any concepts that you are unable to grasp fully, please do not hesitate to ask your tutors for help. They will be more than happy to attend to you! It is also crucial to clarify your doubts as soon as possible to avoid misconceptions from piling up, which will be a huge problem as it will then take a lot of effort to correct them in the future. 

Step 3: Managing Expectations 

You have now overcome your disappointment and have taken decisive action to ensure that you do better for upcoming tests. Now, you may want or expect to score straight As (or even top the cohort). However, you need to  manage those expectations. It is difficult and practically  impossible to achieve a large jump in grades in such a short amount of time. Don’t be crestfallen if you are unable to achieve what you hoped. Instead of aiming for a report card filled with ‘A’s for school tests, you should simply strive to obtain grades that are an improvement from your promo results. Remember that the school tests are meant to serve as a benchmark to track your progress. Tiny improvements can accumulate over the course of next year and help you achieve your desired grades! 

Experiencing disappointment is definitely part and parcel of life. The game-changer, however, is how we respond, and whether or not we can bounce back from setbacks!

Remember, “The one who falls and gets up is stronger than the one who never tried”. You have got what it takes, so believe in yourself! Take a step back, stocktake, then keep trying – and don’t give up!

We are cheering you on! 

Sincerely, 

Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset

If you need anyone to talk to about any issues you might be facing, do drop by My Rest Space near Marymount gate and talk to one of our peer helpers! We’re open on Tuesday from 2.30 – 4.30 p.m, Wednesday 11.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m., Thursday 2.30 – 4.30 p.m. and Friday 1.30 – 4.30 p.m. If you would like to meet a peer helper on a regular basis, do email us a request at rafflesinstitutionphp@gmail.com or fill in our request form at our website https://rafflespeerhelpers.wordpress.com! 

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