Stretching your limits: what snazzy yoga pants and exam target grades have in common

You know that comfy pair of leggings (or snazzy yoga pants)? The ones you pull on when you want to be comfy, chill-out and relax? But, also the things that allow you to stretch your limbs and make you limber? Well, they've got more in common with your exam target grades than you think.

exam target grades

You see, those snazzy yoga pants with their ever-so-accomodating elasticated waist line allow you to be comfortable. But, they also enable you to stretch. And, exam target grades should be the same. They should give you a degree of comfort but also some stretch.

Exam target grades = aspiration + track record

I remember one parent's evening (when I was in year 11) going round to all the teachers and talking about exam target grades. One conversation has lodged itself in my memory. It was with my textiles teacher.

I had always loved to sew. It was the thing I did in my spare time, always having some cross-stitch, knitting or a new skirt in the making. My teacher hadn't realised how keen on needle-work I was until I was sitting across the desk from her with my parents.

When I revealed quite how much of my time I spent sewing she was surprised. She then looked at the exam target grades she'd originally written down for me. Immediately, she rubbed it out and replaced whatever was there before with an A*.

I was chuffed to think she thought an A* was in my sights. I was also slightly bewildered that a target could change in a teacher's eyes that dramatically and that quickly.

From then on I knew that this exam target setting thing wasn't at all scientific. On my textile's teacher's part it was based on what she'd seen of my abilities so far and what she'd just learned: a combination of track-record and aspiration. I realised in that moment that I could set my own targets and not listen to my teachers.

Exam target grades = aspiration + track record Share on X

Targets and business

Most big businesses (and even little ones) set themselves targets. These targets are based around how much money they think they'll make each month and in the whole year.

Many of these businesses won't just have one target. They'll have two, or even more.

The first target will be what they think they can fairly comfortably achieve.

The next target will be a stretch target. How much money they think they can make if they push themselves a bit harder.

Finally, there's the BHAG: the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. What they could achieve if they really push themselves, everything works well for them (e.g. they get the right weather, the economy is going well, their thing is in fashion) and maybe even if their key competitor goes bust.

How to set your exam target grades

You should be setting your own exam target grades. Your teachers do it because they know they have to (their performance and pay is measured against them) but they're not fully tuned into your hopes and dreams or what else is going on in your life.

You should set yourself a comfortable target for each subject. Something you know is within the upper limits of your comfort zone to achieve.

You should also set yourself a stretch target. Something that is just outside your comfort zone, something that you'll have to stretch yourself to achieve. (Like that difficult yoga pose that you couldn't possibly do in jeans…)

If you're feeling audacious about it you can also set yourself a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

“Can I get 12 A*s?”

In a Get Motivated! session a few weeks ago I was talking to a Year 11 and she asked me if I thought it was silly if she set herself the target of getting 12 A*s in her GCSEs.

It's possible for someone to achieve that. This girl was clearly passionate about learning and wanted to do well. She had reviewed what she was currently achieving and thought it was within the realms of possibility for her.

I said she should go for it. No-one ever gained anything by limiting their aspirations. However, I did give her a caveat. You need to view those 12A*s as a stretch target or Big Hairy Audacious Goal and not be disappointed if you come out with 10 A*s and 2 As….

No-one ever gained anything by limiting their aspirations. #motivation Share on X

But, how do you know what's reasonable for you to aim for?

You know roughly where your grades are tracking so that's probably your target. One or two grades up is a good stretch target.

Set yourself a target for each subject, don't think of them collectively. So, set a target for maths, one for history and one for French. Don't just say ‘I want 10 As' because that won't work.

A handful of hopes and a pinch of reality

When I was at school with the long-burning ambition of going to Cambridge University my hopes far outstripped my teachers' expectations for me. They didn't recognise anything particularly special in me.

I had to set my own aspirational targets for my GCSEs. Subject by subject I monitored both what was possible (based on my track record) but pushed myself daily to achieve more. I knew I had to get the top grades to achieve what I wanted and I let my hopes and dreams drive me forward.

Those hopes, dreams and ambitions were the basis for the GCSE targets I set myself, but they were tempered by a pinch of reality. Ultimately, I achieved what I needed to realise my dream of going to Cambridge because I let my ambition drive me forward.

A handful of hopes + a pinch of reality = the recipe for stretch target grades Share on X

Exam target grades as extra motivation

Once you've set your exam target grades use them as a motivational tool. Write them out on a piece of paper and leave them somewhere prominent to drive you forward whenever you're not feeling like doing your homework.

If you need a bit more help to get you motivated book a Get Motivated! session with me. We'll cover everything from your ‘big motivations' to your ‘mini-motivations' and everything in between!

What's your target?

So, I'd love to know… what's your target? Leave a comment below telling me your target grades for your exams and how you keep yourself motivated and on track to achieve them.

Need more help achieving your exam target grades?

No problem! I've got a whole page of resources tailored to your needs. So check out my Exam Success resources page for help with everything from revision to time management and motivation to coping with your exams. Good luck!

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