Mapping a path to exam success: Your guidebook to outstanding results

This is the first in a three part series. Read Part 2 and Part 3 when you're done here.

path to exam success

Starting every journey is difficult. The first step towards any destination is often the hardest. Once you get going it gets easier. But, when you have someone there holding your hand it's easier still. And, if they've already travelled this journey, surmounted all the obstacles and discovered all the short-cuts it's even better.

I have put myself out into the world as an expert on achieving exam success, and offered my hand to you as your expert guide who has already traversed this difficult and winding route, because I feel that I truly have something unique to offer you from my experience.

I have achieved enormous exam success of my own over the years. I got pretty good GCSE results but really blossomed when I took my A-Levels, achieving 5 straight As. These spectacular grades took me to Cambridge University where I was awarded a 2.1 for my degree in Geography. Afterwards, I trained to be a teacher (at Cambridge again), worked in Secondary schools for four years and subsequently worked as an examiner.

It is all these experiences combined together that put me in a unique position to help you through this critical time in your life. I'm hoping you'll take my out-stretched hand and let me guide you.

Make your destination your own

If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else Yogi BerraThe most crucial lesson I have ever learned about how to achieve exam success is to make your destination your own. What do I mean by this?

Schools these days are obsessed by targets. You have target grades set by your teachers. But, do you really own these target grades? Just because your teachers have said this is what you can achieve, it doesn't mean you can't go way beyond it. And, it's your drive and ambition that will make the difference.

I know from my own experience, and from messages from people like you, that your target grades aren't always set with your hopes and dreams in mind. You need to take ownership of your destination in life and make your targets your own. When you're shooting for a goal you've set yourself your motivation will be far higher than if someone else has set it for you.

I have already written about how motivation is a high-octane fuel, powering you on your journey to exam success. I want to explain to you today how I chose my own destination in life and how it fuelled my motivation to transform myself from an ordinary farmer's daughter attending the village school, through two bog-standard comprehensives, into the ivory towers of Cambridge University.

Using your internal compass to set your direction

At the age of nine I was taken on a family day trip to Cambridge. It brings goosebumps to my arms as I remember walking around the Great Court of Trinity College, looking at the wide open space, the grand buildings and the grass which you're forbidden to tread on. I can still recollect the feel of the cool East-Anglian wind on my face in that moment that I decided that I HAD to study at Cambridge University.

Clearly, at the age of nine I had absolutely no idea what it took to earn a place at Cambridge. But, it very soon became clear to me that getting the top grades was an essential component, and I became totally single-minded in my quest to achieve them.

I had my motivation and I had set myself on a journey where one of the most crucial milestones was exam success. I achieved this success and I want to teach you how to achieve it too.

What can you learn from my journey?

There are several things you can learn from my journey:

  1. Choose your destination. Not for a second would I suggest that everyone should make their chosen destination Cambridge University. It's not for everyone. But, you must have some idea of your ideal future in your head. Use your inner desires to select your destination.
  2. It's vital to take ownership of your destination. If you're told by someone else what you're expected to achieve, you're going to find it hard to live up to your targets. You need to decide what you want to achieve. I knew the target grades I was set for GCSE weren't good enough to get me to my final destination so I took it into my own hands to exceed them. My desire to reach my chosen destination kept me motivated.
  3. Pour your heart and soul into the journey. You need to live and breathe your desire to reach your destination every day. It takes guts and determination to set your heart on something, knowing that there is always the possibility of failure, and make it the focus of all your activities.
  4. Take all the help and advice you can get. No-one gave me a road-map showing me how to get to Cambridge. I worked out the major milestones and obstacles along the way (mainly exam results, University applications and the dreaded interview). I then gleaned all the advice and clues I could on how to swing these things in my favour. It was like gathering clues in a mammoth treasure hunt and putting them all together to come up with the answer. (You can see my exact ten step method for getting outstanding exam results in my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take).
  5. Take responsibility for your own hopes and dreams. So many people will want to help you, even more will want to give you advice, but, ultimately only you can make your dreams come true. Take responsibility for your journey today and, with a fair wind, you will reach your destination.

Where are you headed?

I'd love to know what your destination is. Leave a comment below to tell me where you're headed and what your greatest obstacle is in getting there.


If you think I can inspire a friend of yours to seek their own destination please share this post with them.

Next time I'll be sharing how to make your journey more manageable by taking purposeful breaks and pit-stops along the way. Don't want to miss it? Sign up here.

This is the first in a three part series. Read Part 2 and Part 3 when you're done here.

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