Dealing with Post-Exam Depression (also known as ‘PED’) is a very real issue that students face with during Year 12.

If left unattended, the feelings of lethargy, anxiety, stress and fear can transform your life, but not necessarily for the better.

In high school, I was the 90+ student, but then I got back my exam paper; I got 74%. In everything else, I got 95+.

Long story short, from my fourteen units, these two units caused me to plunge into depression and burned me out prematurely from all the studying I did in compensation.

That’s why you need to deal with it in a healthy waybeneficial for your health and well-being. 

So how do we resolve Post-Exam Depression?

Step 1: Have and keep realistic expectations
Step 2: Let it out
Step 3: Review how you study
Step 4: Start planning for Plan B
Step 5: Seek support

Step 1: Have and Keep Realistic Expectations

While it’s okay to have high expectations, if they are unrealistic, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment and post exam depression.

wanted a 99.95, however, I was projected a 96. Instead of being angry at this, I made 96 my minimum goal. The ATAR Calculator in a great way to figure out what to expect.

It wasn’t so much that I lowered my expectations; I gave myself realistic benchmark. 

Instead of being merely angry or upset as to why I only got 74%, I actually asked myself, ‘How have I been doing in (subject), relative to this mark? And, how can I improve?’

In doing so, I removed a lot of pressure from myself, and was able to focus my energy on achieving rather than dreaming. 

Step 2: Let It Out!

There is very little benefit in dealing with things in a highly emotional state so let it out. If you’re a writer, write. If you’re an artist, paint. If you need to scream, scream into a pillow.

Take some time out to get yourself back to a better state of mind.

You’ll feel better, trust me. The day I got my marks back, I came home and played Halo Reach for a few hours until I had calmed down. After that, I was able to get back into the swing of things a lot quicker instead of being a snivelling ball of anger and tears.

Step 3: Review How You Study

Are you doing past papers? Are you consulting your teachers regularly? Are you actively striving to improve? Or are you writing and rewriting notes? Or checking Facebook every few minutes? Answer these questions seriously then…

Look at your marks.

Are you rewriting notes for 8 hours a day and only getting a 65? Or are you doing past papers and getting a 80?

Studying doesn’t mean rewriting notes and memorising essays; it means investigating a subject, analysing it, then applying your knowledge.

If you need some extra help, maybe consider starting a study group or getting an academic coach to help clarify a few things from a fresh perspective!

Step 4: Start Planning for Plan B

Nowadays, there are so many options to get to where you want to be.

Want to get into Law at USyd (99.6 ATAR) but only looking at a 94? You have two options; start at Western Sydney University (90 ATAR) or the Macquarie University (93 ATAR with Pre-Law Pathway). Absolutely smash your first year, and USyd Law may accept you.

The point is, the door is never locked; there are always other ways to get into your course.In some cases, it might take a little bit longer, but what’s the point in being the youngest partner at a law firm anyhow?

Step 5: Seek Support

Chat to your teachers.

I didn’t have a good relationship with my teachers until catastrophe happened, and I found that they are always waiting for you to approach them.

Start by asking them some simply questions:
  • What did you mean by (unclear feedback)?
  • Is this a mistake I often make?
  • How can I amend this mistake?
  • What are some practical exercises I can do to improve?

You’ll always be surprised what they can offer – just make sure they’ve had coffee and something to eat first!

If you find that you’re not bouncing back after two weeks, and you’re still feeling glum or anxious, get in contact with someone who can help.

 Headspace and BeyondBlue are Australian Youth Mental Health Services, and they are there for you if you need someone to chat with you, as is the KYDS Youth Development Service.

You can always bounce back!

Post Exam Depression is a lot more common than you think, so it is your task to make sure that what you’re doing is the best for you. This means not only keeping you happy and well, but ensuring that your anger and sadness isn’t just for nothing!

Looking for some extra help with your HSC studies?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC coaches and mentors!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today!

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at info@artofsmart.com.au or check us out on Facebook!


Elizabeth Goh isn’t a fan of writing about herself in third person, even if she loves writing. Elizabeth decided she didn’t get enough English, History or Legal Studies at Abbotsleigh School for her own HSC in 2010 so she came back to help others survive it with Art of Smart Education. She’s since done a mish-mash of things with her life which includes studying a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and International Relations) with a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University, working for NSW Parliament, and admitting that she actually has four Taylor Swift songs on her main playlist