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8 ways we can learn ‘Goal’ setting from GCSE students.

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

GCSE results day! This day has been a long time coming, even though the subject has been ‘off limits’ in our home so we haven’t really spoken about it very much!

However, it is all good news - mission achieved, my son is on to the next stepping stone on his life journey and I am one happy, proud mum 😊 (and breathe!)

I remember a little about picking up my results, I remember who I was with, where I was, what the results were, but either side of that it is all a bit of a blur.

When you think about your own G.C.S.E. results you don’t automatically think about the work that you put in to get there!

If you reflect now on what you did, what did you learn? How many of those practices do you still apply to work towards your current goals?

At 230am this morning, as I lay in bed wondering what results today would bring, and then remembering that I also needed to write a blog today I started to think how the education system here in the U.K. helps our teenagers have a structure in place to achieve their goals.

They may not realise it, but it gives them some great guidance in being able to set strategies in place that work for them. So, what can we learn from this?

I came up with 8 in total.

Set a date

Setting an end date for a goal means we set ourselves something to aim for. The GCSE’s are always at the same time and as a collective the students are working in the same time frame, so this can really help as it sets a team work type environment.

If you have not set a date for a goal you are working towards then you are less likely to commit and take action. You are less likely to set smaller milestones and the date you achieve your goal is likely to drop further and further back and quite possibly drop off all together!

As the saying goes, a goal without a deadline is just a wish!

Make a plan

One of the first things the teachers will do with the students is help them create a plan. They will talk through the importance of spreading out the work, not leaving it until the last minute, making revision and study a priority.

They will also learn how to set smaller milestones for mini goals they want to achieve along the way. This may mean dividing modules of work, separating all of the activities into each month. Working out what other activities they will need to de-prioritise during the revision and exam period.

They will also have been encouraged to write it all down. Bring out the colour pens, post it notes, time tables and tick lists. Then these go up on the wall so that they are in sight and kept as reminders to help them stay on track.

Often, we make a mental plan but if we don’t commit it to paper, keep it in sight, put reminders in the diary then how do we make sure it doesn’t fall off the radar?

Timetabled activities

Revision periods and extra tuition periods are not just written down as a ‘To-Do’ list.They are structured and time tabled in.The period of time is determined based on the size of the task and the level of focus required and then placed in the calendar. This is then clear where the time is being spent.The student knows that at 4 pm on Monday they will be in an extra maths tuition period for an hour.It isn’t left to how they feel at 4pm on a Monday, what do they feel like doing it is committed, the decision is made for them.

Do you timetable your ‘to do’ list?Do you schedule time aside and commit to it?


Life is busy, we all have a lot going on. It can be hard to focus on everything. Students preparing for their GCSEs make this their focus. The make the decision to make this a priority. They may choose to de-prioritise other activities during this period of time so that they have more mental and physical energy on their revision and exams.

When you determine your goal do you choose to make it a priority? Do you then readjust your other activities and commitments so that you can focus your time and energy? Are you focused on it every day? Are you making it a priority so that every day you are doing something (even something small) that takes you closer to your goal?

Positive Motivation

When preparing for their exams the students are very much focused on the exams ahead. They aren’t focusing on what they are moving away from but heavily focused on the exam period ahead and what success looks like to them.

When we set goals, we can have positive or negative motivation. Positive motivation focuses on the goal ahead, what you are moving towards rather than negative motivation which focuses on what you are trying to move away from.

What motivates us is a very individual thing, but it is found that intrinsic, positive motivation is proven to lead to success more so than the others. Focus on the goal, what will success look like, but also what will it feel like for you to achieve that success, what will you do that is different, how will you feel different.

Review regularly

Students have mock exams (three sets for some schools) to review their progress, it is how they can tell how well they are doing and most importantly if what they are doing is working! It gives them an opportunity to stop and reflect. Do more of what is working and try something different for the areas that have not gone so well.

When was the last time you reflected and reviewed your goals?

Do you know what you are doing that is working? What do you need to change up and do differently to get a different outcome?If you aren’t taking time out to reflect and review, then the chances are you will still keep doing the same thing and getting the same results – which is all well and good if it is taking you closer to your goals.If it isn’t then it is time to stop, reflect, review and react!

Getting help

It is not uncommon for students to be offered additional help, even if they don’t take it!

Sometimes the school will keep this as optional, sometimes they make this mandatory as was the case at my sons’ school.Mandatory extra help can be great when the individual doesn’t want to admit that they need additional support.Yes, we probably all get to where we want to get to, but how much quicker can we get there if we have additional support?

What extra help and resources do you need to help you achieve your goals? Are you accepting the offers of help being made to you? Are you considering if you need to invest more to achieve your goals?

There is a lot of free help and resources out there – make sure you are taking advantage of these!


I mentioned making your goal a focus and that this may mean putting other things on the back burner while you focus on your goals.

One thing that I would not recommend de-prioritising is activity and in particular any activities that help you de-stress or empty the stress bucket.

Students are strongly encouraged to make sure that they continue these activities whilst studying and during the exam period. This is proven to help productivity the rest of the time and the balance is very important.

Whatever your goal is, make sure that you have balance. Focus is good. Making it a priority is good but make sure that you have balance as the last thing you want to do is the resent the goal you are working towards.

Enjoy the journey on the route to success as this is a key part of making sure you reach that end goal.

I am off for a power nap, it’s been a long 24hrs!

Everything I have mentioned in this blog can be recorded in the Phoenix Planner/Journal.

If you need help setting and achieving goals then check out the website for all the different options on how you can work with me to help you achieve this.

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