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Survey reveals 'Mum's the word' for students awaiting exam results

Mums are the first port of call for students sharing exam success or heartbreak, a survey of students awaiting their exam results this summer has revealed.

Sixty-one per cent of the 1,003 students across the UK who took part in the survey, commissioned by Leeds Metropolitan University, plan to tell their mum first upon receiving their exam results, whilst only 7% plan to tell their dad first.

Mums also scored highly when it came to giving the most valuable advice on which university to choose with students being twice as likely to head to mum, rather than dad; and mum also being the most influential when giving students career advice.

Key findings:

  • 84% of male students are confident they will achieve better or the same as their predicted grades v 72% of female students.
  • Mums offer the most valuable advice on which university to choose (26%), teachers second (18%), dads third (13%).
  • Male students are more likely to be incentivised (66%) as opposed to female students (58%).
  • Male students on average are offered higher value incentives (£183) than female students (£124).38% of students are offered money as an incentive, with just over one in nine offered a car and nearly one in nine offered a holiday.

Speaking about the results, Dr Caroline Bligh, an expert in Education Studies at Leeds Met said: "With mothers tending to be the primary carer of their children from birth, it may be that children build closer and more trusting relationships with their mothers and I feel that they are more likely to accept the results whether they are good or bad! Children could also be more concerned about their father's reaction if they do not achieve the results anticipated. Research also suggests that mothers become stronger academic role models for their children, with the educational achievements of fathers making no significant impact on their children's academic aspirations and achievements."

The survey showed that male students are more positive than female students about receiving their exam results with 84% of male students confident that they will achieve better or the same as their predicted grades: 12% more than their female counterparts. Students living in the London region were the most positive about their results with 83% confident that they will achieve better or the same as their predicted grades, whilst students from the East Midlands were the least positive at 70%.

Results from the survey revealed that 38% of students have been offered financial incentives for succeeding in their exams with 11% being offered a laptop, 11% a car and 10% a holiday. On average the survey showed that male students are offered more money than female students to perform well. The average amount offered to male students was £184; £60 more than their female counterparts who were offered on average £124.

The amount offered by parents as incentives varied dramatically among the respondents, with some students being offered up to £2,000 for an A* and £1,500 for an A grade. The most frequently offered sum for both an A* and an A was £100, with £50 for a B grade.

Commenting on the psychology behind students receiving incentives, behavioural change expert from Leeds Met, Divine Charura, said: "From the moment we are born our behavior is conditioned by incentives. Incentive psychological theory suggests that behaviour is motivated by a desire for reinforcement or incentives. Behaviour is motivated by an attraction to external goals, such as rewards, money, or recognition."

The survey also asked students to describe how they would spend the night before receiving their results; with the majority of students predicting that they would stay up late, unable to sleep. 47% of male students surveyed said they would be staying up very late as opposed to 38% of female students.

Jim McKenna, Professor of Physical Activity and Health at Leeds Met, noted: "Controlling sleep is a crucial life skill, yet many would-be students - males and females - are already sleep deprived. They need nine hours per night to sustain forward thinking and perseverance in the face of adversity; anything less tends to weaken brain 'power'. If they are already sleep deprived, which is likely, adding to that is only likely to be counter-productive. Does it make sense to do that on a day when good decisions are so important?"

Twenty-three per cent of students are planning to stay in and spend time by themselves in their room the night before receiving their exam results with 22% planning to go out with friends or family to take their mind off it. 21% of the students surveyed planned to start researching their options in case they don't get the results they want, with this figure rising to 25% for male students.

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