With language and oral HSC examinations already underway in many states and the written exams kicking off in October, the end to a tough year is in sight for the class of 2020.
However, these last weeks of the HSC exams can be a very stressful time for most year 12 students, even without the disruptions of a global pandemic and added difficulty of adapting to zoom classes, online tests and being unable to enjoy many of the usual social send offs enjoyed by the years before them.
This year’s disruptions have meant that many year 12s are now experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, so it’s important that students are equipped to manage the stress, and that families know how to support their children practically.
To provide some helpful tips to both students and parents during this tougher than usual exam period, Mental Health Counsellor and Head School of Counselling at Excelsia College, Associate Professor Ebi Cocodia has shared her top five pieces of advice to help equip HSC students with effective strategies, and parents with the tools to encourage and better support their teens through this academic rite of passage.
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1. Prioritise a study/life balance
For many, the HSC feels all-encompassing, and students are often tempted to spend all their waking hours studying for upcoming exams. However, Cocodia says it’s important to maintain a good balance between study and life.
“Even though we have the HSC going on right now it’s important to maintain a level of normality. To help make sure the HSC does not become a lifestyle, try to ensure you prioritise a healthy balance between studying and what would be your normal, everyday routines and activities. Ensuring students have that stability and variation in their day will prove invaluable to using their time productively.”
2. Structure your days
When stress levels are peaking, implementing some structure into your day is important. This can mean the difference between having a healthy and positive study experience or burning out early.
“A simple trick is to make sure you wake up and go to bed at the same time every day and maintain a regular meal pattern and balanced diet that works for you. Taking the time to work things you enjoy into your day is also an important part of a study routine. If you find that you’re stressed or anxious, try doing an activity that brings you joy as a study break. This will help you to feel less anxious, give your mind a well-earned rest, and make you more confident in your ability to cope with the pressure of exams.”
3. Have a plan A and plan B
While it is great to have a strong idea of what you’d like to do once the exams are over, Cocodia advises students and parents to think about having a backup plan when it comes to your chosen career path or higher education provider. That way, even if it takes a few extra years or ‘plan A’ doesn’t work out, it won’t feel like such an impossible task to achieve your end career or education goal.
“Failure is simply a stepping-stone to improvement. What’s your backup plan? Ensuring you have a plan B around what’s happening after the HSC helps to take the pressure off students worried about numbers and results and can help give you much needed peace of mind. That way you are not focused on one specific outcome, and it isn’t the end of the world if it doesn’t go the way you first envisioned.”
4. Focus on time management and trust your tools
Most HSC students are probably feeling that there are not enough hours in the day. But Cocodia contends that completing study on time – and well – doesn’t have to be a constant race against the clock.
“Following the strategies that you have already been given over your schooling career by your mentors or teachers is the best approach to ensuring you make the most of your time. It is very tricky to change routines now, so maintaining strategies that have worked for you before is important. If you are struggling, always go back to the person who has been your mentor or guide for help. This could be a family member, teacher or career advisor, and they have already given you the tools to get through this, so trust them. Changing things up at the last minute is not advisable.”
5. Exercise and eat well
It’s been said before, but for good reason. Studying and sitting for final exams can be a stressful time so it’s important to have the right fuel for your brain and body to help you perform at your optimum. Cocodia also highlights the importance of exercise to elevate your mood and learning.
“We have all sorts of noises in our head when we are worrying. To control these thoughts, I encourage students to go for nice long walks daily. Regular exercise and access to bright natural light will also help to improve cognitive function. Also, be mindful of what you are eating. It’s good to always eat a healthy balanced diet and this will help keep you focused for long periods of time when studying or sitting exams.”
Always remember that whether you or your child is part of an independent or department of education school, there is always access to someone who can assist them with their welfare. Associate Professor Ebi Cocodia recommends the following external platforms for anyone who feels as though they need support:
What tips do you have for this year’s HSC students? Tell us in the comments below.