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Surviving the HSC

The High School Certificate exams commence in a little over two months. Here are 15 survival tips.

  1. Get enough sleep – at least 9 hours. To promote sleep, turn lights out 30 minutes prior, stick to a sleep routine Monday through Thursday, and don’t use technology in your room – especially your bed. It’s important that you learn to associate your bed with relaxation and sleep.
  2. Schedule in breaks from study. Try to have at least two nights per weeks that does not involve study.
  3. Limit alcohol and avoid marijuana.
  4. Think about what food and drink you are consuming. Drink plenty of water to improve concentration. Limit caffeine. Eat plenty of protein, wholesome grains, vegetables and fruit. Occasional sweets are okay, but too much sugar creates energy highs and lows that impact on your ability to concentrate over long periods.
  5. Manage social media. Turn off screen notifications and sounds to reduce distraction. Schedule a limited amount of time in the morning and afternoon to attend to social media.
  6. Partake in regular exercise and relaxation to improve brain and emotional functioning.
  7. Limit study sessions to 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break before recommencing study.
  8. To increase intrinsic motivation, try to identify what values may be behind your goals. E.g., do you want to study education because you have a passion for helping others or immersing yourself in particular topic areas?
  9. Keep out for signs of depression or excessive anxiety. Symptoms of depression include, difficulties sleeping, weight loss or weight gain, appetite changes, low mood, agitation, poor concentration, withdrawal from friends or interests, low sense of hope or purpose in life. Symptoms of anxiety include, constant worry, feeling on edge, avoiding things that are important, stomach pains, head aches, racing heart sleep difficulties, appetite changes. If these symptoms are present and persistent, consider seeing your school counselor, speak to someone you trust or schedule an appointment with your GP so that you can be referred to a psychologist.
  10. Comparing yourself to others is rarely helpful.   The human mind tends to try and confirm our thinking biases, such as “I’m not good enough”.
  11. Remember that negative thoughts and feelings are normal and likely to arise when we set challenging goals. Try not to engage with these thoughts and feelings by allowing them to be there and seeing them as what they are – simply thoughts and feelings. The more we pay attention to them, the more powerful they tend to become. This can be tricky at first. To help with this, you may find the mindfulness resources under the ‘links’ tab helpful.
  12. Ensure that you have some balance in your life to promote relaxation. Schedule some time for engaging with passions, values and interests, such as spending time with friends, listening to music, playing an instrument.
  13. Keep things in perspective. The HSC does not determine the rest of your life. There are numerous ways to get into the university course that you want to undertake. Some avenues include, entering into a university pathways scheme, switching university courses after obtaining good marks over your first few semesters, obtaining a postgraduate degree in your preferred course down the track, or doing a TAFE course and then applying to university. These avenues take more time, but they do exist. I know numerous physiotherapists who became medical doctors, a person who undertook a TAFE course to enter a business degree at university, and a sports scientist who became a qualified lawyer.
  14. Remember that you are NOT your ATAR.

A final tip for parents:

  1. Try to avoid nagging about your child’s study, and it’s rarely, if ever, helpful to compare your child to their (siblings). It’s important that you are available around exam time to provide emotional and practical support.


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Surviving the HSC

The High School Certificate exams commence in a little over two months. Here are 15 survival tips. Get enough sleep – at least 9