HSC is a daunting time for Australia’s high school students, with some labelling it as a “taxing experience” or even a “blood sport”.
This year, 67,915 students are on track to completing their HSC exam – making it the most popular academic credential in the country for 2019.
Unfortunately, this also means that thousands of students are sent to undergo tons of academic pressure, high-level anxiety, and “above-average levels” of stress.
Though a wholly important stage of any Year 12 student’s life, you needn’t end up a stressed, burned-out mess before the actual exam.
With these HSC study hacks, you’ll be well on your way to getting the ATAR you deserve, while still maintaining your physical health (and sanity) in the process.
As with all important exams or assessments – organisation is crucial.
You’re preparing for the most important test of your high school life; the scores that determine your first entry to university. It’s therefore mandatory to ensure you’ve got all the information, notes, and documents you need to keep on top of all your subjects and their topics.
Australian tutoring website, The Art of Smart, recommends keeping an assortment of labelled (or colour-coded) folders for each of your courses. They also suggest having exclusive filing cabinets or drawers to keep these files stored neatly, safely, and easy to find.
Additionally, having a bullet journal or diary helps. This can help you plan out your schedule for the weeks (or months) ahead, jotting down other important commitments – such as personal events, extra-curricular activities, or chores – in-between school and your study sessions. Having an organised timetable can help maintain a balanced lifestyle, managing your time for everything you need or want to do.
Of course, it’s important to be disciplined. Once you’ve set yourself a study schedule, stick to it. Try and section out your study into manageable portions – ensuring you don’t overwhelm yourself with work, as this can likely lead to burnout before your exam.
Write quality study notes
Everyone learns in different ways. It’s important to find out which method(s) work best for you, creating and organising your study notes according to them. Some students learn best with mind maps, others with fact sheets and diagrams – and some through a combination of techniques.
It’s also worth considering the benefits between handwritten or digital notes. While typing up your material makes things easily editable, accessible, and faster to compile; handwriting your notes helps with memory retention and muscle training (as all HSC exams are handwritten, you’ll need to learn to write as fast and as comprehensively as you can).
Writing your study notes on a weekly or daily basis also keeps your content updated, and your memory fresh. Ensure you’re gathering information on a regular basis to have all the detailed notes you need for the final exam.
Finally, use your syllabuses. These guides make detailed note of each subject’s important topics and concepts; helping you structure your study notes as necessary.
Create the proper study environment
Just as how everyone learns in their own unique way, each students has their own ideal space for productive study.
When preparing for exams, do so in an environment that places you in your best mindset. It’s important not to get too comfortable, however – a study session in bed can easily tempt you to nap or lounge about with Netflix, rather than encourage productivity.
For starters, ensure your space is clean and organised. Get rid of any unnecessary papers or items that clutter up your workspace and serve as distractions. Your goal is to have a neat, tidy area of only your most essential materials – such your study notes, stationary, laptop, and note cards.
Then, eliminate any tempting time-sinks, such as your phone or social media websites. Keep distracting gadgets away from reach, and temporarily block your favourite sites if you have to. Browser extensions like StayFocusd and Limit help prohibit access to distracting websites for a set amount of time, allowing you to focus on important tasks without interruptions.
If music helps your study process, put some on – but keep wary of those that hinder rather than help your performance. Electro-dance music, for example, may prove more distracting than the classical tunes of Beethoven or Mozart.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Your teachers, your family, your fellow peers – they’re all there to help if you need it. You don’t have to go at your HSC prep alone; if you need an extra with things, just reach out to those around you.
If it helps, it may be worth setting up a study group with those in your same subjects. You needn’t even be in the same room together – video call sessions can work just as well.
Group study sessions are great for bouncing new ideas off one another and tackling difficult, complex topics. However, ensure you have a system in place to keep everyone focused and productive – as these get-togethers can easily turn into casual hangouts, rather than productive discussions. It’s recommended that such groups have an assigned “leader” each session; someone who can organise plans and keep everyone on track.
Your family can also take part in your preparation, testing you on your study notes and posing as “students” you can teach your material to. Research has proven that you retain up to 90% of what you teach, so be sure to incorporate this in your process.
Of course, be sure to reach out to your teachers for any extra resources or assistance. If there’s anyone who can best give feedback on your academic performance, including ways to improve and any additional material to help, it’s those who’ve spent your high school years teaching you what you need to know.
Don’t be afraid to set up one-on-one meetings with your teachers or sending out an e-mail or two for valuable study pointers and HSC advice.
Don’t forget your well-being
Above all else, don’t forget to take care of yourself.
As high-pressure as the HSC can be, you needn’t sacrifice your physical and mental health for the grade. Be sure you’re still getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and maintaining a healthy diet as you go. A daily eight cups of coffee and packed, processed snacks may seem like convenient choices in this jam-packed, busy stage of your high school life; but they’ll only slow you and productivity levels down.
Maintain high energy with enough rest, healthy foods, and physical exercise in-between your study sessions. Of course, ensure you avoid mental burnout by allowing yourself time to relax – whether winding down with a movie on your own, or going out and socialising with friends. Reward yourself for your efforts, and you’re sure to keep the motivation going.
Of course, by keeping the rest of these tips in mind, you can make this undoubtedly stressful time a little more manageable – and achieve high results to boot!
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