BY MARLENE KHOUZAM
For someone entering my senior years at school with major depression, anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue, my final year wasn’t looking too good. Countless assessment tasks, endless piles of homework, and exhausting exams were bound to have an impact on my physical, and emotional wellbeing. I wasn’t even sure I would get through the HSC. I used to believe in myself, but once I started my HSC year, I wasn’t too sure if I was really capable anymore. But lo, and behold, I made it through the HSC, and even landed my dream course at university! Here are some of my top tips, based on my experience.
It goes without saying, in order to succeed, you need to study. But what if I told you that in order to succeed, you must relax? When studying, take a 5 minute break every 20 or 30 minutes of study time. This will help you to breathe, and gather your thoughts whilst reducing your stress levels. Many people think that taking breaks is a waste of time, and as a result, study for hours on end. However, studies have shown that individuals can’t focus for longer than about 20 minutes, so by not taking breaks, you’re impairing your ability to focus, thus actually wasting more time.
Try to balance your social life and leisure time with your study time. Being around friends in a social setting, such as going out for lunch or a movie, will allow you to stay sane during the HSC! Spending time with friends can make you feel much more supported and reduce feelings of distress or anxiety. Otherwise, make sure to take time out to yourself – read a novel (not HSC related!), cook a nice meal or go for a walk.
One of the most important things is to be organised before, and during your HSC exams. Make sure that you have your “It’s a stepping stone to get you to the next part of your life, and once you’re there, you can go anywhere!” notes, and exam pencil-case ready to go. This seems like a small thing, but the last thing you want to be doing is rushing to find your things. Also keep your study area in check, try not to pile up lots of old notes or information that may make you feel overwhelmed by the workload.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the age-old adage “practice makes perfect”. Well, it’s true! It is good idea to practice past papers in order to test your understanding, and consolidate your exam technique. Practicing under time constraints will allow you to feel more comfortable as exams approach.
5. Don’t be scared to make mistakes
It can sometimes be disheartening to look at the answer sheet, and realise you’ve gotten questions wrong. However, it’s better to make mistakes while practicing rather than in the exam! If you get a question incorrect whilst practicing, stay calm! Focus on how you can solve the problem to help you for the next time.
6. Look at the bigger picture
I know the HSC seems like the biggest thing in your life right now, but your ATAR won’t define where your life goes – your own work ethic, and skills will. I know many people who have changed their degrees or career path within their first year, and it’s easy to do if you put effort in the right places. I’m not saying that the HSC isn’t important, but it’s a means to an end. It’s a stepping stone to get you to the next part of your life, and once you’re there, you can go anywhere!
7. Know your options
For me, a big part of surviving the HSC was knowing that I had more options than I first thought. Many universities will have options to transfer internally, so even if you don’t get the marks or offers you expect, make sure you try to do the best with what you’ve got! It’s normal to be frustrated or upset, but at the end of the day, it’s still possible to get where you want to be. More than anything, try to stay positive, take care of yourself, and look at the bigger picture. Good luck!
Marlene Khouzam is Wellbeing Australia’s Education Expert in Student Voice. Marlene is a passionate, and dedicated student, and featured on the Distinguished Achievers Honour Roll (HSC 2017). She is one of three first year students accepted into the Macquarie University Undergraduate Research Internship Program, and the first person to ever intern at ACANS (Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies). Currently working through her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Marlene is the Founder, and President of the Macquarie University Disability Society (Unaffiliated), and a keen volunteer.