Are you a hard worker and someone that studies consistently, but your marks aren’t reflecting this, so it’s difficult to feel stress-free? It’s very common to feel deflated after receiving assessment results — thinking you worked really hard — and being disappointed with the outcome.
So why is this happening?
Chances are, the stress, pressure and anxiety that comes with an exam is preventing you from performing as well as you would in practice papers and in class.
We’ve had a chat with Kiana to hear all about how she managed stress while preparing for the HSC Trial examinations.
So keep reading to hear the tips and tricks that she’s gained from the Pathfinder Program!
How did Kiana plan for Trials?
Kiana was only doing 10 units in Year 12 (PDHPE, English Advanced, English Extension, Maths General and Studies of Religion 1 unit), so it was important for her to max out as many marks as she could from all these subjects. To prepare for Trials, Kiana created a study plan in the lead up to these exams so that she would spend enough time on each subject.
When Kiana was planning with her Pathfinder mentor, Georgia, a huge focus was to make sure that she didn’t burn out before the exams.
“So we spread it evenly, maybe two to three hours of work per day, on two subjects a day. You’d have some form of calendar… So I’m doing Maths and English, or I’m doing Studies of Religion and Legal,” Kiana said.
Essentially each subject was weighted on the basis of what was a strength or weakness. This also meant Kiana wasn’t studying more than about 6 hours a day, leaving enough time to have a break and balance out other aspects of life, like spending time with family and friends.
Kiana ensured that her notes were largely prepared a few weeks before Trials, so that in the final lead up to exams she could complete past papers and practice questions. She learnt from Pathfinder that a good way to practise for exams is to force yourself to complete it in a short time limit and with harder questions.
The goal here is to make it difficult for yourself in practice, so that when it comes to the real examination, you find the paper easier, and you feel more prepared. Ultimately this will help reduce your stress and increase your ability to perform at the best of your ability!
Breaking Up Your Study into Three Parts
A great way to break up your studying tasks in preparation for Trials is to start broad with the subjects, then narrow it down to the different topics or syllabus dot points.
What subjects will you be studying? Kiana split her subjects into twos, so that each day she only had to think about two subjects.
Then look at how long you will spend on each subject. How can you block your time so that you have breaks, and aren’t burning out?
Consider alternating between each subject through the day, or doing one subject, having a lunch break, then studying for the other. Find what works for you!
Be specific in what you’re setting yourself up to study! What are you going to actually do? Perhaps some practice questions, building scaffolds, memorising quotes or going over formulas that you get mixed up.
Kiana’s #1 Tip from her Pathfinder Mentor, Georgia
“It’s less about the exact time that you need to study, and more about what you do in that study time. So the tasks that you set for yourself… be realistic about what you can do and when you want to do it,” Kiana said.
There was also a fair bit of focus on burnout for Kiana, as she was also working a casual job at Woolworths. So it was important that she found time to do things for herself — this meant that Friday afternoons were reserved for a break, where she didn’t do any work.
This helped her from not feeling overwhelmed or overworked, so that when she got to the exam, Kiana was confident, well rested and stress-free!
Compared to her stress levels in prior HSC assessments, Kiana said that she felt a lot less stress in the Trials, even though the weighting difference is significant. Not only was Kiana less stressed, but her marks showed that she performed better in the Trials, “And so it can have actually nothing to do with what you’re capable of, but the stress can definitely get in the way,” Kiana said.
How did Kiana overcome study struggles?
For Kiana, she struggled to study the most for English Advanced and English Extension, largely because there are a lot of components to English exams that require different types of preparation.
As preparing for English was a weakness for Kiana, she made sure that she started early in terms of preparation to reduce the stress and pressure on herself.
“It’s a lot more time consuming… it was a subject that I was struggling studying for, but we started early with English as well in the planning,” Kiana said.
With her Pathfinder mentor, Georgia, Kiana made sure that her notes were ready for English before Trials, and she was prepared with her Extension and Advanced English texts. This meant that before Trials, Kiana wasn’t stressing about content or notes, but rather, she was able to focus on timed responses and strengthening her analysis.
How to Manage Your Extracurricular Activities
It’s really common for a lot of students to drop a casual job or extracurricular during Year 12 to focus on studying. However, it’s great to be able to manage your time with another activity as it gives you a break from school work.
Kiana worked a casual role at Woolworths, and to manage her study time, she made sure to talk to her manager about availability and what would work best for her.
“I talked with my manager and said that I’m available on weekends and I made the weekdays my study time,” Kiana said, “I was that type of person where, if I just stayed at home and didn’t study… I’d feel guilty.”
So Kiana was working 5 to 6 hour shifts on the weekend, which helped relieve stress from studying, and also forced her brain to take a break.
It was really great for Kiana to maintain casual work during Year 12, as it was part of her successful application to early entry at Macquarie University for Combined Psychology and Law — her dream course!
So if you are looking to maintain casual work, be sure to talk to your boss or manager so that you can find a schedule that works best for you to reduce stress but also maximise your time.
The Pathfinder Program helped Kiana find new study strategies that worked for her and helped her prepare for Trials. More specifically, Kiana found the traffic light system really useful for targeting her weaknesses and figuring out what she needs to spend more time studying on.
Essentially, red signifies where your weaknesses lie, orange are the aspects that you’re somewhat confident in, and green are your strengths.
Check out how the traffic light system works with part of the Ancient History syllabus:
“I went through the syllabus for all my subjects before planning for my Trials and used a couple of highlighters to show myself what I needed to work on and what I was already good at,” Kiana said.
This meant that Kiana was spending more time studying the red and orange, and worried less about the green. This reduces stress because you aren’t studying everything as there is no huge benefit to studying what you already know!
In previous assessment tasks, Kiana was spreading herself thin and studying all her subjects, which left her unprepared in some areas and her results did not reflect the time she spent preparing.
Kiana said, “After Pathfinder I kind of changed my studying routine to be more effective… it showed in my results, and that’s when you know that you’re doing something right when it comes back in your results.”
Kiana’s Top 3 Trial Preparation Tips!
Firstly, be organised! Plan out what you need to study and when. Consider splitting up your subjects and tasks into a calendar, and implementing the traffic light system mentioned previously.
Remember to take breaks! Spend time with family and friends, and don’t feel the need to cut out extracurriculars or work. Know that you don’t have to study 24/7, and a rested mind is a stress-free mind!
Use the resources that are available to you, and make the most of what opportunities come your way!
Kiana said, “Really measure out all your options and see what would benefit you the most — be really open-minded throughout the year.”
How Pathfinder Helped Kiana
“It has really helped me lift my results… because I always did study hard, but again, I never studied the right way and Pathfinder really guided me towards how to study the right way!” Kiana concluded.
We hope Kiana’s tips and her experiences with the Pathfinder Program help you learn how to study for Trials while remaining stress-free!
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Nandini Dhir is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Marketing) and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), as a Dalyell Scholar, at Sydney University. She enjoys covering local issues in her area and writing about current events in the media. Nandini has had one of her pieces published in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald. In her free time, Nandini loves doing calligraphy, ballet, and sewing, or is otherwise found coddling her cats.