BlogWellbeingKiana’s 5 Hacks for Beating HSC Exam Stress

Kiana’s 5 Hacks for Beating HSC Exam Stress

Get the butterflies before exams? Feel like stress and anxiety always get in the way of achieving good marks?

Meet Kiana, a 2020 Year 12 student who struggled with the exact same problem.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t study enough. I would actually go quite well in assignments, but when it came to exams my marks would just drop because of the stress.”

  • Kiana graduated from the Hills Adventist College in 2020
  • She was the perfect fit for her Pathfinder Mentor Georgia Chahoud

“A big part of why I was so stressed is because I was disorganised, and this just resulted in poorer exam performance.”

However, through the Pathfinder Program, Kiana learnt a range of planning and stress management techniques from workshops, her mentor and other like-minded students.

She found methods to plan for ALL PHASES of the year as well as ways to prep leading up to exams that guaranteed her peace of mind and improved her marks.

So how exactly did Kiana reduce her exam stress? Let’s find out!

Tip #1: How to Devise a Yearly Plan
Tip #2: Weekly Planning
Tip #3: How Should I Measure my Study
Tip #4: Use Resources
Tip #5: What to do a Week Out Before Exams
Tip #6: What to do During the Exam Period

Tip #1: How to Devise a Yearly Plan

To make sure she was totally prepared for exams, Kiana would always refer to her AOS yearly planner provided by the Pathfinder Program!

On this planner she would include:

  • General points in the year
  • Important events at school
  • Holidays and breaks
  • Assessment periods or due dates
  • Key exams throughout the year

It’s super important to have a wider-scope overview of the entire year.

Not only does this help you make sure you get everything done in time, but for someone like Kiana who deals with exam stress, it can give you peace of mind that you’re on track and help you avoid last minute study sessions!

Tip #2: Weekly Planning

Within this yearly planner, having a weekly schedule is also a must for anyone that gets stressed-out before exams.

This breaks down the exact study you cover each day and puts a structure to your everyday life. Take a look at Kiana’s: 

As you can see, this is kind of like a zoomed-in version of her yearly planner. It shows the most pressing upcoming assignments and allows her to focus on the most important work that needs to be done.

This is topped with Kiana’s goal ATAR as well as the number of days left until the HSC for a boost of motivation!

Again, having a weekly plan like this can help you avoid any last-minute study as you’re able to make the most of every single day of the week.

Are your final exams coming up fast? We’ve created an HSC Exam Plan for you!

Tip #3: How Should I Measure my Study?

While you may have a plan in place, how do you make sure you complete everything you had written down so stuff just doesn’t build up as you get closer to exams?

Kiana says: “When it came to my day-to-day study my mentor told me to put in place a task-based way of tracking my work as opposed to a time-based routine.”

This means that rather than saying “okay I’m going to do 4 hours of study today”, Kiana would measure how successful her study was by achieving goals.

For example, here was her plan for one day of study:

The thing is, time actually has ZERO correlation to output so it’s a terrible way to tell how much work you’ve completed.

Even if you do 2 hours of study you probably spent about 30 minutes of that staring at a wall and another 40 minutes looking at Facebook. 

If you have a list of tasks for the day, this gives you a far better idea of your output and will help you stay on top of study and avoid exam stress!

Find out more about how to prioritise and measure your study here.

Tip #4: Use Resources

If you struggle with stress or anxiety, don’t be afraid to reach for external help. Whether it’s from a friend, family member, the internet or a professional.

For Kiana, a great help was an app called ‘Headspace.’

“Headspace just helped to get my mindset out of studying.”

It’s an app that provides guided meditation methods to help people stress less, focus more and even sleep better.

Meditation has an awesome reputation for reducing stress and having a session before an exam may be the perfect thing to clear your mind!

Think headspace might work for you? Check it out here.

Tip #5 – What to Do a Week Out Before Exams

“The thing is, so many people struggle with stress in exams because they’re not used to the weird environment. They’re not accustomed to the desk or the silence of the hall that they sit in for the HSC or Trials.” 

Kiana learnt from her mentor that a great way to deal with this is to do a lot of practice papers a week or two before exams.

“Get familiar with the exam environment when you do your practice papers!”

How can you do this?

  1. Complete your practice paper in the same timed conditions you’ll face in the real exam.
  2. Mimic the exam environment in your own house. Ask former students what the HSC setup is like and organise your own workspace in the same way.

This is a good way to make sure that when you get into that exam room, you don’t freeze up, can truly focus and get the marks you deserve.

Tip #6: What to Do During the Exam Period

Kiana has a bunch of tips for students who suffer stress during exam periods.

“Whatever you do, don’t do practice papers or read your study notes right before the exam, even the night before. It’s just going to freak you out and by that stage, there’s kind of nothing else that you can learn anyway.”

She is also the number 1 advocate for eating breakfast in the morning before an exam.

“You know that one person who’s stomach is grumbling in the exam. That was me! Trust me, it can be REALLY distracting.”

Exam Technique – Time Chunks

When Kiana was actually in an exam, she would apply a super-effective technique to manage her time and subsequently avoid freaking out.

She would keep her eye on the clock and separate her time into chunks. She would then assign these chunks to certain sections of the exam.

“If I had a 3 hour exam, I might assign 40 minutes to one part, and 30 minutes to another. I would make sure that when the clock hit a certain time I was finished with whatever section I had assigned.”

If you want to apply this technique yourself, remember to implement it when completing practice papers in timed conditions. This will give you a better idea of how long it takes you to complete each section.

Struggling with stress in your exams?

A bunch of these tips and tricks came from a Pathfinder Mentor. Get a mentor like Kiana’s to help you develop a personalised study plan in The Pathfinder Program!

Learn more or get started with an inspirational Pathfinder Mentor and get in touch today! 

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Facebook!


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