Ask LH: How Can I Deal With HSC Stress?

Hi Lifehacker, The HSC is coming up in less than a week now and I’m starting to feel stressed and somewhat lost. Can you share any tips to help me manage my exams and reduce stress? Thanks, Panicked

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Dear Panicked,

First things first: it’s OK to feel a little bit stressed. The HSC (or VCE or other state equivalent) is almost certainly the biggest and most drawn-out challenge you’ve faced in your life to date. It would be unnatural not to experience stress in these circumstances. The trick is in how you deal with it.

I’d offer up these basic pieces of advice. None of them are revolutionary, and that makes sense; this is a process millions of people have been through, and we’re all still here.

Set yourself a daily schedule. In the gap between when formal schooling finishes and the exams begin, your life is much less structured than it has been. Set yourself a study schedule. You can use the timetable you were on at school as a basis. Don’t massively change your sleeping patterns during this period either, or you’ll risk feeling exhausted at an actual exam.

Spend time on all your subjects. It’s often tempting to concentrate on subjects you feel weaker in, and ignore those where you’re confident. It may make sense to devote more time to subjects where you’re feeling less well-versed, but every subject counts towards your scores, so pay attention to them all. Depending on how your exams fall, you may want to pay more attention to the first ones you’ll do initially; after all, you won’t have to revisit that material after the exams. But don’t completely neglect the ones that come later, or they may feel strangely unfamiliar when you return to them.

Make time for exercise and relaxation You can’t study 12 hours a day and be effective. Take time to get out of the house, even if all you do is take the family dog for a walk. If you feel overloaded, check out our guide to meditation.

It’s important, but it isn’t everything. Even with all that effort, you might not get the results you want. You need to keep things in perspective. Year 12 results are important, especially if you want to go to university, but a decade from now you’ll struggle to remember your marks in any given subject. If you don’t get straight into the course you want, there are usually alternative entry paths. Life goes on long after your exams are over.

That’s our starter advice, but we’d welcome additional suggestions and other specific strategies from readers in the comments. Good luck!


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