Ask LH: How Can I Deal With HSC Stress?

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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  • The advice I’ve given to my sister who got a 90 ATAR last year was to only focus on one subject per day, and to create a timetable on what she has to study for each day of the month, giving priority to subjects she had trouble with but also not forgetting the other subjects.

    She did this for one month and I made her do practice exams in exam conditions three times a week for each subject as well. She was expecting a 60 ATAR but surprised herself when she received a 90 instead.

  • In terms of actually what to do when studying I highly recommend past papers. I think this is the most effective form of study as it allows you to practice in exam conditions and afterwards you can review the paper to see what your weak points are.

    From there review the weak points by writing notes on them or asking your teacher or friends for help then try another past paper.

    Good luck!

  • I chose to apply for a BSc at Macquarie.
    The cut-off is 75, so I’ve been slacking off a little. Now I don’t know if I’ll get that anymore, so don’t let a uni cut-off determine how much you work!

    Far out, 5 days left O_O

    • Good luck mate, I’ve spent the week at school with teachers working on writing notes and exams. Prioritised English as that’s first and I’m really behind on it.

      • I’ve been going to school this week too, but it’s hard to concentrate, even in the library, when others in the grade are just talking and wasting time.

        Your teachers sound a lot more available for help than mine. Good luck too!

  • Best study tool are past exam papers but his just shows how in school these days teachers teach to the test. Its all about competition and it stifles creativity…

    And realise that life won’t get any easier.

  • Just remember that HSC amounts to nothing in the end. There are always other things you can do to get to where you want to go. Chances are what you think you want to do now is not what you’ll end up doing. I worked my ass off for HSC, and now I am doing the exact thing that I thought I wouldn’t.

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