Household Guide to Surviving Exam Time

First published on the Newcastle Herald on 12 October 2016

Sally PayneSally Payne
Associate Dean of Studies

With more than 77,000 students enrolled in one or more HSC subjects this year, many households across NSW will have a child in their final stages of preparing for an exam. Having survived an HSC household in the past few years, I know firsthand how stressful HSC exams can be for Year 12 students and their families.

With many parents unsure of the best way they can support their child in their final exam preparation, a good place to start is finding out what exams your child has coming up and when they are scheduled. They may have exams one after another, two on the same day or breaks in between. By understanding when their exams are scheduled, you can probably predict when your child is more likely to be stressed. If they haven’t given you their exam schedule, you can download the 2016 HSC Examination Timetable from the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) Students Online website.

While reviewing notes and practising previous exam papers help students to prepare for exams, it is also important to try to separate their leisure, study and sleeping spaces to maintain balance. Encourage your child to study in a quiet, distraction-free area which they only use for studying. If possible, their bedroom should be a place for them to recharge overnight; it can be hard to rest and recharge if they automatically associate their room as a place of study rather than sleep.

Maintaining household routines may become more difficult during HSC exams, but consistency can help to create a supportive environment. Encourage your child to keep the same daily schedule they had at school; get up at the same time every day and go to bed at their normal time. Although they may be tempted to fuel an ‘all-nighter’ with energy drinks and caffeine, sleep is crucial for proper brain function and wellbeing. Avoid caffeine and sugar before bed and keep a regular bedtime.

In addition to maintaining household routines, students often find a balanced study plan is useful in managing stress. Panic may drive your child to want to focus solely on study, but it is important they take breaks. Suggest doing something in a break that they enjoy, whether that is catching up with friends, exercising or listening to music.

Before your child leaves home for their exams, encourage them to eat a healthy breakfast. Studies suggest there is a positive link between academic performance and children and adolescents who regularly eat breakfast.

Importantly, remember to check how they are going with their exams. Encourage them, acknowledge the hard work they have put in and ask if there’s anything you can do to help them.

Your child may feel like there is a lot of pressure on them to perform well in the HSC and, it is common for some to find they may not do as well as they hoped. As parents, we can help by acknowledging their efforts and suggest how they can keep pursuing their career aspirations by exploring the different pathways that will allow them to achieve their career or study goals.

Those that struggle under exams and who are afraid this may impact their potential for success at university, may be particularly pleased to know that faculties at UTS are increasingly undertaking non-traditional assessments. This involves undertaking assessment tasks that directly relate to how students will use the knowledge they are learning in future careers.

Sally Payne is the Associate Dean of Studies at UTS:INSEARCH


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