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Exam stress: how to manage the HSC

By Anthony September 23, 2015

It’s finally here - term 4 - and exam stress is setting in for teens across the nation. Academic stress is a very real pressure and we know you are facing it head on as we head into October. We thought we’d give you some tips on stress management to prepare you for the worst of it, and to avoid those last minute all nighters.

There’s only a few months left until you are on summer break, awaiting university acceptance letters, planning a gap year or enrolling in a course, so roll up those sleeves - we’re on the home straight!


Don't leave it to the last minute

The best way not to stress about exams is to be prepared. Procrastination isn’t your friend and you only have a few months of the HSC chaos left. Don’t let your academic stress rule the roost - you know you’ve got the information available, it’s just about getting it in your head. Set up a realistic study plan for yourself; if you can’t cover 10 topics in one day then don’t beat yourself up trying. Create your best schedule and test it out for a week - is there a time and place you are more focused than others? Use that time for the nitty gritty stuff you find the most difficult.
In short:

  • Know when and where you work best
  • Be realistic about your study schedule
  • Set a plan and stick to it - build in rewards for when you do well.

Tools to keep your exam stress to a minimum

What’s the best way to keep your cool? Coping with exam stress is something everyone in your class (and the real world) learns to do at some point - plenty of people don’t register they are stressed until they hear that grinding their teeth is a stress symptom! Consider what works best for you, how do you like to relax? It’s a pretty personal thing and there’s no real right or wrong way to do it.

  • Practice quiet time (read a book, listen to relaxing music)
  • Exercise. Distraction and science in one!
  • Breathing. Retrain yourself to
  • Sleep properly 

It’s important to realise here that coping with exam stress via upping your caffeine intake or other stimulants won’t garner long term results. Stimulants aren’t a practical way to approach stress for the long term.


Give yourself healthy distractions

When you’ve had enough of studying for one day (and you’ve made a reasonable effort to stick to the plan) allow yourself some time out with your friends. We focus better when we have time out.

  • Plan time out.
  • Make social plans you need to stick to
  • make study social (if you have the self control)

Remember that breaks and distractions are your friend, but to ensure there is a healthy balance between “time out” and “time off”.

Understand that it is NOT the end of the world

You need to give it your best shot, we believe in you! But you also need to know that this test doesn’t make you silly or unimportant. The effects of stress on teenagers are long lasting and setting good patterns now will get you through the tough times later - whether you’re at uni, travelling or in the workforce. If you are prepared and calm, you will be able to focus and get your best result!

Use some of these tools and you’ll be ready and raring to sit your HSC. Remember to book your orthodontic appointments around your study timetable and avoid anything that will add pressure to close to your exams. Good luck to all our Year 12 patients who are heading into their exams!

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