Parents and Students – 10 tips to survive study for the HSC Trial Exams during the school holidays

At this time of the year, I tend to feel compelled to give parents some uncalled for advice: without a doubt, you know your child best and will want to do all you can to make the next steps in their academic journey as palatable as possible.

If history is anything to go by, however, most students will prefer that you just feed them, clothe them, and empathise that they are going through some serious exams.

It is a rare child that will enjoy being micro-managed through in the lead-up to exams so tread carefully! They’re more inclined to put up a ‘stay out’ sign – except its usually written in invisible ink, hence the response you (or their siblings) may receive when you trespass! If that piece of advice can help even one parent …

In all seriousness though, most students travel through quite well keeping in mind that a certain level of stress can be healthy and motivational.

If, however, you feel that your child may not be managing so well and would benefit from a chat either now or in the holidays please don’t hesitate to reach out to teachers, mentors and school psychologists – we are all here to help.

Students – Hopefully, by now you have taken on board the end of Term advice and now have in place a balanced study schedule, so you can reap the rewards of your study time.

Here is a quick reminder – 10 tips to achieve success:

  1. Have a ‘study folder’ allocated for each subject and in that should be all your up to date and refined study notes, mind maps, memory triggers on palm cards etc
  2. Download all the past papers that you intend to complete and place in the relevant subject study folder
  3. Make a list of areas to improve / questions to clarify with your teacher
  4. Download the schedule of extra workshops that the school has arranged throughout the holidays
  5. Ensure you know your teacher’s expectations of you over the holidays
  6. Make your own holiday study schedule: Suggestion – Use the school day as your guide and be ready to work from 8:30am–3:30pm in two-hour blocks with breaks in between. This will give you a consistent working rhythm and no less than six-hours per day. This leaves the afternoon for you to continue an area or swap out a subject if you come in during the day. Some people like to do Maths every morning and then roll through their other subjects the rest of the time, others like variety, others still use the actual timetable as a guide to their study. How you use the two-hour blocks is up to you but schedule it, so you have a plan.
  7. Have a structured timetable where you schedule time during the early part of the holidays to finalise content and use the last week of the holidays to apply content by completing practice papers under timed conditions.
  8. Factor in walks, meditation, general ‘you’ time to relax and sleep well so your brain can consolidate
  9. Have multiple black pens to practice your handwriting (Trials and HSC are in black ink only)
  10. Don’t burn out during the holidays! A steady routine with solid engagement will yield a stronger return.

Remember, students who are well prepared for the Trial HSC exams usually do better in the HSC, as this is the only opportunity to see what the ‘end game’ looks like. So, use it to your advantage and let it be an opportunity to fully test you with the benefit of diagnosing whatever small gaps may emerge from that experience.

Lastly, I mention the ATAR and the fact that many students readily see themselves as 90+ candidates. I challenge each of you to think about what that means because in real terms a 90 ATAR means you are operating in the same way as students who are in the top 10% of the State. So, maintain the dream, be honest with yourself and, if necessary, adjust your study behaviours to reflect those of a student of that calibre!

You are capable of more than you know, so believe in yourself and take steps to ensure your actions match the idea.

Good luck!


About the author

Assunta Di Gregorio is the Deputy Head of High School, Teaching and Learning at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW

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