Do you struggle sitting exams? This advice is for you!

Jessica Arentz
| Last Updated: 18 August 2020
 
Home » Exam Advice » Do you struggle sitting exams? This advice is for you!

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DON’T SIT EXAMS WELL? THIS ONE’S FOR YOU!

Exams can kind of suck. They are stressful and archaic and entirely limited in their ability to effectively assess the intelligence of an individual beyond their capacity to write quickly and recall facts under duress. But unfortunately, thanks to the education system, they are just one of those things you begrudgingly have do in life – like growing up and doing your taxes. If you suck at taking them don’t stress, so does everyone else (anyone who says differently is obviously lying). But if you’re looking to suck a little bit less, here are some tips and tricks to help.

Eat. Eat. Eat.

Food is important. Pre-examination nerves may trick you into thinking otherwise, but sitting an exam on a full stomach – rather than an empty one – can make a big difference. Studies have shown that students who eat breakfast perform better in exams. Food boosts brain power, giving you more energy and keeping your mind focused. Eating before an exam also reduces the likelihood of you being the annoying person in the examination room whose stomach won’t stop churning because they selfishly chose not to eat that morning (there’s always one).

Get yourself a watch

Whether you’re allowed to wear it on your wrist or are made to place it on your desk, using your own watch can do wonders for your time management during an exam. Having a clock in close proximity to your paper and, subsequently, your field of vision, allows for you to be constantly conscious of the time. This can ensure that you are allocating an appropriate amount of time for each section of the paper and are on track to complete it in its entirety.  Another crucial bonus of using your own watch, is the fact that it removes the need to check the examination clock, normally situated at the front of the room. Having to frantically lift your head up and down to check the time can be a massive disruption to the flow of your work. Not only does it waste time, but the erratic movement can make you flustered and stressed, causing you to lose your train of thought or get overwhelmed by the knowledge of time running out. Aggressively whipping your head up and down is just not ideal. As an HSC student you’ve got enough problems to deal with, no need to add whiplash to the list.


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Be strategic about where you sit

While this isn’t exactly in your control for the HSC exams, internal assessment examinations are often a lot more lenient about seating arrangements. Make full use of this. Be smart. If you get easily distracted by others, pick a seat at the front. If you’re used to studying in a space with lots of natural light, pick a spot next to a window. If you’re short-sighted and forgot a watch, sit closest to the examination clock. Making a considered choice about where to sit is a really small and yet clever way of giving yourself the best possible chance of having a successful and undisrupted exam.

It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Each time you enter an exam situation, there is a lot of uncertainty. You don’t know what is going to be on that paper. You don’t how the questions will be worded or what part of your study will be useful and what will be completely irrelevant. Your writing supplies are one of the few things you can control. The last thing you want to be stressing about in an exam is frantically looking for another pen after the only one you brought breaks. Don’t make an exam situation more of a headache than it needs to be. Overpack. Bring more than enough supplies for yourself. Prepare for every possible circumstance; in case your pen runs out of ink, or gets thrown across the room, or spontaneously combusts – better safe than sorry.

Simulate exam conditions at home

The old adage is, unfortunately, true in this instance – practice really does make perfect. While an unrelenting aversion to exams have led me to try and avoid them at all costs, even I must admit that the only way to get better at taking them is to try and take them more often. When studying, try to pencil in some time to sit a practice paper in exam conditions. Try to mimic an exam situation completely. Use the same pen, sit in your chair the same way, even pop on your uniform if you feel that devoted to the cause. The more familiar you become with these things, the more comfortable you can trick yourself into being during an exam.

While HSC exams may seem like the be-all and end-all, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, Year 12 is important, you should want to do well, and if improving your ability to sit exams is the way to do this than great! But this one year and the handful of exams that constitute it do not dictate your entire future. So, remember to not put too much pressure on yourself. Do your best, that’s all you can ask for.


Jessica Arentz bio

Jessica Arentz

Jessica is a first-year university student completing a Bachelor of Arts/Advanced Studies (Media and Communications). Having completed the HSC in 2019, she is no stranger to the daily struggles of the current high school student. When not writing, you can find her scouring the web for cheap flights or playing with her dogs.