The Higher School Certificate examinations can be a stressful time not only for the student but for all the family. Here are some clear steps parents can put in place to help their teens as they learn how to study for the HSC.
If you’re worried about getting your child through their exams in one piece, you’re not alone. As the pressures of the HSC grow, many students find themselves overwhelmed and anxious about everything they need to do in order to succeed.
5 steps to helping your teen study for the HSC
If timetables, revision lists and flashcards are piling up in your home right now, you might be wondering, How are we going to get through this?
1. Create an environment that supports their learning
To study effectively, it’s important your child feels they have a place to call their own. A calm, comfortable space will help your child study more effectively and reduce their stress levels.
Make sure the study place is well-set-up and is somewhere with reduced distractions—ideally not right in front of the TV. Consider planning times when family members, especially younger siblings, leave the HSC student some quiet time for study.
Install a noticeboard or whiteboard where your child can pin up their study timetable and make trigger words, flashcards, quotes and key points visible for learning. Give them a place to keep their notes organised, so that they’re not drowning under a sea of paper. Make sure the space is well-lit, comfortable and calm.
Ensure that there are healthy snacks on hand, especially if they’re coming straight from school to sit down and study.
2. Show an interest in their study
Studying can often be a lonely task, so find ways to participate in your child’s learning where possible. Offer them the option to have you quiz them about a topic so they can talk through their notes and ideas.
Help teens to build a routine, particularly once their face-to-face lessons have concluded. A visible study planner and regular times for getting up, meals and going to bed are really important in maintaining regular study habits.
Empathise if they are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with a topic, and work through steps to help such as chunking the work, using the revision resources or even reaching out to teachers.
3. Encourage active study
If your child is bored of studying, help them find ways to make their revision practice as active as possible. Rather than passively reading notes, it can be helpful to practise past papers and examination questions.
Encourage them to use a variety of study methods such as recording notes and key ideas to playback and summarise, drawing mind maps and putting keywords on post-it notes.
Don’t completely write off social media, because it can be a genuine study tool. Once they start looking, they’ll find a wide range of entertaining creators who cover their study topics in unique and memorable ways. If they have to revise a particular novel, encourage them to watch analyses of it on BookTok. If they’re studying for a language exam, find YouTubers who speak the language.
Get their classmates involved by interviewing each other about the key concepts of a topic and quizzing one another. Put notes into key ideas and trigger words, and place them around the house to help them study without even thinking about it.
Don’t give up on these techniques if they do not work straight away. Sometimes teens need time to process suggestions and build habits that work for them.
4. Take breaks and stay positive
Encourage your child to refocus on their goals if they are struggling with motivation. They could build in little wins such as watching an episode of their favourite television show if they complete all their timetabled study sessions on a given day.
Avoid situations where they completely isolate and shut themselves off in order to revise. Sometimes ambitious students can be their own worst boss and push themselves to work for far too long without breaks. If this sounds like your child, encourage regular breaks for other activities such as some exercise and fresh air.
Go for a walk with them and check that they are feeling supported and have everything they need. If they are feeling overwhelmed, help them to list priorities and break tasks down into actionable steps.
Stay away from language that dwells on the negative like, “I struggled with focusing on revision at school too.” Instead, provide examples of a challenge and how you overcame it.
Avoid comparing your teen to others. Instead, encourage them to aim for their personal best. Their strengths will certainly differ from other teens so make sure you recognise them.
Ensure that your child knows that their value as a person is not attached to their marks—praise them for their efforts in the studying process itself.
Breathing and mindfulness techniques can help too.
Box breathing involves breathing in for four seconds, holding for four, breathing out for four and holding for four.
The 5-4-3-2-1 method: Get your teen to name five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste.
These kinds of exercises will keep your teen in the present moment, instead of feeling overwhelmed by their thoughts.
5. Tackling “What’s the point?”
When they’re in the depths of study, it can sometimes be difficult for students to see the wider “why” of what they’re studying for. Celebrate the life lessons they are learning every time they stick to their study plan rather than giving in to distractions.
Help them to see how these skills of commitment and resilience will stand them in good stead at university or with employers. Sending a well-drafted practice response through to their teacher for feedback is a step towards university or their future career.
At the same time, avoid putting too much pressure on students about having a clear idea of their future. If things are not going as planned, then help your teen to reframe “failure” as a positive chance to learn, improve and course correct.
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