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Exam tips from high-achieving Year 12s

From the first day of Year 12, the prospect of exam time looms over the year. It’s the final hurdle representing the conclusion of one chapter of your life, and the beginning of the next – its part foreboding, part exhilarating. All the stress of the year is in anticipation of the moment your exam papers are laid in front of you, and you finally put all your hard work into practice. It’s important to prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally to give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding in your final exams.

But, Deakin Bachelor of Arts student, Zoe Tilley, who graduated Year 12 with an ATAR of 99.1, offers a reminder: ‘Everyone defines success differently, and everyone’s idea of a successful ATAR varies. Stay true to your own goal and try not to get caught up in the expectations of others.’

No matter what your goals are, these exam tips will help guide your studies in the lead up to the big moment.

Don’t make studying a race against the clock

It’s the same thing your teachers have probably been telling you day in, day out: don’t leave studying to the last minute.

It’s easier said than done – especially when Netflix keeps releasing new shows – but if you want to avoid the last-minute stress and the possibility of burning out early, Deakin Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Commerce student, Maxwell Bond, who graduated Year 12 with an ATAR of 97.40, says, ‘Start studying early, maybe a month prior to your first exam.’

By giving yourself enough time, you’ll be able to ‘comfortably go over any course work you may have forgotten and really familiarise yourself with what’s ahead of you,’ he says.

Esdra Sicari, who graduated Year 12 with an ATAR of 89.15 and is now studying a Bachelor of Criminology/Bachelor of Laws at Deakin, agrees; his biggest tip is to begin your study early. ‘I started off by doing small things, such as reading over previous notes, and answering maybe two questions for each subject per week.

‘But as I got closer to exams, I started to increase the study time I devoted to studying previous content for the exams,’ he explains.

It’s important not to underestimate how much content there is to cover before sitting your exams. All three students agree that studying early is necessary for reducing your exam stress and anxiety. ‘You will avoid having to cram a years’ worth of studying into only a few weeks,’ says Esdra.

'Everyone’s idea of a successful ATAR varies. Stay true to your own goal and try not to get caught up in the expectations of others.'

Zoe Tilley,
Bachelor of Arts student, Deakin University

Don’t push yourself to breaking point

The stress of Year 12 might make you feel like you’re in a pressure cooker, ready to burst. But it’s important to know when your stress is telling you to study harder, and when it’s telling you to stop.

‘Listen to your body; when you need a rest, take a break,’ Zoe advises. It’s easy to let the pressure overwhelm you, but if you don’t find time to relax, you run the risk of burning out.

Maxwell says, ‘be careful not to study too hard, and leave yourself exhausted by the time you sit the exams.’

Of course, the definition of ‘too hard’ will be different for everyone, so try to stay in tune with yourself throughout the study period. Only you understand how you’re feeling, and it’s unlikely anyone else will to remind you to close the books every now and then.

Making the most of your study breaks is also important for maintaining good mental health. Exercise, meditation, or a 10-to-20-minute nap will do wonders for increasing your productivity and ability to concentrate, while also making you less stressed.

But research warns against casually scrolling through social media on your study breaks, as it can significantly increase stress.

Don’t compare yourself to others… your best will be good enough

‘In Year 12, the most important thing to do is try your best,’ Zoe says. ‘You will be successful in your exams if you study as effectively as you can.’

It’s the point that can’t be stressed enough. Trying your hardest, and giving exams your best shot, will be enough.

Maxwell agrees that trying your hardest is the most important thing in Year 12. ‘Make sure you’re proud of what you leave on the paper once you leave a SAC or exam.’

‘Ultimately Year 12 is your journey, so focus on you,’ Zoe says. You don’t need to aim for the same goals as your friends, or study the same way as everyone else. Zoe says even in the hours leading up to your exam, prepare yourself in a way that will relax you – even if that’s different from what your friends are doing.

‘Some people prefer to stand alone to centre themselves. Other students like to talk with peers and discuss ideas before walking in,’ Zoe explains. ‘Do what works best for you so you can walk into the exam room focused and ready to demonstrate your knowledge.’

These exam tips go hand-in-hand with Zoe, Maxwell and Esdra’s study tips – check them out!

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