Half-Yearly Exams are here! What now?

If you’re just as stressed out as me about half yearly exams, thats totally fine! Normally I’m not a stress ball, but come on, this is getting pretty intense. Everyone is started to understand that this is the FINAL YEAR, and we’re pretty much competing against the rest of the Year 12 students in NSW. These first set of exams have quite a bit of stress and anxiety attached to them, as they’re the first exams we’ll complete as a Year 12 student.

Nevertheless, it’s key to remember that if you totally screw up these exams, you still have plenty of time to redeem yourself. Many of my exams are only worth 20%, which when you think about it, is not that much of a percentage in regards to your overall mark. Don’t completely burn yourself out with these exams. Work hard and put in the effort, and you can never go wrong.

I’ve put together 3 simple tips that will make this set of exams a little easier, and ways to keep yourself coolcalm and collected!

Tip 1: Study Notes

Ahhh, study notes. We love them, we hate them. For me, I knew that if I didn’t get on to starting my notes early, I’d be falling behind and struggling to compile them.

What we really should be doing, is compiling constant study notes throughout the year. I don’t do this, as I’ve never really sat down and found the time. I’ve always been too busy working on homework or my assessments.

It’s best to constantly work on your study notes and do dot point summaries after every school day on what you’ve covered. I’d love to be able to do this, but quite frankly I find it really hard to do it!

I know a lot of people struggle with writing study notes, and that is totally fine! I know some at my school can’t seem to get around to it, or they just don’t understand how to properly write notes and/or study! What I’ve done in the past, is download other peoples study notes.

In doing this, it gives me a completely different perspective on the same content being studied. I believe that it is always good to gain a different idea, as you may understand something in another persons words. Just work out what is best for you, and find your groove.

Flashcards – a blessing in disguise!

Compile a set of flashcards for each topic of each subject to accompany your study notes. Take those cards everywhere with you! You have no idea how handy they can be in the strangest of places. Waiting at the doctors? Bring out the flashcards. Waiting at the bus station? Bring out the flashcards. At a boring party? Bring out the flashcards!

Flashcards are an extremely handy and easy way to refresh your knowledge.

Some people learn best socially, which is an excellent use for the flashcards. Some people also learn better with pictures and images, so illustrate your flashcards and notes with images that will make you remember the content. Everybody learns differently, so it’s important that you soon find what best works for you. I only found out what best works for me during Year 11. Believe me it worked a treat!

Since Year 7, I had hand-written my notes. I had a massive notebook for each subject, full of my writing. However it never seemed to work for me, my marks were extremely ordinary, and nothing seemed to stick into my brain. Before the start of year 11, I got a MacBook Air for Christmas, so I decided I’d type my study notes. Low and behold, it worked!

But I did more than just type my notes and forget about them!

I typed up all my notes, but once they were printed, I still wrote all over them!

Found an easy highlighting colour scheme, and away I went. Something so simple can just work for someone. Test out some different methods, and if they fail, at least you know never to do it again! I’ve had quite a few experiences with the whole ‘trial and error situation’, my whole junior schooling life was a trial and error. I didn’t realise this until I actually tried something new, and my marks began to rise.

Not everyone wants to study, or even needs to study, but if you want to get the best possible result out of these exams, study hard! I get so much satisfaction finding out that I’ve done well, not just because I’ve got a ‘good’ mark, but I’ve worked super hard for it.

The effort counts too. 

Moral of the story, just work at your own pace. Do what needs to be done, and work for yourself. Remember not to stress so much over it, as it’s really not worth it! Don’t get bummed down if you don’t get the mark you wanted, theres plenty of time before the next set of exams to pick yourself up. Don’t get too distracted thinking about how much stuff you need to get done and get so distracted that you actually don’t get anything done.

Tip 2: Stay as cool as a cucumber!


If you’re a person that completely stresses yourself out over exams, I understand! These exams can be a stressful time, and make us feel a whole range of emotions. However, don’t let those emotions consume you! Feel for a little bit, accept it, and move forward. If you begin to let your emotions consume you, you will find yourself stuck in a negative cycle that will be hard to come back from.

Many of my friends are completely freaking out at school at the moment, and I’m just like, chill! If you go terrible in these exams, it’s not going to mean that your ATAR is going to be terrible and you’re never going to get into university.

There are so many ways to get into university, plenty of ways to do whatever you want to do in life! These exams don’t determine your future. These exams really aren’t something to stress over.

These exams are only a small percentage of our overall grade. So, if you find you didn’t go as well as you had hoped, that doesn’t matter! Do I take my own advice? No! I think that I’m my own worst critic.

There is a rare occasion when I’m actually 100% satisfied with how I went. My marks are satisfactory, I never really feel completely satisfied. I always get caught up thinking about what could I have done to improve my mark. I think a lot of us are our worst critics.

Look forward to seeing that finish line!

During these exams, just stay calm. Don’t freak out once you get in there and you have no idea about the first question. Take a breath, calm yourself and just do your best! Honestly, a bad exam mark is not the end of the world. Take it as constructive criticism, and never make the same mistake again.

You are in control of your study, your homework, your efforts, everything. You control the effort you put into this set of exams.

Many people don’t need to study and still get great marks. I envy these people. I need to study super dooper hard. Yet again everyone is different. Just enjoy what this year has to offer, don’t get yourself down over an exam mark. It’s not worth it! Focus on the joy you’ll feel when the exams are finally over.

Tip 3: Use your syllabus

I’m sure many of you have heard the expression ‘your syllabus is your bible’. This is so true! We get this expression jammed in our heads every lesson. We are always told to constantly refer to our syllabus. For all subjects, HSC questions come directly from the syllabus. This is particularly evident in the Legal Studies syllabus, which I find is the easiest and most straight forward.

In your syllabus, the questions come from the ‘students learn to’ section. If you already know the content, thats perfect! However it comes to how you apply that content. If you can apply your knowledge of the content towards these syllabus dot points, you’ll know how to apply your heavy content knowledge to specific questions in exams.

I get a lot of constructive criticism from my Legal Studies teacher, who tells me that I have a strong knowledge of the content, but I have trouble applying it to questions. Which, I totally agree with. So, for my final Year 11 exams, I copied out the syllabus questions and tried to complete them in exam conditions. Low and behold, I went from 52% in my first Year 11 Legal Studies exam, to 79% at my final exam. Although some of you may think 79% isn’t that great, but in comparison to 52%, I was super stoked.

The syllabus isn’t only useful for study, it’s incredibly useful for ensuring you’re on track and up to date. If the teacher or you start to fall behind in class and you come to miss a dot point, you’ll notice it, if you’re using the syllabus. Many of my teachers make us highlight whenever we have completed a dot point, just to make sure we have it covered. Do this yourself during class.

If you don’t already, print the syllabus out and glue it into your book. Keep it with you and easily accessible so you can check off what you’ve done and when. It really does make it easier for you to keep track of everything.

The Bottom Line

Just work at your own pace.

Do what you need to do to get through this set of exams. If you’re completely buggered leading up to the exams and can’t put in your normal effort, thats okay! Everyone gets burned out once and a while, and just need some time to recharge.

School is super stressful as it is, then when it comes to exams, all of that just gets heightened. Half-yearly exams only take up a very small percentage of our overall grade, so if you find you don’t go well in these exams, thats alright! There is plenty of time to regather yourself.

I don’t think I can say it enough, school is not worth the stress. I think I say it so maybe one day I’ll actually believe it. I think it all the time, I know school isn’t worth the stress I put into it all, but I like to do well. I’d like to believe that once I graduate, that my 13 years of schooling have gone towards something. Just put in the effort that you think you need to go well. Be happy with yourself, and don’t let these exams get you down.

Good Luck!

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Elli Gill is currently completing her final school year and decided she better help everyone else along the way. Her subjects are English Advanced, General Maths, Modern History, Ancient History, Business Studies and Legal Studies. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life, she is just taking it one day at a time. She also likes food, a lot of it.