Exciting. Terrifying. Excruciating. Horrible. Chaotic. Disgusting. Loathsome. Never-ending.

Chances are, you are bracing yourself against the wild storm that is the HSC exams and the unfathomable void that lies beyond as you meander listlessly through your last term of high school.

Understandably, maintaining proactivity during a time filled with instability and uncertainty can be a huge challenge. When you’re not worrying about the HSC (if you ever stop worrying about the HSC, I should say), you’re worrying about the formal, or about schoolies, or, more frightening, about life after school:

ARGH! Am I going to uni? Am I taking a gap year? Do I need to find a job? What do I want to do for the rest of my life?

These anxieties do the most harm when you’re trying to deal with the rush of the final term and remain focused on the imminent exams.

So, when the anxieties come knocking, lurking outside your door like a starved bloodhound poised to strike at the first sign of weakness, take a page from Walter White, and steel yourself against the tide with these easy-to-remember tips:

1. Timetabling and Self-Discipline

Not going to lie, there is a lot more than just the HSC you’d probably rather be doing.

As always, the best ways to study for any exam, including the HSC is to carve out the next month or two on your calendar and timetable your life. Milana has written a hectic guide to timetabling the HSC in excruciating detail – you should give it a read!

If your previous experiences with timetabling have ended in premature death and decay, then it’s also time for discipline:

  • Break up your study into sessions and breaks using Pomodoro: 20 minutes of study for every 5 minutes of break.
  • Time-block distracting websites with SelfControl (Mac) or Cold Turkey (PC). During the HSC, Facebook statuses induce anxiety, and endless scrolling means you’ll never get to the end of your newsfeed.

This way, you can stay ahead of the curve by keeping your head down and your thumbs up (despite not liking things on Facebook because you banned yourself!) to ensure that you stick to the plan and don’t get overwhelmed by the daunting time that lies ahead.

2. Prioritise your Health

While to some of you your health may seem somewhat irrelevant (‘Let the HSC kill me and be done with it’), stay in control of your food intake, exercise and work-life balance. Your health is extremely important in surviving the homestretch.

Eating well, getting your blood pumping and remembering that you have a social life will keep you refreshed, active and in control, ultimately improving the effectiveness (and frequency) of your study sessions.

  • Instead of grabbing a chocolate bar, make your own healthy food! healthy kids has some awesome recipes which are quick and easy and are great mind food.
  • Lock out 30 minutes a day for exercise. We’ve even got the perfect 30 minute power-pump playlist just for you!
  • If you’re stressed, check in with your mental health using Smiling Mind and do some meditation!

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3. Keep Things in Perspective

Make sure you keep your eyes on the prize: finishing your HSC. Most of what you’re stressing about probably starts with it – TAFE, employment, schoolies, the formal… Once you’re done, you’ll have plenty of time to muse about those silly, insignificant things.

Take it from me; the future is so overrated.

But remember, the HSC isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. To keep this in mind:

  • Research tertiary pathways: Most universities have pathways to get into the courses, and many colleges look at things other than your ATAR. Head to UniAustralia to read up on different institutions and be better informed about your options.
  • Read the daily news: The world is a pretty big place, and the HSC is a tiny blip in comparison to what’s happening in the world. Pretty soon, you’re going to be a part of it. After all, this will be the last time you ever exert energy for school, so make it count. Elizabeth recommends Flipbook for keeping it real.

I won’t tell you that this will be easy – everyone handles this period in their own way. What I am telling you is to relax, shut out the world, and stay as focused as you can on what lies directly ahead of you.

I’ll leave you with a somewhat uninspired but altogether necessary reiteration of my tips to emphasise their importance: stay organised, stay healthy, and above all, keep everything in perspective.

And remember: it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Good Luck!

Have a question for us?

We’ve helped over 3,000 students achieve an average mark increase of 19.41%! Flick us a message on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artofsmart/), give us a call on 1300 267 888, or email us on info@artofsmart.com.au.


Jack Theodoulou studies a double degree of Education/Arts majoring in English at the University of Sydney. Previously an instructor of classical guitar, Jack began coaching at Art of Smart in 2015. In his spare time, Jack often finds himself entangled in a love-hate relationship with fiction-writing and a (possibly) unhealthy obsession with video games.