Ms Bass
Acting Head of Teaching and Learning

All year groups, from Years 7 to 12, share one final common milestone in 2023: the Term 4 examinations. As the last term for Year 12 students comes to a close, teachers are busily scaffolding essays with their classes and completing last-minute revisions. Feedback is being provided to Year 12 students on how best to prepare for their Higher School Certificate and what should be their focus in the weeks ahead. The groundwork has been set for their approaching HSC examinations, and the upcoming weeks will be dedicated to maintaining consistent effort and fine-tuning their approach.

If you were to ask Year 12 students what their advice would be to their peers in the years below, I am sure it would be to not leave things to the last minute. Many students would reason that they thrive on last-minute cramming. However, there is ample research to prove this statement wrong, particularly when you have multiple subjects to prepare for in a one-week examination period. Year 10 examinations commence on Monday 23 October in Week 3 of Term 4. Years 7 – 9 examinations will commence on Monday 30 October in Week 4 of Term 4. Schedules will be posted on eVe at the start of next term.

I often hear parents say their daughter does not know how to study. Yet, throughout the year, teachers have discussed assessment preparation with students in their respective subjects as task notifications get distributed. During heavy assessment periods, teachers also swap out homework for assessment preparation time. Students often remark that they have no homework and, therefore, have nothing to do. This is the time when consolidation and revision should be scheduled. Studying is different to homework. Studying refers to the process of revising work, summarising for understanding and enacting practices to remember the content.

For Maths, important formulas and mathematical rules need to be summarised and reviewed. Perhaps for English, it is learning how to write in a variety of text styles, how to deconstruct a poem and how to discuss themes and characters in Shakespeare’s plays. For other subjects, it will be reviewing past topic notes and seeking clarification for unclear content. The more exposure to the subject material, the more likely the information will be stored in long-term memory and retrieved more readily.

Study skills need to be rehearsed and developed over time. It requires preparation well before the examination period. Writing notes by using headings and subheadings can be helpful in providing focal points. Creating study questions alongside notes can also be a helpful tool in familiarising the recall of key facts – who/what/where/when/why/how? As content becomes familiar, condensing notes to one-page summaries can reduce the depth of content needing to be covered by using mind maps, flashcards, rhymes and acronyms.

Reviewing content regularly is important. However, as exams get closer, a more active and planned approach is required. Start early, take regular breaks, and begin with topics you are least familiar with or that you find the most difficult. Set up a timetable for study, organise your space, remove distractions and practice exams to help get used to examination formats and rehearse time management. Explain answers to others and use family members to test you on content recall. Group study sessions can be helpful to review content collectively and ask questions to each other but keep focused on the topic and set an amount of time to ensure it is a productive use of study time.

Examination periods are stressful no matter which year group your daughter is in and cramming a year’s worth of learning into the night before an exam is not the answer to a successful approach to yearly examinations. Encourage your daughter to work to the best of her ability but also balance life with friends, family, fun and plenty of rest. Be supportive and encouraging and appreciate this might be a time of emotional imbalance. Do not stress the little things and reassure your daughter when she has self-doubt. The key to reducing examination anxiety is the reassurance and knowledge that she is prepared well in advance of the examination week.