Thriving in your HSC year

The HSC can bring up a lot of negativity; stress and anxiety.

As a teacher of HSC students, you have high hopes that your students achieve their potential.

As a mother of a HSC student this year, I’ve learnt that the stakes are even higher, but at what cost?

I have always wanted my students and own children to reach their full potential. This is only natural, however, a saying I have had on my fridge comes to mind right now….  “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.”

In the spirit of that quote, I write this post to share with students and their families.

The following tips I have compiled from my own experience as a teacher and mother, and following a workshop I recently attended at the Western Sydney Careers Expo conducted by Inspiration Education. I hope it is of help to other families out there!


Remember some stress is good, it creates forward momentum. 

The key to thriving, is in managing your stress and emotional states.

So how can we do this and why should we do this?

Ever heard of fight or flight? When we are stressed, and in high pressure situations, our brain can shut down. The parts of our brain capable of the critical thinking necessary for sitting a HSC exam can go down with it. 

It is imperative that a student sitting the HSC have strategies and plans in place to look after themselves and set themselves up to feel on top of things. 

I have a feeling students sometimes think that teachers and parents are pushing them so hard to study to know the content, and this is in part true. I truly believe though, that the push comes from the desire for the student to be on top of the content, not just to know the content but more importantly the FEEL on top of the content.

The presenter of the Seminar,  “Stress – free HSC: top tips for students and parents”, shared the following at the Careers Expo as a way of approaching the HSC. I thought it was an excellent, well thought out approach.

COG’s – acronym for Calm, Organised, Goals 

CALM– calm active leisure meals

Ideas for remaining calm are –

  • relaxation
  • meditation
  • destress with music
  • valuing sleep
  • reducing stimulation prior to sleep

Be active by engaging in regular exercise, sport or activity increase heart rate

Have some leisure time. Remember to maintain a balance and that the HSC year is not a sprint marathon, and requires a measured approach. Maintaining social connection is also vital to balancing and thriving in your HSC year!

Meals– Eat good food regularly and limit sugar/caffeine

Organised– Add essential blocks in your schedule like work, housework and leisure activities then add blocks of study. The idea is to be realistic about what you need to schedule and how much time you actually need to balance your schedule to get what you need done and feel on top of your workload in a calm manner. 

Have a Study Plan and do school work in the following order – 

  • homework due next day
  • homework due another time
  • assessment tasks
  • other study like writing notes, learning notes, doing practice exam questions 

Don’t procrastinate, start your homework, assessment tasks, exam prep. etc. earlier 

Set up a good place to study!

  • quiet
  • comfortable temperature
  • good ventilation and lighting
  • adequate desk space or table space
  • free from distractions like TV, telephone, siblings (computers, phones, iPods can be HUGE distractions) 

Organisation– check you have the correct equipment for your examination, check BOSTES regulations and  be prepared. 


If you are looking at the big picture it can be scary and cause procrastination. It can cause you to overcommit yourself and become unbalanced in your approach. Procrastination can lead to a lack of organisation and preparation or indecision over what to do and how to do it. This could lead to results being less than your potential, this in turn brings in uncertainty. 

It is imperative you break EVERYTHING down into manageable steps.

Organise your steps so that you can achieve what you need to in the short term. 

Know about the levels of learning and where you’re at in regards to your learning so you can prioritise what’s important

The Levels of Learning


Unconscious incompetence 


Conscious incompetence 


Conscious competence 


Unconscious competence   


If you schedule “just 5 mins”, you will end up on a roll, generally spend longer than you originally planned and achieve much more than you thought. 

Pick your prime time/ prime place and schedule your study for then. 

Plan rewards e.g. 40 mins study then some down time

Plan then Do it!

This will give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction. 


Goals are gold!

Good short and long term goals keep you motivated about what it is you want to achieve.

They provide clarity and drive us forward. They give you a laser focus and make you accountable. 

For parents of HSC the advice is to take a team approach. 

To remember learning is an emotional experience and that we need to integrate what we know about being emotionally supportive and knowing where they are at. 

Studies show that 65% of the stress HSC students are under comes from the direct result of fearing letting down their parents and teachers

We need to be on the lookout for signs of high levels of stress that perhaps without obvious indicators. 

The only way to be sure to know if the stress is taking a toll is staying connected and taking an interest.  

Effective communication is essential!

Be supporting and encouraging, highlighting strengths and successes and not dwelling on failure.

Avoid unnecessary confrontation and nagging. 

Encourage confidence by giving reassurance and keeping any doubts to yourself. 

Help them to keep perspective and say often, “Just do the best you can”. 

Help them to maintain a balance  and lastly, give hugs!

Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child. ~ Thomas P. Johnson

Additional reading/helpful sites and resources for study 


BOSTES guide for Year 11 and 12

Boredofstudies Study/Exam tips


HSC study guide SMH


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