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30 August 2021

A study in coping with exams

With just a few weeks until the last ever day of school for our…

With just a few weeks until the last ever day of school for our latest cohort of Year 12 students, we spoke to psychologist Kirrilie Smout about how best to tackle the pre-exam period.

Ms Smout, from Adelaide-based Developing Minds, said there were a few simple steps students, and parents, could take to lessen the stress of Year 12 exams.

She said students needed to use their final weeks of school, and the pre-exam “swotvac” period, to their best advantage.

The night before a test or exam is not the time to learn new material,” Ms Smout said.

“Students should ensure they are revising every day. Spending five minutes per day going over something learnt last week will save hours of revision time overall, because when tests and exams arrive, most of the information will already be familiar.”

As for that final revision period, Ms Smout had some tips to ensure students were working effectively.

“When you revise, you need to wake your brain up,” she said.

“No more limply reading over notes so that you can’t remember what you read at the end of the page. 

“Revision should take a fair bit of mental effort. If you are zoning out while you revise, it’s not working.”

Her top tips for effective exam revision were:

Parents and other caregivers also had an important role to play in supporting their Year 12 students over the coming weeks.

“It is important to continue to help students look after their health while they have higher stress periods,” Ms Smout said.

“Sleep, exercise and nutrition are vitally important for the brain to function.

“We might support students by making sure they eat breakfast, having healthy snacks available, getting to the gym, sport, doing some exercise, having some social interactions and not staying up all hours of the night.

“Finally, keep showing love and encouragement to students. This steady base at home makes a big difference for many young people.”

But, she said, importantly, students needed to realise that test and exams could “never measure their value”.

“We are enough, regardless of what we do or what we achieve in Year 12,” she said.

“Kids and teens need us (parents and caregivers) to tell them this. It is worth giving them this message repeatedly, given external pressures which suggest otherwise.”Year 12 exams kick off with languages from October 12. The first non-language exam, Mathematical Methods, is on Monday, November 1, from 9am. The full exam schedule is available here.