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Exams: keep having a life

The excerpt below is from an excellent blog by Stephanie Limm.

Finishing high school and reaching the exam period is probably the most horrifically scary thing I have ever done, despite the fact that I was fairly well prepared.

I will admit straight up that I was slightly neurotic about ATARs and aimed significantly higher than I needed to based on my first preference. I got into my preferred degree very comfortably and could have had a much happier time in VCE had I realised what I was aiming for, rather than focusing on what percent of the state I fell into. The pressure I put upon myself to get a ridiculously high ATAR (and therefore apparently secure my entire future) left me exhausted, lacking sleep and extremely anxious.

In hindsight, this was completely stupid and counterproductive. I am not going to tell anyone not to worry or not to care about VCE Exams. Considering the amount of time, I spent crying in teachers’ offices, I think that would very hypocritical! Instead I want to give you a few pointers that stopped me losing completely (at that point somewhat fragile) grip on reality.

Know your aim. Have a backup plan.

After submitting your preferences on VTAC, you hopefully have a good idea of the ATAR and prerequisites you need to get into your preferred course. This is your goal. But also map out a separate pathway now which you comfortably believe you will be able to achieve that will still get you where you need to go in the long run. This could be a similar course with a lower ATAR that you would be happy with or would give you the option to transfer into the course you originally want. This isn’t a be all or end all but will at least help you prove to yourself that ATARs aren’t all-defining. I found this reduced some of the pressure that was ironically stopping me from being able to focus on exam prep.

I know everyone says it but, for the love of all things sacred… Keep. Having. A. Life.

Please don’t chain yourself to a desk for two months. It’s understandable that most people will have to study a lot more in the lead up to exams, but isolation is probably a breeding ground for increased stress, anxiety and could lead to mental health disorders such as depression. Give yourself some time off to meet friends, eat dinner with your family and try to get outside at least once a day. You can’t focus for long periods of time anyway. Forcing yourself to go for hours at a time drastically reduces your memory capacity. Just make sure you factor in down time and human interaction every day. I definitely needed other people to help me keep things in perspective.

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