Monday, July 31, 2006

Pressure builds as the final high school exams loom...

Well, the trials for the NSW Higher School Certificate have well and truly started with many a student facing the pressure [already] of their final secondary exams with nervous stomachs, bloodless lips and more than one prayer that they don't screw things up. The results of the Higher School Certificate [and equivalents] determine eligibility to tertiary education, specific careers, and the freedom of choice. Emotionally also, it has its effects. Way past the nervous wait for exams to start, young adults can gain loads of confidence with a good mark or sink into self-defeating attitudes with a low one.

The thing to remember though is that this final grading is not quite the life-shaping event students imagine. Yes, a good mark will open up a few more doors, but these doors are not locked against everybody else. Choice is still there for those students who may not have achieved as well as hoped, but have the strength and determination to follow a flexible plan.

Start before the doors to the examination hall squeak open to let in the latest crop of trembling teenagers. Have a plan for which direction you'd like to head career-wise. Investigate the requirements for achieving this: university course, TAFE or technical college course, apprenticeship, start-up employment. Find out what you need to do and how well do you need to perform. A university course will require lots of study and, often, classes in a similar field [eg. History, English and/or Language for an Arts Course].

Plan your attack. That is, time management. We all know studying is boring, especially when friends and good times beckon. However, a little time management [planning when and how long to study in advance] will allow you the leeway to do both. Balance is all-important. Forgoing all leisure pursuits and friends for your studies will soon get dry and dull. Plan for some going out time each week to refreshen your mind and boost your energy levels.

You have a vague to fair idea of what you want to do when you leave school, or, at least, you've identified an area of interest you wouldn't mind working in. You've figured out the path to achieving your long-term goal and what it takes to make your short-term goals. Now, work on a back-up plan.

There are alternative paths in every direction. If your marks aren't high enough for your chosen University course, can you go to a different college? Some technical colleges [we call them TAFE in Australia - Technical and Further Education], evening/private colleges offer courses that can be credited to university. Open University courses may be the start-up you need. Perhaps you'd like to try working [a few $$ in the pocket are always welcome]. Can you get a part-time job that is also related to your area of interest? Can you get a part-time job somewhere else and a volunteer position in your preferred industry?

Find out about redoing your final exams. Yes, this will mean more study and more school, but if you have the determination you can not only stick it out, but do much better the second time round. One, you'll be a year older and just that bit more mature [in most cases] and two, you'll know already what is expected of you and, hopefully, where you might have slipped up the first time round.

Opportunities are there for those students willing to do the digging, and knowing you have a back-up might just help you face exams with a little less trepidation and a lot more confidence. The trial examinations at this time of year are there to help show students where they may need to pick up their studies in individual topics. They are a gauge of how well you are doing. If you make mistakes or don't get the mark you were expecting then now is the time to turn things around. This is your chance to pick yourself up, give yourself a stern talking too and a swift kick up the backside. Or to seek outside help in the form of tutoring or suitable "support" education [also known as self-learning].

Remember your long-term goals. HSC is a short-term goal. Students [and their families] need to remember the big picture, plan early and not get caught up in the segments, or pixels, of school life. This way they can avoid a lot of the stress that builds up in the final year of high school. Knowing there is life after final exams and more than one path to follow will help settle the stomach and allow students to focus and concentrate on immediate goals, distant goals and what's really important - surviving secondary education with health and emotional intelligence firmly in place.


Readers are free to borrow this article for newsletters, etc, but please take the bio with you.

Trish Anderson is the creator of Beginnings, Middles and Ends, an e-write service currently at home at Drop in for a quick visit and chat, to read articles and other posts or to avail yourself of her reasonably priced freelance writing services, research and tutoring. Trish also critiques and writes fiction and non-fiction, and specialises in location research; her contribution to travel writing. You can contact her at

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