VCE exams are the final hurdle before the rest of your life, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person in your senior high school cohort who isn’t feeling stressed. We hang so many of our hopes and expectations on the outcome of these exams, so naturally you’re probably placing a lot of pressure on yourself.
However, if you don’t find ways to relieve all that stress, you might be pushing yourself towards breaking point rather than your goals.
Dr Natalie Hendry from Deakin University’s School of Education says in the months leading up to your exams, you may want to tweak your study techniques. She also explains, despite what your teachers and parents might say, being on social media during this time can be an effective way to relieve stress and stay motivated.
Indulge in the distraction of social media
This isn’t to suggest you should replace study time with mindless social media scrolling. But, when you start to feel like you’re drowning under your notes, words stop making sense or you’re too stressed to focus, spending a bit of time on social media might be good.
‘Finding ways to let go of stress is vitally important and, as much as social media can be a distraction, it can also provide welcome relief,’ Dr Hendry explains.
‘By sharing a study music playlist with friends or setting aside a time to game online and chat with other gamers, students are connecting with each other and giving themselves a mental break from study.’
‘Sharing and scrolling through favourite memes and videos can also provide a fun way to relax.’
Changing your study techniques
This isn’t necessarily something you have to do, but Dr Hendry says tweaking your study techniques before your VCE exams can be beneficial for your motivation.
As exam pressure comes to a boiling point, the study strategies that might have worked well earlier in the year when it came to School Assessed Coursework (SACs) and other assessments may not keep you driven anymore.
If you think this might be the case for you, Dr Hendry says finding new strategies is the best way to keep yourself inspired as you weather the final stretch. And keep in mind, these strategies might be different to what works for your friends.
‘Students might want to develop a great portfolio for course or job applications, or create a supportive peer group to get through exams together,’ she explains.
Finding ways to let go of stress is vitally important and, as much as social media can be a distraction, it can also provide welcome reliefDr Natalie Hendry,
School of Education, Deakin University
‘They might want a high study score on a tough subject to help their university application or make their family proud.’
‘Students respond to stress in different ways. Some thrive on having set goals, an end date and a clear idea of how to revise. Others prefer to demonstrate their learning through more creativity and less structure.’
Understanding it’s okay to be anxious (and you’re not alone)
VCE exams – and the period leading up to them – can undoubtedly be tough on students.
‘Not only is there the pressure of study but students are also thinking beyond their final year,’ Dr Hendry says.
‘Pathways to future education and employment are becoming more complex and young people feel this pressure acutely.’
Having so many factors to think (and stress) about can eventually become a roadblock if you’re not quite sure how to handle it.
‘Anxious students often have high expectations of themselves and this pressure can become so overwhelming that they just stop and can’t move forward, even if they have been productive students throughout the year,’ Dr Hendry explains.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling like this, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you drop the ball. When you’ve got a lot on your mind it can be difficult to focus. But Dr Hendry says, ‘If it all gets too much, breaking down study into small prioritised goals can help with this hurdle.
‘Young people who are struggling with their emotional or mental health can benefit from checking in with a close family member or older friend.
‘But when things feel especially overwhelming, it is important that parents, carers and teachers encourage young people to visit a GP, school wellbeing co-ordinator, counsellor or a mental health service,’ she says.
Remember that you don’t have to endure this period alone. Just because you’re the one walking into the exam doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out for support before you do.