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Managing HSC Stress – Strategies

By Afrah Haroon in HSC
20th of August 2020
Strategies on how to manage HSC stress - ATAR Notes

This opinion piece was written by ex-HSC student Afrah. To get involved with our HSC community, check out the ATAR Notes Forums.

The HSC is stressful! The inordinate level of importance placed on ATAR and the HSC exams can make us feel stressed, so here are some tips and resources to cope with stress during the HSC period.


1. Keep things in perspective

The inordinate amount of social and academic pressure surrounding the HSC can make it easy to lose sight of what the HSC truly is – an exam. While the ATAR has an impact on the course you will enter straight out of high school, a weaker ATAR is not at all the end of the world. And most importantly, a weaker ATAR does not determine the course of your future.

While it may seem as though teachers and parents are repeating this ‘lie’ just to make students feel better, this is definitely not the case. As a HSC graduate, with the privilege of hindsight, I can GUARANTEE you that the ATAR does not determine your future. There are so many options and pathways to get to your dream course including but not limited to:

Entering a similar course at the university you want to attend, and then transferring to your preferred course at the end of the first or second year, using your GPA (Grade Point Average).
Look at pathway providers. For example, UTS Insearch enables you to study a foundation course, which enables you to do first year with extra support, and you will then be able to move onto your second year of university. No time lost at all! Pathway programs are also available at USYD, UNSW, WSU, and MACQ.
TAFE/VET courses as a pathway to university. Many of these courses contain credits, which are transferrable to university.

Most importantly – though repeated often – it is important to remember that ‘You are NOT your ATAR’.

The ATAR is not indicative of the individual circumstances of a student. Many students are unable to achieve their personal best in the HSC due to anxiety, family etc. Thus, it is important that you remember that you are truly not just your ATAR.


2. Do not compare yourself to others

Do not ask others how much they have studied or how prepared they are feeling, as this does no good, and often ends up leaving you feeling underprepared or anxious.

During the lead-up to the HSC period, I did not engage in conversations about students complaining about how much or little they had studied. I muted these chats and focused on what I needed to do to feel prepared, allowing me to feel much calmer. Different students need to spend different amounts of time preparing for their exams, thus there is no use in comparing how much you have studied with others.

It is also important to distance yourself from students who may cause you to feel stressed, especially prior to exams. We all know those friends who like to list all the possible curveballs that could be thrown your way 5 minutes prior to the exam. Stay away, and instead focus on your preparation, and be confident in the work that you have done.


3. Talk to someone

The HSC can be stressful, so if you are finding it difficult to manage your stress, always talk to someone about this. Talk to your friends, parents, teachers, or even a GP. Sometimes even just talking to someone about your feelings can help you put things into perspective and feel calmer.


4. Look after yourself

Despite the stresses of the HSC, it is important that we do not forget to look after health.

It is important that you maintain an exercise regime and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Practising mindfulness is also an excellent way of dealing with stress. There are numerous YouTube videos and apps available to help you do so.


5. Enjoy Year 12

Year 12 is your last year of high school, so try to enjoy it as much as you can! Make the most of your opportunities, and enjoy your last year of high school.

Without the privilege of hindsight, the HSC can be extremely overwhelming. But remember, there IS life outside the HSC. Now, take a deep breath, try your best and enjoy every minute of Year 12!


  • avatar_comment



    Thank you Afrah for posting this!! You couldn’t have written it any better. People around me, including my parents and past students have always told me to: just do my best and it couldn’t be more true. It’s the best advice someone could give. I hope more people see this and believe it. Thank you for taking the time to write and post this. I hope you have a fantastic day!