You’re on the home stretch, Year 12! With final exams just around the corner, 13 years of schooling have almost come to an end.

If you’re starting to feel pre-exam jitters, don’t panic. We'll show you how to study smarter, not harder, so you’re ready to ace your end-of-high school exams.

1. Create a realistic study plan

Use a weekly planner or calendar app to create a manageable study timetable with enough time to cover the syllabus of each subject without cramming. Block out the hours when you can’t study, then add in study session time slots for revision and past exam papers. Think about the time of day when you work best and plan your study around those hours. Don’t forget to schedule regular breaks – you should take some time away from the books to reset. That way, when you jump back into study mode, you’ll absorb the information better.

2. Don't try to study an entire subject in one session

Be specific about what you’re going to revise in each time slot. Divide your subjects into topics and aim to study one ‘chunk’ in each session. This will help you to group information together in a way that makes sense to you. Try not to leave your hardest subjects to the last minute - these are the areas you should allocate the most time to. The earlier you start on your most challenging subjects, the earlier you can cross them off your list.

3. Keep your sessions short so your focus stays sharp

Quality over quantity applies to studying. If you're not studying for hours on end, you may feel like you're not working hard enough, but that's not the case. Once your concentration starts to slip, your ability to remember information slips too. An intensive 20 minutes is going to be more productive than an unfocused two-hour session.

4. Create your perfect study zone

Find a comfortable, quiet spot that gets plenty of airflow and natural light - or good artificial lighting if you’re studying at night. If you prefer a bit of background noise, choose a TV program or playlist that won’t distract you from your study. Pick a show that you don’t want to watch and keep it at a low volume. If you find yourself singing along to your music, try switching to a new playlist. There’s plenty of lyric-free, focus-boosting playlists on Spotify to help you get in the study zone.

5. Silence or block distractions

While a silent work zone doesn’t suit everyone, there is one thing you should keep silent while studying: your phone. Better yet, turn it off. Even if you’re only checking your phone every now and then, you’d be surprised to see how much time it adds up to. At the very least, turn off your notifications.  If you're studying on your computer, try an app or browser extension, like StayFocusd or Freedom to block distracting sites. You'll thank yourself later. 

6. Study to suit your learning style

Everybody learns differently, so there isn’t one ‘correct’ way to study. Visual learners will benefit from using diagrams, picture aids and dot points in their study notes. If you learn best through reading and note-taking, try rewriting your class notes in your own words and use questions for your headings. Auditory learners will find it helpful to listen back to online classes or voice recordings that you’ve created yourself.

7. Test & teach

Try taking test papers or using flashcards to test your memory. You can create your own flashcard set using an app like Quizlet or BrainScape. Once you’ve mastered a topic, try teaching it to someone else or asking your family members to quiz you. This is the best way to figure out the topics you’re confident in and the ones that need more revision.

8. Shake up your routine

If you find that your motivation is dwindling, it might be time to switch things up. A change of scenery may be in order, so hit the books outside and get some sun at the same time. If your study time is getting dull, try something new. If you’ve ever used ‘Never Eat Soggy Weet-Bix’ to remember compass directions, then you’ve already benefited from mnemonic devices. These memory aids could be in the form of acronyms, rhymes or songs that help you remember information. Get creative and make your own!

9. Take care of your health

If you’re struggling to keep up with your study schedule in the lead up to exam day, it might be time to switch off. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the chaos that is Year 12 but to perform at your best and prevent burnout, you need to be looking after your health too. That means eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep and daily exercise. Even a quick walk will help to get your blood pumping and relieve stress. Plus, the fresh air will do wonders for your concentration levels.

10. Keep things in perspective

And lastly, but most importantly, remember the big picture. It may not feel like it right now, but exams truly aren’t the be all, end all. Sure, a good ATAR can get you straight into your dream degree, but not everyone’s pathway to uni is linear. If you don't get the results you were hoping for, you always have options. Here at UNSW, we recognise that the ATAR isn’t the only measure of your potential to succeed. That’s why we offer many different pathways into uni. Good luck with your exams. You’re almost there – you can do it! 

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