Last week, more than 76,000 NSW students began sitting their Higher School Certificate (HSC) exams amid concerns that the disruption from COVID-19 has magnified the stress and anxiety young people are already experiencing.
Many senior students have admitted that the COVID-19 restrictions have made preparing for this year’s end-of-year exams more challenging, and to educators and researchers this news comes as no surprise.
But with the exams now in full swing, students are focused on doing the best they can in tough circumstances. Key to this, says one expert, is focusing on the basics, taking a smart approach to memory, and keeping things in perspective.
“In 2020, students preparing for their final exams during COVID may be particularly anxious about whether they will do as well as usual,” says Assoc/Prof Penny Van Bergen, an educational psychologist at Macquarie University, who researches adolescents' development of memory and emotion skills.
"To support students through this period, it is useful to go back to basics. Schedule study, exercise, and downtime, and have a Plan B just in case it is needed. This way there are no surprises”.
Assoc/Prof Van Bergen said students must remember what makes study effective.
“Research shows that memory works best when study is targeted to the exam and discipline; when students use active study methods such as decision making and self-testing rather than rehearsal; and when switching back and forth between topics rather than trying to learn them one after the other,” she explained.
“This gives the brain multiple opportunities to encode and retrieve the material. Good sleep is also critical”.
Assoc/Prof Van Bergen said students must also be mindful to keep everything in perspective.
“Most universities and degrees have early entry and alternative entry options, and this is particularly true during COVID”.