10 tips to help your child, and you, survive the HSC


It’s true that the HSC is a marathon not a sprint. But at this stage of the race, your child has entered the stadium and is making their way towards the home stretch. It’s time to put on some pace.

I’ve guided hundreds of students through the HSC, and here are my top tips for helping them, and you, through it.

1. Be positive, but be realistic

We all want the students to do their very best, but everyone needs to be realistic about what this means. If a student has been steadily tracking at around 70% they are not about to get 90% and it is not helpful to let them think that if they ‘just try a little harder’ that they’ll get a mark that they haven’t come close to getting all year.

2. It’s important NOT to study

Chaining, figuratively of course, a teenager to their desk in the hope that this will result in effective study is not realistic. Yes they must study, of course they must. But they must also get out of the house/ library/ school and get some sunshine, play sport, see friends, do something that is not related to studying. Maybe you could take them to lunch, a walk on the beach, a movie. Spend time with your child where you are not focussed on testing their ability to rote learn information.

3. Feed them

A healthy diet makes for a healthy mind and body. Healthy bodies and minds make for students who are able to concentrate. Some healthy eating ideas for those sitting exams can be found here.

4. Talk to them

I realise that as a species, teenagers aren’t always the most communicative, but have you tried talking to them in the car? There’s something about car travel and perhaps not having to make eye contact, that seems to open teens up. Talk to them about their hopes and fears. Tell them that it’s ok and actually mean it. A fear of many teens is not so much the exams, but of disappointing their parents.

5. Get them to teach you

Ask them to tell you about the plots in the novels they’ve studied, the key themes of their history units, some of the important legal issues facing our society, significant chemical processes. Being able to explain a concept to someone else is an important teaching and learning strategy. Students will retain more information and better still understand it, if they are asked to teach it to someone else.

6. Recognise that it is just a test

It really is. Yes, more emphasis is placed on the HSC now than ever before, but sitting and passing a three hour exam is not a measure of a students worth or character. If they don’t get the mark they need to get into a particular university course, there are other options. They can do generalist degrees, do well and transfer. They can get a job, save, travel, get an apprenticeship, go to Tafe. If they ‘bomb out’ ranting and raving isn’t going to help. You need to look at other options.

7. Encourage them to do their best

Their best is good enough. They cannot be asked to do anymore than their best and parents need to recognise this. If your child walks out of the exams, smiles and says ‘I did my best’ then be happy with that.

8. Make sure you know what to do if something happens

Sometimes unforeseen issues arise. You need to make sure you know who at your child’s school to contact. The HSC exams are really out of the school’s control. There is no rescheduling, no alternate tests, no starting again. The HSC is the domain of the Board of Studies. The school can help you with paper work etc, but the actual exam is out of their control.

9. Encourage your child to make use of all available resources

Obviously they should be talking with their teachers and submitting practice papers for review. They can also meet with other students at the school and local library. There are many online communities that students can join to ask questions and websites geared towards HSC review. Some good ones include HSC online, Edrolo or Bored of Studies.

10. The horse has NEVER bolted

Until the morning of the exam, it’s never too late. Don’t let your child tell you or believe that it’s too late to start studying. Yes they should have been studying for a while now, there’s no point denying that, but there is always something that can be done.

The HSC is a rite of passage which this year begins on Monday October 13. Many of us have been through it and come out the other end in reasonable state. It signifies the end of a very significant time in your child’s life; 13 years of schooling. But a new chapter, as an adult is about to begin and that is something to look forward to.


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