Alstonville High School student Jess Hauenstein, 18, Knockrow, is thrilled to have finished her HSC exams. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
Alstonville High School student Jess Hauenstein, 18, Knockrow, is thrilled to have finished her HSC exams. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

4 habits students should avoid during HSC study

HSC students across the Northern Rivers have their heads in their books this week as the examination block enters its final weeks.

From night owls to early birds, students are taking up various study methods to achieve those desired grades.

Experts are urging students to avoid slipping into bad study habits as they could may stick with students long after the HSC wraps up.

Teachers and a psychologist share their thoughts on what makes for the most effective study habits for young people.

Overload on caffeine or other drugs

EXCESSIVE amounts of Red Bull, coffee, sugar or drugs will not enhance your study performance, says Southern Cross University psychologist and researcher Dr James Donnelly.

Recently, Dr Donnelly said there is an emergence of year 12 students locally using drugs like Ritalin - a form of amphetamine that helps with attention deficit disorders such as ADHD - to help focus during their studies.

But Dr Donnelly warned students the drug may not be assisting them much at all.

"The challenge though is whether the quality of work is as good as the good feeling," Dr Donnelly said.

"Some people report that they feel very energised and enthusiastic about their work but unfortunately when they look at their work later when they aren't on the amphetamine that they're not very happy with what they have generated.

"For example, they might generate more words in less time but if you look at the work it's far below, even what the person thinks is their own standard."

Dr Donnelly said drugs like Ritalin as well as stimulants like caffeine are harmful to your sleep cycle and the work produced is "almost never the same quality" as a normal functioning mind.

Becoming dependent on stimulants and other drugs during study can foster negative habits in young people that may affect them down the track, according to Dr Donnelly.

"While you are using medication to deal with the stress of the HSC or to study or whatever, you're not developing other strategies, " he said

"When you get out into the workforce, and have to challenge yourself the same way to get work done and manage the other parts of your life, you will have not developed those skills.

Don't burn the midnight oil

DON'T lose sleep over the HSC, a phrase that students will have heard time and time again from parents, carers and teachers in the lead up to the examination period.

And the advice should be taken literally Dr Donnelly says with a good night's sleep proven to improve mood and help let all of that vital study sink in.

"We know that during sleep, memory consolidation goes on and so if you're really wanting to retain the things that you've studied today, you have to have quality sleep," Dr Donnelly said.

"If you are thinking of a sustained mental effort like on the HSC, you've actually depleted your brain chemistry because you have not been sleeping and giving your brain a chance to recover from the mental effort you've been exerting.

"You are really setting yourself up to fail."

Study with no breaks

THAT old saying 'no play makes a Jack dull boy' rings true with HSC study, experts say.

Dr Donnelly cited good evidence to suggest breaking your study up into short bouts of about 30 minutes with short breaks increasing the likelihood for retaining information - like that direct quote from a related text.

Xavier Catholic College Year 12 coordinator, Janine Wallace said the college delivered a range of study support measures for their HSC students.

The Year 12 pastoral care program focused on numerous study techniques and note taking strategies for their students to well-equip them for the big tests.

Be a social hermit

PARENTS, teachers, friends and relatives - most young people have one or more of these people in their lives to support them through life's biggest milestones, like the HSC.

Alstonville High School principle, John Douglas said his staff strive to nurture positive relationships with their students.

"If we are going to have a health study program then that relationship has to be number one," Mr Douglas said.

Mr Douglas said he and other teachers meet up with the students before their exams for that extra confidence boost.

"I go out to every exam and meet with the students just before they go in and I see that they are relaxed and I see that there isn't that major panic."

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