It’s no secret that everyone gets stressed when exam period swings around. You reach a point where everything becomes too much and you’re so far behind that you feel like you’ll never catch up. Combine it with all the other crap that comes with being a teenager, like fights with your friends, learning to drive, landing your first job, getting drunk and hooking up, it's inevitable to feel a lil overwhelmed by the whole experience.
Two-thirds of young people now experience "worrying levels" of exam stress, a study by youth service ReachOut has found. This intensity of stress can have a negative impact on our academic performance and, more importantly, our mental health. As students, we simply don’t want to be a disappointment. We can spend countless hours studying and still feel like we haven't done enough.
We're taught to feel this way from the moment we start school. From day one we're chucked in a room and told to complete an exam and if can often feel like if we don't do a good job on them, we're failing more than just a little test–we're failing at life.
Our school system is so focused on marks and rankings, that little thought is given to student happiness. We're so focused on academic achievement that the high school experience becomes all about textbooks and assignments. We forget that our teenage years are short and that we should be enjoying them before we're forced to grow up and face becoming an adult.
The reality is that exams aren't going anywhere. Even though the ATAR is losing relevance and only one in four students land themselves a spot in uni based off their ATAR, that doesn't help any of us that are going through high school at the moment. Maybe one day the ATAR will be scrapped (fingers crossed) but what are we meant to do right now?
The thing is, as lame as it sounds, it's up to us to decide whether we let exams dictate our lives. While it might not seem like we have a choice in the matter, the truth is that it's our lives. And, at any moment, we can change them.
So, step away from your notes when you've been looking at them for hours and nothing is sinking in. Do something that you want to do–pile up the car with pillows and blankets and head to a lookout for sunset, grab your mates and head to the beach on a sunny day, read a book, go for a run or watch your favourite movie. Plan a trip–even if it's just for a weekend. Go to parties, meet new people and do things you'll probably regret in the morning. If you're worried about exams then study but don't let it take over your life.
At the end of the day those final marks don't determine your success in life. Your score on a test or your rank in your class doesn't decide whether or not you get to live a happy life.