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We asked three highly experienced year 12 teachers how to conquer exam mind blanks once and for all.

Preparation is your friend

English and history teacher Wanieta Young says it’s all in your preparation. “Students can get into trouble if they memorise an answer and then forget part of it,” says Young. “But if you focus on the ideas of the subject, the connections between concepts and the quotes that could be used in an answer, you should be able to keep going,” she suggests. “Think through the ideas or concepts in your topic. This will deepen your understanding and help if you are stuck,” Ms Young recommends.

You can use some acting skills to prepare as well. Are you more the Wonder Woman or Spiderman type? Try talking about your topics out loud in front of the mirror before the exam. (Dress up if you want!). This is a great way to build confidence, and gets your body on board, which may help recall.

So that’s all well and good for English and history, but what about science or maths? Year 12 psychology and chemistry teacher, Tip Kennedy, has similar advice.“Focus on the process of answering a question rather than just memorising answers,” she says. And when you start writing in the exam, make a quick dot point plan – something Kennedy suggests is 3–5 minutes well spent.

Preparation is your friend

Okay. You’re in the exam. You’re well prepared. You’re answering the first question, but suddenly—mind blank. No way! There are lots of potential causes for mind blanks, particularly in the form of anxiety, stress, tiredness and noise. (Embed Study Hacks video here) To overcome these moments, check in with your body. Take a pause, move a bit in your seat, stretch, and remember to breathe. Slowing down your breathing actually helps you feel calmer, as it reduces the feelings of stress such as shortness of breather and that tight feeling in your chest.

Ms Kennedy suggests tuning in to your study space at home: “Imagining the place where you have been studying can help you feel better,” she says. “It gets your mind going.”

Remember, mind blanks don’t last. See, you’re already writing again.

Celebrate

Marcia Knight, HSC teacher of 30 years, recommends these three words: ‘Prepare, Perform, Celebrate!’ You’ve made it through your exam. Even if there’s another one on the cards for tomorrow, remember to celebrate. Just celebrate small for now and save the big party til the end.

What can I do now?

  1. Check out more study tips and things to try and beat exam stress
  2. Read out step by step guide for solving problems
  3. Learn more about relaxation techniques