Term 4 exam season is just around the corner for our Year 12 students.

Experts in learning and the teenage brain have lots of great advice for Year 12 parents on how to best support students through the October/November external assessment block.

But before we bring you a summary of that information, here’s a re-cap of the upcoming testing period:

  • External exams for Year 12 students are one of the major changes to senior schooling under the new Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) system and had their debut in 2020.  Another major change to the system has been replacing the Overall Position (or OP) with the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), along with new syllabuses and subjects.
  • Final results in General subjects are based on a student’s achievement in three internal assessments and one external assessment. In General Mathematics and Science subjects, external assessment contributes 50% to the final subject result. In all other General subjects, external assessment contributes 25% towards the final subject result. There is no external assessment in Applied subjects.
  • The format of exams will vary: some may be multiple choice, others will involve short or extended response questions.
  • The 2021 external assessment block will run from Friday 22 October until Tuesday 16 November. Download the external assessment timetable.
  • The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which is overseeing the exams, has lots of resources on its website including this information booklet for students and videos with tips on how to prepare for individual subjects.
  • list of what equipment can be taken into each exam is also available online.
  • Final subject results and Senior Education Profile will be available in student’s learning accounts in the Student Portal from 9 am on Friday 17 December 2021.
  • Frequently asked questions about ATAR are available on the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre website.

Encouraging and supporting your Year 12 student

So what’s the best way to support your child through end-of-year exams?

Every child will be different, but education and adolescent academics have compiled a list of five things parents can do to help their child stress less and do better, in this story published by The Conversation, published in 2020.

Regularly checking in with your teen and encouraging them to balance study with sleep and exercise tops the list.

“To ensure your child prioritises self-care, help them put together a routine,” the authors write. “This may involve scheduling specific times for exercise, meals and downtime each day, and breaking up blocks of study time with short breaks.”

And while it’s important to regularly check-in, parents are advised to resist the temptation to take over or swoop in with solutions, as this may signal to the young person their parent doesn’t believe in their ability to cope.

“It is important to remember teenagers are often more resilient than we think,” the article says.

“Research consistently shows parental monitoring that supports the autonomy of the young people is linked with their better psychological adjustment and performance during difficult times.”

In short: ask how they are coping, listen to their answers and ask if they need your support.

“Let your actions be guided by their response,” the authors write. “If they say ‘I’m very stressed’ ask if there is something you can do. You could say: ‘Tell me what you need to do and we’ll work it out together’.”

Read The Conversation article in full.

The science to studying well

There’s also plenty of evidence-backed advice about the most effective study techniques.

The power of ‘spacing’ when reviewing information for exams is well documented, as is the need to minimise distractions and get a good night’s sleep.

You can read in detail about spacing and other recommended study techniques in our story: Study hacks: the science-backed tips for getting exam preparation ‘right’.

Unpacking the teenage brain

During the teenage years, changes in the brain are quite dramatic. Understanding that these changes can affect the way teens manage their emotions and behave is great knowledge to have in your parenting back pocket when supporting your teen through their final exams.

This video resource from the Queensland Government’s Spark their Future website helps to explain the teen brain and offers advice to parents about how best to respond.

In it, neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis explains the teenage brain is “still under construction”.

“It is normal for teenagers to see the world in a way that is much more based on feeling than is based on thinking,” Nathan says in the video.

“The key really to communicating with a teenager is to make sure you speak to that emotional brain before you give your thinking strategy.”

Helping them establish good routines and balance are important, but as parents we “can’t stand over them and get them to do it,” Nathan says.

“We need them to engage their own problem solving mind.”

The video concludes with a reassuring message for parents.

“Sometimes letting them know that they have handled life well or done a good job does wonders for your teen’s confidence and their willingness to cooperate with you,” the commentator says.

“The main thing to remember is don’t give up – no matter what. If they know that you love them and will be there for them that’s what they’ll come back to.”

Further reading:

Raising Children Network | Top tips for exam stress

The University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute | Factors affecting learning

The University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute | ‘Boost your learning’ poster

The Conversation | Don’t calm down! Exam stress may not be fun but it can help you get better marks

The Conversation | Study habits for success: tips for students

The Conversation | Studying for exams? Here’s how to make your memory work for you

The Conversation | Curious Kids: is it OK to listen to music while studying?