Category Archives: Education

Good Thing About Exams

Yes, there is a silver lining to your exam-related suffering.

Let’s face it: when you hear the word “exam”, you feel an instant chill go down your spine; that preconditioned dread, that compulsion to groan, that out-of-nowhere nervousness, even if only for a second (and even if it’s not in the context of an exam you have to take). It’s something we all feel, almost instinctively.

Your friend tells you he has an exam, and you thank your stars you’re not in his shoes. Your teacher utters the word and you simultaneously remember all the exams you’ve taken in your life, while foreseeing the impending doom of those that are to come.

I’m not talking about full-blown panic here, but we can all relate to that anxiety-loaded word triggering negative, stressful feelings.

There is, however, a positive side to having your knowledge tested in an exam. Most students reading this will already have their objections at the ready. Some even say exams cloud your knowledge with anxiety and inhibit your access of required neurological pathways, with the ever-present time limit ticking away at the forefront of your thoughts.

However, if you can remember that the purpose of any assessment is to test your knowledge, and to ensure that what you have understood from your materials is applicable to more than just the initial examples you were given, you can see that the exam setting is actually the most effective way of demonstrating your aptitude.

To put it simply, if you can answer the question in the exam environment, you’ll likely be able to answer the question anywhere.

Exams are structured around assessing the knowledge that exists in your head, without access to the internet, without phoning a friend, and without finding a wiki article and then using one of the references at the bottom of the page to maintain the facade that you’re above using Wikipedia.

Of course, exams are stressful and some otherwise reliable students suddenly lose their knowledge as a result of their restrictive and intimidating nature. However, is there a better way to assess how they apply their knowledge outside of the classroom?

Before you object with all the reasons exams are terrible, soul-crushing, torturous heathen rituals, think about the possible scenarios you might be faced with in your ideal job. Think about the time limits of the real world, where you will need to be able to access that knowledge in the back of your brain somewhere among all those Simpsons quotes and Harry Potter spells you told yourself are indicative of your understanding of Latin. Being able to apply what you have been taught – without discussion, spell-check or reassurance* – is the most transparent method of ascertaining your level of comprehension to not only our examiner overlords but also to yourself.

Your application of knowledge in an exam is a reflection of the aptitude and abilities you can be confident in, as well as the areas that require further revision.

In this way, though we still get that chill down our spine as a reflex when the word is mentioned, there is, a positive side to exams.

*Author’s note: I had to phone a friend to remember the word “reassurance”. Oh sweet irony

Stay Safe When You’re Staying Late At Campus

As you may have found since moving on from high school to university or TAFE, you’re expected to pull some ungodly hours on campus.

Though this is where you’ll form a bunch of your favourite tertiary memories – like ordering late-night pizza to get your group through an all-nighter – it also means you’ll sometimes leave after regular staffed hours.

Those who drive might need to cross empty parking lots to their car; others might have to wait for nearly-empty trains and busses to get home. You definitely need not panic (your parents are probably already gnawing at their nails) but it’s essential you stay smart in these circumstances.

Here are eight tips to ensure you stay safe at all times.

1. Keep your family and friends updated.

Since you’re keeping such unusual hours these days, it can be difficult for family, friends, roommates and partners to keep track of your whereabouts. Give them peace of mind by letting them know when you’re leaving and when you expect to get home. Not only does this keep them from being whipped into a panicked frenzy and summoning the AFP to raid the library where you’ve simply nodded off, it means someone else is accountable for your whereabouts.

2. Never walk alone.

“You’ll never walk alone” isn’t just Liverpool’s anthem; it’s also a handy guide to help you avoid danger on campus at night. If you need to get to your car, or the train station, be sure to partner up. Also, if someone else is planning on walking by themselves, be courteous and offer to escort them. Everyone can use a buddy.

3. Carpool!

In fact, why simply walk in pairs when you can drive in trios, or even quintets? (More than that is probably a road hazard.) The company and conversation will also help you remain alert if driving late at night.

4. Avoid dimly lit areas and short cuts.

When making your way across the university or college grounds, try to stick near street lamps and paved pathways. If you spot an area with broken lights, be sure to report it to authorities. Also, try to avoid short cuts; more often than not, these are precisely the parts of the campus with little lighting (and are also rarely populated by other late-staying students). The risk is not worth the extra five minutes you might save.

5. Hear us out: maybe don’t wear headphones!

We know, we know. Sometimes there’s nothing better at the end of a long day than popping in your earphones, blotting out the world and finally cranking the Apple Music, or catching up with your favourite comedy podcast. However, you really should be aware of what’s going on around you as you begin your exit. If you absolutely have to listen to something, keep the volume low and try not to drown out your surroundings – not just for your own safety, either. This way, you might even hear someone else’s call for assistance.

6. Find out the number for campus security and keep it handy.

Whether it’s for your own protection, or others, make sure you have campus security’s number stored on your mobile and at the ready. Usually, security moves pretty quickly to assist those in need once they’ve been alerted to a situation, so be sure you have the right number.

7. Park close (or catch a shuttle).

Parking on campus can be a nightmare, and sometimes you can’t guarantee a spot close to your building. Still, most cars clear out around 5pm. If you know you’re going to be hanging around for a while yet, maybe move your car closer to the building where you’ll be spending the rest of the night. If that’s not a possibility, find out if your campus has a shuttle service, and sync up your movements with its timetable.

8. Download the Safe Haven app.

Of course, you could always download the new Safe Haven app, which turns your smartphone into a personal security device. The app not only maps your location but also offers a panic button that can be held down to alert the Safe Haven team – on notice 365 days a year, 24/7 in a secure control room – who will immediately get in touch and dispatch security if needed (an advancement on the previous generation of security apps). Though the above common-sense rules are integral guidelines for those staying late, there’s no harm in letting technology (with a personal touch) lend a hand in your protection.

All of these tips will get you home safely, where you can relax and put work behind you… at least, for a few hours.

Fight Procrastination With The Perfect Study EnvironmentF

Getting into the rhythm of study is close to impossible and finding a way to focus solely on the task at hand is a lot more challenging than it seems.

So, here is what I do when I cannot procrastinate from my studies any longer:
1) Find Your Zone.
Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, find wherever you focus best and is completely free from distraction. Let whoever is living with you know that now is not the time to discuss whatever particular Mexican food they are craving at that very moment and get down to business. I personally think it is best to work at a desk or table instead of on the couch or a bed, as it separates relaxing and focusing, and helps just a little bit in regards to concentration.
2) Light It Up.
Have a lamp or desk light near you, and position it so you don’t create shadows over your work. I also work really well with candles in my room. usually placing two or three on my desk. (Just keep them clear of your papers!)
3) Music Please!
If you work well with music (and don’t try if you know it will distract), set up a little speaker nearby or plug in your headphones. This one really depends on the individual, but choose something that will help you get in the zone – nothing too upbeat or sentimental. I usually go to a Focus Spotify Playlist or something that can kind of blur into the background.
4) Gear Up.
Get out your lappie, books, texts, pencils, et cetera, and figure out what you need to do. If there is an extensive amount, write a list to make sure nothing is forgotten. Start out with the easiest job or the task you will most enjoy, and work your way from there. Getting the most enjoyable things done first will start you going on a roll to banish the build-up of procrastination. Aim for a simple desk or workspace, keeping only the things you need for each task in front of you. This will allow you to not seem too overwhelmed and keep you chipping away one task at a time.
5) An Apple A Day.
If you are a notorious snacker like myself, stock up! A water bottle is an obvious choice for your workspace, but you should also arm yourself with snacks such as nuts, cut up fruit, crackers or whatever you feel are good to have near you so you can avoid getting up. Easy to eat snacks that you don’t have to make mouthfuls with or eat with two hands are the best, because you don’t need to disrupt your mind’s awesome train of thought.
6) Keep On Keepin’ On.
Study can be awful. Study can seem really daunting. Sometimes, I want to bury study in a deep hole… but when you get down to it, the build-up of not studying is a lot more stressful than the actual work itself. So just do it, and don’t make it a terrible mountain of impossible in your head. It is always worth it. Good luck!

Managing Your Workload

Weighed down by your workload?

Overcome by your impending exams?

Just not able to finish that measly bit of homework due tomorrow?

We feel your pain. That’s why we reached out to our friends at (wait for it) ReachOut to see if they had any words of wisdom when it comes to managing school and uni loads (as well as any tips for making it through exams).

Here’s what they had to offer. Follow the links to their sage advice!

‘Exam Preparation’

“Preparing for exams is not just about studying effectively, although that is a big part of it. In fact, if you want to be super organised, your exam preparation can start as early as your very first class.”

‘Tips to help you through exams’

“There is no magic formula that can ensure you do well in exams. Pressure can motivate you, but if it’s getting to you, you can do something about that. Effective study before the exam is important. There are also strategies you can employ on the day to help you do as well as possible and stay on-track through the exam itself.”

‘Helping a friend with stress’

Got a mate who’s always stressed out? Sometimes people aren’t coping and they need a mate to step in and help them out. Learn about some of the common causes of stress, figure out whether you should step in, and get some tips on helping someone with stress. If nothing helps, maybe there’s something else going on.

Know More About The Pain of Student Portals

We asked our members what they hate most about dealing with their school’s “portals”. Here’s our favourite answer.

Well, we’ve all been through the pain of having to navigate blindly through a new student portal at least once in our lives. I can tell you about mine.

I am a first year student at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) studying the Bachelor of Design (Honours) (Architectural Studies). It’s a very long name isn’t it? Well, it’s not the only area my university went overboard when it came to naming things.

QUT adores doing everything online. In fact, I can name more than five online portals that my university has created: QUT Virtual, QUT Blackboard, QUT Library, QUT IT Helpdesk, QUT eStudent, Student Gateway, OrgSync and many more I cannot be bothered to list because there’s just too many.

Students portals are a pain to navigate through and to load onto, due to congestion and poor internet. Let me tell you my experience – or should I say “journey” – through QUT Blackboard, which is a frequently used, highly important student portal.

QUT Blackboard allows us to view our grades, unit details, assessments and notices, download lecture recordings and submit our assignments. I remember having to reluctantly teach myself how to navigate through this portal to find out exactly what was required of me for the first week of university.

So there I was, a first year student who barely knew where to click, trying to locate all the essential details in order to successfully survive the first semester of university. I remember feeling nervous and anxious while painfully conducting the “trial and error” experiment on my brand new Blackboard portal.

Now here I am, four months later, a lot more familiar with QUT Blackboard, yet frustratingly under the pressure of time, trying to upload and submit my last assessment for my unit before the deadline.

Meanwhile, thousands of other QUT students are doing the same, as they too impatiently wait for their assignment to upload onto QUT Blackboard. This now forms a heavy online congestion as thousands of assignments are being uploaded onto QUT Blackboard simultaneously.

My heart beats ten times a second as I silently pray, hoping the page will load and my submission will be successful. Some students are still desperately trying to finalise their assignments before they too can join the thousands of students in their endless long wait for their assignments to upload onto QUT Blackboard. Thankfully, my assignment successfully went through prior to the deadline. It was a close call.

(I heard some students couldn’t make it on time. Theirs were submitted late and will lose one grade. Thankfully for me, that assignment is out of the way.)

Now my university has officially announced they will close down our one and only physical submission helpdesk – Assignment Minder – for good, as of next semester. I am beginning to feel the weight of a thousand tonnes on me again as I wait for my next assignment to come and be uploaded slowly onto QUT Blackboard once more. The long wait never ends.

Since technology will only advance and be forever loved, I guess I will be stuck using QUT Blackboard for assignment submissions, downloading lecture recordings forever.

Also, having constant maintenance and changes to the orientation of the tabs in student portals once in a while means we students have to constantly adapt to the student portals and continue on the confusingly painful journey of navigating through them.

What can I say? Student portals are and will forever more be a pain in the neck

When The Exam Lowdown

Exams are tougher than resisting a fifth helping of Christmas lunch, even for the smartest of cookies.

They’re pesky and difficult and stressful, and simply being intelligent doesn’t cut it. You need to be mentally healthy and prioritise self-care to get through (kinda) unscathed.

But I’ve learnt some tips and tricks along the way to make exam time that little bit easier, from high school finals to that darned closed book law exam that I’m not quite over (RIP me).

Here’s some advice that will guarantee you top marks and a top time.*

(*Guarantee not guaranteed. Author accepts no liability.)

Start Early. Pls.

You’ve heard this time and time again. Trust me, it works. Starting early gives your brain time to properly process and absorb information and has a huge impact on your wellbeing and mental health. Anything to minimise extra stress at an already anxious time is a winner. So get goin’ – future you will be grateful.

Study Groups Are Your Friend

Do me a favour? Please don’t get sucked into the toxic idea that everyone is an enemy who you have to beat at all costs. While a little bit of competition is healthy, unnecessarily rivalry and tension doesn’t help anyone. Sure, make your own notes, but meet up with friends to study together or just to unwind.

Treat Yo’ Self

My favourite tip of all. Practice and prioritise self-care – your results will be better for it. Whether it’s going for a run or having a long bath, taking some time away from the books to look after yourself is beyond important. Meditation and mindfulness can also be really helpful and there are some great free apps out there with programs. I find listening before bed super relaxing.

Memory Games

Finding a helpful learning technique is easier said than done. In my experience, flashcards work, if you prepare them in advance and use them regularly. I also use rhyme or narrative to remember lists. Hear me out. In high school, I memorised every syllabus for every topic in Business and Legal studies by making up a funny, memorable sentence from the first letter of each line. It sounds lame, yet almost four years later, I still remember some. Talking to yourself may seem silly, however you’ll quickly figure out what you actually know, and what you’re pretending to know. If you can’t effectively explain a concept aloud, you won’t be able to answer a question on it. #realtalk

Time Management? LOL

Study plans are great if you stick to them and find a time when you’re most focussed and use it productively. And remember: Study smarter, not harder. Take regular breaks – ideally 10 minutes for every hour. I use the 25-5 method, setting my phone’s stopwatch and studying hard for 25 minutes, then taking five minutes to stretch, grab a glass of water and rest my eyes.

Perspective: It’s Important

Stop. Breathe. Life will go on, regardless of your exam results. A percentage cannot tell you how funny, caring or vibrant you are.


Tips to Heading Into Your Final Year Of High School

My new year’s resolution for 2017 is to reduce my stress levels.

This particular resolution will be difficult to achieve as (deep breath) I am going into my final year of high school. Yes, year 12!

Although this seems to be an almost impossible resolution to achieve under the circumstances, I will work at this every spare second I get next year.

Some ways that I will be able to achieve this resolution include organising, prioritising and, above all, completing my work.

This is just a small part to a big change in my life as I am prone to stressing. Organising my work can make completing my work a lot easier, as all my work will be in order, making it easier to start new projects. I will have all the task sheets and important information right in front of me, rather than me having to search through a huge pile of notes and sheets of paper to find something.

Prioritising my work is also an essential part to reducing stress, as it will allow me to complete the work that needs to be completed first, giving me a good idea of when each thing is due and how long I have to work on it.

Another important way to de-stress is, quite simply, remembering to relax. I need to spend more time doing things such as reading, colouring and watching television. I need to set more time to de-stressing, or I will sit and work for countless hours doing homework and assignments, without any breaks.

I need to set myself breaks and time to do the things I enjoy and things that don’t require much thinking. I need to give my brain a break to rest and rejuvenate so that it can work at its fullest capacity once I restart my school work.

Finally, I need to give myself a better sleeping routine; at least eight hours a day. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time so my body can be ready for the day, having woken up refreshed.

With all these in mind I should be able to achieve my new year’s resolution of reducing stress.


The Pathway Talk With Your Parents

Figuring out what you want to do with the next stage of your life can be pretty hard.

For some of us, it’s made all the more difficult by the massive difference between our own goals and our parents’ expectations.

We might not be so sure what we want to do with our lives, but they seem to know exactly what we should do. You want to be a writer; they want you to be a dentist. You want to be a taxidermist; they want you to go into finance. Heck, maybe you want to become a lawyer, but your family thinks you’d be better off as a roving circus performer.

As a relatively stable roving circus performer writer and editor whose family wasn’t always so sure about my career, I’ve found that this difference in opinion isn’t insurmountable. Put on your pinstriped suit and don your most suave toupée: We’re headed to the negotiation table.

1) Hear Out Your Parents, Then Make Your Case

Ask your parents why they want the things they want. It’s possible they actually see law school as an excellent basis for a career in international espionage, not the courts. Or, more likely, they do want you to be a lawyer, but only because that’s their way of trying to make sure you never have to go hungry.

Then, make sure they know what your ultimate goals are. Perhaps you want to have a boring but stable part-time career to make room for more fun (but not profitable) hobbies. Maybe both you and your parents think money is super important, but you just don’t think being an international spy is right for you.

Make sure you’re both very clear on the ‘why’. Sometimes, this can solve the whole problem when you realise you’re both aiming for the same goals.

2) Consider Compromise

If you agree on goals but not the method, you’re more likely to get what you want if you accept a small, safe compromise. Your parents have been around for a while and unfortunately they will be right about some things.

An accounting course, for example, is boring (to some) but universally handy. Plus, it’ll reassure your parents that you’re taking things seriously, even if you do just use it to balance the books at your startup company selling novelty dog hats.

If Doggo Hats PTY LTD takes off, great! If not, you’ve still got a lot of options and a lot of knowledge you’d otherwise not have. Prove to your parents that you understand the risks and you have contingency plans. Everyone wins.

3) Deliver The Goods

If you and your family disagree on goals, a reliable way towards gaining acceptance is to prove you can apply yourself. ‘Hardworking yet misguided’ is better than ‘aimless and lazy’, and nothing looks lazier than skipping out on your own aspirations.

If you say you’ll knit a hundred scarves before Christmas, do it. At best, it will convince people that your plans are viable and you’ll stick to them. At worst, you’ll have a hundred scarves. That’s not a bad deal.

4) Don’t Lose Sight Of The Big Picture

In the end, your life is about meeting your own goals, not anyone else’s. If you still can’t see eye-to-eye, perhaps the only solution is time. That’s okay. People change and the expectations of others don’t define you.

As long as you’re still striving towards your goals and clinging to opportunities thrown your way, you’ll be okay. And that’s what your family really wants for you. They care: That’s why they give you a hard time.

Solutions When Disappointed With Your Exam Performance

Dear Year 12 students…

I am writing to tell you that the HSC/WACE/VCE/SACE/QCS is just one way of getting into university.

So, what exactly am I saying? I am telling you that your life does not start and end with your exam results—no matter what everybody else tells you.

Exams are always going to be stressful; just do your best and nobody can ask any better of you. You tried and that’s what matters.

You made it all the way through Year 12 and you’re planning to take the next step towards your career. De-stress, study and remember – your end-of-school exams are not the defining moment of your life that determines whether you succeed or fail. It’s merely another step in your journey towards a career that you are passionate about.

Take me for example. I graduated from high school in 2013. I freaked out about the HSC like every other student. I also procrastinated as much as possible like every other student.

However, when it came to the exams, I took a deep breath and knew that it would be okay. I knew this because I had about three or four back-up plans—all of which led to university in one form or another.

Why does this matter? It’s an example of what I’m trying to tell you. A disappointing HSC score is not necessarily the end of your aspirations to become a lawyer, doctor, nurse or whatever else you want to be. It’s just a starting point.

I didn’t even need to use my ATAR. I was given direct entry to my course after I completed a special university program during Year 11. All the university wanted to know after my HSC exams was that I got an ATAR.

How does this apply to you? Early entry is just one pathway. I know that it’s a bit late to be mentioning it, but it’s an example of the many ways to get into university. There are so many other ways to get into uni. Take a year off and come back as a ‘mature age student’. Enrol in a course similar to the one you would like to do and transfer over when the university allows you to. Undertake a TAFE course instead, and if TAFE offers entry into the career you want, use it as credit for your eventual university degree. The HSC is not your only pathway into university.

When you finish high school, the world is your oyster. Travel, gain experience and work in as many occupations and as many places as you can. Enjoy your youth.

University has been around for a long time and it’s not about to disappear. Take a gap year (or two) and take your time to decide on exactly what you want your future to look like. Remember that this is only the beginning of a very long and very exciting journey

Recover From An Extended Break

We’ve all had that feeling; that feeling of not wanting a break to end, no matter how small or big.

We’ve already developed habits to maximize our lazing about and minimising our work. But now that it’s ‘back to school’ time, it’s also ‘back to the grind of having to get up early’ time. For some of us, it can be jarring having to go straight from leisure to work, and there’s usually a couple of days (or weeks) of lag time before you adjust. Here are a couple of tips to help with the transition.

Gradually re-introduce work.

Our natural inclination is to keep doing what we’ve been doing, especially if what we’ve been doing has been relaxing all day.


Although it’s important to start as soon as you can to keep up with school, taking on everything at once can be overwhelming and stressful. Instead, introduce work slowly every day until you start to feel comfortable again. Maybe begin with a half hour on your first day back and build from there.

Also, keep in mind that the first few days of school probably won’t be that intense, so it’s the perfect time to gradually re-introduce study to your life.

Re-establish a routine.

Following on from this, it’s important to prepare for school ahead of time as well. Once you’re back into the swing of things, structure your work so that you know how much time is required for each subject.

Keep a regular schedule of what you should be doing, when. For example, set specific times for Math, English and Science (accounting for breaks in-between). You can make this flexible, especially if you have more work for a particular subject in a particular day or week; in general though, stick to your schedule.

Implement good habits on holiday.

There is a temptation on holidays to completely abandon all the good habits you’ve built up during the school term, mainly because you’re on, well, holidays. Even though you really want to make the most of your holidays, you shouldn’t completely abandon your routine. It can make the transition back to school much harder.


No one’s expecting you to do any hardcore work during the break; simply stick to general guidelines like waking up or getting to bed at the same time you would if you had school on. This can help prevent massive grogginess later. Of course, if you must wake up at an ungodly hour because your school is far away, by all means, wake up at a more reasonable time during holidays (but try not to deviate too much; an hour is pretty easy to correct for, but maybe not two or three).

Sure, go out there and enjoy your holidays. Just think of these steps a few days before the holidays end and your body and mind will end up thanking you over the next ten weeks.