Tag Archive for: ATAR

Like many others I always thought that multi-tasking was an efficient way to get things done.

Rather than just focusing on one task and letting the others slide, I deliberately ensured that I juggled all my tasks and did a bit of everything each day so that I could keep all my balls in the air.

But lately I have come to realise just how inefficient this actually is.

Because rather than staying on top of everything, I’ve all too frequently had all the balls come crashing down on me at once.

So, let’s have a look at why multi-tasking isn’t the answer – and most importantly at what you should be doing instead.

Multitasking and Me

So, why was I such a fan of multitasking in the first place?

It’s all to do with dreams.

I guess I’ve always had a low boredom threshold and have always had multiple activities on the go at any one time.

I have this recurring dream that I am cruising along happily crossing things off my to-do list and feeling pretty smug about my organisational skills, when I look back at my calendar and realise I have a Modern History research assignment due the next day that I haven’t even started!

Believe me, this is not a comforting dream to have at 2am.

And especially disconcerting when you consider that I haven’t actually studied Modern History since 1987!

So, to avoid that dream becoming a reality, I have developed a habit of multitasking – doing a little bit of everything each day so that I don’t forget any one thing altogether.

There’s just one problem.

Far from being more efficient, multitasking actually ensures that we actually don’t get ANY task completed effectively.

So, any time I was juggling multiple tasks, the final results were sub-standard, despite my best efforts.

But why is this the case?

Reason #1: It’s inefficient and time-wasting

Our brains are only designed to concentrate on one thing at a time (and no, that doesn’t just apply to males).

Women may be compelled to multi-task more often as they are more frequently responsible for little people who can’t perform tasks for themselves, but that does not make them efficient at it.

When we multi-task we don’t actually do two (or more) things at the one time. What actually happens is that we constantly shift our attention from one task and onto another. It’s just that we do it so rapidly we are often not aware of the process.

When we engage in an activity, we make a conscious decision to do so. Each activity has a set of ‘rules’ associated with it, that don’t necessarily apply to other activities. For example, the ‘rules’ required to cook dinner are very different from those required to text a friend. Trying to combine the two can make both tasks difficult.

When we swap from one activity to the other, our brains are forced to go through a process of goal shifting (deciding to focus on the different activity) and rule activation.

Each time we do this, we actually lose time. While it might only be a few seconds each time, if you spend your whole day shifting from one activity to another you can end up losing significant amounts of time.

Reason #2: Multi-tasking Causes Us to Make Mistakes

Those who frequently multi-task are seen to be more impulsive and therefore less cautious and methodical in their approach to tasks.

They are more easily distracted and often overlook key elements.

This can lead to careless errors (if not downright dangerous outcomes – ie texting and cooking).

Often work that is completed when multitasking will need to be done again, completely negating any time saving benefits.

Multitasking Infographic


Reason #3: My Brain Hurts

Multitasking definitely makes me feel exhausted – and it’s not just an age thing!

It’s actually quite mentally draining to have to focus intently on a number of different things at the one time.

Think about how hard it is to read 3 books at a time, or watch 3 television series at the same time – or even just to try to text while you’re carrying out a different conversation with someone face to face.

It’s really quite exhausting.

And an absolute invitation for something to go wrong (think texting your tutor ‘I love you’ when you meant to say that to your Mum!)

Plus, researchers at the University of Sussex have conducted brain MRIs that clearly show damage to the brains of those who frequently multi-task. The scans reveal less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.

Other studies show that frequent multitaskers experience a drop in their IQ of up to 15 points.

Any perceived benefits of multi-tasking get thrown out if it’s going to cause brain damage!

Reason #4: I’m Tired

When we force our brains to keep switching between multiple tasks, we overstimulate them.

The brain is not only coping with the information, but with the different types of media or stimuli; the different rules required to achieve the tasks; the different information that needs to be pulled to the forefront to have this new knowledge connected to it; and then storing it effectively.

All this takes a lot of energy and makes our brains go into overdrive.

It’s no wonder that by the end of the day we feel quite exhausted – the kind of tiredness that not even a good night’s rest can improve.

Allowing our brains to focus on only one activity at a time gives us greater clarity, better concentration and a sense that we have room to breathe.

This helps us to feel on top of things and far less overwhelmed, allowing our brains to shut down at night – a vital part of the learning and consolidating process.

Reason #5: It Stresses Me Out 

Research shows that people who multi-task have higher stress levels than those who don’t.

And frankly, I’m not surprised.

Working on multiple tasks sends our brains into overdrive. They respond by pumping out adrenaline and other stress hormones in order to keep up. These hormones provide us with a burst of energy, but it is often more distracting than helpful and it quickly dies off.

If we continue to practise multitasking, the constant stress can actually be dangerous to our health. These stress hormones can cause a number of medical issues such as headaches, stomach issues and sleeping problems. The increased sense of stress can cause issues in the workplace, home and relationships. It can also lead to chronic health issues such as insomnia, back pain, heart disease and depression.

What I Do Instead of Multi-Tasking

As you’ve probably guessed, now I avoid the temptation to multi-task. Instead, I make sure that I am only working on one task at a time.

This works better for me because:

  • I know that by focusing solely on one task at a time, I can complete it more efficiently and effectively, resulting in fewer errors and ultimately saving me time
  • I am protecting my brain by not overloading it and forcing it to work in ways for which it wasn’t designed.
  • I finish the day calmer, more relaxed and more satisfied. I can actually cross completed tasks off my to-do list rather than having done lots of bits of things, but nothing in its entirety.

However, I’m not just asking you to trust me on this. After completing our workshop on The Myth of Multi-tasking last week, my client Margaret wrote:

Student testimony


And, to address that Modern History nightmare, I make sure that I create a clear schedule that allocates blocks of time for every subject or activity I need to complete. That way I will never have the terrifying realisation that I have completely forgotten to do something important.

(For more ideas about why we all need to use planners, read my blog article Five Ways to Make a Calendar Work For You)

Do you have any more questions? Why not book an ATAR activation call so we can help you formulate a plan to improve your study habits. Or, we’re always happy to chat with you on our Social Media platforms, where you’ll find more helpful hints and tips.

Many students think that mock exams are a waste of time. They’re not ready for the exams yet, and these don’t count, so why bother really trying?

Well, the reason we use mock exams is that both you and your teachers need to see what you don’t know.

There are only a few weeks in the final term until you sit the actual external ATAR exams. Your teachers want to get a clear idea of what they need to focus on in this time.

And so should you.

So, let’s look at what you can learn from the mock exams and what study techniques you can implement from now on to get you the results you want.


When we revise our work, it is very tempting to just keep going over the stuff that we already know. It gives us a big confidence boost and lulls us into the false belief that we know everything and are ready for the exams. But this is a very ineffective study habit.

In fact, at this stage, we need to STOP revising the content we already know and focus on the work we haven’t yet mastered.

Granted, this won’t be as quick, or as much fun. And it probably won’t give us that same hit of dopamine that we score when we get things right.

But this is where our energy needs to be directed in the lead up to exams.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I need in order to improve my understanding of this content?
  • Do I need to ask my teacher for further help?
  • Do I need to sit more practice exams?
  • Do I need to work through more examples?
  • Or (to be honest), do I just need to take the time and effort to learn this information in the first place?

 Time Management

Perhaps time management was a factor? You knew the answers to the questions, you just ran out of time to get them down onto the paper?

There’s an easy study habit that can help you here.

Make sure that when you test yourself at home you do so under exam conditions.

From your mock exams, you should gain a clear idea of how many minutes you can allocate to each mark on the paper.

When you work another example, be sure to set yourself this same time limit.

There is no point being able to nut out the answer in 45 minutes if you need to do so in 4 minutes in the exam!


Our next study tip is to make sure that you hand write any practice responses – many students struggle to write quickly (and legibly), especially under pressure.

Remember that your marker doesn’t know you and won’t be used to your handwriting. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to read what you have written. The clearer your handwriting the more likely they are to look for any extra information for which they might be able to give you marks.

Practising your writing will help you speed up, and get your hand more used to the process of writing. Use the same pen in revision that you plan to use in the exam. This way your finger will develop a small callous, making the pen more comfortable on the day and enabling you to write for an extended period of time.

Practising your handwriting also helps you determine how many words you can fit into a page This will help give you a visual understanding of how much you need to write in the exam in order to meet the length requirements

Specific vocabulary

Maybe you were pulled down for spelling or for not using subject specific terminology?

Maybe you misunderstood, or failed to acknowledge, the specified cognitive verb you needed to address. Make sure you know what each cognition requires. If a question asks you to ‘analyse’ and you simply ‘explain’, you can’t be awarded top marks no matter how accurate your response.

Now is a great opportunity to make yourself vocabulary lists and ensure that you know how to use and spell these specific words.

Flashcards are a great way to do quick and simple revision.

When you work through your flashcards, sort them into three piles – the content you can recall easily, the content you can recall with effort, and the content you really don’t know at all.

Put aside the cards containing the content you already know.

The cards with the content you can remember with effort can be revisited in every second study session.

It is the cards with information that you really don’t know that need to form the basis of your study moving forward.


Maybe stress and anxiety were your undoing?

If that was the case, you need to think carefully about what you can do to overcome this issue.

Let’s face it, the stress in the actual exams will be far more intense.

Have you tried meditation or relaxation techniques?

Can you develop a routine or ritual that might help calm your nerves before the exam?

Be wary of studying with friends, or talking to them too much about the exams. If they have prepared differently you may psyche yourself out and decide that their methods are right and yours are wrong. This will cause you to second guess yourself and the many hours of studying and revision that you have done will be wasted.

Now is the time to back yourself. You’ve done the work (I hope!) and now is your time to shine.

There are many different ways to respond to many questions – especially in the humanities subjects. You and your friend might approach it differently but that doesn’t mean that either approach is wrong.

Besides, maybe you’re the one who’s got it right. Why do we always assume that if our ideas are different we must be the one who is wrong?

Try to turn this around and smugly think this is at least one student who doesn’t know as much as you!

A lot of exam success is based on attitude and frame of mind.

Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you enter the exam room in a positive and determined frame of mind, ready to do your best.

So, what study techniques do you need to address in the leadup to exams?

Whatever it is that you need to work on, remember that you still have plenty of time and opportunity to do so. We offer plenty of help for students if you need a helping hand.

Many students fail to take mock exams seriously or to really look at their results. But they can be a great learning tool, providing valuable insights into where you need to improve your study habits and techniques in the lead-up to exams in order to get the best possible results.

In an ideal world, you should have been studying and revising for ATAR exams all year. But if you have left things to the last minute, it’s no excuse to quit. There are still effective study techniques you can utilise to help you make the most of the time you still have in the lead-up to exams.

Sometimes it’s really hard to find the motivation to study. We might be feeling tired, unwell, or maybe just apathetic. But, whether we feel like it or not, the work still needs to get done. So, lets look at the most effective study techniques to help you boost your motivation.

Many students fear the external ATAR exams and the unknown elements in them. Focusing on the best study techniques to put you back in control will remove much of the stress and fear that surrounds them.

Almost 1/3 of teens report feeling stressed and overwhelmed. But a little bit of stress is necessary to keep us motivated, focused and healthy. The trick is to learn to manage your stress levels and use it to your advantage.

Many students engage in all-night study sessions in an effort to stay on top of their heavy workloads. But sleep is actually an important part of the study process, providing an opportunity for the brain to consolidate, categorise and store new information. Without enough sleep, no amount of study will enable us to improve our results.

If you or your child is in year 11 or 12, no doubt you will have heard of cognitive verbs and how important they are in the new syllabus. In order to respond to an assessment item, students need to have content knowledge. This is obviously subject specific and topic specific. The cognitive verb tells students how they are required to respond. So, what exactly is a cognitive verb and what role do they play?

Whenever I talk to young people about school and their potential results, I am horrified to hear some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings they have about the ATAR system.

This is a final school grade that most students believe to be important, and about which many are worried. Yet few of them actually take the time to learn what it is really all about.