We can’t help it — when gauging academic potential, it’s an impulse to look at the easiest indicator of success: numbers and exam results. 


The hyperfocus of numbers and results has grown high in the past years. According to a 2023 report by the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), 3 out of 4 school leavers leverage ATAR to gain successful entry to university. In today’s hypercompetitive education landscape, it’s easy to see why so many parents develop a myopic fixation on numbers whenever it comes to evaluating their teenager’s results. Whether they articulate it as an indicator and outcomes, school marks are one of the most commonly items cited by parents when it comes to evaluating their child’s academic and developmental progress.  


So, how do we make sure we maintain a healthy perspective when it comes to measuring adolescent development? Because marks are an important indicator of specific learning outcomes achieved at both the macro, meso and micro-levels. But undue focus on any one of these ignores key contextual information and prevents your child from reaching their potential. The better question is: how to interpret marks in a constructive way to support your child with the specific focalisers and activators to give them an upper hand in reaching standardised state or nation-wide requirements such as university admissions, ideal marks and ATARs? 


In this article, we will unpack how by looking beyond just the numbers parents can assume a critical supportive leadership role in helping their child achieve exam mastery. 

Exam Mastery: The Key to Better Results 


Did you know that based on a 2022 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 55% of students admit to feeling extremely anxious about exams even if they’re well prepared? 


It doesn’t matter how many hours your child puts into studying and how much of their textbooks they’ve memorised. If they don’t feel ready for an exam, they’ll never be able to perform at their best during the exam. Why? Because they couldn’t prepare and gain enough exam mastery to calm down and fight the pressures of the day. And most of the time, it’s the mind-blanks and panic attacks that just kill a student’s momentum and hinder them from getting their best results. 


We’ve all heard of exam mastery, and it’s many things to different people. But at Kalibrate-Ed, we define it simply as a complete understanding of skills and content for confident and immediate application.  If you’ve mastered an exam, you’ll always know what is in the test, how it’ll be asked, and you’re prepared to confidently address it on the spot. For these students, it’s easy to get good marks because they’ve anticipated and they’re ready for whatever question gets thrown at them. If it’s a doozy, they’ve got a scalpel (or a sledgehammer) to crack it wide open; if a seemingly easy question is designed to level the playing field, they know how to distinguish themselves and achieve the top mark.    


It won’t surprise you then, that a critical component of exam mastery is the concept of advanced readiness. Exam preparations should start well before their school issues an assessment notification. 


Depending on a student’s aspirations, there are about 11 to 13 distinct steps to complete exam preparation. Unfortunately, most teenagers and parents are only aware of five: class notes, study notes, exam notes, practice questions, and practice papers. Worse, they aren’t even aware of the remaining eight steps. Most of the children stuck below 70% are only able to complete two of these steps.  


That’s why teenagers need more strategic support to help them bridge the gaps and gain the marks yet to be gained. They need to be equipped and learn the rest of the exam preparation steps because these mostly come down to things like time management, procrastination, focus and organisation — skills not confined to exam environments or even school. These also help students learn to be calm and confident in facing challenges and uncertainty in life. 


Iya’s Success Story 

When we met Iya, she was a Year 12 student who felt stuck with her academic results because it didn’t reflect her kind of work ethic. Most of her marks stayed in the 60s even after willingly putting in so many hours into her studies. Because of this never-ending cycle of unbalanced effort and results, she felt extremely burdened with external pressure and low self-esteem.

Iya felt burdened with external pressure and low self-esteem. By the end of Year 12, her confidence had slipped. She was feeling the pressure to perform and was scared she would miss out on the ATAR she needed for university.


Iya’s parents could see how hard their daughter really wanted to get better marks. But after a term of trying several tutors, they knew Iya needed more specific, tailored support beyond just content. After analysing her unique learning profile, Imogen — one of our education coaches — found that Iya struggled with ineffective study methods. Iya wanted to be organised but was burning herself out from late-night cram sessions and saying ‘yes’ to everything.


Imogen worked with Iya to define a productive and healthy study attitude. She also helped her implement a personalised plan for structured study to schedule effectively and avoid feeling overwhelmed.


By the end of the year, Iya went from a high 60s to a solid and consistent 75–85% in English. She contemplated dropping Economics and risking the HSC on 10 units but ended up achieving a mid-70% mark across Semester 2 assessments and the HSC. Iya also got her dream Bachelor of Business degree at the University of Technology Sydney.


Beyond the high marks she was able to reach, Iya rebuilt her confidence and was willing to change the way she did things. She was genuinely open to feedback and changing her ways — as long as she could see it lead to better results. She also started accepting that it was totally fine not to do everything and improved her prioritisation skills along the way. 

Exam Mastery: A Lifelong Skill 

While academic results are a great indicator of success, we don’t believe that marks are the end-all and be-all of success. However, it reflects specific strengths and abilities because it’s only when these skills and traits come together that they produce a strong result. 


So, should we focus on numbers or marks for marks’ sake? Certainly not. There are other metrics for measuring success in school AND life.  At Kalibrate-Ed, the team and I are super passionate about lifelong learning. In reality, exam mastery — calming down in a high-pressure situation, preparing on a subject matter as an expert and putting down your thoughts on paper — is an integral part of life.  


If you need guidance on how to facilitate exam mastery in a study strategy custom-fit for your child, our education strategists can help. Book a free planning call to brainstorm ideas and tips to help your child achieve their best results with a calm and confident mind. 


Click here to schedule a call: Book Planning Call