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Aleksandra’s Memory Hacks to Score a 98.80 ATAR

Want to make the best out of your HSC? Aleksandra gives you all her secrets to succeeding in her HSC by planning and using memory hacks.

In this article, Matrix graduate and Cumberland High Alumnus Aleksandra Najdovska shares her memory hacks to score a 98.80 ATAR and stay on top of her HSC game.


Me, myself and I

Aleksandra Najdovska

Cumberland High School

University Course:
Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Dalyell Scholars) at USYD

My HSC subjects

  • English Advanced
  • English Extension 1
  • Mathematics
  • Economics
  • Business Studies
  • Modern History
  • History Extension

My weakest subject was Mathematics.

Receiving 64% in my Year 11 yearly exam was a big blow to my confidence. So, at the beginning of Year 12, I began taking Matrix’s Term Course, alongside my school studies.

With hard work, time and practice, I ended up really enjoying it and even achieved a Band 6 in my HSC! Anything is possible.


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My #1 problem in Year 11 & 12


By the end of Year 11, I did not feel prepared for Year 12 AT ALL.

I spent way too much time mulling over notes and never had any time to do past papers.

This meant that I couldn’t practice applying my knowledge.

This was a big problem with my HSIE and English-heavy subject. I was drowning in stacks and stacks of notes. My marks and productivity were not increasing. I knew that needed to change this.

So, I transformed my study habits to improve my memory.

By the end of Year 12, I was able to memorise an entire 1200 word essay in 3-4 hours and revise and conceptualise the entire course content for some subjects in half a day.

(Editor’s note: The revisions to the HSC English curriculum for the 2019-2023 syllabus have been specifically designed to discourage and combat essay memorisation. NESA has made the following statement on this subject:

HSC questions are not designed to support answers prepared in advance. It is important that you are prepared to answer the questions in the exam rather than anticipating a particular type of question and memorising an answer to suit. You must also understand that partially modifying an otherwise irrelevant memorised response will not lead to high marks. Markers are looking to reward answers that are relevant and answer the specific question.

TL;DR, memorise essay for English now at your peril.)

By prioritising the subjects that I enjoyed and excelled at, I was able to maximise my marks for the HSC.



Study strategies and tips

I wanted to maximise the efficiency of my study time so I didn’t feel bogged down and unmotivated. However, achieving this required a lot of ‘trial and error’ over the period of two years.

These are some of the strategies that worked for me:


Step 1: Write it down

It’s fine to write notes if it is an effective study method for you.

For me, writing notes was a great starting point. But I know it is easy to waste time if you have poor time management skills.

So, an alternative is to…

Find a good set of notes and annotate them with your own additional information.

I found this really helpful.

For my Business Studies HSC Exam, I annotated all my notes with extra case study details the night before. This meant that I was able to use them effectively in my essay.

Also, when revising, I visualised it as my own writing, instead of a random paragraph of typed text.


You can always develop your notes further



I annotated my notes with extra case study details.


Physically writing out information is a really effective way to remember content.

This means that you can spend more time actively applying your knowledge and skills in past papers as opposed to revising notes.

Essay plans are also a great way to use your notes in an effective and efficient manner. I wrote essay outlines for all my English essays as a way to sequence my ideas and commit them to memory.


Step 2: Listen

Auditory learning is also great for memorisation.

You can record your voice on your phone as an alternative for flashcards.

Reading out loud repetitively is great to memorise essays. You are able to get a feel of the cohesion of sentences.

Also, being able to teach someone is one of the best forms of study.

You can cement your own knowledge in a clear and concise manner, which helps sort it into long-term memory.

Memory devices are also really helpful.

There are some great resources online for acronyms and mnemonics at Virtual Library. I created some of my own to memorise the Business Studies Syllabus. This way, I was much more confident with my content when answering any question.


Step 3: Do you own research

Doing my own research and writing notes in my own words really helped me retain information.

I remembered more texts, case studies and theorems when I researched and wrote my own notes compared to rote-learning

The power of reading is greatly underestimated by students. But for me it was one of the most important study habits I had for remembering content.

I didn’t rote learn in my HSC, because I knew that it was not very useful if I came across a difficult question.

Memorise smarter, not harder, to maximise your marks.

Instead, i wrote notes in my own words, and formed my own opinions. I only memorised key themes and ideas. This meant that I developed a holistic understanding of the course content and was able to answer a broader range of questions.


Step 4: Give yourself time

There is no point in trying to plan, write and memorise an essay in one day.

Leaving plenty of time to fully commit yourself to any task, is the key to memorisation.

This way, you can take your time to fully understand and learn concepts as opposed to blindly memorising content and stressing out.  The longer you work on the content, the more you will remember the ideas organically. This way, by the time it comes to “memorising” something, you’ll have most of it committed to memory already. It also means that you can focus on any problem areas in your studies.

Use the extra time to utilise feedback from your teachers.

The more you go over your content, the more you will remember the ideas. This way, by the time it comes to “memorise information”, you’ll be able to do it much more efficiently.

Another way I kept on top of my tasks was using a calendar.

This provided a visual reminder of the time. I was able to plan ahead and give myself enough time to not only memorise, but also gain a conceptual understanding of course content.


I’d keep track of completed tasks as I went



Step 5: Be Consistent

It is so easy to fall off the bandwagon if you are not consistent in your study and organisation habits.

If you stay on top of your workload, it ultimately makes the whole memorisation process easier.

A lot of information will already be stored in your memory and this will give you time to work on difficult areas.

Maintaining regular study patterns with to-do lists and completing set tasks on time definitely helps.

I personally found it hard to sit still for long periods of time, especially when I was writing. So, I studied for 45 minutes and took regular 15-minute breaks. This allowed me to stay super focused when it was necessary, without stressing myself out and procrastinating for hours.


My regrets

Something I regretted doing in Year 11 was cramming ALL of my study into the week before exams.

You might be able to get away with it for one exam.

But ultimately, you’ll end up finding yourself stressed out a week before trials with minimal recollection of any information.

I would have been a lot better off, if I had implemented these strategies for memorisation earlier.

Also, I wish that I hadn’t dwelled so much on my poor performances: Everything passes eventually and poor results actually are great learning experiences.


My Advice to Future Year 12 Students

You need to do these things:

  • Maintain support systems – Keeping positive relationships with family, friends and teachers is a great way to make sure you stay healthy mentally, and stay motivated for the duration of the HSC.
  • Ask questions – Never be afraid to ask questions if you are struggling. All your teachers and tutors are there to help you.
  • Set goals – Being held accountable is another great motivator and provides reason for sticking to rigorous study schedules at any point in time.

You should not do these things:

  • Cut back on sleep – From personal experience, I know that a 3-5 hour sleeping schedule is NOT sustainable for the entire year, especially around exam periods. It can burn you out really quickly and take you out of a stable routine.
  • Cut extracurricular activities – I know that balancing extra-curricular activities, leadership roles and community commitments can be very difficult.
    However, it ultimately offers a more holistic Year 12 experience and provides perspective for your HSC Year. By doing this, I was able to pick up a casual job as soon as the HSC finished.

Ultimately, you have to find what works for you in order to do your personal best. You should be proud of your efforts and everything that you have achieved because it’ll be over before you know it.

Good luck with year 12!


Written by Guest Author

We have regular contributions to our blog from our Tutor Team and high performing Matrix Students. Come back regularly for these guest posts to learn their study hacks and insights!


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