Allen Guo received an ATAR of 99.95, and two state rankings! He placed 4th in Chemistry, and 10th in Physics in NSW. In this post, we share Allen’s Chemistry hacks for scoring 97/100 and getting a NSW State Rank.
Me, Myself and I
My name is Allen Guo and I recently graduated from The King’s School. I hope to study medicine at UNSW in the future.
My Process for Studying Year 12
Chemistry is a subject that blends together the importance of conceptual understanding as well as memorising important facts and figures to supplement answers given. As a result, your approach towards Chemistry should vary based on what point you are at in the course.
Allen’s hacks for studying Chemistry
Step 1: Learn the basics
Learn the basic concepts, preferably ahead of your school schedule, eg. via the Matrix Holiday Accelerated Chemistry Course. Flag any particular concepts you struggle with so you remember to revisit them.
Step 2: Practise, practise, practise!
At school, you will revisit the same topic allowing your memory to be refreshed. Take this opportunity to complete extra practice questions, apart from the Matrix Work Book, to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the topic covered.
Step 3: Focus on it all
Don’t neglect any part of the syllabus. Regardless of how small they may be, make sure you understand the concepts you struggled with earlier as they may cause unnecessary stress later down the line.
When Preparing for Exams
- Once all the dot points from the focus areas are learnt and understood, give yourself enough time to overview the whole course before launching into practice papers.
- By taking the time to review the whole course, it allows minor details to be recalled. These minor details are often overlooked and result in many easy marks being lost!
- Start doing practice papers for Chemistry. Personally, I found timing was not a large issue so I was not very strict when timing my papers, but ensure you complete it in one sitting with no distractions in between.
- Review each paper after you finish it. Doing papers is a useless task if you don’t check for mistakes and weaknesses. Ensure you thoroughly review each paper the day after you complete it to avoid making the same mistake in the future!
- Use the last couple of days before the exam to review specific examples that can spruce up your answers, eg. broccoli grows in pH of 6.0-6.8. On the night before the exam, relax and go to bed early as Chemistry is very difficult to cram for since it is very understanding based. My top tips:
- If you are very pressed for time, skim through papers and make a dot point attempt at each question, then refer to the answers.
- Different papers may double up on the same question, so be conscious of this and skip those you are confident with.
Below is an example of my study rhythm for exams:
Preparing for School Assessments
Since your internal rank is very important, all school assessments should be treated very seriously. Personally, I had 2 pracs and 2 written exams (Trials and HY) contributing towards my final cumulative internal mark.
When preparing for school assessment tasks:
- Know in detail what will be assessed. This will allow you to tailor your revision towards these specific areas of the course.
- Write practice responses and ask your teacher to mark it. For example, I wrote multiple drafts of validity/reliability/accuracy short responses for the pracs being assessed, as I knew it would be in the exam. This means you are getting feedback, which will improve your answer come exam time.
- Be aware of the other exams you may have on besides Chemistry. Your HSC is made of 10 units so don’t neglect any subjects!
Preparing for HSC Trials
My trials were only 4 days after another important deadline, so I felt pressed for time when it came to preparing for my Chemistry trial exam. To streamline the process, I only reviewed the concepts I had flagged as my weaknesses, before quickly skimming through the Matrix Theory Books for a general overview. Afterwards, I would dot point my answers for practice papers and refer to the answers for sample responses as well as being very selective with the questions I attempted.
This allowed me to attempt multiple papers in a short span of time and identify weaknesses that needed to be fixed. As the final step towards my revision, I wrote up a sheet of all the areas where I made mistakes or needed more work/examples and checked them off a couple of days prior.
Preparing for the HSC Exam
I had much more time to prepare for my HSC Chemistry exam, meaning that I could implement an effective study timetable. I would complete a past paper one day and then review it the next. Every time I got a concept wrong I would add it to a final review list, which I went over the last few days before my Chemistry exam.
I wish I had:
- Covered all the topics earlier: I only finished learning some of the topics a couple of weeks before the end of term, so my preparation felt a bit rushed.
- Managed my time more effectively: During the break between trials and HSC I began to stagnate as I felt I still had a long time until the HSC exams. Managing my time better would have helped me feel more prepared.
- Stuck to my revision schedule: Maintain your scheduled revision of previously learned content throughout the year and not just before major exams. I didn’t at first and found myself slightly overwhelmed when trying to review 3 modules in 3 days before starting practice papers.
My Advice to Future Year 12 Chemistry Students
You Must Do These Three Things:
- Learn the course in advance.
- Complete all the homework set at Matrix and school.
- Be as detailed in revision as possible.
Don’t Do These Three Things:
- Neglect parts of the syllabus that seem less important, eg. synthesis of new transuranic element.
- Cram for Chemistry as it is a subject that requires understanding.
- Underestimate the importance of practical tasks in contributing towards your final internal mark.
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