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Amanda’s Hacks: Using Checklists for Year 11 Success

In this post, Amanda shares her top tips to beat procrastination and get organised for the HSC!

Amanda Shi is currently a Year 12 student at James Ruse High School gearing up for the 2020 HSC. In this article, she shares her secrets for using checklists for Year 11 Success.


Me, Myself and I:





James Ruse Agricultural High School


University Course Goal:



ATAR Goal:



Dream Career and why:

Pediatrician because children are so wholesome and fun to be around ?


My HSC Subjects

  • Mathematics Extension 2
  • Mathematics Extension 1
  • English Extension 1
  • English Advanced
  • Chemistry
  • Physics


I performed best in….

Mathematics because I was consistently applying the knowledge I learnt in school and Matrix. I found that doing past papers made me feel a lot more confident going into the exam under timed conditions.

I’m still working on…

English. I continued to struggle with creative writing.

But in saying that, I managed to pull through (and learn heaps in the process!!) with continuous feedback from my teachers. (PS: Matrix English tutors and teachers are very helpful for sourcing inspiration and getting a fresh opinion on your work).


Want a hand with English, too?


Using checklists for Year 11 success

I always use checklists!!

If nothing else, checklists help me remember everything I need to do (and is extremely satisfying to tick off), particularly when I’m stuck in a busy assessment block.

I like to use weekly checklists because I find it difficult to set in stone what I need to achieve in a day, so often I find myself carrying over tasks to the next day.

Every Sunday, I write a master list of everything and anything I need to address. I like to use the following headings to make it clear what I need to prioritise and how I should organise my schedule:




I usually abbreviate the headings though. Here’s what that looks like in practice:

Amanda's photo of her checklist for using checklists for HSC success nblog post

An image of one of my checklists.

It doesn’t have to be crazy neat or complex. If it works for you, that’s what matters 🙂

Doing Past Papers

Past papers are another one of my learning essentials.

In fact, they should be essential to anyone who wants to get a mark that truly reflects their knowledge and ability.

Not only do past papers expose you to a range of real exam questions, but they push you to think under time pressure.

I find this particularly important for English where your mark is often largely determined by how well you engage with an unseen question.

It can be quite daunting to launch into past papers straight away, so generally I do past papers in the following progressive order:

  1. Open book without timed conditions
  2. Closed book without timed conditions (following the set times for the task)
  3. Closed book

For English and long responses, I always try to get a teacher to look over my work. But, for Chemistry, Physics and Maths, I find it more convenient to mark my own work and ask for help if necessary.

I found that consistently doing past papers (even just parts of them) during the term allowed me to consolidate my knowledge and build my long term memory. This in turn set me up for success in the busy assessment periods.


How I unwind and cope with stress

Physically and mentally, it is not possible to be working all the time. That’s why it is important to give yourself rest breaks and find a hobby that relaxes you so that you are productive when you actually are working.

I personally like volunteering in my community (I recently started volunteering in a few different ways) because it helps take my mind off my petty issues and enjoy being a part of something bigger.

Sometimes a solid nap solves all my problems!!

Going for a swim can also be quite calming.


My regrets

My biggest regret is holding myself back from extracurriculars because I was afraid that they would overwhelm me and cause more stress.

I’ve learnt that it’s the opposite because extracurriculars are destressors in disguise that will help increase your productivity. Things like getting involved in the school musical, running for leadership roles and becoming a swim coach for disabled children are all new experiences that have made me grow as an individual.

Moreover, they helped improve my work ethic as I became more organised in my studies to pursue these passions.

However, like everything in life, it is only good in moderation.

If I could do high school all over, I would definitely get more involved in school life and the community.


My advice to future students

You must do these 3 things

  1. Plan your time (remember to include downtime ?)
    Weekly checklists are great and will make you feel heaps better because they give you a sense of direction and control over the week.
  2. Past papers
    Past papers really draw attention to what you need to work on and eases you into your exams, which can otherwise be quite stressful.
  3. Always ask your teachers for feedback: particularly English (!!)
    Try to leave enough time so that you can refine your work to match their feedback and seek feedback again. Teachers have the experience and skills to help you. Use them!!

You must never do these 3 things

  1. Try to work non-stop (I tried and it doesn’t work ) ?
    Rather than sitting at your desk and procrastinating, find a hobby that you enjoy!!
  2. Write a memorised English essay!!
    Your marker can’t give you a mark that reflects the quality of your essay unless you are answering the question. Don’t waste your time memorising your essay word for word; know your text well and practise adapting it to a range of different questions.
  3. Write any long response without a plan
    Make sure you know what you need to include to get the full mark before launching into long responses, which can become repetitive and patchy in detail otherwise.

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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