In this article, Matrix Scholarship Alumnus and Sylvania High School School Captain and graduate, Eric Papadopoulos, shares how he harnessed his hunger for success to ace his HSC.
Sylvania High School
Bachelor of Science/Advanced Studies (Dalyell Scholar) @ USYD
I enjoy working out at the gym and spending time with my friends. I don’t read as much as I should, but I leave a few books next to my bed that I (hopefully) flick through before sleeping.
I have a passion for gaming and I tend to play competitively, especially in popular eSports games. Year 12 has made me a more open and extraverted person so if you see me around campus don’t be afraid to talk to me!
I credit my performance in Year 12 to my hunger to do well. I’m proud of my desire to succeed.
Being hungry for success ultimately translates to being prepared and ready to do what you have to do to achieve your end goal. In my opinion, it’s an admirable sense of responsibility more than anything else. You’re not just blindly jogging towards something, you’re sprinting with laser-focus. Whether that be a 60, 70, 80 or 99.95 ATAR, there is a strong distinction between students who aim to reach the necessary marks and those who are ready to get them.
A student who has an appetite for success harbours a strong internal driving force. They always have a plan of attack for their exams and they aim to stay a few steps ahead of other students. They may do this by:
I come from a sporty background and I love reaching heavier weights in the gym. I understand that being hungry is typically associated with the competitive dimensions of life, however, it can be something that can truly enhance your studies.
Ever since I suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Year 10, I knew I had to turn to academic pathways to secure a career for myself. I never was more than an average student, until I realised that I could do much better for myself and my family. I found that I had harboured a strong passion to not only understand the content but to quickly master it and be able to teach it to others.
This ‘appetite’ for understanding is what allowed me to reach higher marks as I could apply the theory to many different types of questions.
The moral of my story is that having a hunger for success in any part of life can ultimately be a great thing. It enables a stronger and more capable side of you that always reaches for betterment.
Embrace it to take responsibility for yourself because you know you can achieve more than what you have now. It is never a hostile thing and it does not mean you have to be in constant competition with other students.
Such a burning desire to succeed is something that people who love and understand themselves the most will have. It’s a truly beautiful and personal thing and trying to reach your true potential is definitely never something to ever be ashamed of.
I truly hope that you find your hunger in your studies and that you use it to not only better yourself, but to help others reach higher peaks too.
I enjoy working out and achieving fitness goals. So, during the School term, I followed a 3-day per week gym routine to stay physically fit and attended Matrix term courses before and/or after my session to stay academically fit.
In Year 11, I had 13 units which included PDHPE and Business Studies. I decided in Year 12 to drop these two subjects and instead pick up Science Extension. I thought about this decision a lot and post-HSC I definitely feel it was the right one.
Although I enjoyed both subjects and achieved high marks, I chose to instead keep my subjects Math and Science oriented in order to maximise crossover and streamline my studies.
I found it helpful to break my routine into a macro term level and a more granular daily/weekly/monthly level.
A term level: At the start of each term, I prepare my weekly rhythm depending on how I performed in the previous term. I also purchase small exercise books for each subject in order to write study notes and record my recurrent mistakes throughout the term. These help me to reflect and perform better each term leading up to the final exams.
Weekly/ Monthly level: I use a monthly calendar in order to track events and extracurricular activities. I also make use of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix in order to sort tasks into urgent/not urgent and important/not important categories. This was definitely the most crucial resource for my time management and I talked about it more in my previous blog post.
This is an incredible tool that has saved me many times. It teaches you to face your tasks and take responsibility for them. It works by prioritising your tasks into four different categories subdivided by urgency and importance.
It’s up to you to determine what “urgent” and “important” actually mean for you, but for me, I defined urgent as any tasks that need to be completed this week. I also defined important as anything that relates to assignments or meaningful schoolwork.
To give you an idea of how I used this, here is a photo of my current Eisenhower Decision Matrix (post-HSC, because I still use it even though my exams are finished):
A weekly rhythm helps you find a routine that suits you best. Depending on what subjects you struggle the most with, or what holds more urgency in the next few weeks, you can determine how many sessions you want to assign a subject. Keep in mind, this format only works if you appreciate all subjects, not just prioritising what you enjoy! For example, I deliberately put English as the first subject everyday as it was what I needed to spend more time on.
My daily rhythm follows a weekly schedule that I plan at the start of the term. It outlines the order of subjects I’ll study in a given day. Usually, I study three subjects each day for 50 minutes each with a 10-minute break in between. Then, I’ll complete urgent homework for the day. Studying has never been pleasurable for me so I really do think it’s important to have consistent breaks to stay fresh. I also provided more depth about the daily rhythm in my previous blog post.
Here is a photo of my HSC trial prep rhythm:
My first few holiday periods were mostly used to reflect on my term and to finish writing summarised notes for each subject. However, I quickly noticed that this wasn’t enough for the demands of the HSC.
I found that if I did not disregard social meetups with friends and much-needed R&R during the break, I could actually study more. Thus, I added one more subject each day onto my weekly rhythm.
Holiday courses are truly what distinguishes a good student from a great student.
Contrary to what you may believe, these courses teach you more than enough in their short time. Like myself, you will find that you’ll absorb content much quicker and easier during the term if you have attended a holiday course beforehand. This will allow you to manage your time and start early on your study notes and exam preparation, which is a true leg-up against other students.
My schedule included attending various holiday courses at different times, however, I found that attending a Mathematics Extension 1 course during the 9:30am-12:30am period and a Chemistry course during the 1:30pm-4:30pm worked best for me.
I am a pathological procrastinator and I find more pain than pleasure in studying. It is important to note that studying smart and studying hard are two completely different things. Listen to your own mental and physical feedback and reflect in order to improve your routine. If 50 minute study periods are too long for you to focus on, try 40 minute periods with a 20-minute break. Remember that 40 minutes of studying is much better than 20 minutes of studying and 30 minutes of Among Us.
I keep healthy by following a 5-day gym workout plan and loose diet. I don’t restrict the types of foods I eat, although I typically eat healthy, whole foods and loosely keep track of my macronutrients. However, during busier periods such as the Trial exam period, I switch to a 3-day powerlifting workout plan as I find lifting heavier and reaching new strength goals allows me to de-stress more.
Follow the steps in preparation. Using your weekly rhythm, dedicate the first few study sessions to consolidating and evaluating your understanding of the content and application of the subject to a variety of questions. Then, dedicate one past paper to each subject session in the weekly rhythm and complete it under strict, timed exam conditions.
I tend to rewrite a new weekly rhythm tailored to my needs for the upcoming exams. For example, if I am not confident in English unseen questions, I’ll add more sessions of English into the rhythm. I also follow a 3-step preparation plan:
Consolidate your understanding of the subject and its assessable content. This usually involves reading over study notes and completing some textbook questions.
Evaluate your understanding by answering more difficult exam-style questions, such as the Matrix workbook questions.
Assess your exam readiness by completing past papers and creating papers that address your problem areas in the subject. Make sure this is done under timed exam conditions!
I tend to avoid textbooks as their questions are not reflective of exam-style questions. I rely heavily on my Matrix theory book and workbook to address my needs as these are typically higher-quality questions that are usually seen in HSC exams. I also use the NESA website to collate past HSC papers as well as google to find some other past papers.
To ensure I was on top of my subjects I used the hacks, consistently.
I have always struggled with English, however, Matrix has really helped me develop confidence and strength in my writing. I always read the book once for meaning and enjoyment. Then, I will spend time undergoing deep textual analysis that unveils not only techniques and themes, but underlying concepts and unique perspectives. These typically involve delving into the psychology of the characters which may be harder, but is much more rewarding and yields more sophisticated analysis. In this time, I also unpack the module rubric and try to define what NESA is looking for.
After I have sufficiently understood and analysed the book, I’ll start creating essay scaffolds to practice questions. Matrix has really helped me understand the different types of questions that are typically asked in English exams, which helps me develop and choose fruitful practice questions to answer. However, scaffolds are not enough if you are not confident in essay writing. I typically follow this with a continuous cycle of drafting under timed conditions and asking for teacher feedback. If your teacher is slow to respond, I definitely recommend asking your Matrix teachers for help or booking in a workshop.
My Maths study process is actually pretty simple. I believe that Maths can be learned differently by everyone, as long as you focus on understanding it in your own way and you achieve the right answer it doesn’t matter how you answer the question. Because of this, I tend to compile my Maths theory into personalised summary notes. I don’t spend too much time on theory, as I truly believe that success in Maths comes down to practice.
After I learn new Maths theory, I complete a few questions in my School textbook. Then, I move onto the Matrix Math workbook which enables exposure to a variety of exam-style questions.
Once I’ve finished a topic, such as Trigonometry, I’ll create topic tests for me to complete under timed conditions. I also use a book of mistakes. This is where I document questions or methods that I get wrong. For example, I always forgot the negative sign while integrating the logistics equation.
I believe the most important part to success in Science subjects is not only understanding the content but also applying the Scientific concepts to a variety of uncommon questions.
To do this, I first start by compiling summary notes on theory. I’ll then progress to completing the Matrix workbook. Like all subjects, it is important to complete past papers. However, I stand behind utilising some past Trial papers from other schools and completing a variety of questions throughout the terms to ensure you know how to apply the concepts of the theory to any question they may throw at you in your exams.
I suggest using many diagrams to explain Scientific concepts, such as how soap works in Chemistry, in order to better understand the theory.
Year 12 is a stressful time and it forces you to work hard for your academic goals.
However, it is important to remember that your studies are not the only thing you should work towards succeeding in.
Although I kept social and had many friends, I limited my networking potential. I also limited myself to learning what was in the syllabus, I never tended to my own interests.
Do not limit yourself, aim high and continue to grow as a student of life rather than a student of the syllabus.