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Helen’s Hacks: Tips for Year 11 Students

In this post, Helen Pei shares her High School Hacks for acing Year 11.

In this blog post, we share Helen’s High School Hacks for Year 11 students. Learn how she achieved academic success at St George Girls High School with simple to-do lists on her phone.

Me, Myself, and I

Name: Helen Pei

School: St George Girls High School

Grade: Year 11 (2017)

A Little About Me:

My favourite shows are Neighbours and the Big Bang Theory. I really like reading the news and I love hanging out with my friends. I try to have a positive attitude about everything, despite how stressful the situation can be.


My School Life

My goals:

My ATAR Goal is 99+. I believe that if you set a goal that you want to fulfil, the more likely you want to work hard for it.

My subjects:

  1. Advanced English
  2. Extension English
  3. 3 Unit Maths
  4. Physics
  5. Economics
  6. Chemistry

I’m pro at:

Chemistry is one of my strongest subjects. Personally, I have always loved science, especially conducting experiments.

Advanced English – it is compulsory, but I really enjoy this subject. I like writing essays and reading Shakespeare’s plays. It’s a really fun and diverse subject.


I struggle with:

Extension English is not my strongest subject, which is weird because I really like Advanced English. For me, I feel like I’ve put in more effort for Extension than Advanced, even though Extension English is a one unit subject. Extension English is a more creative subject with a lot of reading about content, context, and form and I’m not creative at all.

The current assessment I have for Extension English is a research project, which is the smaller version of Year 12 Extension English Major work. Currently, I’m basing my project on the media attention surrounding the US Election.

But if you really enjoy English, and love reading Modernism or whatever topic your school is doing, go for it! Everyone has different opinions and strengths.


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My Routine

My holidays:

So in my holidays, I use it to relax from the busy environment of school, binge watch Degrassi or any other shows. But for the rest of my holiday, I use it to read ahead in Economics, update my notes, read novels for English and do practice questions from maths textbooks.

During the term:

I actually don’t have a routine to be honest. In my study time, I try to do any homework that my teacher has given. And then I use all of the extra time I have to relax, to study for an upcoming exam, or to just update my notes.

I’m a morning person, so I get to school early and just study and do any homework I have not completed. Sometimes, I go and find a teacher that I need for help with for a particular subject, or I just talk to my friends/teachers who also come to school early.

If I’m really busy, I use reminders on my phone or on my Mac to write up what I have to do. Below is an example:

Helen Pei's To Do List on iPhone

I just tick it off when I’ve completed a task. I kinda enjoy the feeling of having all my reminders ticked off. A lot of my friends use their school journals to write in what work they have to do. I say, do what you think would be beneficial for you.

For my weekly rhythm, on days I have tutoring, before class I revise the content that I have learnt before. If I have extra time, I will use it to do homework or hang out with the friends in my tutoring class. After tutoring, I go home and relax, take a shower, have dinner and just finish homework. In year 11, I took Year 11 Maths Ext 1, Year 11 Chemistry and Year 11 Physics tutoring at Matrix.

On days when I don’t have tutoring, I go home, take a shower, watch TV or study, and have dinner. After that, I just study for any exams I have or work on my Major Work.

This is my schedule that I did for a Saturday a couple of weeks ago:

Helen Pei's Saturday Schedule

I fight distractions by:

My biggest distraction would be reading the news, actually. I know I sound like a nerd, here. When I try to relax, I read the news a lot, whether it’s about politics or sports – and I tend to get really interested it – and I do a lot more reading about it and I forget what I’m actually supposed to be doing. If you’re on your laptop when you are trying to study, turn your wifi off, or just don’t be in the same room that has your phone or laptop or any devices.

I also:

I dropped a lot of extra-curricular activities this year, such as orchestra and CAPA crew, because I didn’t feel like I had enough time to balance lot of rehearsals per week and studying. I do kinda regret it, because orchestra was really fun and you get to talk to people from other grades. Currently, the only extra-curricular I have right now is doing the audio and sound for assemblies or for well-being presentations, as I’m currently the Head of Sound for my school. And I really enjoy doing sound stuff, because it’s a break from everything and you can just chill.


Exam Preparation

I Prepare for Exams by:

I normally update my notes as I go through the year, and put in new information I have learnt. This meant that my notes are there before an exam, and I’m not stressing out because I haven’t written it.

I’m going to break it down and tell you how I study for different subjects, but some are quite similar.

  • Advanced/Extension English – Just write practice essays and introductions to any questions that you can find, and ask your teacher if they can mark what you have written if they have free time. For example, when I was studying AOS Belonging I wrote at least 5 practice essays because I did not feel the most confident with it. But on the day, when I saw the question, I had done it before and I knew what I had to write. Also, for Module A in Advanced, and Extension English more generally, do a lot of research on context – ie. when was the book written – because it is really important to talk about it within your essay.
  • Economics – Always read ahead in class. If I know the content that is being covered in class, I would probably know it in the exam too because I will have understood the concept. Economics is a more theory based subject, but if you know the content and all the theory, you will know it in the exam. I normally do all the questions from the economics textbook and worksheets that my teacher gives before an upcoming exam.
  • Physics + Chemistry – Know your content and revise it. I base all my notes on what I’ve learned in class, and if I need help, I will ask my teacher (whether it is in class or after class). If you are scared to ask for help because your friends aren’t asking, so what? The truth is, there would be other people who also need help on similar questions that you have. So, don’t be scared! On the days leading to exams, I do a lot of questions from the school textbook, because they are really good and they make you think. I also look back at any worksheets I’ve done in class, and redo the questions that I struggled doing, so I can be comfortable doing similar questions in the exam.
  • Maths – Know Your Theory and Practice It! I tend to do a lot of practice exams. So, ask your maths teacher because they will give you lots of textbook questions and also practice exams from past years. Before an exam, I always look at my theory book, see what I have learnt in maths so far, like any rules I’ve forgotten that I need to know. This is an example of some of my theory notes:
    Helen Pei's Summary of Notes

    The day before an exam, I tend to go to sleep at 9 because I don’t want to be tired during the exam. It would affect my concentration levels. If I’m really stressed, I might text my friend who has done their HSC and ask them for advice, or just use the breathing app on my Apple Watch to relax and be positive.

My Achievements

One of my proudest achievements would be my position of Head of Sound for school because I really like doing sound. And the second thing is my economics essay, because I was really stressed out for it as I thought I wasn’t answering the question. But when I got it back, I got a mark that I thought “like no way, my essay could not be that good” and my teacher said that I “had a really good introduction for my economics essay.” And I was so happy, because economics essays are quite different from English essays.

I think generally, if I just keep calm and be positive during Year 11 that would be an amazing achievement, because the last two years of school are stressful and you still want to be level minded.

My Regrets

My biggest regret, so far, is not remembering what is in the big picture. One of my teachers always says this to me when I’m freaking out, because I didn’t feel great about an exam I have done or when I’m just a pure bucket load of stress. I know I’m repeating this again, but set a goal that you want to achieve because it will motivate you.

I wished someone would have told me this: “If you don’t do well in an exam that you wish to, remember it is a hurdle in your pathway of success”, it’s something my teacher has said to me quite recently. And it is true, and something I’m now trying to live to.

If someone asked what would I do differently at the beginning of the year, I would say your friends and teachers are there for you and truly care, even though you might not see it. I ask advice from my friends who have done the HSC, who are some of my closest friends, or currently in Year 12, and asked how they study for an exam or overcame a problem. It really helps.


My Advice to Future Year 11 Students

Three things you must do at the beginning of Year 11:

  1. Keep an open mind. You can’t win everything and you will face obstacles, but that is what makes life interesting.
  2. Read ahead in your subjects, especially content heavy subjects such as Economics, so you can understand what is going on.
  3. Relax. You need some personal time to relax and hang out with your family and friends. If you work too hard, you will burn out and have no motivation to study in Year 12.

Three things you must NOT do at the beginning of Year 11:

  1. Don’t study because you have to. Study with motivation. HSC is not a quick run. It’s a two year marathon, starting in year 11 and ending with Year 12. So, prepare yourself for the hurdles you may experience, because you will experience success at the end of the HSC.
  2. Don’t study without taking a break, because if you do, you will just feel stressed and overwhelmed. Treat yourself if you achieve a really good ranking, or when you finish a major exam and just chill!
  3. Don’t pull all nighters. I don’t do this because I really struggle staying up to 10 pm, instead I am a morning person. Some of my friends in older years have pulled all nighters, and they say they don’t feel 100% great during the exam. So, try to sleep on average 7-8 hours per day.

Overall, have a great time during Years 11 and 12. They are the final two years of the most strenuous, but rewarding time of your life. To end this, I will conclude with one of my favourite quotes:

I’m a very positive thinker, and I think that is what helps me the most in difficult moments – Roger Federer


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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