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English 11-12

Henry Higgins’ Hacks: How I Achieved 2 NSW HSC State Rankings

Want to know what it takes to rank for Advanced English and History? Read Henry Higgins' hacks where he shares his secrets to success.

Matrix Graduate, Henry Higgins achieved an ATAR of 99.85, and graduated from The Scots College. Henry was awarded two NSW State Rankings in Advanced English (5th) and Modern History (10th). Whilst dedicating a lot of time to his studies, Henry was also involved in the Gold Duke of Ed, a program for young people that intends to create opportunities for them, wherein they can develop skills that will equip them for life and work in the future. Henry will be studying Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law at the University of Sydney. 


Henry’s HSC subjects

HSC Subject Overall HSC Mark Band
English Advanced 98 6
Mathematics Extension 1 90 E4
Mathematics Extension 2 87 E3
Modern History  97 6
History Extension 48(/50) E4
Studies of Religion  95 6

Henry’s HSC experience

It is inevitable that any student who pushes themselves academically is going to experience stress at some point. However, despite this, inevitability Year 12 is by no means defined by it. In order to minimise stress I ensured that I took time to go out at night with my friends. It acted as a form of release and grace period where I no longer thought about the HSC. In turn, it kept my motivation high and ensured that I didn’t ‘burn out’. Year 12 is in some a sense a paradox, as it both affords greater freedoms, yet at the same time demands rigidity in order to succeed. As a student you have to ensure that you can strike the balance between these polar aspects. That is to say you must allow yourself the small freedom of going to a party on a Saturday night, yet at the same time know in the back of your mind that you need to be at the library by 9am.

Although at times you cannot avoid being stressed all you can do is attempt to strike this balance and trust in your preparation.

Henry’s top tips

1. Drafting essays

No one, at least nobody I’ve come across, sits down for the first time after reading a literary text and transcribes a 20/20 essay. For me, the process of drafting was essential to crafting an essay that I was confident would score highly. I think the process of drafting itself has a few aspects to it.

Firstly, show it to your teacher! Your teacher is by far the most important asset you have during the HSC and one that you should make the most of. Do not feel as if you are a nuisance if you ask for help. For me, it got to the point that my teacher would jovially remark, “oh not again, Higgins!”

Secondly, collaborate with other intelligent students in order to read each others’ work. Doing this leads to discussion and debate, two things that are essential to formulating interesting thesis’ and tailoring your analysis.

Thirdly, I would advise reading the work of former successful students AFTER you have already written your own analysis. I want to stress the importance of writing essays on your own first. I strongly believe that if you read the work of former students beforehand it will negatively taint your work. By extension, reading the work of literary critics can also be useful to help sharpen and add sophistication to your analysis. Although students should be warned against ‘name dropping’ critics or plagiarising their ideas, as it is doesn’t actually add to the sophistication of your essay and is often easily spotted by markers.

Note: similar principles apply to humanities subjects (E.G. Modern History)


Want to ace English like Henry?


2. Holidays

Holidays afford you a great opportunity to ‘get ahead’ of term work or to revise any work you felt unsure about or dissatisfied with. In short, it would be ludicrous not take advantage of them; yet many people don’t. Many subjects often have textbooks that you can take notes on without the need for a teacher, so I advise going through them and taking your notes ahead of time. If you seek to learn content in the holidays, the Matrix Holiday Accelerated Courses are designed to help students get ahead in the holidays by covering topics before you’re exposed to them at school.


3. Preparation

I feel as though this point is the most part self-explanatory, however, it would remiss of me not to mention it. Using your time effectively is imperative to success. Being prepared eases against anxiety and stress, feelings which tend to occur when students feel unprepared a few days out from exams. My personal rationale was that taking extended study breaks just because exams seemed ‘far away’ was a dangerous thing to do as the successive time lost throughout the term could easily result to a few days of lost time. This lost time is vital right before exams. In essence, it’s better to be slightly over-prepared (if there is such a thing) in order to give yourself time to de-stress right before an exam as opposed to have having wasted time earlier on and then stress yourself out right before an exam.

I also believe that the idea of preparation extends further than merely writing study notes. It involves preparing all aspects of your life. For instance, getting to sleep by 9:30pm so you have adequate sleep falls into the notion of being ‘prepared’. Therefore, developing a routine is crucial, yet ensure it allows for some flexibility.


4. Listen to Mozart

Listen to the ‘Best of Mozart’ compilation on YouTube, it’ll do the work for you! All jokes aside, listening to music was personally beneficial as wearing large headphones both muffled external noise and acted as a signalling function to those around me not to distract/talk to me. You wouldn’t think it, but music has been scientifically proven to be beneficial to your studies! Research has indicated that music is useful in improving one’s attention, memory, and of course, helps to lessen stress and anxiety.

Final tip!

To sum up, Year 12 is hectic…in every sense of the word, so enjoy it!

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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