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English 11-12

Julia’s Hacks: How I Scored An ATAR Of 96.20 With 4 Units Of English

Learn how Julia, scored an ATAR of 96.20 like a boss with 4 units of English and some hard work.

2016 Matrix Graduate, Julia Saab, achieved an ATAR of 96.20, and graduated from Georges River Oatley Senior Campus. Julia’s passion resides in English, particularly writing, achieving top internal school rankings in both Extension 1 and Extension 2 English. Julia is to be congratulated on her early acceptance into Bachelor of Arts with Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University! 

Julia’s HSC subjects

HSC Subject Overall HSC Mark Performance Band
English Advanced  92 B6
English Extension 1  46 E4
English Extension 2  36 E3
Biology  93 B6
Chemistry  89 B5
Ancient History  90 B6


HSC experience

My HSC year was something I had been dreaming about for a while. Though those dreams tended to appear more like nightmares, I had a pretty solid idea about what I was getting myself into before I even started. What I experienced this year was oddly unlike anything I had thought. I imagined that I would have plenty of time to complete both my major and my schoolwork, as well as all of my Matrix homework and extra practice papers. In reality, this was much harder than I expected.

I had to learn to really juggle all of my studies and sometimes sacrifice time allocated to other events to study for upcoming exams.

It seemed so easy just to give up and allow the mountain of work to consume me. Though, the faint image of my hopeful future in the corner of my mind kept pushing me forward. Though I had to throw out my previous expectations and take the days as they came, I really do think that was for the better. As stated by Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, “Worrying means you suffer twice”.


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Julia’s top tips

1. Utilise your teachers!

Though it may seem obvious, teachers are there to ensure you are able to reach the goals you have set for yourself. So, ensure that you utilise their knowledge and abilities to improve your own!

For each of my subjects, excluding English, I would write notes on the weekend to summarise each dot point learned in class that week and then pass them on to my teachers to be checked. This ensured that all of my summaries were correct and concise, yet still containing enough detail. I found that my teachers were all more than willing to do this, and the constant summarising meant that I was regularly revising the course content. This process helped immensely, especially for more content-heavy courses like Ancient History and Biology.


For English, I frequently submitted essay notes to both my class teachers and Matrix teachers and tutors.

This allowed me to construct perfected plans for answering questions for all modules.

Once my notes were completed, I also gave in practice essays. By doing this, I not only got to practice writing to a question, but I also slowly learned how to think like a marker. I am now able to recognise key parts of questions and know exactly what should be touched on when constructing a thesis. In short answers also, I was able to learn what needed to be included depending on the way the question was asked and the amount of allocated marks.

So, never worry about giving your teachers too much of your work! As much as you may feel guilty for impeding on their Sunday night, you definitely won’t regret it in the exam room.



2. Utilise your peers!

I along with the friends that I made at Matrix continuously compared our schoolwork to make up for any dot points that were glossed over by certain teachers. By looking at their assessment tasks and trial exams, I also gained new practice questions.


On the days between HSC exams, I would also go to my local library and answer practice questions with students from other schools. We would test each other and compare notes, and this was extremely helpful.

I also found that, by surrounding yourself with people who are all going through the same stresses, I had an outlet to express my concerns and be consoled if need be. So, if you’re finding it hard to stay motivated yourself, go find someone to rekindle the fire! Hilariously enough, my local library increased in daily traffic by no less than 70% once the holidays before the HSC began.

Though, you shouldn’t wait until then to begin studying with and learning off your peers! By studying in groups or pairs, assuming you actually do work when together, you are able to identify any gaps in your knowledge and, after some individual study, make sure you really know your content by discussing it with each other.

I actually became a “teacher” for some of my friends, and went through whole modules with them before exams.

This not only allowed them to learn the coursework but acted as a brilliant source of revision for me. If you are worried about helping people in your grade at school at the detriment of your internal rank, then friends from other schools are perfect for this!



3. Ignore any unrealistic expectations!

One of my biggest enemies during the HSC was my own stress.

Prior to even starting Year 12, I had set myself so many expectations regarding how much work I should be doing and what marks I should be getting. Though I think it’s awesome to have ambitions and be motivated to reach them, make sure the goals you set for yourself are realistic.

For example, don’t allocate seven hours each night for studying as, chances are, you will never be able to actually complete that.

When formulating a study timetable, make sure you leave periods for eating, sleeping and time to just relax and watch TV or exercise. Taking regular breaks whilst studying really does ensure that you are able to remember and recall content later, so don’t push yourself into doing work for straight hours on end.

Also, just remember that getting a bad mark is not the end. Though you should try to do your best consistently for the whole year, a lower grade or two will not ruin your chances at achieving your goals. It’s much better to use those past attempts to improve rather than beating yourself up over them.



4. Tips for Extension English

Extension 1:
Though this subject is one unit, the workload really makes it feel like two and, so, it should be treated as such.

Each text should be studied in more depth than anything you analyse in Advanced, and your personal view on the genre/way of thinking should be built up over the course of the year. Extension 1 is a subject where you can afford to make judgements regarding the motives of the composers and investigate why these choices were made. In this, research is paramount. If your teacher gives you extra reading material, READ IT. Learn the period or genre back to front; this will really help in the event that NESA (formerly BOSTES) decides to throw a curveball and ask a narrower question like they did this year.

Your essay should be flexible, and easily changed to suit a particular aspect of each of your texts. Similarly, the related texts you choose should also follow a similar theme or writing style so that connections can be made accurately regardless.


The creative writing should also be constructed over the course of the year, and should reflect your own unique viewpoint on your elective.

For example, my elective was Romanticism and my prepared creative explored not only how musical composers acted during this period, but also the possible detriments of their actions in contrast to their idealistic views on it.

Though, it is the safest option to write a short story, nowhere in the syllabus does it specify that form. Make sure you are prepared to conjure up a blog post, feature article or radio script if need be!

Most importantly though, don’t panic!

As long as you know your elective, the exams shouldn’t be anything new. Just breathe, and make sure you process every part of the question before you begin to write.


Extension 2:
My major work for Extension 2 English was a huge challenge for me mentally. Though I have always loved English and have been writing fiction since I was 8, this was the first time a work of mine would be analysed with such rigour and precision. Frankly, I was nervous. I began to doubt my abilities significantly when I first began writing. My peers all seemed to have amazing concepts with unique views and, in comparison, I just felt mine was weak.

That is, until I decided to have the Matrix English Tutors look over what I had written during a workshop.

They all assured me that my concept was, in fact, solid and rather interesting. They also commended me on my writing ability and seemed genuinely excited about the way the story would unfold. A wave of confidence then flowed into my veins and coated the insecure shards that had dug into my imagination.

I felt as though I could expand on my concept and writing style comfortably and, in the end, completed a major work that I am extremely proud of. For me personally, having each and every person I knew reading and commenting on my work was paramount in ensuring that it grew and bloomed to the height of it’s potential.

Final tips 

The HSC isn’t by any means easy, but it’s rewarding to those who work hard and have real motivation. So, take a deep breath and try to relax at least knowing that 70,000 other students feel the exact same way. Plus, if you ever need to laugh and unwind, the HSC Discussion Group is the digital manifestation of probably every thought you’ve had throughout the year.

Good luck!

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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