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Amy’s Hacks: How I Scored An ATAR of 97.25

In this post, Amy shares her secrets for nailing an ATAR of 97.25 in her HSC.

Matrix Graduate, Amy Millhouse achieved an ATAR of 97.25 and graduated from Sefton High School. She aspires to study Commerce/Science (Advanced) (Honours) at the University of New South Wales.

Amy’s HSC Subjects

HSC Subject Assessment Mark Examination Mark Overall HSC Mark
English Advanced 88 85 87
Mathematics 99 99 99
Mathematics Extension 1 44 45 45
Chemistry 89 88 89
Biology 94 91 93
Visual Arts 94 91 93

The HSC was a challenging period for me, because I was undisciplined and lazy at the beginning of Year 12. Studying for a minimum of three hours a day seemed like insanity, but I soon realised that simply cruising through my final year would leave me with no achievements to be proud of.

While I am ecstatic about my ATAR, I know that I could have done things better. I’d like to share some tips that have come from reflecting on changes that could’ve been made.

Amy’s Top HSC Tips

Getting motivated

For me, the main challenge was finding the motivation to continually work hard. I was quite confused and unmotivated, as I didn’t have a clear career path or goal to strive towards. All I knew was that I liked Science. In Year 10, I wanted to be a doctor; later a pilot or optometrist. Preparing for UMAT I became very stressed, and I ended up skipping the exam and abandoning my earlier career goals. This left me extremely confused and unmotivated – all my peers seemed to have a goal to work towards, and yet I still remained without a clear career path.

To get myself out of my rut I stopped worrying about others and started asking around. I attended a variety of seminars, even seminars I thought I’d have no interest in, as well as asking for advice from tutors, family members and even my GP. This helped me develop a better idea of what I wanted to do. I decided to aim towards getting into a Commerce/Science degree. I chose this option as it incorporated my interest in Science and expose me to a wide variety of disciplines, whilst being quite flexible – perfect for indecisive people like me.



Taking care of yourself and your friends

Amidst the stress of the HSC, I completely stopped caring about my health. Though quick to prepare, eating frozen pizza every day doesn’t do much other than make you feel sluggish, and it definitely isn’t good brain food. I also skipped breakfast, which is a terrible idea, especially on exam days. Don’t forget to fuel your brain.

Going for a walk, hitting the gym or engaging in any other physical activity isn’t a waste of time. It helps to clear your mind, alleviates writer’s block, and relieves the build-up of stress and frustration from prolonged periods of study. It is important to keep your body in good condition and will help build your confidence.

Remember that everyone is under the same pressure. The stress of exams and leaving high school affects everyone and this can take a toll on friendships, so be mindful of the potential for a bit of drama within your cohort. Be aware that your stress may cause you to have a negative attitude, and that this can often negatively affect your family as well. Try to maintain a positive attitude when with your family, as they are stressed too and want you to do well.



Exam skills are just as important as knowing the content

It’s one thing to know all the content, but it’s another to be able to understand what a question is asking and answer it succinctly. You have to be good at doing exams. This comes with practice, so start attempting practice papers a couple of months early in a mock exam environment. Be mindful of the time you take to answer each question, the speed at which you write, and the time you allocate for planning.

During exams, I’d often find myself stuck on a couple of questions, but I made sure to leave myself plenty of time to answer the question by answering the easier questions first, then returning to the more difficult ones.



Take your class time seriously

Though I wasn’t a great studier, I made a big effort to pay attention in class. This was my best characteristic as a student and allowed me to readily grasp some more difficult concepts without having to revisit them multiple times before exams. In class, when you don’t understand something, it’s easy to raise your hand and ask for help, but at home, using a textbook or the internet is more difficult and can be time consuming.



Don’t drop your game

I think it’s very important to ensure that you don’t fall behind. This is particularly true for Maths, which teaches the basics at the beginning of a topic, with subsequent lessons building on what you’ve previously learnt. Some topics can seem alien if you don’t learn them in advance. I would try to complete a lot of different kinds of questions in front of a Maths teacher, as they can suggest a more time-efficient way to complete the question.

If you don’t understand a particular concept on the first go, revisit it during your free periods or at home. Don’t give up on it, because it will pop up again. Keep a copy of the syllabus and asterisk those difficult concepts you need to review again, when exams are approaching. I found this particularly necessary for Biology as some concepts involve memorizing a multitude of steps.

If you’re completing a major work, it’s particularly important to ensure work consistently throughout the year. Rushing work results in poor quality and can be quite obvious. Major works also get marked throughout the year, which contributes to your rank, so a bunch of all-nighters before the due date won’t cut it. You should also allow time for any big blunders. For my first Visual Arts major work assessment, I started late, as I had spent the whole first term ‘planning’ (procrastinating). That cost me both time and marks.



Keep it tidy

I seriously underestimated the importance of organisation. At first, my method of organisation involved stacking all my loose sheets of paper from any subject into one huge paper pile. Needless to say, I could never locate my old notes, which affected my ability to compile study notes. I’d have to work straight from a textbook, and this cost me a lot of time.

Organising only takes a bit of effort every day. Sorting papers sheets by dot point, topic or day into plastic sleeves saves time and makes your sheets so much easier to handle. Tidiness also helped me keep motivated. I’d often start study sessions with a quick clean up to help me feel productive.



Make lists

If you’re not already in the habit, start using a diary, or, listing everything on a sheet of paper, from your homework and daily study goals to permission notes and payments. It feels so much better to have everything down on paper, rather than having to wrack your brain. It helps you achieve your goals and see what you’re consistently lazy with. Also, take advantage of technology and use a calendar/notes app synced across all your devices to make sure you don’t forget any important dates.


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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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