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2015 Matrix Graduate Hacks: How I Scored An ATAR of 98

In this post, one of our Matrix graduates gives her account of how she scored an ATAR of 98.

A 2015 Matrix Graduate achieved an ATAR of 98 and graduated from Pymble Ladies College. She also achieved an All Rounders’ List Award (awarded to those who achieve 90+ in more than 10 units) and a Hellenic Studies Award. She aspires to study a Bachelor of Science (Advanced)/ Master of Nutrition and Dietetics.

HSC SubjectAssessment MarkExamination MarkOverall HSC Mark
English Advanced909593
Mathematics Advanced939695
Mathematics Extension 148/5047/5048/50
Classical Greek898989
Classical Greek Extension47/5048/5048/50

I’m not going to lie, the HSC certainly wasn’t a piece of cake. It was a mixed bag of tears, laughter, challenges and successes. It’s difficult to keep going for 12 months and for me, the biggest test of my resilience was getting back on my feet after a bad mark. I quickly realised that the only way to keep moving forward is to reflect on what I did and tweak my study method, ready for next exam. Year 11 is really the time when study methods should be tried and tested for HSC.  I highly recommend trying a range of study methods before Year 12 to see what works for you. I made several changes between Year 11 and Year 12, the main one being that I moved from typing my notes to writing them on loose-leaf lined paper. This helped me improve my memory of the content, as writing notes encourages you to make them concise. In order to condense my notes, I had to read the material thoroughly and spend time analysing and understanding the key components. I would review the notes that I had taken down in class after school each day. Then, on the weekend I would consolidate my class notes and notes from other sources. I would also photocopy useful diagrams or pictures and cut them out and insert them into my notes, always with the view of condensing and focusing my understanding of the subject.

Matrix was extremely helpful when it came to revising new material and practical applications of knowledge. Their textbooks are dense with information and it’s really important to revise their notes after the lesson to really maximise the resources! Do the workbook every week because it will help you so much in the long run. You never know, a similar question might pop up in an assessment or in the HSC. Make the most of all the papers on their Learning Management System. I can’t tell you exactly how many papers I have downloaded and completed before my HSC, but I can say that every question made me more confident that I could ace the exam.


A 2015 Matrix Graduate’s Top Tips

Subject specific tips

I discovered the benefit of hand-written notes through an early Year 12 Maths Extension 1 assessment, where I was allowed to bring in an A4 page of hand written notes and found I had done particularly well. From then onwards, I made one-page formula sheets for every 4-5 topics covered. To study for Maths, I made sure to complete the homework that was set out every day. I found the Holiday course at Matrix for Maths Extension 1 really helpful as it allowed me to learn the content during the holidays and then use the school term to consolidate my knowledge. I also focused heavily on completing past papers. This was difficult at the start of the year, as there were many questions that I could not complete, because I hadn’t learnt the material yet. I had to pick out questions from past papers that were related to the specific topic that I was studying to effectively test and consolidate my knowledge. I would then complete these past papers again, in full, come the HSC exams. I made sure to complete past papers designed by a range of schools, as different schools set out their exams a little differently, so I benefited from the change of pace and style in the papers.  When I came across a Maths question that I didn’t know, I would think about it, re-read the question and look at my formula sheets. If I still couldn’t find the answer I would ask my dad, my Matrix Maths teacher, my school teachers or compile a list of questions to ask my tutors during my next Matrix workshop.

For Chemistry, I also recommend completing multiple past papers. I really enjoyed studying Chemistry, so I found the knowledge was absorbed more easily. My teacher filmed the practical experiments we completed in class, a practice we carried on when experimenting for group tasks.   I found the films helped to refresh my knowledge of the course, especially if it had been covered earlier in the term/year. It’s important to memorise the procedure and quantities required for the practical experiments.

In terms of English Advanced, I did an acceleration course at school, which meant that I finished the HSC English Advance course in 2014. To study for English, I perfected an essay structure, which could be applied to each text and exam question. To adapt the structure to suit the question, I had a thorough understanding of the module requirements, practiced thesis statements, and had a wide variety of quotes committed to memory. Throughout the year, I made sure to continually note down useful quotes that could be used in an essay,  as I came across them. I would also provide some context around the quote, so I wouldn’t be confused when I went back to this list.


Burning out is a really big concern in Year 12 and it becomes more and more dangerous as you progress through the year. Everyone goes through stages where you feel you’re not progressing and no amount of study is enough, but instead of pushing and pushing, take a break. Don’t force it. I’m certainly not saying don’t study, or take a break every 10 minutes, but it’s important to recognise when you’re no longer being productive. Just take a few minutes to re-group and do something that makes you happy! Keeping a positive attitude can do so much for your marks and when you go back to that English essay or Maths question, you’ll have a fresh perspective and I guarantee you will be so much more productive than if you kept going.

In saying this, it’s important to limit procrastination. If I had dollar for every time me or one of my friends procrastinated on the internet, instead of actually studying, I would be rich. It’s natural to feel unmotivated when you’re trying to start study, but it’s possible to keep all distractions aside! To limit procrastination, download the relevant software/application. If you have an Apple computer, I would recommend SelfControl. For Windows users, try Cold Turkey. The hardest part is to actually set the timer, so it will block tempting sites. Leave your phone outside the room too. Leave it at least 30 steps from where you’re sitting and make sure it’s near a busy area, like the kitchen or the living room, so that your family will see if you’re taking your phone. Plug in some earphones if, like me, you need music, and listen to a Spotify study playlist, classical music or just some sounds. Clear your workspace and you’re set for some awesome and productive study.


I’m quite notorious for my terrible time management skills and the HSC really tested me in that aspect, to the max! To be more organised, I used a desk planner, a school diary and a personal diary. I would use my school diary to put in school events e.g. athletics carnivals, assessment due dates etc. I would then transfer these dates into my personal diary, which I used to record all the activities that I would need to do that day. I also used a day planner to write general events and due dates. To free up some time for study, I did have to give up a few Saturday sports in Year 12 (competition tennis, swim, for example), however I still maintained my fitness by scheduling half an hour of exercise upon waking. Try to arrange your timetable so that you’re able to keep up with school work, get a little fitness in, whilst still leaving some time for yourself!


It may look like a dreadful 12-month journey ahead but I can truthfully say that Year 12 was a year of fond memories, new friends and new life skills. Challenges are a part of the experience so embrace them and roll with it; just don’t give up when you can see the finish line!

To cope with the HSC, make sure you allocate some time to yourself, just to do something you enjoy. Talk to others, frequently. If I didn’t take the time to talk with my friends, my parents or ask my teachers for help, I probably wouldn’t have pulled through. They listened to all the rants about my stress, weirdly increasing hunger and were always happy to give me advice. You’re not alone in this HSC: your family, friends, teachers and tutors are there to support you.

Enjoy every moment of your HSC experience and focus on your ATAR goal!

“Either you run the day or the day runs you”- Jim Rohn


Have an ATAR Goal but No Plan?

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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