How I Scored An ATAR Of 99.25 – Daniel Cordas

Posted on January 2, 2014 by Daniel Cordas

david cordas3

Set Goals

It can be difficult to be motivated at times, but setting both short and long term goals will help you. Find your passion! Find a university degree you are really interested in, which can motivate you to study during hard times. If you’re not sure what you want to do, I found that talking about my options to different people helped me to decide.

Setting short-term goals every day can help you stay focused, which could include doing a past Maths paper or writing notes for science dot points. Make sure you set realistic short-term goals though, otherwise you may end up doing nothing since the task seems too daunting.

Study Smarter, Not Harder

Who wants to study all night at home after a tough day at school? No one. If you study in a practical way, you’ll find that there is more time to enjoy life (and keep your sanity). By studying smarter, I mean using your time as efficiently as possible. An hour of studying in seclusion and total concentration is more effective than three hours with Facebook on in the background and your phone next to you. If you’re exhausted, go to sleep! This is a tactical approach. It may seem like a bad decision since you need to study, but I found that when I am fresh and well rested, I would retain much more information and be more productive than my tired self would have been.

While studying for the HSC is important, you need to allow some time away from the books. Don’t give up your hobbies or passions so that you have more time to study, as it would be ineffective in the long run. You’ll find that if you are working hard all the time, you will eventually burn out and your study will be much less effective.


You can never be too prepared. After learning the theory for a subject, the next step is to expose yourself to as many past papers and questions as possible. By working through a wide variety of questions, you’ll learn how to use your knowledge in creative and new ways, which in turn will build your confidence for your upcoming exam. Through practice you will also familiarise yourself with the layout of certain exams, so you should feel a bit more comfortable knowing that there won’t be any surprises.

I found doing past papers was of utmost importance in Maths. Here is an example. From the start of the HSC year to sitting my 3U Maths trial paper, I jumped almost 100 ranks. In the lead up to the trials – yes, that’s right – I did heaps of practice papers.

Don’t be afraid to start doing past papers early! You will never run out of resources to use – even if you finish the HSC papers from the last 20 or so years, there is an abundance of trial papers from every school that you can still use.


Not everyone is perfect. There will be times when you are disappointed with your results, but you must be resilient. Identify what went wrong, and ensure that it doesn’t happen for your next assessment. Remember it’s okay to make mistakes; your dream of getting into your university course won’t be ruined, you must persevere. For me, a poor result motivated me to work even harder so that I could try and ace the next exam.

Extra Tips

  • It’s OK to be clueless. Ask questions and keep asking until you understand. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand, chances are other students need an explanation as well.
  • Help others! Through helping and teaching concepts to other students, you’ll be consolidating your own knowledge and also identifying your weaknesses, which you can then work on.
  • Don’t give up after trial exams! If you receive a poor ATAR estimate from your school, don’t be disappointed. There is still a lot of room for improvement between the trials and HSC. During this period, I found a lot of people slackened off and took it easy.  I used this time wisely and was able to beat my ATAR estimate of 98.55 (based from trial exams) by 0.7.
  • To get that top ATAR, you need to be an all-rounder. It’s great if you’re good at 4U Maths, but ensure your English skills are well polished too as English must be included in your ATAR calculation.
  • Find what works for you. Studying is a very personal thing. The library may or may not be the place for you.
  • Avoid procrastination. Turn off your phone and study away from your computer – technology isn’t your friend when you’re studying.
  • Chin up! The HSC only lasts a year, put in your maximum effort because it’ll be over before you realise.



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