In this post, Jina shares her High School Hacks for scoring an ATAR of 99.65.
Hello, nervous (future) HSC student! Yes, I know exactly how you’re feeling and the HSC may seem impossible from where you are right now but here are some tips that helped me achieve an ATAR of 99.65 =)
You’re going to spend a whole year studying this subject from top to bottom so you may as well choose one you like, right? If you like your subjects, you’ll be more motivated to pay attention in class. There are days when you just want to be in bed with your laptop or read a book or go to the aquarium, but don’t underestimate how valuable class-time is. Try your best to learn something new every lesson and really understand it. If you don’t understand it, ASK QUESTIONS. Yes, you could try to just memorise the text book, but it’s a lot more important to completely understand the concepts and theories. A lot of questions will draw upon your conceptual understanding of the subject, rather than your ability to regurgitate the textbook.
Be annoying. Don’t be afraid to constantly ask your teacher/tutor questions. Also ask your friends. Ask past HSC students. Ask Google. Ask Matrix! At Matrix, if my tutor wrote down something I didn’t understand I would immediately say “stop, I don’t understand, please help me”.
Studying sucks, but try your best to make the most of it. I found it easier to learn things by drawing small pictures on the side of my notes and highlighting things. When I prepared for English essays I would walk around my room with actions to help me remember keywords. I made cute palm cards with maths formulas and notes to keep organised with all the maths content (especially 4 unit). I inserted pictures of unicorns on my notes or a line of size 5 text with a silly message on it to make studying fun.
This method of studying doesn’t work for everyone but it encouraged me to do better. I went to the library nearly everyday between trials and the HSC and I did the most amount of studying during this period. It was useful because I was surrounded by people with similar goals who told me to study when I was slacking off but also had highlighter wars with me when we needed a break. Group studying is effective because you can test each others’ knowledge and help fill in each others’ gaps (we turned this into a game, e.g. ‘The Physics Game’, which is like a mini trivia competition on the HSC physics syllabus). Completing past papers with a group of friends is also useful because it gives you a more competitive edge when it comes to the actual HSC exam. Plan a time where you all start the same past paper under exam conditions. It’s great because you’re less likely to get distracted and give-up halfway.
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!!! Complete lots and lots of past papers. Not just before the HSC exams but throughout the whole year. E.g. for term 1 assessments try to find your school’s past papers for that topic or try a past HSC paper but leave out the topics you haven’t covered. There is an endless resource of past-papers on the internet and Matrix also has a vast collection of resources.
Between trials and the HSC my Matrix maths tutor instructed me to complete 20 past papers for both Maths Ext. 1 and Maths Ext. 2. Keep completing past papers. When you feel like you’re getting sick of completing past papers, count how many you’ve done and do twice that much. JUST KEEP DOING PAST PAPERS! If you’re ever in a position where it’s the night before an exam and it’s just two overwhelming to cram the whole syllabus in one night, DO A PAST PAPER.
While you do past papers, keep a track of your mistakes. Mistakes are great! It’s better to make mistakes than not make mistakes (when you’re doing past papers). Making mistakes helps you to learn and you’ll be more cautious to make the same mistake again. Once I finished a past paper I would go back and circle all my mistakes with a red pen. Then, at the back of my paper I would list all the mistakes I made so I knew what my weaknesses were and what I needed to fix.
Staying positive is really important throughout the year. Don’t give up and have faith in yourself. If needs be, take a break, lie on the floor, take a deep breath, blast some ‘Don’t stop believing’, and then get back up again. After trials, I thought I had completely messed up, I had dropped about 50 ranks for English, but I worked even harder and it became a daily thought ‘I need to get a band 6 in English. How do I get a band 6 in English? I need to work on this for English’ and in the end I did (just) get a band 6 in English =) Don’t count yourself out until all the HSC exams are over. The HSC exams are still worth 50% and they make a huge difference so don’t slack off after trials.
Get plenty of rest. Coming from someone who has pulled many all-nighters studying, sleep is very important. Some of my worst exam marks are because I didn’t get enough sleep and I just wasn’t feeling 100% that day. I know it’s hard, but don’t leave things to the last minute. Use your diary/calendar to mark out upcoming exams and assignments that are due. Plan your preparation to avoid a situation where you have to sacrifice sleep for studying.
Your mindset is also really important on the exam day. This is where your positivity and self-confidence is most needed. Walk into the exam room thinking ‘I’m smart, I know this, I’m going to ace this’ even if you know nothing. Trust me, it helps.
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