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How I Scored An ATAR Of 99.85 – Gavin Chen

In this post, Gavin shares his tips for scoring an ATAR of 99.85.


Being in year 12 and studying for the HSC may seem very daunting, but it is not as scary and hard as you think – in fact, year 12 for me was one of the most enjoyable years of my life.


The subjects you choose will inevitable affect the ATAR you will receive at the end of your HSC. It is not uncommon to hear talks about scaling or have your friends peer pressure you into choose a particular subject. Personally, I think the wisest decision is to choose the subjects you think you will enjoy and love the most – remember, you can always change your mind later during Year 11 and switch to another subject. This way, you will be actively committed to attending class, listening and studying for that subject, instead of slaving away at a subject you completely hate.

However, it is important to take notice of scaling and how it can affect the final mark you achieve for a specific subject. Hence, you should choose what you love, but also be SMART in what you choose. In addition, many people tend to do 12 or more units in year 12 as a “back-up” in case they don’t do as well as expected in subject. I highly recommend to NOT do this, unless you are certain that you will be committed to treating all units equally, and no subject as a mere “back-up”.

Time Management and Stress

Do not be frightened by what people say about the HSC. Although it is a lot of work and can be very stressful, especially right before exam blocks, it is also very manageable. Time management and continuous commitment is essential to minimise stress which will ultimately benefit you. It is never nice having to cram a whole syllabus worth of information the night before an exam – you get less sleep, you feel stressed, and  you start to lose confidence. Instead, I recommend spreading out your study over the course of the year – this means less hours to study right before an exam, and the information is more easily retained in your head. It is also important to be on par with your social life – it is perfectly OK to go out and have fun with friends (and that also helps with relieving stress).


During year 11, I recommend testing out different methods of studying (e.g. group studying, reading textbooks, reading notes) to find the most effective method for you. Then, in year 12, apply your most effective study method for the best results. Don’t be afraid to ask your teachers or fellow students any questions – you will be grateful when something comes up in an exam and you can answer it since you asked that dreaded question. Also, doing a lot of past papers will be very helpful as you can get a feel for what type of test and what type of questions will be asked. This will build your confidence and is a great way to practise exam technique.


Not everyone does perfect during their HSC. At times, you may not perform as well as you expected, and it’s perfectly normal to feel disappointed. However, one bad exam isn’t the end of the world. Remember that each exam is only worth a fraction of your internal mark, and it is definitely possible to bounce back up in following exam. Also, what you receive as your internal mark depends on how well your cohort performs, so even if you aren’t ranked so well in your school, you can still end up with an amazing internal mark as long as both you and your peers perform great in the actual HSC exams.

All the best and good luck!

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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