Matrix Blog

Success Secrets

James’ Hacks: How I Used Flowcharts to score a 99.75 ATAR

In this post, Cranbrook graduate and Matrix alumnus James Drielsma share how he scored a 99.75 ATAR

In this post, Cranbrook graduate and Matrix Alumnus James Drielsma shares his hacks for using flowcharts to score a 99.75 ATAR.

Me, myself and I

James Drielsma

Cranbrook School


Towards the end of high school, I was tossing up between either medicine or engineering. I eventually decided that it would be more worth trying to go for medicine first. However, since I did not sit the UMAT last year I have decided to take a gap year to focus on my UCAT studies so I can hopefully make it into Medicine at UNSW next year.


A little about me

My name is James and I’m a huge fan of maths and science. I balance out my hobby of gaming with a love of tennis, wakeboarding, and drawing.


My HSC Results

Table: James’ results
SubjectsAssessment MarksHSC Exam MarkHSC MarkPerformance Band
Chemistry 9395 94 6
Maths Extension 1 9999 99E4
Maths Extension 2 9395 95E4
Physics 9391 926
English Advanced 9294 936


My school life

My goal

I went into the HSC hoping for an ATAR of 99+.

It was a surprise seeing that I ended up with a 99.75, and I’m very happy that my efforts have paid off.

My co-curriculars


 Subjects I enjoyed


I was able to do very well in Chemistry as I accelerated in 2017, meaning that I could put a lot more time into it without the distraction of other HSC subjects. This, coupled with an incredible teacher at school, allowed me to excel at the subject.

Despite this, I still attended both the Matrix Trial and HSC prep course for Chemistry where I was really able to hone my exam response skills.

I highly recommend students take this course if they don’t do Chemistry at Matrix during the term.

I personally didn’t do past papers for Chemistry. Instead, I just practised individual questions.


Flowcharts are an excellent way of understanding Chemistry and making study notes


Maths was a subject I found quite intuitive, as studying for it was simple: do as many past papers as possible.

Extension 1 wasn’t too much of an issue, but I utilised the Matrix holiday courses for Extension 2, which helped me greatly in understanding the material and prepared me for the terms ahead.

This way I was able to be a step ahead of my classmates.

Additionally, if you’re looking for past-papers, THSC is a great resource for studying for Maths.


I found this course extremely interesting, which helped greatly in motivating me to study. I took the Matrix term Physics courses  which was immensely helpful.

It was so helpful that this course was my primary source of teaching (even above the teaching I received at my school). While I didn’t quite get the mark I was hoping for in the HSC, my exam technique and ability to answer questions was improved dramatically by the Matrix course.


My Matrix Theorybooks became my main textbooks


They were an essential resource for me


Want to ace Physics like James did?

Studying shouldn’t stop because you’re at home! With Matrix+, we provide you with clear and structured online lesson videos, quality resources, and forums to ask your Matrix teachers questions and for feedback.

Learn more about our Matrix+ Online Physics course now.



Subjects I didn’t enjoy

English Advanced

It’s likely this isn’t a surprise for most of you! English was a weak point for me.

It didn’t come naturally and I had to work extremely hard.

In order to raise my English marks, I did as many practice exams as possible. I then sought feedback from a few different sources, such as my teachers, tutors and past HSC students I knew.

I also found memorisation didn’t work for me anymore.

So, I decided to memorise as many quotes and techniques as possible, then practice using them in mock essays.

In the end, I was extremely happy with an Exam mark of 94.


My Study tips

With study, I never exactly had a specific schedule I stuck to. Instead, I preferred to study subjects as needed, which depended on the subject’s difficulty, time required and proximity of exams.

For example, I had a lot of trouble with English so it was a subject that I studied quite often. Having said this, I feel this method of studying will only be effective if you start studying well before exam periods (>3 weeks) since this way you can dedicate more time to certain subjects without severe time pressure.


General Exam Preparation tips

For me, the most useful form of preparation was practice. I find writing and reviewing notes can only help so much.

For each subject, pay very close attention to the marking guidelines that both your teacher and NESA provide.

By recognising a few points that a particular type of question wants (especially in subjects with shorts-medium answer response questions), you can net yourself some very easy marks and save time.


Do as many past papers and practice questions as possible

THSC is a fantastic resource for finding past papers.

For subjects that have a lot of short-medium answer questions (eg. the sciences), I tended to stray away from just writing notes for each dot point in the syllabus. Instead, I found it much more useful to keep a separate note book where I would write down notes for particular dot points or questions that I had trouble with.

This meant that by the time trials and HSC come around, I had a detailed log of all the issues I have had in the past and how to deal with them. Trust me, this makes great material to read on the night before/ morning of an exam.

Practice planning responses so that you can write them in the most efficient, logical and succinct way. As DJ Kim would always say: “If I was given 10hrs to chop down a tree, I would spend 8 sharpening my axe.”


My biggest tips for preparation and note writing: USE FLOWCHARTS!

I can’t begin to describe how useful this was for me as it helped me explain and organise ideas in logical and sequential ways. You could use word or an app like Lucidchart.

The best uses I found for these in my subjects included planning responses for Physics and Chemistry, and even planning essays for English.


I used whiteboards on my bedroom walls to make notes


And made sure that i used flowcharts to describe processes


Balancing School life and extra-curricular activities

For me, balancing different aspects of my life came down to good organisation, prioritisation and a bit of will power. I found good organisation helped me to avoid getting overwhelmed by all the things happening in and out of school while prioritisation ensured that I didn’t spend too much time on any given activity.

For my school, sport was compulsory anyway, so it was easy enough to just attend weekly training sessions and competitive fixtures. For students who have a sporting passion, whose schools don’t offer compulsory sport, I recommend you set aside a dedicated session for your sport on one day every week after school. I found it very useful to have the exercise and helped balance out the often monotonous chore of study.

Volunteering opportunities were also offered by my school, with there being only about 3-4 major events each year. Consequently, it wasn’t hard to set aside time for just these 3-4 events each year, which usually took place in the morning on the weekend. This meant there was still plenty of time during the rest of the day to study.


My life advice for year 12 students

Keep a balanced lifestyle

Ensure that you balance out your studies with hobbies, exercise and time with friends. This can be immensely helpful in maintaining a motivated mindset throughout what is almost guaranteed to be a stressful year.


Be proactive in class

You can significantly improve the efficiency of your studies at home by being an active member of class and contribute to each lesson. This will help you understand the content better and allow you to focus more on perfecting subjects, rather than learning them at home.


Do NOT get complacent

Many students can fall into the trap of thinking their good internal marks, or good school ranking can guarantee them a high ATAR. It is important to maintain a high level of effort through out the year and HSC exams to give yourself the best chance of scoring a your desired ATAR.


At the end of the day, ATAR is just a number and shouldn’t define you. The HSC doesn’t take crazy intellect or insane luck; rather it rewards hard work and consistent effort.

I am so happy that I took up Matrix courses as they gave me the extra edge over the other people at my school, ultimately allowing me to exceed even my own HSC and ATAR expectations. Good luck to all year 12 students.


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!


© Matrix Education and, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Get free study tips and resources delivered to your inbox.

Join 75,893 students who already have a head start.

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies. Read our cookies statement.

OK, I understand