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James’ Hacks: My Guide to Balancing Sport and Academic Excellence

Struggling to balance sport and study? In this article, James shares how he juggles his fitness and academic finesse.

It can be hard to balance your health both physical and mental, sport, and academic success. But it is definitely possible, in this article Penrith high student James Kim shares his guide to balancing sport and academic excellence so you can have it all.

Me, myself and I


James Kim


Penrith High School

University Course Goal

Actuarial Studies



Dream Career

Business manager or statistical analyst


About me

Hellooo, my name is James Kim and I attend Penrith High School.

Previously I had attended Cumberland High School during Year 7, and switching over to the countryside, Bathurst High School from Year 8 to 10 before returning to the fast-paced suburbs of Sydney.

My university course goal is to go into either an Actuarial course or an Economic / Commerce Course in USYD or UNSW. This would mean my ATAR would have to at least be a 95 ATAR, but to not narrow my horizons, my ATAR goal is obviously to achieve that 99+ ATAR.

My dream career is to work in a thriving business as a business manager or a statistical analyst. This became my dream as I’ve always had a fascination with how funds flow in and out of businesses and, funnily enough, I’ve been surrounded by family members working in similar industries. With my uncle being a successful CEO of a biotech company in Korea, as well as my cousin being an accountant and an actuary for an insurance company, I’ve always just wanted to become just as successful as them. And most importantly, my father being a CEO, also pushed me even further to pursue this type of career path.

Although this type of mindset seems very pre-determined from my upbringing, I’ve always had a love for numbers and an even bigger love for economics.

Not being the typical science-loving person, my passions are driven through social science subjects!


My HSC Subjects

My HSC subjects are the social science starter pack!

  • Advanced English
  • Maths Extension 1
  • Legal Studies
  • Business
  • Economics
  • Studies of Religion

During the Preliminary Season, my best subjects were Economics and Mathematics 2-unit.

My worst subjects were English and Maths Extension 1.

However, in year 11 I received a massive blow to my pride when i received an ATAR estimate of 93.41. This was mainly due to my below-average English scores.

So, I changed up my strategy of attack!

Now, in Year 12, my best subjects include English now (LOL), and both my Mathematics (LOL x2).

My worst subjects have consequently become Legal Studies and Business. However, I believe this has occurred due to my lack of attention to them. As those subjects were “average” subjects for me since preliminary, I believed it would still stay the same during the HSC season too.

Due to my school bringing my English and 3U scores urgently to my attention, I focused heavily to improve on those subjects, while placing less emphasis on my strong subjects.



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My number 1 Problem: Time management

My number 1 problem that I saw as a barrier between me and my ATAR goal was my commitment to other activities and my horrific time management skills.

Coming from Bathurst, a town that was predominately all about sports, I grew a big passion for basketball, as well as conditioning and getting to the gym.

Now, when I moved back to Sydney, these passions significantly clashed with my studies. Between sporting commitments like Sydney West events for basketball from my school and my need to have my body in good condition irrespective of the sporting seasons, I felt time poor.

I overcame this time management problem by experimenting. Let me tell you what I did.


Step 1: Don’t skip out on your physical and mental health for your studies.

As my family drilled in the golden rule into my mindset that balance is key in life. This essentially meant that my life should not be overwhelmed by any particular activity.

For me, this meant that after every 2-hour interval of studying I did, I would either go for a walk or a jog around the block.

This allowed me to not only relieve stress, but to also come back to my studies with a freshened mind-set and a “ready to go” mentality.

Even during the most stressful parts of year 12 (during exam periods), I believed even if I had to cut down my physical activity commitments, I still had to incorporate it into my daily life in order to maintain a healthy mental and physical state.

Delving deeper into the data around this I realised that due to my very intensive conditioning regime for basketball and other sports:

  • I trained 6 times a week
  • Had cardio session afterwards each morning cardio in the mornings
  • I was spending at least 14 hours training each week!

Of course, during the exam periods, I had to cut down on my commitments a lot. And by a lot, I mean cutting down to less than 5 hours a week on conditioning.

Although this meant my performance in physical activities were greatly reduced (e.g. dropping 4 kilograms on all exercises in the gym throughout exam periods). The upside was that this “break” allowed my body to recover from the strenuous amount of conditioning I had done previously.

Although my “gains” would be lost, these short breaks allowed me to focus on studying, while also giving me more motivation after the exam period to train even harder to be even more conditioned than previously!



Step 2: Study smart, not long.

With my strenuous efforts in prelim not producing the results I had hoped, I concluded that my studying was not efficient nor working.

In order to combat this, I incorporated things such as seeking helpful resources from school, other students, or from my tutor.

In addition to this, I realised a deep understanding of the syllabus allowed me to have a cutting edge in terms of my studies for my exams.

The syllabus essentially is a manual for you to succeed in the HSC. It gives you everything you need to do and everything you need to know to satisfy every requirement of NESA, proving to be an essential resource in ALL students.

Examples of such resources were the Advanced English Matrix Holiday Courses I attended which allowed me to get a head start on school work. There I was directed to helpful websites dedicated to perfecting the art of ‘English.’ As well, I use their resources like:


Step 3: Monitor and Control

Growth and improvement come with experimentation.

I learnt this from my Business Studies syllabus:

Monitoring is “checking and observing the actual progress of a plan”, while control is “comparison of planned performance against actual performance and taking corrective action to make sure the objectives are attained.”I learnt this from the business syllabus:

Firstly, this means monitoring your overall performance in your schooling life (mostly Year 11 and 12). Have your studying regimes been successful? From this, you move onto the control aspect.

This means trial and error but with data! If your new schedule is not working, things must be implemented for change to occur.

When I attempted to place my conditioning routine before school time, I soon realised how strenuous and difficult it was that it made me even more anxious and stressful. In order to remedy this, I controlled the situation and fixed it into the routine I now do every day: study and then finish off the day with exercise.


My study timetable


My Study and Exam Strategies

My most effective exam strategy has been to do my everyday routine as usual! This has created less stress for me and even allowed me to have the balance in my life which I believed actually allowed me to achieve higher marks.

This means not cramming before exams and staying up till 3 am. Instead, I’m now getting at least 7 hours before my exams, eating properly, and hydrating consistently.


My Regrets

My biggest regret was to not write practice essays and not utilising my teachers/tutors to the full potential. Teachers and tutors are there to help!

The more essays you write, the more prepared and comfortable you are with the given content.

Additionally, teacher feedback is a MUST in any HSC student. Their feedback is invaluable for your success, and the more feedback you get, the better marks you will receive.

As a social science person, my whole HSC life revolved around essay writing. This meant that I had to not only find questions from either the past HSC exams or from my school’s trial past papers, but receiving feedback for every practice essay was essential.

For me, receiving feedback from my tutoring centres was a catalyst for my success. Even from the Matrix English Holiday Course, I was able to send in drafts to my teacher, which proved to be very helpful and beneficial.


My advice to future Year 12 students

You must do these three things:

  1. Have a well-balanced life that helps your health both physically and mentally.
  2. Write as many essays as possible, and incorporate feedback
  3. Seek and utilise resources like past papers

You must never do these three things:

  1. Neglect subjects. Your ATAR is holistically determined from 10 of your units, not just one subject.
  2. Predict the question.
  3. Place importance on one subject above another.


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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