Ever wondered what James Ruse students do differently? What study habits do they have that you don’t? In this article, we share some of the many pieces of advice that our former Ruse students have shared with the readers of the Matrix blog.
James Ruse Alumni Success Secrets
In this article, we share some of the study hacks from high performing James Ruse alumni. This includes study advice from:
Scoring in the 100th percentile UMAT (now UCAT) and achieving an ATAR of 99.95, Matrix and James Ruse graduate Steven Paredes offers these four tips:
Plan your study effectively.
Don’t procrastinate! Space out your exam preparation throughout the term.
Study for at least four hours a day.
Take study breaks and have a weekly “no-study” night.
Realising your true motivation and applying it to the HSC (and beyond) really does help you on your path to success and maximising your potential. The road to HSC success requires a delicate balance between social life and study time.
Steven explains how he implemented these study strategies in this article.
Matrix Scholarship Student Rohan Krishnaswamy achieved a perfect ATAR of 99.95 and was awarded First in the State for HSC Chemistry. He graduated from James Ruse Agricultural High School in 2016.
“Sleep is one of the things most HSC students fail to recognise the importance of. Too often I hear about students who’ve stayed up until 3am studying for their extension 2 exam the next day. No sleep means that not only are you going to be tired for the test, but also your mental capacity and ability to think will also be reduced.
All in all, resulting in a test result that is much less than you should have got.
Even if you haven’t studied to a level that you’re comfortable with during the night before your test, it’s always a better idea to close the books and walk into the exam room with a fresh mind, and a good night’s sleep. During my HSC year, even during my trials and other exam blocks, I got 10 hours of sleep, from 10pm to 8am to ensure that I was always feeling fresh and ready to tackle whatever I had to do that day.”
Rohan shares more of his hacks that helped him score a perfect ATAR and rank first in the state for Chemistry here.
2016 Matrix Scholarship student, Alpha Bi, achieved an ATAR of 99.75, and graduated from James Ruse Agricultural High School. She achieved a 99th percentile in the UMAT exa
“Surprisingly, I found Year 12 to be generally an enjoyable experience – except the times of immense stress during the exam blocks. Although it feels like exams just keep coming, you actually have ample time if you remain composed and persistent, and the exams are over before you know it.”
“Like many others, I found difficulty in maintaining motivation throughout the year, and thus sticking to a study schedule was hard. This lead to a build-up of stress in the period just before exams. I managed to cope with this by setting a study timetable early on in the year, which I followed as best I could. When I found myself slipping, I would make up for it on the weekend. Closer to exams, however, instead of sticking to such a schedule, I made a checklist of the past exam papers I needed to complete. Ticking off my completed tests gave me a sense of accomplishment, and hence a little push in the right direction. Right before the exam – the most important thing is to be in a calm mindset – reassuring yourself that you have done enough (even if you think you haven’t), as nothing can be done now, apart from setting yourself in a good mood, free from unnecessary worry that would do more harm than good. A calm mind allows you to perform better in exams.
Another way to ensure you maintain your sanity is to keep your extracurricular activities! For me, sport is the best stress reliever, so I maintained school sports and sports outside of school. Not only are you maintaining your health, but if you are involved in a group sport, this other form of socialisation is great for your mental health. Obviously, participating in extracurricular activities whilst studying for the HSC is a balancing act. I was able to manage my time between studying and other commitments by fitting it all in my study timetable as it allowed me to visualise my time ahead and what had to be done – pushing me to be as productive as possible.”
Alpha shares more advice she followed to achieve an ATAR of 99.75 here.
2015 Matrix Graduate, Emma Chen achieved an ATAR of 99.85 and graduated from James Ruse Agricultural High School. She achieved a state ranking in Biology.
“I found studying with just a partner was an easier way to achieve the same results. You can have different study partners for each subject but make sure they’re as dedicated and motivated to study as you are or they might end up being a huge distraction. The best time to form study pairs is after you’ve done some individual study, for example, after reading through your study notes and completing a past paper, you might have some questions to discuss with your study partner. What group study can provide is a way for you to identify any gaps in your knowledge, and any areas you’ve successfully understood and remembered, as well as giving and receiving feedback.”
“While it is a personal choice, I think it’s beneficial to keep at least one activity that is not study-related and something that engages your whole body. Participating in weekly sports or joining a gym maintains your physical fitness and should be regarded as a break from your study, not something added onto the endless list of tasks to complete. Whilst it is incredibly important to study during the HSC year, there is more to life than study. Maintaining or even improving your overall health and well-being will benefit your academic performance, so keep this in mind if you’re deciding whether to give up extracurricular activities.”
Amanda Shi was a Matrix Scholarship holder and scored an ATAR of 99.85 when she graduated in 2020.
“I enjoy the occasional run and swim, and I like hanging out with my friends and family. I probably read less than I should, but I love getting stuck into a good book. I also am a terrible dancer and watch too much reality TV.”
During the term
My study routine during this year has been quite different with online classes.
It has definitely required more discipline and I found that setting alarms throughout the day to imitate the school bell has helped me stay on track.
I usually don’t have a fleshed out plan for the whole term, but rather every week.
I’ll have a homework list and an extra study list that I’ll update weekly to organise my priorities.
During my holidays
Unfortunately (and fortunately?), there is no one to wake you up or hassle you if you glaze over in an online class so I had to make sure I held myself accountable during the two weeks of holidays.
Alarms throughout the day were crucial for structuring my holiday studies during online Matrix lessons.
I will admit, there were some days when I would fall behind on homework, but I would make sure that I caught up over the weekend (in between my breaks, of course) to maintain the rhythm I had worked hard to start.
My schedule was simple; I followed the times of a normal Matrix day (3 lessons at 9:30 – 12:30 pm, 1:30 – 4:30 pm, 4:40 – 7:40 pm) and went to sleep at a time that would allow at least 8 hours of rest.”
I always use checklists!!
If nothing else, checklists help me remember everything I need to do (and is extremely satisfying to tick off), particularly when I’m stuck in a busy assessment block.
I like to use weekly checklists because I find it difficult to set in stone what I need to achieve in a day, so often I find myself carrying over tasks to the next day.
Every Sunday, I write a master list of everything and anything I need to address. I like to use the following headings to make it clear what I need to prioritise and how I should organise my schedule:
DAY TO BE COMPLETED
You can read more of Amanda’s hacks here and here.
Emily Dinh was a Matrix Scholarship student who graduated in 2020 with an ATAR of 99.05.
“Create weekly plans which can be divided into daily goals to maximise your time efficiency!
Assigning a few tasks to each day makes completing all tasks seem more achievable as there is constant progress.
Matrix holiday courses allowed me to stay on time with what I was learning at school. I attended the holiday courses for Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics Extension 2. This means that I had to stick to a strict study schedule each day to complete the daily lessons and homework efficiently as well as making summary notes for revision.
Attending the holiday courses might not be for everyone as they are faster paced and completing two or three subjects in the holiday courses may become overwhelming to stay on top of content, homework and summary notes. However, by completing three courses in the holidays, this freed up my school term to complete school work and revise for upcoming assessments without struggling to complete tutoring work.”
“Another strategy I used throughout the year was making revision notes as I progressed through the course.
I created a quick summary of what I had learnt at the end of each lesson.
This was a good way to revise lesson content and include any new tips the teacher would provide.
I also added side notes and annotations to my revision notes from what I learnt in practice papers. This means that my summary notes were always up to date and contained everything I needed to know or revise in preparation for exams.”
2016 Matrix Scholarship student, Supuli Ranasinghe, achieved an ATAR of 99.85, and graduated from James Ruse Agricultural High School. She achieved a 100th percentile in the UMAT exam.
“My HSC year was definitely busy and very demanding, so it was stressful, but it was also exciting and a lot of fun. There were certainly times leading up to the exams and assessments when I was nervous, stressing out and doubting myself. I found the best way to cope with these feelings was to be as prepared as possible. For me, that meant keeping up with my notes throughout Year 12, and constantly revising them throughout the year. I also completed a lot of practice questions, not only using homework questions, but also from past papers. Practising questions before exams gave me the confidence that I would know what to do during the exams. I also put a lot of effort into the internal assessment tasks every term. Knowing that I already had marks under my belt from these helped me calm down and remain focused going into the final HSC exams.
Taking time off from studying regularly also helped me deal a lot with the stress of the HSC, allowing me to recharge and approach my upcoming study with more energy. I certainly spent a lot of time studying, but I tried to be completely switched on and focused when I did study so I could be more efficient, and this gave me spare time to involve myself in extracurricular activities, community service, exercise and hobbies. Keeping organised, maintaining a study schedule and prioritising my tasks based on how important they were really helped me keep focused and stay motivated. By completing the goals I set for myself, I could readily involve myself in my other commitments without feeling guilty.”
Supuli offers the following advice to future students:
“The most important part of exam preparation is practising under timed conditions, since it allows you to consolidate your knowledge, realise what parts of the syllabus you need more revision on, and figure out how to pace yourself throughout the exam. This can be done by either completing practice questions or past papers. It is also really important to mark whatever practice questions that you do, either by asking a teacher for feedback, or using marking criteria, so that you know exactly which areas to improve on. Matrix is incredibly helpful in this regard, providing exceptional feedback on weekly quizzes and topic tests, so you know exactly what aspects of your study to focus on.”