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Jason’s High School Hacks: Tips For Year 12 Students

In this post, Jason Wan gives his High School Hacks for cruising to an ATAR of 99.75.

Me, Myself, and I

Name: Jason Wan

School: The King’s School

Grade: Year 12 (2017)

ATAR: 99.75

University Course: Bachelor of Medicine at The University of New South Wales

A Little About Me:

My name is Jason, I love a good game of chess. Enjoy casual volleyball, cricket and football. I have recently gotten back into reading. I’m currently into “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

HSC Results
Course Exam Mark Course Place
Chemistry 94% 2/54
English Advanced 83% 12/176
Mathematics Extension 1 94% 3/69
Mathematics Extension 2 98% 2/24
Physics 94% 3/67

My School Life


My subjects:

Year 11 – English Advanced, English Extension 1, Mathematics Extension 1 and 2, Chemistry, Physics, Software Design & Development.

Year 12 – English Advanced, Mathematics Extension 1 and 2, Chemistry, Physics.


 I’m pro at:

  • Chemistry – I enjoy the logical component of Chemistry (such as chemical equations, effects of Chemistry on society/industry, etc.). I also have great Chemistry teachers at Matrix!

  • Mathematics – Maths has always been a favourite subject of mine, as I enjoy solving complex questions. The Matrix Extension 2 course has been great for challenging logical reasoning and creative problem-solving.

  • Physics – Similarly to Chemistry, Physics has been a subject where logic plays a crucial role. Personally, it is much easier to remember the various laws of Physics (eg. relating to gravity, electromagnetism, etc.) if you understand the logical reasoning that lies behind them. Some new knowledge, especially relating to quantum physics, has made Physics very enjoyable to study and motivates me to succeed further.

I struggle with:

  • English Advanced – While I have improved my English ranks, they are still not where they could be. English has always been a hot-cold subject for me, with my marks fluctuating. In the past, my inability to mould essays to given questions meant I was constantly producing work which did not attack the main arguments. I have made changes to my essay-writing approach over my final year, taking on a more structured approach compared to the almost free-styling essays I have created in my younger years. The Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English was a handy resource for me. I will be waiting for my trials’ results to see if my efforts have paid dividends.


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My Routine

My holidays:

In year 12, school holidays are a vital time if you intend to get ahead of your cohort. I spend most of my holidays attending the Matrix Holiday Accelerated Courses, and dedicate any remaining time to private study or relaxation. By attending the Matrix Holiday Physics and Chemistry courses, I was able to get ahead of my cohort with advanced completion of content before it’s taught at school. This allowed to me to focus on sharpening my exam skills with HSC exam paper practices during the term.

While I did have a study schedule, I stuck loosely to it as I completed some areas faster, while other areas needed additional time. My daily rhythm depended on the week – some weeks I was doing Chemistry, while others I was doing maths alongside HAC Physics.

Study often involved revising content using Matrix books and online resources, then completing past papers. For Mathematics, I would complete 2-3 past papers a day, depending on time. I make it a priority to practise my exam technique, which involved significant time restraints (e.g. Completing 4U exam in 2 hours). This technique would be what I later be used in the actual trials.

On the weekend, I would allocate the day for UCAT (previously UMAT) practice, doing drills and past exams. Approaching the end of the holidays, I would be editing and learning English paragraphs/quotes, in preparation for the Trials.

Image: My Rough Holiday Timetable – It’s not a perfect representation of what I did every day, but I stuck to the structure and timing.

During the term:

Having a routine during the term was essential to organising my time and work. As I participate in many extra-curricular activities, I needed to allocate my time well in order to complete school-work and additional study. In addition, I attended Maths Extension 2 and English Advanced Term Courses.

Image: My Term Timetable

  • School work – Any work from school, involves assignments, class-work, etc. If no school work, I do additional study.
  • Matrix work – Homework from Term Maths Ext 2 class. Usually able to finish within two nights.
  • Study – Ranges across all subjects. The subject I study depends on the time – e.g if a Chemistry prac exam is coming up, more time goes towards Chemistry, etc. It is important to plan out future assessments to be able to organise study times.


I fight distractions by:

My biggest distraction would be my computer. I have a desktop PC which is an incredible resource for study, but it also leads to procrastination easily. In Year 11, I would be constantly on social media and emails, as all it needed was the click of a button.

To combat these distractions, I have developed some sense of self-control. When the time for study/work has arrived, the internet is turned off and the browser is closed. Online resources are downloaded prior to study to minimise distraction.

I also remove bookmarks and auto-complete on the web browser, to force my future self to manually type in the web address of procrastination sites. This has proven strangely effective!

I also:

I participate in many extra-curricular activities throughout the year through King’s.

  • I have compulsory sport throughout the week with a competitive match on the weekend.
  • I have taken part in football, badminton, cricket and volleyball.
  • I have also been part of the King’s chess team, captaining it in Year 11 during the NSWJCL competition on Friday nights.
  • I have undertaken Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh activities;
  • I also participate in Cadets, attaining rank of Warrant Officer class 2 over the years.

I believe, extra-curricular activities should be seen as an aid to your studies, not a distraction. I would encourage you to participate in as many activities as you physically can, as they can open your eyes to new experiences and people!

  • Sport is an amazing way of finding new hobbies and taking your mind off school.
  • Contributing to your community, such as in Cadets, can be so fulfilling. I’d recommend anyone who has the time and patience to try and complete the Gold Duke of Edinburgh.
  • One component of the program is an ‘Adventurous Journey’, where you must take on an experience you have never had before. For me, it was sailing in New Caledonia, and the memories I have made over that trip will stay with me for ever.

Even from an academic perspective, doing an extra-curricular activity will benefit your studies. Participating in physical exercise at least once a week, especially in a team sport, will get the adrenaline flowing, brain firing, and help improve your mental state.

Exam Preparation

I Prepare for Exams by:

For my trials, my exam preparation began weeks before the holidays. My exam preparation was as follows:

1. Preparation (a few weeks before Holidays, preferably early Term 2)

  • Ask teachers about what will be assessed.
  • Establish your current knowledge vs required knowledge.
  • Outline areas that need improvement.
  • Then, construct a spreadsheet/document of topics you need to revise/learn over all subjects.
  • For example, in Maths Extension 2 I outlined the Harder Extension 1 topic as an area of improvement, as I had lost 7 marks in the Half-Yearly due to this.


2.  Resources (during Term 2, early Holidays)

  • Once you know the areas of improvement, you should now be looking for resources which teach and reinforce these concepts.
  • Prime targets here are teachers, past papers, friends and books (I used Matrix Theory/Work books which were great for efficient study).
  • If you can identify weaknesses now and notify your teacher/tutor, you will be able to consolidate knowledge easier.


3. Practice (Holidays)

  • Holiday study should be spent doing past papers or practice questions.
  • For Maths, past papers are essential to mastering all possible questions and exam techniques.
  • For Chemistry/Physics, long responses should be worked on with past papers taking a secondary role.


My Achievements

  • Scoring in the 100th Percentile for UMAT (now UCAT)!
  • Completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh;
  • Achieved the rank of WO2 (Warrant Officer 2) in Cadets;
  • Captaining 2nds TKS Volleyball Team;
  • Credit in UNSW Maths Competition (I didn’t even understand what some of the questions were saying);
  • Being chosen to work with Matrix as a Scholarship Student for a 2nd year;
  • Part of Kings Chess team which placed 3rd at GPS Chess Competition (highest placement for our school in recent years);
  • Assisting my year from preparation of student-led seminars.

My Regrets

Academically, I regret my lack of work on English. I should have dedicated more time to changing how I approached English, rather than leave the experimentation up to my HSC year.

I wish someone told me this earlier – academic studies aren’t everything. Get out and enjoy the sunshine!

If I could start the year again – I would have organised my English essays much earlier. Draft multiple essays for each Module!


My Advice to Future Year 12 Students

My advice would be to live a balanced life in your senior years of high school and not allow study to devour every aspect of your life.

Three things you MUST do at the beginning of Year 12:

  1. Treat Year 11 as a year for experimentation. Try all sorts of study habits, extra curricular activities, subject selections etc. Year 11 is the time for figuring out what works and what doesn’t. For example, I found that 10 units suited my personality best as I enjoyed the extra time to study.

    While Year 11 does ‘matter’, it does not affect your HSC so do not be too emotionally attached to your results. Focus on improving and let the marks count themselves. For me, Year 11 was a “You-can-do-it” year. I used the year to prove to myself concretely that I was able to engage in a study plan, follow it, and achieve success – I ended up 2nd overall in my year.

  2. Establish relationships! Talk to new people, including your peers, and your teachers. Don’t get lost in your study – seek new opportunities and friends. While the HSC is a big part of your near-future, remember that it is only a gateway. My relationship with Matrix as a scholarship student only came about due to an active search for such opportunities.

  3. Ask “Why?” This is so helpful in advancing your knowledge about certain concepts. Don’t be afraid of putting your hand up and asking “Why does that occur?”, or “Why doesn’t it do this instead?” Especially in the sciences, knowing the fundamental axioms which contribute to new-found knowledge will help you understand and retain that insight.

    Too often I see peers who are afraid to ask questions, leading to wasted time and energy. Your teachers, tutors, and friends are all resources waiting to be utilised. The true litmus test of whether or not you understand some concept is your ability to answer that question, “Why?”, in a succinct and detailed manner.


Three things you MUST NOT do at the beginning of Year 12:

  1. Do NOT be complacent. It is dangerous to assume that your efforts are “good enough”. In Year 11 and 12, your peers will begin to raise the bar in terms of work and effort as deadlines approach. It’s easy to reach the top, but it’s incredibly hard to stay there.

    Personally, Years 7-10 were forgettable in terms of academic effort – I was not concerned with my rankings, nor should you be. However, in Years 11 and 12, rankings become increasingly relevant in terms of HSC performance.

    One thing you will find is that all your peers will jump up a notch as you approach the HSC. Take it as a challenge and stay ahead, but remember that it can be a team sport.

  2. Do NOT isolate yourself! Find friends and form study groups. Competition within your peers is beneficial as it pushes everyone to achieve greater results, which will help boost your final marks.

  3. Do NOT miss out on the other aspects of school life. Often you can get so caught up with marks, assignments and rankings that you forget what actually matters. Get out and be involved within your school and your community.

    Your identity shouldn’t just be about exams and marks – join a community, find a hobby, learn a skill. The Duke of Edinburgh program is my recommendation, but it is one of many which will help expand your development from an adolescent into adulthood.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a Matrix scholarship student? Learn more about our scholarship program and the application process, here.

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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