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Muskaan’s Hacks: How I Prepared Early To Stay On Top Of The HSC And Score 99.60

Baulkham Hills and Matrix Student shares her best tip to manage time and prepare effectively for your HSC.

Struggling to manage your time and prepare adequately for your studies? Well, dont fear! In this article, Matrix Scholarship student Muskaan shares her best management tips that will help you prepare early to stay on top of the HSC.


Me, Myself, and I


Muskaan Gupta


Baulkham Hills High School





University goal:

Doctor of Medicine


A little about me

I am someone who really enjoys reading; I used to read a lot during junior years of high school. However, I haven’t really had the chance to do that in Year 11 and 12 but I am hoping to get back into it after HSC.

I also enjoy playing the flute. I was unable to join my school’s Beginner Band so I attended some lessons and watched YouTube videos so that I could join the school’s Junior Band in the following year.


My subjects

  • English Advanced
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics Advanced
  • Mathematics Extension 1
  • Latin Continuers
  • Economics (accelerated)


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My School life

This year, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Year 12 SRC at my school. I had a great time organising fun events for the school community!

I’ve also been an active member and leader of my school’s environmental based group, Green Group, which is focused on raising awareness about current environmental issues and holding fundraisers to support charities such as WWF.

My subjects didn’t change too much from Year 11 to Year 12 because I chose subjects that I genuinely enjoyed. However, I did do Latin Extension for Term 1 of Year 12, but I decided to drop it because I had too many units (I did Economics in 2019).



I am pro at:


I like that there is a systematic approach to study Maths and it is a subject where you can achieve high marks if you consistently practise.


I find the Chemistry content interesting and this makes me motivated to study for it.


I really enjoy learning Biology because it is so relevant. I often find myself telling my family about anything interesting I learn at school.


I struggle with:


I was doing well in English until Year 11, placing in the top 5 at my school in Year 9, 10 and 11. However, things took a turn for the worse in Year 12.

This was because I had trouble with the new syllabus, especially Module C, since I am not really a creative person.

However, over the year, my marks have improved as I have written practice essays and creatives which I have submitted to my school and Matrix teachers for feedback.


Studying another language is hard enough but Latin is especially difficult as it is a language that is no longer spoken. I’ve been taking this subject since Year 7 and I find it very interesting.

However, I still struggle with translating unseen sections but I’m getting better through extra practice!



How I Prepared Early to Stay on Top of the HSC

During the term

1. Sticky notes

I like to place sticky notes with the dates of my exams on the wall above my desk. This way I always know what my timeline is and what I am working towards (it’s also extremely satisfying to tear them off the wall once you’ve done the exam!)

2. Goals list

My study routine centres around a daily and weekly process. On Sunday night, I like to prepare a list of goals that I would like to achieve for the week. This is then translated onto a Google Sheet as shown below.


This method allows me to keep a record of what activities I’ve done. Thus, it allows me to plan the following week of study.

I’ve tried using a study timetable with strict times. However, this hasn’t worked well for me, since each day is so different. I like to be flexible with my study and focus on the areas of need as they arise.

3. Complete school homework at school

Another key component of my study timetable is that I ensure to complete school homework at school so that when I come home, I can focus on my weaker areas and revising content for exams.

I have found that doing Matrix’s Mathematics Extension 1 course during the term has really been beneficial for me.

I believe that Maths is all about distributed practice and revision and not really about learning content, and so the weekly lessons allow for this structured approach.


During my holidays

1. Matrix Holiday Course

Most of my holidays were spent at Matrix doing the holiday course for Chemistry and Biology.

Since these subjects are extremely content heavy, I find that a 9-day course that teaches the entire module saves me a lot of time in the school term.

I make sure to update my notes everyday after class so by the end of the holidays, I’ve already completed my notes for that Module.

The holiday course is also beneficial because it means that you can dedicate all your time in the school term to revising and doing past papers.

I also have the opportunity to come back on to campus and attend a one-to-one session with a tutor to clarify anything I don’t understand.

2. Spending time with friends and family 

However, the holidays are not just for studying. They are also a well-deserved break from school.

On the weekend between the first and second week of the holidays, I like to take some time away from school and study and spend time with my family.



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Staying on top

I fight distractions by…

Turning off notifications on my phone and deleting social media in the lead up to exams.

I also leave my phone in a different room to the one I am studying in so that I am not tempted to check it.


I keep healthy by

Walking 1 km in the morning to the station instead of taking the bus. Not only is this beneficial for my health but it was a great way to reflect and think about life!

I also like to include regular exercise in my schedule which includes following a workout video on YouTube.

I’ve limited the amount of junk food I eat. I aim to eat two pieces of fruit a day and I eat salads on a regular basis.



My secrets to exam preparation

I use my school calendar to know approximately when exam blocks are situated in the term. This allows me to plan my study accordingly.



I like to finish my notes as early as possible.

I do this by updating my notes on a regular basis rather than leaving them last minute.

I used to really like handwriting notes. However, due to the amount of content in Year 12, I have found that this is not feasible.

Instead, I type my notes up making sure to include the relevant syllabus point at the start of each section.



After completing my notes, I like to source other material such as exam papers or textbooks.

The Matrix quizzes and topic tests are also great for revision as there are not that many resources available for the new Science and Maths syllabus.

My school also provides me with trial papers from other schools.



I like to do practice questions in the areas that I am most weak as I will see the biggest improvement in those sections.

At the start of my study for exams, I do untimed papers so that I can get familiar with different types of questions.

Closer to the exams, I do these papers under time to simulate the conditions of the real exam.



My subject hacks

English Advanced

1. Read texts

First and foremost, I always read my English texts. This may seem straightforward, but many students do not do this.

2. Summary notes

After reading the text, I create summary notes.

This allows me to draw links between themes and gather importance evidence.

I structure my summary notes in a quote, technique, effect table.


3. Write body paragraphs for different themes 

I then write body paragraphs for each theme which I submit to my teachers.

This ensures that I have sufficient analysis in my paragraphs.

I then use these paragraphs as a basis for practice essay responses.

4. Get feedback

I often send these responses to my Matrix and school teachers.

It’s important to take this feedback on board because it can add extra depth to your essays.

4. Plan essays instead of writing whole essays

A tip that I have found helpful in my preparation is doing essay plans instead of writing out whole essays.

This way you also get to tackle lots of different questions.


Maths Extension 1

1. Summary notes for key formulas

I am someone who likes to write quick summary notes for Mathematics.

These are not detailed notes but just a quick overview of key formulas.

I often stick these on my wall above my desk so that I can easily access them.

2. Practice with a variety of questions

I think the best way to study for Maths is to do lots of questions.

This exposes you to different types of questions so when you go into the exam you won’t be asked something that you haven’t seen before – they’ll be the same types of questions, just with different values.

3. Do past papers

Quite often, the hardest question in Maths is usually the last one.

I find that doing practice papers helps to improve my speed (while still maintaining accuracy) so that I can leave as much time as possible for the last question.


Biology and Chemistry

These are two of my most content heavy subjects.

So, I ensure that I finish my notes for each module as early as possible.

Since I am a visual learner, I find that using whiteboards to draw diagrams really helps me remember the key information.

I have found that the best way to learn content for science is just to do lots of questions. It’s a way to learn the theory but you are also exposed to the types of exam questions that are asked.



I completed the HSC Economics course in 2019 and I achieved a mark of 97.

This may sound repetitive but the key factor that led to my success was just doing heaps of practice.

From what I remember, by the time the HSC came around I had written practice responses to almost every single HSC short answer question since 2001.

I had also given in multiple essays to my teacher to mark.


My achievements

I was really proud to be selected by my school to participate in the Mitchell Youth Leadership Forum where I got to meet many students from other schools and hear inspirational stories.

I was also extremely grateful to be elected as an SRC representative for my grade.


My regrets

I regret not continuing some of the extracurricular activities I had joined in junior years (such as Band and Cadets).

I think it’s important to have a balance between study and your social life so if I could go back and change those things, I would.


My advice to future Year 12 students

Don’t be disheartened. There is always a path for you to achieve your dreams. Sometimes you might just have to take the long route!


3 things you must do in Year 12

1. Plan, plan, plan!

This is something you’ve probably heard many times in your life.

But trust me – planning is an excellent way to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed with work and to stay on top of exam preparation.

2. Ask questions

I used to be extremely shy in junior years. However, I’ve learnt that there is no such thing as a stupid question.

At the end of the day, your efforts will determine your marks so make sure you always clarify if you don’t understand anything.

If you’re too nervous to ask during class, you can always ask your teachers at lunchtime!

3. Get involved in extracurricular activities

These activities can improve skills that are needed for jobs and interviews and help you relax after intensive study sessions.


3 things you must not do in Year 12

1. Let past results weigh you down

Yes, it’s okay to be sad about getting a low mark.

However, you should use these marks as a motivation to do better next time.

Reflect on where you went wrong and how you can prevent these mistakes next time.

2. Make timetables with strict timing

I’ve found that no two days are ever exactly the same. Making a timetable with strict timings (e.g. saying that every Monday you will study Maths from 5:30 – 6:30) can add to stress because you may not be able to finish your work in the allocated time.

Instead, create a list of things you need to work on each day and check them off as you go.

3. Say no to going out

Your social life is just as important as your academic life. It is important for your mental health to maintain a balance between your school life and life outside of school.


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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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