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Muskaan’s Hacks: How I Use Journals to Stay Ahead for the HSC

In this article, Matrix Scholarship student Muskaan shares how she stays ahead with a journal system.

In this article, Matrix Scholarship student Muskaan Gupta shares how to use journals to stay ahead for the HSC.

Me, Myself and I


Muskaan Gupta


Baulkham Hills High School

University Course Goal:

Doctor of Medicine/Bachelor of Medical Studies at UNSW

ATAR Goal:


Dream Career and why:

Oncologist – I want to help cure patients affected by cancer and when a cure is not possible, I want to help improve the quality of life of these patients.


My HSC Subjects:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Mathematics Extension 1
  • Latin Continuers and Latin Extension
  • English Advanced
  • Accelerated Economics (2019)


My best performing subject is Economics because I achieved a Band 6 with a mark of 97 in the HSC in 2019

I definitely spent a lot of time studying for Economics in Year 11 since it was the only subject that “counted” towards my HSC. Having said that, I didn’t neglect my other subjects but it just meant that I spent a lot more time studying Economics.


Some study strategies that helped me achieve a Band 6 include:

I made sure to write detailed notes for each topic after we finished studying it at school.

For my notes, I liked to have my statistics in a different colour so that they would stand out and stick in my brain when I was studying them.

My teacher also gave us past HSC questions after we completed each topic (while I was lucky enough to have my teacher do this for me, this is something you can definitely do yourself – go through past HSC exams and note down the relevant questions for each topic!)

I made sure to hand-write responses to each question (to get used to how much space I would use and preparing my hand for long periods of writing) and I even got my teacher to mark questions that I wasn’t sure of/needed assistance with. I made sure to repeat this process until I had collated set of full mark responses to every single short answer question.

The essay component of the exam makes up 40% of the mark. This is a significant proportion of your mark and so it is absolutely necessary to practise essay writing under timed conditions. I would always write the first few essays open book not under timed conditions but recording how much time I took to write them.

When I got closer to the half-yearly exams and Trials, I made sure to write essays under timed conditions to get used to exam conditions. I also gave these essays to my teacher to get feedback to ensure that I was consistently improving upon my essays.


My worst performing subject is Maths because it was the subject in which I had the lowest rank

I have always struggled with Maths but I have definitely improved this year due to the extra effort I put in as well as the assistance received by the Matrix Term courses.

The biggest difficulty for me was the fact that I had no problem understanding the concepts in class but rather applying these concepts to harder exam-style questions that tend to appear at the end of exams.

The weekly Matrix quizzes, workbook and end of term topic tests exposed me to these harder exam-style questions and so I felt more confident approaching these questions in exams.


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How I use journals to stay ahead for the HSC

I like to use checklists because it sets out a clear goal of things I need to get done for each day.

Every Sunday, I create a master list of tasks I want to complete over the week and the days I expect to complete each task.

Breaking down tasks into smaller tasks (especially for assessments), makes the workload a lot more manageable. Usually, I break down tasks depending on their length and difficulty. For example:

  • If it is a long assignment comprised of different sections or parts, I will aim to complete one section of that assignment on a particular day.
  • Smaller tasks such as class homework can often be done in one sitting and don’t usually need to be broken up into smaller tasks.

Then, for each day, I write down the work I want to complete for that day.

Sometimes I don’t finish everything on my list – and that’s okay. You can always carry tasks over to the next day.

For each day, I also like to evaluate whether the tasks are important (I) and urgent (U). This helps me to prioritise my work and ensure I get the most important things completed each day.

This is an example from Term 1 this year:

image of muskaan's journal showing how i use journals to stay ahead

Journals are also a great way to look back at all the work you’ve done over the past year. Trust me – it’s extremely satisfying!


How I unwind and cope with stress

It’s impossible to be constantly working and studying and so it is essential to take time off for yourself.

Personally, I like to spend time with my friends and family.

These people are your best support networks during school.

Your friends are going through the same things as you and will understand how you feel. Just having a chat with your friends and family or going out to eat can be the perfect thing to take your mind off school.

Although, sometimes, you may want to be left alone – watching an episode of your favourite show on Netflix or reading another chapter of a book can be the perfect solution to unwind.


What’s your biggest regret? How would you avoid making it if you had your time again?

My biggest regret was quitting some of the extra-curricular activities I participated in Junior years such as band and cadets.

I thought these activities would take away study time and add to my workload but rather they do the opposite. In Year 11, I decided to get involved in other clubs at my school but to this day I still regret quitting some of my other extracurricular commitments.

I strongly urge you to keep at least 1-2 extra-curricular activities in your senior years at high school.

Extra-curricular activities are an excellent way to relieve stress and have some fun time off with your friends.


My Advice to Future Students

You must do these three things:

  1. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! This is something that you’ve probably heard multiple times in your life. But trust me – planning is an excellent way to ensure you stay on top of your workload and prepare for exams.
  2. Ask questions: Your teachers are here to help and want the best for you. If you are too nervous to ask during class, you can always go up to your teacher after class or during lunchtime. Just make sure you always clarify anything you don’t understand.
  3. Get involved in extracurricular activities: Extracurricular activities can improve your skills and help you relax after intensive study sessions.

You must never do these three things:

  1. Let past results weigh you down: While it is initially disappointing to receive low marks, these marks motivate you to do better next time. Rather than looking at the marks themselves, reflect on where you went wrong. Focus on how you can prevent these mistakes next time and take appropriate action to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes again.
  2. Make timetables with strict timing and scheduling: I’ve found 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 cause stress because you may not be able to finish your work in the allocated time. Rather, 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 school life and your life outside of school.

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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