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Rosanna’s Hacks: How to State Rank ALL Your Accelerated Courses

Rosanna Xu scored two state ranks for her HSC. In this article, she shares how you can do it, too!

In this article, Rosanna Xu shares her tips for how to state rank all your accelerated courses.


Me, Myself, and I


Rosanna Xu



Baulkham Hills High School


University Course Goal:

  • B Science (H)/B Science: a double degree majoring in Physics and Psychology.
  • B Engineering (H)/B Science: a double degree majoring in Mechatronics and Psychology




My HSC Subjects

  • Japanese Continuers
  • Japanese Extension
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics Extension 2
  • English Advanced
 Best Performing SubjectWorst Performing Subject
Last Year (2018)Accelerated HSC Japanese
Two State Ranks: 2nd in Japanese Continuers
5th in Japanese Extension
Preliminary Physics
This Year (2019)HSC Physics (internal rank 3 at Baulkham Hills High School)HSC English

I did the best for Japanese and Physics because I consistently went above and beyond

I was actually very bad at both Japanese and Physics at first. For Japanese, I was not naturally gifted at grasping the language and qualitative multilingual essay-style questions in the syllabus. My teacher often criticised my work in front of the whole class and my marks were terrible, even though I was trying my best. However, I took my teacher’s harsh evaluation as a sign that she was extremely invested in my work, rather than an excuse to accept defeat. By appreciating my teacher’s criticism, I was able to find more motivation to try even harder, so as not to forsake her dedication to my education.

In Year 11, it was my worst subject. I was seriously considering dropping it in Year 12. Physics was much the same.

However, I found my inspiration in the Summer holidays of 2018. I attended a free head-start lecture for HSC Physics, and found someone that showed me the beauty of Physics. He was a catalyst for me to pick up my game. I found myself thinking, how could I willingly give up on a course as wonderful as Physics?

So, I transformed my passion into productivity. I filled the cracks in my wall of knowledge with bricks and mortar, one stone at a time. Persevering regardless of rain or shine, failure or success. Even when my wall was as stable, sturdy, and sizeable as others’ I didn’t pause or stop. I kept building my wall larger and stronger.

The Matrix Physics HSC Preparation course was also really useful because it illuminated any remaining gaps in my knowledge and made me more confident for the HSC.



I did the worst for Prelim Physics and HSC English because I worked on them the least

There’s no trick to it, you get out what you put in. Everything else is just an excuse. Sure, I can blame my poor performance on HSC English being compulsory or Yr 11 Physics being too hard, but the core truth is that I chose not to prioritise them.


My Regrets

I don’t regret anything, because every mistake I make is a learning opportunity and therefore a blessing in disguise for me.

My biggest mistake was not prioritising English enough, and I highly encourage everyone reading this to learn with me from this mistake.

English is a skills-based subject, you can’t wing it in Year 11 and expect to do well in Year 12.

In the beginning, I thought that since I never had trouble with English in Junior High School, I should be able to easily maintain an above grade average in HSC English.

Whilst that did prove true, I had severely underestimated – or rather chosen to ignore, the profound impact English has on your final ATAR. English is compulsory, but most people neglect it.

This means that improving your English mark even by a few points above average will greatly increase your rank and final ATAR.


The perks and challenges of doing an accelerated course (or two 😉)

First, doing an accelerated course is an investment for your future.

Perks (Advantages) Challenges (Disadvantages)
Time and StressYou will have more time and less stress next yearYou will be more stressed and have less time this year

Since your accelerated HSC subjects take priority, it becomes extremely easy to neglect your Year 11 coursework!

For example, 1 language course has 2 exams at each assessment period (one speaking and one listening/reading/writing). I accelerated two language courses simultaneously and our school had ‘exam leave’ the day before and periods leading to our exam. Therefore I was missing about two whole weeks of Yr 11 content every assessment period!

ExperienceYou will be more experienced than your peers in Year 12, as you are already familiar with the pacing and stressors of the HSC year.This year, you will be competing with others far more experienced than you.

However, luckily, you, as an accelerated student have much more time and energy than the burnt-out Year 12s to invest in this subject

LearningYou can undertake more HSC courses in total and, hence, learn more.

This may not sound like a good thing now, but think of High School as free education sponsored by the government (if you go to a public school).

Later on your education won’t be free :,(

If you don’t like learning… It is because of one of two reasons:

1. You have the wrong teacher(s): The teachers at Matrix inspire their students to learn by sharing the allure and benefits of learning a particular subject.
2. You have the wrong mindset: Learning describes a process of growth and accumulating knowledge of interest. To learn you should seek out parts of the subject that interest you, and use that to guide your studies.

Now, time for the juicy bit, How to State Rank ALL Your Accelerated Subjects.

In Year 11 I surpassed my Year 12 competitors and achieved a State 2nd in Japanese Continuers and 5th in Japanese Extension.

I credit my huge success to the skills and exam techniques I had acquired over the year. I’m going to share that with you now.

How I managed to ace the accelerated process ties in very closely to my advice for future students:

  1. Three Things to Learn
  2. How to Implement them

Three things to learn!

1. Time Management

Taking on an accelerated course means you must balance HSC content with Yr 10/11 courses. Especially for Yr11, the Yr12 exams are segmented in a frustrating way that as soon as Yr12 exams end, Yr11 exams start, and vice versa. In order words, you get no break, so be sure to take regular breaks to avoid burnout.

HOWEVER, also note that, being an accelerated student, time is to your advantage

The Year 12s have at least 10 HSC units to study for, while you only have 2-3. Although Yr11 content should be thoroughly completed, most of your free time ought to be spent on your HSC units.

2. Reduce Stress

Stress makes you anxious, prone to silly mistakes, and altogether costs you both marks and mental health.

3. Find your Inspiration or Passion & Enjoy it!

You should treat it as a blessing if your school allows you to undertake accelerated courses.

If accelerated courses did not exist, I may have never chosen 3 units of Japanese in Yr 12 (for fear of time restraints). That means I wouldn’t have been able to relish in the sensation of learning a third language, and comparing the Japanese culture with my Chinese and English background.

Even if it is your parents that have forced you to take an accelerated course, it is ultimately YOUR life. You can choose to be miserable and hate your life for a whole year. OR you can find something about the subject you’re interested and passionate about, and use it as fuel to ignite productivity and make the most of your life.


How can you practice these skills to boost my marks?

First of all, I’m going to introduce my concept of “compound activities”.

“What are compound activities?” you ask.

‘Compound activities’ are practices that achieve multiple objectives at the same time, and are especially useful when you’re short on time – like accelerated students are.

For example, I listened to Japanese music, wrote diary entries in Japanese, etc. to almost imperceptibly consolidate my understanding of Japanese (see images below).


I’d write my diary entries in Japanese and listen to Japanese music.

Doing this connected my education to real-life applications.

This has been scientifically proven to improve memory.

Don’t worry, even other more abstract subjects such as Maths or Physics can be applied to daily life.

For example in understanding the probability of rain or why, if you lean too far back on your chair, the torque will become unbalanced and you will fall over!


Here are some of the other practices that helped me succeed

Bullet Journalling (Time Management and De-stressing, a compound activity!)

I enjoyed bullet journaling as simultaneously a creative outlet to reduce stress, and an organisational device to improve productivity.


Staying organised and filing things

An organised life allows you to be more productive. Here’s a small sample of the minimum amount of work you should be doing for your HSC.


These are my notes for Japanese Continuers and Extension only: Essays and Comprehension Tests

Fuel your motivation. (Finding your Inspiration and Reducing Stress).

I have found that, especially near the end of the year, motivation begins to wane and a lot of students begin to burn out or give up.

So, instead of relying solely on internal willpower for motivation, I recommend finding external sources of motivation as well. This can be friends in study groups, but for the introverts among us (😉like me), I recommend sticking up inspirational posters or quotes on your walls.


Whenever I felt drained, my eyes would flitter to an encouraging poster that reignited my passion and reminded me that I was studying so hard because I loved the subject and that I would be so proud of myself if I persevered just a little longer.



Treat Yourself (Reducing Stress and Enjoying the Year)

Learning is fun. When you’re low on morale, cheer yourself up by doing something you love.

It’s ok, as long as these treats come with moderation, you’re not lazy for taking a break. Maybe it is something like an episode of your favourite TV show (as long as you’re sure you can control yourself and stop after just one episode).

I would go for a jog in the park while calling a close friend or listening to my favourite songs. Occasionally, I would also buy bubble tea on the way to Matrix 🥰.


Chewing gum or Aromatherapy (Reducing Stress)

Here’s my hidden hack, chew gum! Research has shown that chewing gum can relieve anxiety, reduce stress, and improve mental concentration. My favourite flavours are Extra’s Peppermint and Lemon-lime sugarfree chewing gum.

Alternatively, if you don’t like the taste or texture of gum, I recommend aromatherapy in the form of chamomile tea, or lavender essence.


The smell of chamomile and lavender is believed to calm the mind and help promote feelings of relaxation and ease.

My “pre-game” Exam Tips

Plan how you will use the exam time

For example, the Japanese Continuers exam is 2 hours 50 minutes, with 10 minutes reading time. So, I’d do the following:

  1. In reading time, instead of reading ‘Section 1: Listening’ first I would actually read ‘Section 2: Reading’ and ‘Section 3 Writing’ because (1) the passages in Section 2 and 3 were longer and required more attention to detail and (2) I would have ample time in the listening section (with the audiotape) to read the questions for Section 1.
  2. Even though the NESA paper recommended 30 minutes for Section 1, most Japanese students and myself included would spend at least 40 minutes on this section, and even up to 45minutes, to ensure our responses to the listening section was perfect. We can’t come back to the listening section after Sections 2 and 3 because we would have forgotten the content of the audiotapes.
  3. Then I’d allocate 1 hour for Section 2, 1 hour for Section 3, and last 10 minutes for checking.

This technique can be applied to all subjects. Let me explain what I mean. In the NESA HSC paper, there is a recommended length of time for each section.

Here is an example using the new Physics exam:


The NESA guidelines are a good place to start with forming your exam time management plan.

The recommended length of time can be further broken down into, for example in the image above, roughly 9 minutes per question with a minute spare.

However, because the earlier questions are usually easier and therefore quicker to complete. I would suggest completing the earlier questions earlier so that you have at least 10 minutes to check.

When you’re checking over your work, go in with the mindset that you HAVE made silly mistakes and are trying to find them, instead of the mindset that assumes you’ve already gotten everything right and are just “double-checking” out of obligation.


Make a cheat sheet!

ALWAYS make a personalised ‘cheat sheet’ of the common mistakes YOU make. Reread this several times the night before and the day of your exam.

  1. For example, I often confused the prepositions of「で」and「に」so I had a couple of sample sentences of “de” and “ni” used in different contexts.
  2. I would also always read the back of the Matrix theory books for more exam and study advice (like glossaries and guides).


Want the confidence to ace the HSC like Rosanna?

Studying shouldn’t stop because you’re at home! With Matrix+, we provide you with clear and structured online lesson videos, quality resources, and forums to ask your Matrix teachers questions and for feedback.

Learn more about our Matrix+ Online Physics course now.



Three things you must never do!

1. Never give up

Especially near the end, it becomes so easy to give in and say, ahh I have another shot later in Year 12. Or “this subject won’t count anyway”.

No matter what you’re feeling, never ever give up!

Even if it doesn’t count, your efforts will NOT be put to waste. And you never know, with all the added stresses of year 12, this subject very well could count!

2. Never underestimate the HSC.

I don’t care how high your internal rank is. I don’t care how well your school has done in previous HSC years. If you don’t work hard, you will get a poor mark, and that’s that. In order to achieve a mark you are proud of, you MUST give it your all!

Take breaks, go out with friends – don’t sacrifice your mental or physical wellbeing – but when it is time to study you must study!!

I cannot stress this enough, you canNOT rely on your school, peers, or scaling to pull you up. It’s actually horribly unfair to your friends if this is your mentality.

3. Never be afraid to ask for help.

If you’re mentally exhausted, take a day off and ask your friends to send you notes.

If you don’t understand a concept even though your teacher just explained it for the 5th time, ask again (or ask someone else, research on the internet or through your textbooks).


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!


© Matrix Education and, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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