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Stephanie’s Journey: How I Switched to a Selective School in Year 10

Do you want to switch to a selective school, but are unsure of how to lift your study game to do it? In this article, Stephaine shares her hacks for how she improved her marks and study habits to switch to Fort St in Year 10.

In this article, Matrix student Stephaine Banh shares how she changed up her study to habits and switched to a selective school in Year 10!


Stephanie’s Journey: How I Switched to a Selective School in Year 10


Stephanie Banh



  • Former: Sefton High School
  • New: Fort Street High School (starting in Term 1 2021)


Dream Uni course:

Bachelor of Actuarial Studies


Dream career:

Being an actuary!

I have developed a strong passion for mathematics. The ability to quantify what I am learning is intellectually stimulating, it incites me to challenge and extend myself beyond the curriculum. By being an actuary, I hope to be able to passionately apply mathematical skills to advise leaders making important decisions for our national economy.



I wanted to change to a selective school because…

1. A good learning environment is key to success.

I often discover that sitting in a classroom with motivated students propel me to do my best. Being in a full selective school means that students are more dedicated and inclined to want success.

As a result, it is a competitive environment that provides a plethoric amount of opportunities for growth!


2. There are more opportunities.

The ability to apply for better schools is an opportunity in itself…which should never be denied.

Fort Street offers an abundance of co-curricular activities such as robotics, sport (including ice skating!), and competitions that are intellectually stimulating.

Technology also forms the basis of education at this new school, which I have spent my previous years wishing for.


My High School goals are

1. State rank Ext 1 and 2 Maths in the HSC.

Setting goals that are only achievable if you invest time and effort into achieving consistent results is a motivating factor.


2. Maintain a balance between studies, sports and social life.

Having this balance stabilises your mental wellbeing- crucial to your performance in the HSC


3. Having a good relative performance across all subjects.

Having the ability to choose the subjects to my preference in Year 11 helps me stay motivated and do well!



Previously, I was studying the wrong way…

1. Neglecting my diary

I often neglected to use a diary, thinking it takes too much effort to carry that extra weight around everyday.

As a result, I was unorganised, forgetting important due dates, cramming and panicking.

I also made study notes roughly 2 weeks before my exams.

Consequently, that left me with utterly no time to actually revise and concrete my understanding of the content. Instead, I rote learned and hoped for the best.


2. Solely focusing on enjoyable subjects

Prior to my journey to getting into a selective school, I spent countless hours working late into the night on subjects I genuinely enjoyed doing.

By focusing on improving on subjects that I wasn’t necessarily struggling with, I let other important subjects sink lower and lower.

In doing so, there was a very unbalanced report that landed into my parents’ hands every semester.



But then I changed how I planned and studied…

1. Developing a routine

I started by developing a routine.

This starts by having a consistent sleep schedule.

I know…we all love to stay up past 12 and then complain about not having enough sleep the following morning (because I was guilty of that too).

However, I discovered that studying in the mornings is often more productive for me.

As a result, I would have most of my assigned work completed by early afternoon, leaving the rest of the day to play sports or spend time socialising.


2. Using planners (and a whiteboard!)

I got myself a planner and a whiteboard!

  • Monthly calendar: important events (e.g. exam, excursion)
  • Weekly calendar: assigned tasks (e.g. homework, reminders)


I often find that whiteboards come most handy during exam periods.

Having the exam timetable written in the corner makes it accessible and helps me plan which subjects to prioritise accordingly.

Flow diagrams, key points, formulae, mistakes are just a few ways you can maximise your studies through whiteboards!



For my techie readers, ‘Microsoft To Do’ is a great app for planning and organising.




I improved my study practice for English by:

Prior to this journey, I had not placed much importance on English. I often found it too subjective for my liking.

As a result, I sat at an average of 16/20 for my analytical and creative tasks.

After applying these following changes to my study, I received a solid 19/20 for my recent assessment.


1. Be open to criticism

As a response to disappointment, I often disregarded the feedback and dwelled on the mark.

However, as my Matrix English Teacher, Patrick Condliffe says:

“The practice will make you a good writer, the feedback and criticism will make you a better one.”

I would send drafts and re-drafts of my teacher at Matrix and by closely applying each criticism, it has made me a stronger writer.

The teachers at Matrix are dedicated to helping you achieve your goals. They work overtime, even during holidays, to provide feedback for improvement


2. Have a versatile essay

Memorising an essay seems like a safe route. However, it confined me to an essay that does not suit the exam question.

Instead, I drafted a versatile essay to better adapt the essay to suit the unseen question.

I only memorised the exact wording of quotes with its respective technique.

However, I left the thesis, statement and effect open-ended so that I could rework it during the exam to ensure I always answered the question.


INTRO (thesis)
Composers, influenced by [context/how question refers to context], reinforce [keywords from question about values] + link to human condition

INTRO (introduce text)
Shakespeare, motivated by the social and political turmoil of the 1600s Renaissance England, encourages audiences through time to critically reflect upon our tendency to purpose individual ambitions at the extent of [compromising their integrity/psychological stability].




3. Have a personal voice

Before submitting work for feedback, ensure that all essential features in the module statement have been addressed.

That way, teachers can provide feedback on how you can improve your cohesion, strengthening your argument and developing your personal voice.

Having an essay backed up with articulated personal opinion presents a genuine impression on the marker.

As such, marks are rewards because it sets you apart from the cohort.



I improved my study practice for Maths by:

1. Getting ahead

We often do not invest enough effort into tutoring, thinking “it doesn’t count towards anything”.

However, being attentive at tutoring had made it seem like revision when I re-learn the topics at school. Instead of grasping the concept, I would work towards improving my speed and accuracy.

I’ve learned it is also important to pay attention to the way your school wants you to word certain phrases, especially in geometry reasoning.


2. Practice, practice, practice

The only way to get better at maths is through practice.

Think about maths as a skill of being able to quickly identify the solutions then choosing the most efficient method. Completing a variety of questions allows you to become more comfortable with knowing which solution to use for a given question.

Practice builds confidence.

Previously, I stressed myself out before the exam which made silly mistakes more likely to occur.

However, these silly mistakes can be minimised by jotting down your mistakes, even if they’re minor.




3. Seek a challenge!

I often found that the homework given at school lacked difficulty.

Instead, I would reach out to my teachers at school, outside of class hours for extension work.

By being exposed to challenging questions, it helped me tackle the higher-level questions in the exam.

This way, I would only worry about losing marks for silly mistakes!



I improved my study habits for Science by:

1. Rote learning is not enough

Understanding the concept is MORE important than memorising the content.

Science tests how well you know the concept, rather than how much you know about it.

With understanding, comes the ability to extensively provide the links and relationships between variables.

I often found that writing out my notes helped me contain and grasp the concept. I also invested time into doing research in order to build a more extensive understanding.




2. Basics before complexity

Science has always been very complex to me.

However, I realised that not understanding the basic principles of the concept (e.g. electron behaviour) made it merely impossible to understand the more complex functions of it (e.g. how bonds are formed).

Since Science is a very content-heavy subject, it leaves no time for revision.

Thus, it is important to take the initiative to revise and keep updating your study notes because it is just an extension of what you have previously learnt.



I’m really looking forward to starting at my new school because

There are a plethora of new opportunities awaiting to be taken up.

Philosophy, for one, is a subject that Fort Street offers. As far as books about philosophy take you, it doesn’t beat structured lessons and qualified teachers.

On top of the much expected stress in Year 11, taking up philosophy balances it out.



But I’m also a little nervous because…

I am new to how Fort Street structures their learning.

In addition, I’m entering a vastly competitive cohort.

With these combined factors, I’ve come to wrap my head around the fact that my first few assessments may not result in my best performances.



I wish I would have known these three things before I started this journey!

1. Focusing on the feedback is much more important than the marks.

It is easy to feel let-down when you have given it your best effort but have not been rewarded so.

Feedback is only useful when it is applied.


2. Keep a balanced lifestyle

Approaching senior years, I have tried to give up sports to devote my time to JUST studying… However, it proved to be demoralising.

When balance is lost, burning out seems to be the only way your body knows how to tell you that you should not spend your whole day studying!


3. Never settle!

Receiving a good mark for one exam does not guarantee that you will do so in the next. Exams only become harder.

So, in order to achieve or maintain a good mark, you also need to keep improving.



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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