Ultimate List of High School Student English Hacks | Success Secrets

Looking to see how past English students aced their HSC? In this Guide, we highlight the best of the best English Hacks and give you a handy index to our many Success Secret and High School Hacks articles from our stellar Matrix Alumni!


Learn the secrets to acing English! Over the years, we’ve invited our successful students and graduates to write a blog article to share their insightful study advice.

So, in this article, we will guide you through the key English tips that were commonly shared in these articles, go through unique English advice from case studies, and list an overview of all Success Secret articles that share English tips!


Table of contents:


Why read our English Success Secret articles?

Sometimes, it feels like no matter what you do, your marks aren’t improving.

However, remember, different study habits work better for different students!

So, we’ve asked our top English students to share their best tips that they used to overcome their plateau and boost their English marks.

Each guest author shared some common English tips (because they’re useful for everyone!) and unique advice (because everyone has different study preferences) in their articles. So, it’s a good idea to take a read of all of them to see which study techniques might work for you!

We provided a  list of Success Secret articles at the end of this guide for you to explore. Go crazy!



Key English study tips we found in these articles

Some study tips are so useful and universal, that all English students can benefit from it!

So, we went through all the English Success Secret articles, and extracted these common key study advice from our guest authors:


1. Know texts very well

This means reading them. How many times? Multiple times while annotating and highlighting your copy of the text.

“Everyone I know who didn’t read their prescribed texts came in the bottom 10 ranks”. This is what McDonald College graduate, Gemma, found out about her peers.

As you can see, it is extremely crucial that you read your prescribed texts over and over again! Why? Because as Gemma discovered, each time you re-read a text, you get a “fresh understanding”.

“It’s like you can only improve your stage presence as you increase the number of times you perform to an audience” – Gemma


Ayushma recommends that you should read your prescribed texts “at least three times” to ensure that you have extensive knowledge on the text! This also helped her gain confidence and overcome anxiety to ace English.

However, don’t micro-analyse everything at first!

Dennis cautions that micro-analysing a text before reading it through will cause you to “miss out on the most important thing [of the text]: the underlying themes.” Instead, Dennis suggests you to “relax and read the text as a whole” for your 1st reading. Then, you can begin to dig deeper into the text in the 2nd and 3rd reading. This was one of the methods Dennis used this approach to achieve a 96 for HSC English.


Take a read of our mentioned guest author’s articles to learn more about understanding texts:



2. Practise, practise and more practise!

Once you are comfortable with the text, it is time to practise! Our successful alumni all recommend that you write practice essays using previous HSC questions.

As we already know, you shouldn’t memorise an essay because you won’t be able to properly answer the question! Instead, you should know your text and your analysis of it well.

This is why practising essay writing is so important!

This helps you “improve your exam techniques” (Sid), and build a “strong bank of malleable material consisting of analysis and context” (Saleha).

Both Sid and Saleha practised writing English essays to achieve a 99.85 ATAR. Saleha also placed 2nd in the state for English Ext 1 and 13th for English Advanced.


Pressed for time?

North Sydney Girls graduate, Sherryn, found, if you don’t have time to “write a full practice essay every day, find time to do a simple essay plan in response to an unseen question”. This helped her target her weaknesses in English to turn her marks around.

Jacky had trouble writing a whole essay in 40 minutes. So he became efficient by “writing short paragraphs under 3 minutes”. This will build your writing stamina and test how fast you can write. Jacky managed to overcome his English speaking barrier, achieving a 99.70 ATAR, by using these and other English hacks.


Both of these methods are a useful starting point for practising essay writing! Want to read more tips from these guest authors?



3. Get feedback from your teachers!

Too often, students don’t take advantage of their school or Matrix teachers because they think that they’re annoying the teachers. However, this is untrue!

As Julia found, teachers are more than willing to read over your notes and give you advice!

She would write class summaries and essay notes to send to her teachers every weekend. By doing this, she ensured that her summaries had enough detail and are concise, and…

It allowed Julia to construct perfect plans for answering questions for all modules.

Doing this significantly helped her top English Ext 1 and 2 in her school!

Many of our other guest authors also sent in frequent draft essays to their teachers!

As Karen says, the teachers “best understand your school’s assessment criteria”. This will help you improve your weaknesses more efficiently and effectively.

Don’t be afraid to send in drafts and re-drafts of your work, like Helen did. Receiving feedback was crucial in helping Helen come 1st in the State for English Extension 1. If your schoolteachers can’t help, Matrix tutors and teachers will.

Stephanie found that she became a “stronger writer” by applying her Matrix teacher’s criticism each time. It’s important to “be open to criticism” to grow!

Doing this helped her improve her English marks to switch to a selective school.


If you want to learn more about asking your teacher for feedback, take a read of our mentioned guest author’s articles:



Turn your English marks into a success!

Boost your English marks and maintain them like our guest authors did! At Matrix, our HSC expert teachers will provide essential, actionable feedback to improve your analysis and writing. Learn more now. 

Start HSC English confidently

Expert teachers, detailed feedback, one-to-one help! Learn from home with Matrix+ Online English courses.


Case studies:

Now that you’ve read some universal key tips, let’s take a look at more unique approaches to studying English!

Let’s take a look at three case studies of students who utilised specific English techniques that helped them boost their marks:


Shahrin Shamim: Achieving a 93/100 for HSC English Advanced


Shahrin graduated from Sydney Girls High School, and scored a total of 93/100 for her HSC English Advanced.

In her article, she shares 6 must-know pieces of advice she learned through her years of studying English and provides additional tips to prepare for the HSC exam.

Here is a summary of Shahrin’s 2 hot English tips:


1. Practise writing thematic paragraph

Shahrin emphasises that “memorising essays is an easy trap to fall into… [However] it will definitely not work for trials or the HSC” as it is very limiting and does not answer the exam question.

So, she suggests that you should practice writing thematic paragraphs instead!

She says:

Writing thematic paragraphs prepared me for a whole range of questions and was a good exercise in adapting to possible questions

To do this, you need to write paragraphs “in terms of the main themes of the texts”.


2. Memorise quotes

Shahrin notes the importance of memorising quotes and evidence over memorising a full essay, especially during the last few days before your English exams.

This will help you “adapt existing paragraphs to a range of questions under exam conditions”.

So, to do this, she recommends you memorise the quotes based on the themes, then write practice paragraphs by hand and under timed conditions!

This will help you think on the spot and recall relevant techniques.


If you want to ace English like Shahrin did, take a read of her article: Shahrin’s Hacks: Achieving a 93/100 for HSC English Advanced



Gemma’s Hacks: Tips for HSC English Students


Gemma graduated from The McDonald College in North Strathfield. She balanced academics and performing arts throughout the whole of high school, and achieved Band 6 for English!

Although she would’ve liked to pursue a career in law, she was accepted into the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for a Bachelor of Music (Performance) majoring in Classical Voice.


1. Work ahead of schedule

Gemma highlights the importance of preparing for English early!

She recommends that you find your prescribed texts, research them (find online notes) and start reading them early!

The first reading is for leisure, and the second reading is to analyse it!

Also, Gemma suggests familiarising yourself with previous year’s assessments. You can ask graduated student’s for their assessments to see how they responded to different questions.

However, it is also important that you are asking the right people, and not just anyone you know!



2. Prioritise

Depending on your marks and personal interests, it’s very easy to identify what you’re good and what you’re not.

For Gemma, she achieved full marks for every comprehension task. However, she wasn’t very good at creative tasks and essays.

So, she split her study time spent on English:

  1. Focus on brainstorming creative ideas and improving vocabulary
  2. Perfecting essay theses

Focusing on your weaknesses is never fun. However, it is highly beneficial! Gemma improved her marks greatly.


Learn how Gemma approached her Trial and HSC preparation process for all of her English modules in her article: Gemma’s Hacks: Tips for HSC English Students



Tammy’s English Hacks: How I Went From Average to Acing English and Scoring a 97.25 ATAR


Tammy graduated from Sefton High School, and achieved an E4 for English Extension 1, after averaging a 76% in Year 11. She also ranked 3rd internally for English Ext 1 by the end of Year 12.


1. Actively engage in class discussions

Tammy found that actively immersing yourself in class discussions helps you build interest in the subject. It also solidifies and extends your knowledge!

This is because you begin to recognise different perspectives, question your pre-existing ideas, and learn to defend your own arguments.

As such, it is extremely useful at helping you formulate strong arguments for your essays!

When you share an idea, you provide an argument to support it. So, when others debate against your idea, you either dig deeper and find a stronger argument or your ideas change a little!


2. Believe in what you write

Every time you read, research or discuss a text, you will form an opinion.

You opinion is never wrong, the challenge is justifying it!

In Tammy’s junior years, she was always afraid of writing ideas that were different from her teacher’s ideas.

However, in Year 12, her Extension 1 teacher began to hammer in this message: “Believe in what you write!” “Form an opinion people!”

So, she began creating arguments that she genuinely believed it. This not only increase her interest in the subject but also boosted her writing confidence and her marks!


Read Tammy’s article (Tammy’s English Hacks: How I Went From Average to Acing English and Scoring a 97.25 ATAR) to see how she prepared her English notes to accommodate for each Module’s purpose.



Want to read more English hacks by our guest authors?

Here is a list of our Success Secret articles that focus on English study tips:

English Success Secret Article What is it about?
Dennis’s Hacks: How I scored 96 in the HSC English Exam David goes through the 4 must-know tips to ace English, including the importance of learning grammar and being creative!
Gemma’s Hacks: Tips for HSC English Students Gemma highlights the importance of working ahead, re-reading texts, getting feedback, and prioritising English. She also shares her assessment and exam study process!
Helen’s Hacks: How I Topped the State for English Extension 1 Helen shares 3 insightful tips on how she came 1st in the state for English Extension 1, including the need to be interesting and doing more than what’s required!
Jacky’s Hacks: How I Overcame My English Barrier To Achieve 99.70 ATAR Jacky came to Australia 7 years before his HSC with minimal English proficiency, but he graduated with a 99.70 ATAR and a 92 in English! In this article, he shares his 8 most useful tips he used to boost his English learning.
Jonathan’s Hacks: How to Save Your HSC English Mark Jonathan was averaging a 62% in Year 11 English, but he turned this all around in Year 12! Read his article to learn how he focused on each individual Module to improve his marks.
Julia’s Hacks: How I Scored An ATAR Of 96.20 With 4 Units Of English Julia came first internally in both English Ext 1 and 2! In this article, she shares her 4 hot tips to ace English, including utilising your peers and ignoring unrealistic expectations.
Shahrin’s Hacks: Achieving a 93/100 for HSC English Advanced Shahrin goes through 7 useful English tips and her exam studying process that helped her achieve a 97.90 ATAR!
Stephanie’s Hacks: Staying Ahead in English to Score a 95.50 ATAR Stephanie shares 5 must-know tips she used to maintain her high English marks! She also goes into strategies to deal with the HSC stress and talks about tackling issues that arose during her HSC year.
Tammy’s English Hacks: How I Went From Average to Acing English and Scoring a 97.25 ATAR Tammy was averaging a 76% for English Ext 1 in Year 11. Find out her 3 insightful English study tips and English module notes advice that helped her achieve as 46/50 (E4) for Ext 1 in her HSC!



Here is a list of other Success Secrets that provide some English tips:

Article What is it about?
Ayushma’s Hacks: How I Overcame Anxiety and Self-Doubt to Ace the HSC ? Ayushma focuses on strategies to deal with her anxieties and self-doubt during her HSC. However, she also goes through some English and Maths tips that helped her boost her confidence.
Eric’s Hacks: How Hunger for Success Can Drive You To Ace Your HSC and score 96.00 He goes through methods to figure out your purpose and ways to harness this desire for academic success, and some subject specific advice for English Adv and Maths Ext 1 and 2.
Karen’s Hacks: How I Scored An ATAR of 99.95 Karen shares some useful general HSC study tips, before providing specific advice for her subjects: English, Maths and Chemistry.
Sid’s Hacks: How I Scored An ATAR of 99.85 Sid goes through some of his top tips he used to achieve a 99.85 ATAR, including general study tips and Science and English advice.
Saleha’s Hacks: How I achieved 3 State Ranks and an ATAR of 99.85 Saleha shares 3 hot hacks that she used to achieve a 99.85 ATAR. She then discusses 4 English tips she used to State Rank English.
Sherryn’s Hacks: How To Use Self-Reflection and Planning To Study Effectively Sherryn provides step-by-step advice on how to use self-reflection and planning to study effectively. She then shares some subject specific strategies for English, Maths and Science.
Stephanie’s Journey: How I Switched to a Selective School in Year 10 Stephanie goes through some reasons why she wanted to change to a selective school, and the strategies she used to change her study habits to make it a reality!


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