In this post, Ymer Bushati shares the tips that helped him score an ATAR of 99.90.
Matrix Graduate Ymer Bushati scored an incredible ATAR of 99.90! In this post, we share Ymer’s ATAR Hacks and how he overcame procrastination to score 99.90.
My name is Ymer Bushati and I was part of the graduating class of 2017 from Sydney Boys High School. I hope to study medicine at UNSW in the future.
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Mathematics Extension 1
Mathematics Extension 2
I performed the best in Mathematics because I found that it was the most enjoyable topic for me to study for. As it did not involve any intensive memorising, it felt like a more relaxed subject to study, and as a result, I studied for it more so than my other subjects. This extra preparation gave me a distinct edge in my exams, allowing for me to perform consistently well throughout Year 12.
I performed the worst in English because I did not enjoy many of the prescribed texts. As a result, in preparation for my exams, I would only have briefly read the texts, or sometimes just summaries. After my trials, however, I identified this problem, and gained a much larger understanding of the texts in preparation for the HSC, allowing for my marks to dramatically improve. (If you would like detailed tips on improving your English results, read the Matrix Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English).
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The largest problem that I faced throughout my preliminary years was procrastination on my phone or computer, which severely detracted from my study time. This was especially bad after periods of intensive study and I would often feel myself ‘burning out’, leading to me spending even more time on my phone or going out.
To overcome this issue, the first thing that must be done is to acknowledge that the issue exists.
After every exam, throughout my senior year, I always reflected on my performance and if I had done as well as I possibly could have. A lot of the time, even though I performed relatively well, I knew I had not performed to my potential, and this was largely due to me procrastinating away a large portion of my study time. So, at the end of Year 11, when I did not receive the marks I had hoped for, I resolved to improve my study technique and remove procrastination for my HSC year.
My biggest sources of procrastination were YouTube, my phone and going out.
To address these, I took the following actions:
YouTube and other websites are very draining of study time, and I found myself at times taking a ‘quick’ YouTube break, that would last for 2 hours. So to address this, I downloaded applications that would block certain websites during the day, which I couldn’t bypass. There are so many apps on the internet for purposes like this, such as Cold Turkey and SelfControl.
One of the most important decisions I made during my HSC year was to get rid of my phone. My phone was a very large source of distraction, whether it was Facebook, Snapchat or just talking to friends.
Unlike my computer, that was necessary for school and study, my phone didn’t assist my study in any way, but only took away from it.
So, I decided to get rid of it!
It was hard at first, and I felt isolated from my friends and peers. However, after the first 2 weeks, I didn’t even notice it’s absence from my life. Not having a phone became my norm, and it improved my study efficiency significantly. If I were to offer a singular piece of advice to any future HSC student, it would be to get rid of your phone for your HSC year. Yes, it is hard. Yes, you will miss it at first. But eventually you won’t even notice its absence, and you certainly won’t regret your decision at the end of the year, I certainly don’t.
Going out with friends, and other social activities are very important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle balance during your HSC. In fact, during the periods of relaxation straight after school exams, I encourage all students to partake in as many social activities as possible. Just because it is your HSC year, doesn’t mean you should completely butcher your social life. However, it does need to be restricted with moderation.
Personally, for me, I would start studying for exams 4 weeks in advance, and sometimes even more for Trials and externals. During those 4 weeks of study, you must devote yourself to your studies if you wish to achieve a very high ATAR. I wouldn’t attend any social events during those 4 weeks of study. Whilst you might miss a birthday party or a movie outing, the positive effects on your results will outweigh the negatives.
Moreover, allowing yourself to slip up, even just for one day, would make it even easier to slip up again in the future. So I didn’t allow myself to slip up and applied myself diligently. Whilst it will seem difficult at the time, I promise you, you won’t regret it in the future.
So whilst I found ways to solve my procrastination issue, it was important for me that they weren’t short-term solutions, but long-term ones that would carry throughout my HSC year. If you come up with a plan to overcome an issue holding back your ATAR, stick to it. Every time you fail to adhere to your plan, you make it easier to do so again next time. Remember, if a high ATAR is your goal, some sacrifices to other parts of your life are necessary.
Everyone studies differently, and what is most important is finding the method that works best for you. For me, I was the type of person that could only study at my home and in complete silence. I made sure I had a good desk at home to study on and invested in a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
The library, whilst seeming like a great place to study, didn’t work for me. With too many distractions everywhere and so many people to talk to, I found that I was unable to actually study for long periods of time without becoming distracted. Whilst it works for some people, it didn’t work for me. If you find yourself being unproductive at the library, I highly encourage you to study at home and not force yourself to go to the library, just because everyone else studies there.
It is important that you develop a study schedule that works for you, and that you are able to stick to it. For me, I found that I studied most efficiently in 5-hour blocks, so I tried to implement that throughout my study. The number of hours I would study per day was always changing, depending on how far from exams I was.
I would recommend that you really test out a couple of different strategies until you find the one that works best for you. This is particularly important towards your trial exams, even more so for those who plan to sit the UMAT (which is typically around trials), and need to very efficiently manage their time. Here are some examples of 3 different days for me in preparation for my HSC exams.
Setting goals for your HSC year is so important, because they give you something to strive for. For me personally, I really wanted to get into a medical degree, preferably at UNSW. I knew this was going to be a difficult journey, but by having an end goal, I never gave up no matter how badly my body ached for me to give up.
To keep this goal in mind is really simple, all you have to do is print off something that symbolises your goal and stick it to your wall, right in front of your desk. So even when you feel like glancing aimlessly around your room, you will see your goal, and it will strengthen your motivation to study.
Everyone needs breaks at some point during the day. The best way to stop your ‘quick’ break into becoming a 3-hour long internet browse is to schedule your breaks. Set a start and end time (and stick to it!) and that way you can’t aimlessly procrastinate for hours.
What to do in your break time is also important. Apps like Facebook and Messenger are traps that will suck you in for hours. I avoided apps like this until the very end of the day, right before I slept. Instead, during my breaks, I would usually get a quick bite to eat, and then watch or read something that would motivate me to study.
I had a couple of motivational speaker videos downloaded (Eric Thomas is a really great source of inspiration for studying) or read about the future university course I hoped to attend. By doing this during my break, when the break concluded, I could immediately start studying again as the break served as a huge source of motivation.
Even though I got rid of my phone quite early into my HSC year, it still took me some time to adjust and be able to study effectively in its absence. Moreover, I only implemented website blockers before my Trial Exams. I really wish I could have started these tips to cut procrastination even earlier, because it really does affect your HSC. To all the Year 12s returning to school after the summer holidays, I would recommend that you remove your phone from your life in the final week of holidays, just so you get used to it, for when you actually return to school. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
When it came to studying, I always enjoyed focusing on the subjects that I was good at, or that were more appealing to me. One subject that didn’t appeal to me at all was English. As a result, it was a low priority for my study throughout most of Year 12. If I could go back, I would prioritise English more, gain a greater understanding of my texts earlier, and tried more practice papers.