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100 Tips To Smash The HSC

By ATAR Notes HSC in HSC
10th of July 2018
100 tips

On the day of publishing, there are 100 days until the first HSC exam of 2018! Insane! To help you in this last stretch, we’ve gotten some of our lecturing team to tell us their tips for HSC success and doing well in general!

Rui (Maths Extension 2)

1.Don’t obliterate anything you write down. If you gently put a cross (or maybe five) over it, at least the examiner can see what you’ve tried to do and you might be able to sneak away a few marks you would’ve otherwise sacrificed.

2. If time permits, don’t just revise over where you lost the marks. Scan through what you did correct as well and attempt to understand why you were correct. It’s very easy to forget stuff you don’t see in a while.

3. Have reasonable breaks. Seriously. Unless you’re trying to mimic exam conditions, gluing yourself to the same thing for 3 hours is pretty hard.

4. Share notes, help each other after the Trial exams. I get that you want to compete against each other with the internals (better rank and what not) but after your trials are over, you’re all influencing each other’s marks in some way or another.

5. Whiteboards are expensive but fun to write on. It gives you more space if you wanna do a mind-map/quote bank or solve a lengthy problem.

6. Study music actually works.

7. 8 hours of sleep. I know some people can survive on less, but I would have flunked if I didn’t get all my sleep.

8. Pressure yourself to write. Reading or typing might seem to save time but really isn’t efficient when it comes to actually retaining it all in your head.

9. I don’t like studying in the house. I like going to a local library or occasionally just a park to force myself out of a ball of comfort.

10. Losing silly marks hurts. Make a list of them to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

11. Don’t be afraid to procrastinate! Memes are good.

Jake (Physics, Chemistry)

12. Before you start studying, think about how you learn best in relation to a particular subject. Your study technique should be different for each subject!

13. Take time out to relax every single day. If you find yourself losing productivity, take a break, go for a walk, read a book; do whatever it is that will clear your mind

14. Use YouTube! It is a great educational resource for conceptual topics. Just try not to get sucked into a YouTube wormhole….

15. Form small study groups, and meet once a week to chat about whatever it is that you’re all struggling with

16. Make a shared google doc where you can post questions, help each other and record your thoughts (during class and while you’re studying)

17. Plan for something after you finish the HSC. It’s important to have a ‘reward’ ready to go for when you graduate, whether that means relaxation, travel, tertiary education or anything else

18. If you’re struggling, tell someone. It’s important to remember that you aren’t in this thing alone. Confide in your friends, or your family, or even your teachers if you feel comfortable enough around them

19. Do past papers. Just do them. Again, and again, and again,  and you guessed it – Again.

20. Write super-succinct summary notes. By the time I got to the HSC, I had summarised all of the content I still had to learn into a single page for each of my subjects. It makes your life a hell of a lot easier, and has the added benefit of forcing you to write out stuff you’re not confident with.

21. Don’t be afraid to mix up your study techniques. Record your voice and play it on repeat, try question and answer booklets, write out palm cards.

22. Try go through the entire syllabus by looking at a dot-point and just talking about it for as long as you can. You’ll quickly work out if there are areas you are less confident with.

23. Keep doing whatever extracurriculars you’re doing now. Don’t ignore your hobbies, and don’t make study 100% of your life.

Susie (History)

24. Don’t fall for the myth that writing notes is the only way to study, or even that it is mandatory! For some students, writing notes can even be a complete waste of time (it was for me!), because it just doesn’t suit your style of learning and content retention. The way you study should be personalised to you!

25. If you do want to write notes, try and structure them in a way that is reminiscent of how that content could be used in an exam context, e.g. for History, don’t just write a chronological timeline of the events that took place, but organise your notes around themes (and how these events reflect the themes) that can be used to construct a sophisticated thesis.

26. Practice essays!! Try and do at least one practice essay/topic tet a week for each subject. That may seem like a lot, but remember an essay should only take you about 45 min to write.

27. Re-do practice questions you have done before, but try and take a different angle, or try a different structure. Forcing yourself to argue “the other side”, or trying something new may give you a new perspective on how to answer the question!

28. Start studying early. Don’t wait for the Trials notification you already know is coming. Starting early means less stress, and fixing issues in advance, so you have time to focus on the stuff that will make your responses shine!

29. Every now and then read over past essays you wrote – even from Term 1. It’s good to not only see how far you have come and where you have improved, but also patterns in the way that you write.

30. Be proactive, not reactive! If you got a mark you aren’t happy with, work out why you got that mark, and how you can avoid doing that in the future! Everything is a learning experience.

31. If you have spent 45 mins on an essay already, chances are you have written enough, even if you didn’t get to include everything you wanted to.

32. Short on time? Remember you’re going to earn more marks starting the next section of an exam, than finishing the section you are already on.

33. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – sophisticated does not equal complicated!

34. Be nice to your teachers, and (hopefully) they’ll be nice back (like marking an extra practice response right before your exam level nice!)

35. The HSC is not Fortnite. Share notes! You’re all in this together <3

36. If you are planning on going to schoolies, BOOK ACCOMODATION MONTHS IN ADVANCE.

Steph (General Maths)

37. Everyday, but particularly in exam periods, create a study to-do list so you can make sure you feel organised and enjoy the amazing feeling of completing your to-do list for the day!

38. Get a part-time job. It ensures that you have a work-life balance, which is crucial for maintaining quality of life. You’re also more likely to be more productive during your study sessions, knowing you’ve only got 5 hours to study before work at 5pm.

39. Exercise. Physical activity is so important for improving your attention, memory and relieving stress. Go for a run, take your puppy for a walk, or do some push ups in your bedroom.

40. Write study notes as you go, don’t leave them to the last minute. Otherwise, what’s the point of making study notes?

41. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to go well. Aim high, but never ever put yourself down for going not as well as you expected in an assignment or exam. You are only human and you can only do your best.

42. Have an escape-route planned for when you feel stress taking over. Take a break from study. Go for a walk. Pat a dog.

43. Stay organised. Keep a diary and always write things you have to do down somewhere so that you don’t forget. This is the key to reducing stress.

44. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re going to do when you leave school. Most people don’t figure out their dream career until a long time after they graduate from high school.

45. Look out for your friends. They could be struggling so make sure they’re ok too.

46. Figure out if you’re an AM or PM person, and do your study during this time. This is the time that you’ll get maximal retention of information. Use this time well.

47. Help other students when you can. Ultimately, their mark will affect yours!

48. Get involved in extracurricular activities at school.

49. When choosing a course, make sure you look at the Unit Descriptions of the subjects you will be taking as part of your degree. This is the real way to know whether something interests you or not!

50. Don’t go to Uni just because everyone else is going! You need to make sure that you are interested in the course and know what your future after the course looks like!

Isaac (Business Studies, Economics)

51. Find how you study best. For me, sitting there reading the textbook and then summarising it was mindnumbingly boring. I got too distracted and realised that it was way more efficient for me to not spend time rewriting things and better for me to read the same concept a few different times through different notes with a million different highlighters.

52. Don’t memorise, understand! It is a much more effective way to study if you try to understand the way different topics and concepts operate including their causes/effects/history etc. This means that your knowledge is adaptable and flexible in terms of applying them to different questions. You will be able to see past the curveball questions if you thoroughly understand the content whereas if you try to memorise it and use a cookie cutter approach to questions, it won’t work.

53. Find ways to trick your brain into studying more effectively – for me this was by using different coloured highlighters. By using and assigning a different colour to a different concept/legislation/statistic etc. I would actively be reading notes and my brain would be more focused since I had to change colours every time.

54. Instead of doing complete past papers all the time, instead do a ‘plan exam.’ go through the paper and write what you would have done/said and go through the steps instead of doing the whole paper. This is good because doing paper after paper can take its toll, this way breaks it up, allows you still to practice applying the content but isn’t as arduous. This works well for math past papers as well. Also it decreases the amount of paper wastage.

55. View each course holistically! Try not to fall into the narrow view of the course in that concept A has x, y, z effects etc. Attempt to have a mind-map and see the course in it’s entirety then look at how different topics link between each other – how they all are interdependent. This way you will be able to have a better understanding of the course and how it can be applied to different types of questions.

56. Find your own definition of success. Don’t just follow the crowd and only be happy if you get a .95!! You will put sooo much unnecessary stress on yourself and won’t actually ever be happy.

57. Whenever you finish an exam and are about to go through and check. Before you do go to the bathroom! Go for a quick walk there, splash some water on your face and take a breather so that when you come back to look through your paper you are slightly calmed and have a fresh set of eyes.

58. When choosing a uni/course look beyond the prestige of the university and look into the course structure. Look at what the required courses are, if it has unnecessary/dumb requirements, how little/much room there is to study courses outside of your degree, if it offers the major you want or is open to flexibility, if there are internship/clinics available, overseas programs associated with your major etc.

59. Alternatively, don’t feel like you need to go to uni or start uni right away. Don’t feel pressured to go if it’s not for you – you will end up wasting years of your life being bored out of your mind and a whole lot of money too.

Krystelle (General Maths)

60. Your friends are often your most useful resources! If you don’t understand something, ask them how they would explain it. Their explanation will probably make more sense to you, and together you both engage in an amazing learning process.

61. Stay motivated as much as you can. You only have 100 days to go, note all your little achievements and be proud of how far you’ve come! Put in as much work as you can now and you’ll reap the benefits in your four month break 🙂

62. Motivate others to keep going. Often, your peers will start to feel tired during this last stage of the HSC. Remind them of how well they are doing, and why they started this journey in the first place.

63. Talk your study!! This was one way I was able to learn all the content I had to, especially for content-heavy subjects such as Biology and Legal. I would pretend to teach myself, or some imaginary person in the room, and soon, I felt like an absolute genius. Repetitive reading and writing your notes soon becomes mindless, so take new approaches to study in order to keep motivated.

64. Having an ATAR in mind is great, but don’t let it get to you too much. Truly, your ATAR is a number that gets you into uni, and maybe a few other benefits. But, your health and wellbeing is of utmost importance during this time. Take time out for yourself during the busy HSC period, sleep well and eat healthily. You have a life beyond the realms of the HSC.

65. As repetitive as this may sound, you have to work hard during this time. Work on your weaknesses, know your strengths. Do those extra practice questions. Watch videos to solidify your knowledge. Talk to your peers and see what they struggle with. Keep at it!

Naomi (Biology, Medicine)

66. Practice, practice, practice! Writing essays is the biggest grind, but it’s the only way to test what you really know, and helps you learn to apply this knowledge. View it as ‘training’.

67. On the days I felt low and unmotivated to write practice essays, I’d tell myself “just write the introduction, then you can quit”. Doing the introduction forced me to sort through my ideas about the question and plan my structure – most of the time I’d go on to write the whole essay afterwards!

68. Mix up your study techniques. Read through and highlight notes, practice answering HSC questions, record yourself saying your quotes or formulae and listen to them whilst you go for a run. Maximise your chance of getting things into your head!

69. Get yourself in a positive mindset before exams. For me, this meant staying away from people I knew would make me more anxious (ahem – my mum), and telling myself “you have studied enough – you are prepared” like a mantra. I’d also tell myself “just read the question and answer appropriately” to help myself cope with pre-exam jitters. After all, that’s all you can really do.

70. “Competition” is overrated and it’s a waste of your time and emotional energy stressing out about it. Sure, there is a ranking system, but the amount of control you have over your ranking is ZERO%. You have absolutely no control over how your peers perform – the only thing you’re in charge of is yourself. Just get the absolute best score you can and things will sort themselves out.

71. Take care of yourself, and take care of your friends. Check in with the people you see struggling, and check in with people you haven’t heard from in a little while.

Jamon (2U/3U Maths)

72.  In exams, never sit without writing anything for more than a minute or so. If you are stuck, move on and let your brain churn through it in the background, keep your momentum going!

73. Never just throw away a paper after you get the mark back. Keep it, figure out where your marks were lost, and figure out what you need to do to improv. Even though that exam is done in class, it’s all assessable in the HSC exam itself!

74. As you learn content, record video lessons for yourself to rewatch near big exam blocks. Who could possibly teach you better than yourself?

75. Have a relationship, if the opportunity presents itself. People who block themselves off from romantic involvement during Year 12 to “focus on the HSC” are really just cutting off a source of motivation and relaxation. Having a partner is a good thing!

76. Apply for scholarships! Even if you aren’t sure if you will get one, apply anyway. I did all my applications as a way to get away from my coursework after my Trials.

77. Get stuff marked. Like, far out, why do something and then not know if it was good or not? For Maths/Science papers you can often mark yourself, but if you can’t, just find someone else who can. Knowing where you sit is absolutely vital.

78. Don’t over rely on it, but Moccona is the best brand of coffee.

79. Do easier preparation tasks immediately before a big exam. This will help build your confidence – Nothing will sink in at the last minute and doing the hard stuff is just going throw you off.

80. Don’t memorise essays. Controversial, I know, but I think it is way easier to just memorise your evidence and then to link these to an idea/question on the day. It is super easy to spot prepared responses, because a lot of the time they totally miss the mark on the question – Which is the most important think to get right.

81. Study different subjects in the one day. Mix up the part of your brain under pressure – Do Maths in the morning, then something essay-based in the afternoon, as an example. Physics in the morning, Music in the afternoon. You get the idea!

82. Don’t subscribe to stereotypes. There is no “golden amount” of study or revision, everyone is different!

83. Write dot point version of essays instead of the full version to save time while you are cramming for big exam blocks! It still rehearses how your ideas are organised, which is the main thing.

84. Teach people! It is a nice thing to do, but it also will help you heaps with memorising your own content.

85. We’ve said practice is important, but make sure it is under exam conditions. The more closely you replicate the real thing, the more prepared you will be.

86. Don’t worry about scaling – You can’t control it, you can’t fight it, you can’t play the system. Just work hard and put your best effort in, doing that is always your best chance of success.

87. Treat yourself! In the long term, sure, but also in the short term. Have a favourite meal after a good day of study, reward good marks with lollies. Positive reinforcement is a good thing.

88. Be flexible. Life is messy sometimes and you never get exactly as much time as you plan to work on stuff. Add extras in when you have the time, and don’t stress if you need to cut stuff out of a a study schedule. Go with the flow!

89. Learn from mistakes! Never throw out feedback, everything is useful.

90. Be confident! Even if you don’t feel 100% about something, act like you are. It will translate to mental confidence and help you push through.

91. Go to the bathroom before exams – Seems simple, but lots of people forget.

92. Listen to your body. If you get sick, rest – Trying to fight it will just lead to unproductive work and slow your recovery time.

93. Textbooks are too thick to cram from at the end of the year – Make sure you summarise your content somewhere. Brevity is good – I  summarised entire core topics in a few pages where I could!

94. If you think something will take two hours, assume it will take four hours. It will make your schedule less stressed.

95. Relax. The HSC isn’t the be all and end all of achievement, and the ATAR isn’t a measure of success or potential. Do your best, but don’t let the process of it all impact you negatively. There are always ways to get where you want to go.

96. Be specific with what you want to get done when you are organising your time, and try to keep the benefits of this action in mind. For example, “I want to do a dozen short answer questions for Legal because it was my weakest section in the Trials, if I do it I will improve.”

97. Have balance in your life – Do other stuff! Exercise, work, rest, spend time with family and friends. It will keep you recharged and performing at  your best, and doing nothing but studying is no fun anyway.

98. Aim to achieve consistently. Results tend to be better for students who invest their time proportionally across all their courses, rather than “letting one go.” You never know what will count, so give everything your best shot.

99. Understand that shit happens! Sometimes you’ll be up until 2am finishing an assignment at the last minute. Sometimes you’ll need to cram. It happens – What is important is learning from those experiences and tackling the situations better the next time.

100. Use ATAR Notes! Seriously – It is a fantastic tool that can help you heaps.

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