A Guide to Going Above and BeyondBy Darcy Campbell in HSC
17th of December 2018
Some people just want to get through the HSC doing the bare minimum. But that wasn’t me. Not in the slightest.
I loved learning and I loved school with all my heart (I know. What a nerd?) I studied a lot, but not just the set content or weekly homework. Throughout my HSC year I went above and beyond, developing my love for my subjects through extra work, spending additional time on them, and immersing myself in new articles and research. I did anything I could to further my learning, but this wasn’t always in order to get extra marks. Often, it was just to make school feel worthwhile.
I have heard many HSC students complain about the HSC being a waste of time or really boring and stressful. And while it seems like doing the bare minimum could be a solution to these problems, going above and beyond is actually a great way to tackle the HSC and end up (somewhat) loving it. I know, however, that this is a difficult thing to do, so here is a big list of advice on how to excel this year by immersing yourself in the HSC experience.
Learn Outside the Classroom
I think the first step towards going above and beyond starts with taking your learning into your own hands and teaching yourself content outside of class. This doesn’t have to be sitting at your desk for hours on end, though! How boring would that be? Instead, I would suggest ‘studying’ while you do other things. Here are some suggestions:
Listen to podcasts
I am the BIGGEST advocate of podcasts. Whenever I walked to work, whenever I went for a run, whenever I cleaned my room, I listened to a History, English, or German podcast (my three study areas.) This meant that a) I wasn’t bored and b) I was learning continuously. Listening to podcasts is a great way to learn more about your topics without actually having to put effort towards it. Professionals, such as historians, often create podcasts, meaning that the episodes will give you specific and interesting detail that could be useful for your final exams. Also, podcasts can be FUNNY. My all-time favourite history podcast was an episode about Agrippina by Do Go On, a podcast which involves one comedian learning about a difficult topic and then explaining it to two other comedians. It was the funniest thing I had ever listened to and it taught me so much.
I know this is often suggested, but it truly does work. Watching documentaries/historical movies/adaptions of books really helps to consolidate your learning without having to have a textbook in front of you. It is also a great way to take a productive break when you’re feeling burnt out.
Listen to educational videos while you do chores or get ready
I cook dinner every night in my household during the holidays, but I get bored really quickly. So every night I played an Edrolo/HSC Hub/ATAR Notes video while I cooked. This really enriched my learning, as I was able to consolidate the content I had studied that day while doing something else. In addition to this, I also played a video while I got ready for school. This meant that I had already started my learning for the day before the school bell rang. I remember watching a revision video for Modern History the morning of my Trial exam as I got ready and then the content in the video was in the exam (I got full marks for that section!)
Get Up Early (Totally Optional)
I know that not everyone is a morning person, but I was, and it benefitted me greatly. Beginning in Term One, I woke up most mornings at 6am and did an hour of study or assessment work. This one hour per day enabled me to get a head start on my Major Works and also gave me an hour of quiet. I attended boarding school, so that peaceful hour in the morning was one of the best times to study, as the afternoons were often characterised by loud laughing and commotion (which I often participated in.) After my Major Works were finished, I used that one hour a day to improve on my vocabulary for German Continuers which benefitted me greatly.
Use Your School Holidays (ESPECIALLY THE SUMMER HOLIDAY)
You should absolutely get some rest these holidays! I am not saying you should study from 9-5 every day. In the holidays before Trials, I actually took an entire week off. You should definitely use the holidays to recuperate (so you don’t burn out) but when you’ve finished recovering, I would highly recommend getting stuck into some study or self-directed learning. In my HSC summer holidays, I took a few weeks off, but then really dedicated some time to my Major Works. I completed all of my research for them and began drafting. For my other subjects, I made sure all of my study notes were completed for each of the units I had done and then went through and read as many extra resources and articles I could. For my History subjects, I read a lot of historians and added any useful quotes into my study notes. For my English subjects, I made quote, technique, and effect tables. I also got ahead on the content for the next term, which included reading the set texts, developing a broad understanding of the next topic, and beginning my set of notes for them. I also completed some practice questions, but not many. I believe using your holidays is important because by getting ahead, you will feel less stressed during the school term. Feeling less stressed will mean that you enjoy school more, and consequently like learning more, and consequently receive better marks. That is they key to going above and beyond.
Engage With Others
Don’t do your HSC in isolation. Reach out to any community or individual possible. ATAR Notes is a fantastic way to enrich your learning and to realise that you are not alone. I would also suggest developing a good relationship with your teachers. I only had three teachers (as I studied a highly focused HSC course) and they were my saviours. By treating them with respect, I gained a great working relationship with them. They marked my responses, calmed me down before an exam, and provided me with any extra resources I wanted. My Modern and Extension History teacher in fact gave me nearly ten books from their personal collection which I ended up referring to in my exams. I would also recommend helping others in your cohort. If you want to go above and beyond, a great way to do that is to teach others the content. If you are able to teach something effectively, you will be able to answer the exam question effectively.
Don’t Let Yourself Settle
It is important to always be really proud and accepting of the marks you receive, but also remember that there is always a way to improve (even if you get 100%). It is important to rest, but it is also important to keep up regular study habits. It is important to take some time off, but it is also important to not let yourself settle for the easy option. Of course, if you aren’t aiming for high marks you can just do the bare minimum, but if you want to love school and achieve beyond what you thought was possible, you must not allow yourself to settle. Don’t become complacent if you are receiving great marks. Don’t give up if you are receiving lower than what you hoped. Keep striving throughout the entire year and that way, the weeks before exams aren’t as stressful. Make sure you are reading as much as you can, soaking up all the feedback possible, and finding as much inspiration and motivation as you can. People often think that the way to beating stress in the HSC is by sitting back and just settling for what you have. While that is okay, I personally would recommend tackling your education head-on and taking your learning into your own hands. By learning to love school, you’ll achieve whatever you want to achieve.
Ultimately, the trick to going above and beyond in your HSC is to continuously seek out opportunities to grow as a student. When you learn how to love school and course content, you learn how to succeed.
Best of luck,