You see subject-specific guides all the time. “How to get a Band 6 in Biology”, “Getting to increase your internals in English Advanced”, “Nailing the 3U exam” and so on. And those resources are great for what they are: insights into how to really maximise your marks in specific subjects. But I want to speak about something a little beyond that in this article: not just how to do well in one subject, but in all of them.

I graduated from Year 12 objectively high subject scores across the board. And I think throughout my Year 12 experience, I developed some good habits in terms of consistency, and not wildly fluctuating in marks between subjects. Doing consistently well is, obviously, not a simple task, but I hope that some of the thoughts in this article will help you to balance your subjects in the lead-up to exams.

Don’t fall into the trap…

… of simply studying for the subjects you most enjoy. In one way, it definitely makes sense – if you love Bio and hate 4U, you’re not going to study for 4U that much on the face of it. But you’re obviously going to have to study for 4U at some point. And this is where having the discipline to study a wide range of subjects come into play.

On so many occasions, I wanted to study for the subjects I enjoyed more, which is natural. I actually took it too far in the end, and spent, for example, a lot of my maths classes working on a folio for one of my subjects. I almost completely neglected maths throughout the year in order to have more time for my folio but, at the end of the day, my study score for maths was higher. Huge injustice, but my ATAR probably would have benefitted had I adopted a more balanced approach, here.

hsc subjects

Some students tray to play it strategically by working out which subjects will contribute most to their ATAR. But this is fraught with danger. The reason is, of course, that you’re not simply competing against yourself. Getting Bs in English and Ds in Mathematics doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do better in English in the end; there are very many factors at play, which you can read about here if you’re interested.

Use subjects as a break

If you’ve been studying Physics for the last few days and just feel completely sick of it, perhaps you can use Geography study as a bit of a break! I know it might sound weird, but I actually enjoyed smashing through some study for subjects I didn’t enjoy so much with the knowledge that I could get back to my favourites when I was done.

Get through Business Studies study? Cool – now you can get back to Visual Arts!

Stuff like that really helped me get through the year, of course, but also helped to balance out my load. I really didn’t want to neglect the subjects I didn’t like as much, so I instead decided to reward myself with my favourites. It might not be as nice a reward as, say, finding $100 in the street, but as far as HSC study goes, it’s a pretty good strategy.

Don’t try to nail every subject every day

Considering the nature of this article, some might expect advice to be like, “make sure you study each subject at least a little bit all the time – that way you can do well in all of them!” But I really don’t think that’s necessary, or perhaps even conducive to doing well.

I tended to focus on one or two subjects at a time. Perhaps, say, one subject before school, and one subject after. Or one subject through the day, and one in the evening. What I found was that if I tried to cram all this different information in my head at once, I became really overwhelmed; if I could simplify what I was doing on any given day, on the other hand, things seemed a lot more manageable.

hsc subjects

I didn’t have a formal schedule for this. That is, there was never a time where I thought, “okay, on Thursday, I must only study PDHPE and Chemistry”. I honestly just studied what I felt was most necessary at the time. My personal issue with things like study timetables is that it basically locks you in to studying certain things or at certain times, and life just isn’t that predictable. You can read more about HSC organisation (looking mostly at using to-do lists as an alternative) in this article here. And this brings us to the next point.

Prioritise subjects if you need to

It might suck at various times, but if you have to put a subject on the backburner for a few days for sake of another subject, then so be it. There’s only so much you can do in Year 12, and you really have to play by the rules your school gives you. If you have an English assessment in two days but no Modern assessments for weeks, it probably makes sense to dedicate the next 48 hours to English study – even if you much prefer Modern History.

This is, really, part of what people refer to when they speak about “studying smart”. Year 12 is largely about strategy, dedication and discipline. Strategy regarding what, how and when you study. Dedication regarding the effort you invest. And discipline regarding making the choices needed to consistently do the little things right. Prioritising subjects in this way is one of those (important) little things.

Pick subjects you enjoy

And finally, if you’ve not yet started Year 12, this one is for you (but it also applies to current Year 12s for sake of university etc.). Choosing HSC subjects you actually have an interest in is, really, perhaps the most important thing of all. If you take subjects you hate, how much harder do you think it will be to motivate yourself to study and, therefore, to do well? Spoiler: much harder.

“But what about scaling?!” The effects of scaling are, in my opinion, overblown. Scaling exists for a reason – and that reason is to make the playing field equal. It’s not designed to unfairly advantage or disadvantage anybody in particular. All but one of my subjects scaled down, and the one that scaled up only did so negligibly – and I did fine.

Wishing you nothing but the best for the remainder of your high school journey!