Many students enter Year 12 – their final year of high school – with high aspirations. It’s natural to want to maximise your marks, and for some, this manifests in a goal of a 99+ ATAR.

If that sounds like you, or even if you want to get an ATAR as high as you can (whether that be >30, 50, 70, 90, 99.95 or anywhere in between), this article, where we chat with a recent student who did achieve their 99+ ATAR goal, is for you.

Part 1: General Questions

Hey! Thanks for answering these questions. First up: do you think achieving a 99+ ATAR is difficult?

Absolutely – I don’t think you can get a 99+ ATAR without working hard and putting in effort. Statistically, only so many students can get an ATAR of 99 or above each year, so just by the numbers and by virtue of the ATAR working on a bell-curve distribution, yeah, I think getting a 99+ is hard.

But in saying that, somebody has to get those marks, so it’s not impossible.

A classic question from students goes something like, “how much do you have to study to get a 99+?” What are your thoughts on that?

This is really difficult to answer, because what I experienced through Year 12 won’t be the same as what the next person experienced, which will be different still from what the next person experienced, and so on. So, in that sense, it’s sort of a “how long is a piece of string?” case.

However, I will try to give a general indication of what worked for me (keeping in mind that this was very dependent on the time of year – obviously study techniques will fluctuate depending on what’s required at the time).

I’d say I studied, on average, maybe 2-3 hours outside of school on most (absolutely not all) weekdays, and then sort of sporadically through weekends – it’s hard to put a number on it.

But again, two hours for me might be the equivalent of six hours for another person, or it might be the equivalent of twenty minutes. It’s really difficult to say and probably isn’t super productive to dwell on too much.

Some commentary would have you believe that you need to do super well on all of your assessments in order to get a 99+ ATAR – do you agree with that?

In short, no.

To clarify, getting a 99+ ATAR doesn’t mean you’ve averaged 99% across all of your assessments, in the same way getting a 70.00 ATAR doesn’t mean you’ve averaged 70%. It just means that, according to the very narrow assessment criteria set and used to judge performance in this particular context, you’ve achieved higher marks than 99% of your competition.

I didn’t massively bomb any of my internal assessments or anything like that, but there were, of course, many I wanted to perform better in than I did. A similar thing was true for my final exams – I was content but not like, super ecstatic.

But the thing is, I know a number of people who did perform quite poorly for an assessment or two, and still pull off amazing marks. The reality is that each assessment only contributes a certain amount toward your overall score for that subject, and that subject itself only contributes a certain amount to your ultimate ATAR. I’d definitely encourage you to take each assessment task seriously, but in isolation, they’re definitely not make-or-break.

Part 2: Day-to-day Life Questions

What was your day-to-day like throughout the year?

Pretty normal, I’d imagine, although to be honest I’ve never been super keen on massive parties and stuff, so maybe fewer 18ths than most haha. Basically, I’d go to school (I got there a bit early usually to study because I work better in the morning), maybe stay back for a bit, then go home and chill.

I also had other stuff going on throughout the year (I tutored a Year 9 student, for example), so I’d fit that in when necessary, and then also had sport/family/friends and whatever else. I basically never studied at home or after dinner – that’s just what worked for me.

You got to school early – was that a really rigid routine for you?

It wasn’t hard and fast – so like, I didn’t feel like I had to get to school early and do that every day or else bad things would happen, or anything like that. To be honest it’s just what was convenient for me in terms of getting to school and getting work done, so it probably happened like that most days.

Thinking about it, I did typically keep things pretty consistent, though. For example, I’d usually stay back after school for a little bit to finish off bits and pieces (again, I didn’t really study well or effectively at night, so this is what I did to keep on top of things), and when I had free periods, I made sure I actually studied.

With that in mind, evenings were pretty much a complete write-off for me.

Did you follow a study timetable at all?

Nah, not really. As per my last response, I sort of knew when I studied best, so that was what I aimed for. I guess in that sense you could say I had a really vague pseudo study timetable sort of thing in my head, but it was never formalised. I didn’t like the idea of having to sit down at a certain time and study a certain subject – that just felt unnecessarily confining to me.

Organisation is super important in Year 12, though, and I’d encourage any current or future students to simply do what works best for them. Like, if you use study timetables and they work well for you, awesome! I had other preferences to keep on top of stuff, but that’s just personal preference.

Part 3: Exam Preparation Questions

Many people say that doing practice exams is useful. Do you agree?

For me, it was. Absolutely.

How many do you think you should do per subject to best prepare?

Honestly I think this is impossible to answer. I know people who did 40 exams and zero exams who received the same score.

I found doing practice exams (on the assumption I did them properly, got them marked, learnt from mistakes etc.) useful, but that’s not to say others will. And there’s probably a point where you start to gain not heaps from doing more, but that point would surely differ from person to person and from subject to subject.

So, probably not the most useful of answers, but I abstain. Haha.

Did you have any unusual or different study techniques that worked well for you in terms of exam preparation?

A lot of my study was fairly conventional: practice questions, notes, summaries – that sort of thing.

Something I did that I assume most people wouldn’t was talk to myself. Or, I guess more accurately, test myself. So if I was trying to learn a definition, say, I’d literally walk around my house or outside at school or whatever, and just try to repeat it as much as I could. I’d have it on a palm card or something if I needed to check something, but then I’d try to associate the definition with what I could see.

In exams, I found myself remembering content based on the “journey” I took when trying to memorise it. I’m pretty sure I learnt the name of this technique at school – I think it’s the method of loci. Would recommend.

Part 4: Extracurricular Questions

Did you manage to do many if any extracurricular activities throughout Year 12?

Probably fewer than I should have, but yes. I tutored, particularly in the first half of the year. I was also involved in school leadership, which involved meetings, events and the like. And I love my sport, so weekends sometimes consumed with that almost entirely.

Otherwise, I tried to get away from the whole Year 12 bubble when I could, and literally would just go for a walk, listen to music, draw – that sort of thing. I think it’s actually quite counter-productive to be thinking about school all the time.

Speaking of tutoring, did you get tutored in Year 12? Do you think it’s necessary to do well?

No, and no.

I think tutoring has a number of benefits and can be really, really beneficial to a lot of people. But I also don’t think it’s the case that if you don’t get tutoring, you can’t do well.

Looking back, do you have any regrets, or anything you’d do differently if you had your time again? And any last words?

Not really. Nothing huge, at least. I’d probably change some of my subjects around, but I was happy enough with how Year 12 panned out. I’d probably try to focus less on numbers and more on feedback/improvement if anything.

Most of my “regrets” (not sure if the right word for the context exactly) come from earlier years. Like, I’d get a job when I turned 15, try to get more involved in extracurricular stuff in younger years – stuff like that.

In general, I think Year 12 is quite a personal year, and it can definitely be super challenging at times. I’d encourage current and future students to use whatever resources they have available to them – both for Year 12 and more generally.

Part 5: How to Get a 99+ ATAR

Okay, final question. What are three tips you can hit us up with re: how to get a 99+ ATAR?

I’ll ignore the last part of the question because I think these would be relevant for everybody aiming to improve their marks – not just those gunning for the super high ATARs. Pretty general, but:

  1. Don’t treat articles/resources like this one super seriously. As I’ve mentioned, everybody’s different. You could probably do the exact opposite of everything I’ve said and get the same marks if that’s what worked for you.

  2. Consistency is IMO the biggest thing, and probably the most underrated thing, that you can have on your side through Year 12. You don’t need to cram – you just need to get stuff done when you can.

  3. Look after yourself. Obviously this is super important anyway, but in the context of Year 12, a happy and healthy you will outperform a less happy and healthy version. Be kind to yourself, and ask for help when needed.

Good luck!

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