Ah yes, the dreaded transition to the ATAR system. It’s fun! (Debatable) It’s exciting! (Is it? Is it really?). Sometimes school can feel like a game of pin the tail on the donkey – you kind of know what you need to do, but you’re not exactly sure how to do it. So you take a shot in the dark, right? As Queensland says good riddance to the OP system, and welcomes the ATAR system, it will feel like you are being thrusted into the deep end… That is because you are. It will feel like you are entering the unknown… That is because you are.
Now, this article hasn’t been written by Willy Wonka so I’m not going to sugar coat anything. For some of you, Year 11 and 12 are going to be challenging (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing). For many, this transition between systems may be accompanied by a lot of stress, tears, and lack of sleep. However, with good support networks (friends, family, teachers…) and hard work, you will be able to show the ATAR system who’s boss! Below are some things to remember as you embark on your journey through the unknown…

Feedback logs are your best friend

I can’t stress this enough! Keep track of the feedback you receive in units 1 & 2. Assuming you don’t change subjects, the assessment you complete in units 3 & 4 will be exactly the same as the assessment completed in units 1 & 2. Do you study biology? Well, become familiar with that data test you complete at the very beginning of unit 1, because you will complete another data test in unit 3 (goodie!). It is important that you write down the feedback you receive throughout year 11 in a place that is accessible and you won’t forget about. I’m sure most of us will agree that we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Throughout year 12 you want to bank as many points as possible for each subject, by keeping track of your feedback for year 11 you are less likely to lose points due to silly mistakes.

Learn from your mistakes. Make “failure” your friend. A popular quote from Trevor Noah reads: “We spend so much time being afraid of failure… But regret is the thing we should fear the most.” Do not fear failure. Instead, embrace the lessons you can learn from it. From your trials and tribulations ask yourself: what can I learn from this? What can I improve on? Was this out of my control? Units 1 and 2 offer a perfect opportunity to work things out. What study strategies work best for each of your subjects? How do you find a good work-life balance? How can you make sure you are taking care of yourself and not getting too overwhelmed with the stress that is life? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself throughout year 11.

Diminishing returns

Diminishing returns. A concept most economists should be familiar with. However, did you know that this concept is very applicable to personal growth? One of my teachers would always talk to me about diminishing returns in the context of studying – I could probably recite his whole spiel (I did hear it about a million times after all) but instead I will simply paraphrase. Studying = good. Studying too much = not good. There is a popular saying, that I’m sure everyone has heard before: practice makes perfect. While yes this is true, practice does make perfect, there comes a point where if you continue to study/practice the benefit you receive starts to diminish.

For example, you get 60% better at maths after a revision session that lasts for 3 hours – within that 3 hours you are at your most productive. Let’s say, you study for another 3 hours – but this time, you only improved by 10%. Overall, across the 6 hours of studying, you’ve improved at maths by 70%. See how this works? Instead of doing one big 6 hour study session once a week and only improving by 70%, you should instead study multiple times a week for 3 hours and improve by 60% each time. Obviously, everyone is different, so a study period of 3 hours isn’t necessarily going to be the most beneficial amount of time for everyone. You need to figure out how much time you should spend studying so that you can be at your most productive – what is that sweet spot between too little and too much study? As soon as you reach the point of diminishing returns you should stop. As soon as you reach the point of negative returns you should definitely stop.

Make health your priority

Put simply: you can’t perform at your best if you are dead/dying. So take care of yourself. You’ve heard the basics: eat, sleep, drink. Have a good balanced diet – eat foods that will fuel your body and brain, and let yourself enjoy a delicious slice of chocolate cake every once in a while (you deserve it!). Make sure you are drinking enough water (if you don’t need to pee every 15 minutes you are doing it wrong), and make sure you are getting enough sleep.
However, one of the most important aspects of your health is your mental health. Looking out for yourself is super-duper important, and the relationship that you have with yourself is the most important relationship you will ever have. Be kind with yourself. Be forgiving. If you are stressed, or sad, or anxious, or just need to vent, talk to someone (that could be a teacher, a guidance councillor, friends, family…). For many, Years 11 and 12 will be stressful, so it is important that you communicate with those around you and let them know when you are overwhelmed or stressed.
And last but not least:

Focus on the learning, not the numbers (or letters)

Don’t focus too much on getting a 25/25 on English, or seeing straight As on your report card. Instead, learn for the sake of learning. Make sure you actually understand the content. If you are actually learning and developing the expected knowledge then you don’t need to worry about what result you will get because good grades will follow. If you have a tendency to put too much pressure on yourself academically, try to change your mindset regarding school and assessment. Don’t aim to get 100% on a test, instead aim to know 100% of the content.

To my fellow QCEers… good luck. You’ve all got this! Remember to believe in yourselves and have fun – you’re allowed to have a life outside of school 🙂 If you are having any troubles with particular subjects, the ATAR Notes forums are a wonderful place to seek help and guidance.