Feeling lost about Year 12? Worried about your internal trial ranks and how that might affect your HSC mark? Procrastinating so hard that you need to make yourself feel productive by reading a study guide on how to organise your time efficiently to do well in the HSC—instead of, you know, studying for the HSC? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
Hello! Nice to meet you, I’m Maxwell Han, and I’m an English and Economics tutor at Project Academy. I graduated in 2020 from Baulkham Hills High School as an “All-Rounder” and “Distinguished Achiever” in the HSC. Now, 2020 was not the best year to be in Year 12. And even if (hopefully!) COVID isn’t so much of an issue anymore for you when you read this, there are always setbacks that we never expect, that stress us out and demoralise us. Despite all this, I still managed to enjoy my HSC and I want to remind you guys that your HSC year is also your last year ever at high school. It’s the last year where you’ll feel the camaraderie of having a cohort. It’s the last year you’ll get to spend with your friends before you all split off and do your own things. I want to make sure that you leave Year 12 knowing that you made the most of it.
This guide explains how I got a 99.85 ATAR while still making the most of Year 12!
1. Procrastinate Effectively!
Look, I get it. We all procrastinate. I remember posting several times a day on Instagram about how little I was studying. I remember making an infographic sorting all of my friends into their Hogwarts houses. I remember playing Among Us the day before Paper 1. (This is very embarrassing to admit.)
But I only did so because I knew when to take breaks in between the necessary studying. What works for each person varies to a small extent, this is what worked for me; I made study timetables each day (especially leading up to Trials and HSC!) which I attempted to follow. I knew what I needed to do per day, and it felt a LOT better at the end of the day when I’d done exactly what I said I’d do, helping motivate me to continue my streak of completing my daily productivity goals. It’s also good to set aside breaks in between studying periods — the worst thing you can do is work too hard and burn out. As long as you are decisive and deliberate with the procrastination you allow yourself to engage in, you will strike a good balance and avoid burnout.
2. Study smart, and hard.
Being judicious with what and how you study is very important. Making sure you’re familiar with all the NESA syllabus dot-points and those provided by your school is super vital to doing well in your exams.
Get acquainted with your teachers! They are your markers for the entirety of your internal assessments, so figure out what they want to see from you, because they may be looking for a certain detail or style of answer! Also, keep in correspondence with them, take the opportunity to get their help with the content and questions you need.
Here’s a list of the NESA syllabus dot-points!
In Year 12, I did very content-heavy subjects, such as Economics, Legal Studies, and Latin Extension. This meant that I had a lot to learn and memorise. I experimented with all different types of content retention: flash cards both online and physical, note-taking both online and physical, mnemonics both online and physical, look-say-cover-write-check both online and physical. If you have the time, definitely try and see which one helps you out the most.
What I found was most helpful was note-taking, then doing practice questions.
- I personally find the process of note-taking incredibly helpful—becoming familiar with the textbook, learning it inside and out, all the while putting its content into your own words on your own Google Doc. For some subjects, I really liked making pretty notes with fancy titles and colour-coding, because it helped me become more engaged and motivated with what I was writing.
- However, after I made the notes, I rarely just read over them to learn. I just simply didn’t find this useful or productive or interesting. What I did find helpful was doing practice questions upon practice questions upon practice questions. I’d send them to teachers or friends to get them marked, or mark them myself.
- If there was ever a part of the content I wasn’t too comfortable with, I would make sure to go back to my note and relearn.
- I also made sure to not continuously study the same topic or subject for more than three hours at a time, to avoid becoming burnt out. Instead, I switched it up with breaks in-between and studied different subjects before and after these breaks.
It’s also important that we study consistently and sustainably. Whoever said practice makes perfect was a horrible person, but they were right! Doing practice was the singular most important aspect of my study for HSC. Before crunch time, I was doing practice papers every day. I know it sounds tough, but trust me, you’ll be glad you did it! Make sure you do them timed; time management is a skill that is important across every subject and for every exam to make sure that you can finish all the questions and maximise your marks every time.
Find Trial papers from other schools. Do past HSC exams. Find whatever you can and whatever you need to help your studying.
Project Academy has a large online database of HSC and HSC Trial exams (including solutions) available for student use on their iPads. For more information, check out our iPad page.
3. Stay human!
Don’t turn into a robot that mindlessly studies 24/7. You’re a growing kid, and you need to do normal human things too.
I know that I need a lot of rest to function properly. I remember every night I tried to sleep at 10.30 PM so I could wake up at 6.30 AM every morning. Keeping a schedule like this really helped me stay energised and motivated when I went to school every day.
Aside from sleep, I also ensured that throughout the year I maintained other healthy habits. I went on runs and walks when I could. I made sure to eat three meals a day. (Don’t neglect this!) I stayed home and rested when I was sick. I knew my limits and worked around them.
What was really important for me during HSC was having my friends around. I don’t know how I would’ve done it without the constant motivation in the back of my mind that everyone around me was going through the exact same thing! Make sure you have that sort of support network — whether it be your parents, your teachers, your friends, your counsellor — to keep you going.
Having purposes and interests that aren’t academically related is essential. I was lucky enough to be Vice Captain of my Prefect body during my time in Year 12, and I can’t tell you how much purpose it gave me to coordinate events and initiatives and represent my student body.
Another thing that I held onto during my HSC experience was looking forward to things. Staying keen for upcoming school events. Going out with my friends after school and having fun study sessions. Being excited for my graduation and camp (both of which didn’t end up happening, R.I.P.) Looking forward to dressing up at formal (which did happen!)
Look. This might not work for everyone, but the whole year all I wanted was to do my best. This philosophy, rather than focussing on specific marks or ranks, really drove me that year. I’m happy with how I did as a result!
I honestly miss it! Year 12, the HSC included — was a really great time in my life. Make sure you make the most of it!