My name is Jasmine De Rosa, and this is my guide to the strategies I used to survive the last year of high school, achieve a 99.60 ATAR and state ranked 6th in Economics all while still finding ways to enjoy the time!
I can’t say that I loved doing the HSC, but along the way, I learnt ways to make it tolerable, and even enjoyable at times!
Of course, seeing your hard work pay off in your ATAR is definitely rewarding, but like many HSC students, I found focusing on marks to be discouraging and overall detrimental to my mental health. To me, the best way to get through the HSC was trying to find the enjoyment in each day – in memories with friends, exchanges with teachers, and even in studying.
🥰 Learning to Enjoy Your Subjects
I think one of the things that make studying in Year 12 so difficult in the lead up to the HSC is that it seems frustrating to be dedicating so much effort, all for that one single final cluster of exams, as if that was the only purpose and goal for you in life.
Something that helped me deal with this was finding something to like in every subject, something to motivate my learning beyond purely studying to ace the HSC. In economics, that “thing” was finally learning to actually understand all those confusing terms in the news articles and what people meant when they refer to “The Economy”, or how changes to the “Cash Rate” could impact me. For Italian, it was being able to (kind of) speak and understand an entirely new language! I even began to find enjoyment in Maths as a break from my content-heavy subjects.
My point is, when you begin to think about your subjects as something valuable beyond the HSC and even as something mildly enjoyable, studying will become less difficult.
🤓 Study Techniques
Finding study techniques that work efficiently is crucial to keeping on track to being fully prepared for the HSC!
For my more content heavy subjects such as Economics, I found note-taking during revision to take up too much time. Instead, for each topic I compiled the notes I took during classes, notes I found primarily online, or from others in my year – this is where it really helps if your cohort makes a Google Drive where you share resources and work together!
Then, I practiced short answer questions over and over using the notes I found for reference and compiled my answers into one master document covering every syllabus dot point. If you have a teacher that is willing to give you feedback on your practice responses, make the most of their feedback to improve your responses to questions. Even if you don’t, ask your friends and classmates for help! Peer-marking is very useful and you’ll be able to fill in certain gaps in your knowledge by reading each other’s responses. Besides this, I also spent my time making practice essays and essay scaffolds to speed up my writing during exams.
Practicing writing essays and short answer questions was probably the most useful study technique for me for a couple reasons. First, I was able to learn and revise the content while researching for answers. Second, I learnt how to best structure short answers and essays, which was very helpful in answering questions I had not prepared for in exams.
Finally, memorising these answers was the main way I studied prior to exams. Although it was never possible for me to retain all this content, I picked the topics and questions that were most likely to come up in exams as the ones to memorise. In the lead up to the HSC, I ended up compiling a document of past HSC essay questions by year, and colour coding them based on the part of the syllabus they were from, which made it easy to see which sections had not been asked in a few years. From here, I’d focus on a few topics. I ended up walking into my Modern History HSC exam only having memorised 2-3 essays for each topic and this strategy ended up working well for me!
Also, it’s really important to know specific stats (like in Economics) and quotes (like in English and History). The best way I found to not feel overwhelmed by all this information is to compile all the stats or quotes you need into a single document and focus on memorising that document!
If you need a set of notes and past papers to revise from, check out Project Academy’s iPads!
🔥 Exam Technique
Exam technique is absolutely vital to doing well in the HSC and is too often overlooked!
For this reason, doing practice papers is essential, because knowing the entire syllabus isn’t much use if you can’t apply it in an exam! For example, I found that I really struggled with time management and actually didn’t finish my first few practice economics papers! However as I continued to work on time management, I was able to finish papers completely, all within the time limit.
Do practice papers to find the areas where you personally can improve on, and make sure you focus not only on improving your worst-performing areas, but also ensuring that your ability to answer the whole paper is improving too.
Firstly, set time limits for yourself in each section (Multiple choice, Short answer questions, essays, etc…), set in a way so that you have allocated enough time to finish each question to a good standard. Setting and adhering to my own time limits in the HSC definitely improved my marks because it’s almost always better to have a few slightly rushed short answers than to leave entire questions unanswered!
Secondly, read the question properly. Highlight it, underline it, annotate it if you need. Make sure you address all aspects of it. Also, make sure to understand the directive verb – identify, outline, explain, discuss, and evaluate, all need to be addressed differently.
The glossary of key words on NESA’s website can help here!
Like literally every other Year 12 student, I struggled A LOT with procrastination, but along the way, I learned a few things that helped me manage it.
My first tip would be to get rid of your phone. Whether you leave it out of your study space or use the Forest app, it was so important for me to not have my phone on my desk, staring at me and tempting me to scroll through Instagram or TikTok for hours.
Another thing that was really hard for me was simply sitting down and starting to study, especially when I had a large or difficult task to do. Instead, when I was really struggling to get started on something, I found it best to ease into studying with simpler work, like going through my Italian flashcards or collecting a few economic stats. That way, I was actually doing something mildly useful and could gather the momentum to dive into a more productive study session.
The best thing I found to remedy procrastination though, was studying with friends. I spent every weekday in the pre-HSC study period at Chatswood library with friends. Being around people who were studiously doing work made me want to do work as well, and the random conversations made study more enjoyable. It also helps to have something to look forward to, which for me was our lunch break or the obligatory milk tea run in the afternoon. During COVID times, this may not be entirely possible, but I still regularly studied with friends online which has essentially the same effect!
Overall, developing techniques to study effectively whilst also learning to not hate studying my subjects led me to achieve results that I was happy with while still enjoying Year 12. There are so many great things about Year 12 that will make it much more memorable than your ATAR, so make the most of it and best of luck!
If you would like some support for your Economics journey, or just someone to chat with about your HSC progress, sign up for a 3-week trial now HERE! I’ll see you in my Economics tutorials 😊