Advice From HSC 2020 Achievers
Ms Jenny Pollock | Deputy Curriculum | 20 July 2021
Earlier this year, the Deputy, Curriculum, Ms Jenny Pollock invited four students who achieved some outstanding results in the 2020 HSC Exams to speak at Assembly about their HSC experience. Below is the advice offered by each of these students.
Kitty Henderson, was one of our 2020 HSC “All-Rounders” achieving Band 6’s (a mark above 90) in each of her five subjects. In addition to this, last year Kitty managed a significant basketball training and competition commitment, which resulted in her being offered a Basketball Scholarship to Columbia University in the USA.
Kitty recommended that HSC students should:
> Plan your study blocks ahead of time.
> Use mind maps: Kitty found that she “could actually picture my mind map and the acronym I had while I was in the exam."
> Use your peers & remember that you are basically a team; share your notes and essays, and always be supportive of each other.
> Use your free periods well; they are a great time to meet up with your teachers and go through anything you may need help with.
> Maintain a balance and keep enjoying your life.
Sophie Gilmour achieved a high ATAR with three strong BAND 6’s, topped the School in Visual Arts, and achieved her goal to study Architecture at university. This required her to plan & manage her time successfully to ensure that she completed her Visual Arts Major Work to a high standard while still achieving well across all her theory subjects.
Sophie recommended that HSC students undertaking a Visual Arts Body of Work or a Design & Technology Major Project should:
> choose a concept early in Year 12 to give plenty of time to develop and improve the major work without feeling rushed through the creative process. This provides time for sufficient teacher feedback, experimentations, and redrafting.
> dedicate short blocks of intensive time to the Major Work, making the project easier to complete.
Sophie found the following strategies helped to prepare her for the various HSC theory exams:
> Completing timed practice papers & submitting these to the teacher for marking.
> Prioritising hitting the marking criteria.
> Focusing on one’s weak points, such as exam technique & not finishing exams in time, and then being self-disciplined in improving on this consistently throughout the year, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you feel.
> Making links between all the content areas, which helped develop & strengthen understanding by putting it in context. This reduced the need to memorise piles of notes before exams.
Matthew Priest achieved a high ATAR with Band 6’s in four subjects and was one mark off a Band 6 in Mathematics Extension 2. Matthew has now started at UNSW doing a double degree in Advanced Science & Chemical Engineering.
Matthew recommends the following as his top three strategies for HSC success:
1. Identify your key strengths and weaknesses, then dedicate a certain amount of time to the subjects that you find more challenging. Then, after finishing the allocated time on those subjects, ‘reward’ yourself with working on the subjects that you enjoy more. That way you feel you are being productive and remaining in a positive mindset.
2. Use your study periods effectively at school and have a plan before you start working.
3. Set yourself a goal. There are many different ways of doing this but 2 ways I would recommend are:
- > Do some ATAR goal setting with Ms. Pollock aligned with the particular University course you are aiming to get into after school. You can put that number in front of your desk at home, and that can keep you focused.
- > Have a goal about shifting your mindset when you have to complete something that isn’t your favourite thing to do.
Matthew found the following two strategies useful in keeping himself motivated towards his HSC studies:
> Having a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ each week. Organise to go out with friends at least one night a week that becomes routine. This way you can have something to look forward to each week, giving you a bit of an incentive to work towards as you study which, in a sense, is a reward for your hard work.
> Selecting subjects that you have a distinct passion for and enjoy talking about. Matt really enjoyed maths and science at school which meant that he was really interested in everything that he was doing in class, and this enabled him to become invested in the learning.
Lulu Shields, who is our current Drama Captain, completed her HSC in Drama last year when she was in Year 11. Lulu achieved a strong BAND 6 level of achievement with an HSC exam mark of 94.
Lulu found that doing an HSC course as an accelerated subject in Year 11 better prepared her for Year 12 :
> as she now has more time available during the school day to do homework and study & this helps prevent assessments from piling up.
> as doing the HSC Drama Exam in Year 11 helped put into perspective that the HSC Exams are not really as scary as she had imagined, and now she is more confident to sit her other HSC exams.
Lulu recommends the following for HSC success when doing an accelerated subject in Year 11:
> Make sure to keep in mind how thankful your future Year 12 self will be that you have completed two units already.
> Find a good balance between your current Year 11 work and the accelerated course, as it can seem like a lot of work.
> it is important to take time for yourself to do the hobbies you love, like sport or going to the beach. This helped Lulu to be more motivated and prevented her from feeling stressed.
Lulu found the following two LEARNING@STLUKE'S strategies useful in getting through the HSC exam:
> Resilience and Reflectiveness made a huge difference to her learning.
> When she found the HSC Drama essays to be challenging she submitted lots of practice essays, then worked with the teacher, using Reflectiveness, to see where the strengths & weaknesses were in the essays. She then used Resilience to persevere in finally piecing together a good drama essay.
These insights from Kitty, Sophie, Matthew, and Lulu are provided with the aim of assisting future HSC students to optimise their preparation for the HSC Exams, and to show that there are multiple strategies that can be implemented by students to help them achieve their HSC goals. An important part in the planning process is for HSC students to reflect on their areas of strength & weakness as a learner, identify the strategies that will work best for them & their preferred style of learning, and consider the learning dispositions which will facilitate achievement of their HSC goals.