Advice from HSC Achievers: Meet Kye

Ms Jenny Pollock | Deputy, Academic Strategy | 5 March 2024

At the Senior School Assembly this week we invited three students who undertook last year’s HSC Exams, to offer advice to future HSC students. Below is the advice offered by one of the students. Over the next few editions of Grammar News, I will share the advice provided by the others.

Kye Burns was one of our NESA All-Rounders who achieved a Band 6 in 10 units or more. He achieved an ATAR of 99.4 and is now studying a double degree in Bachelor of Advanced Mathematics and a Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Philosophy) at UNSW. Kye took accelerated Maths in Year 11 so sat his HSC Maths Advanced a year early.

I asked Kye to outline the top three strategies that he used to ensure that he achieved the marks that he was aiming for across all his subjects.  Kye’s response was:

“For me to feel confident that I was going to achieve my best in the HSC, there were a few really key habits that I put in place:

  1. Keeping every plate spinning! Amidst the chaos of high school, it’s very easy to prioritise what is immediately ahead of you, and, in turn, accidentally forget about all the other things you probably should be spending time on. It’s a great privilege to have this multidisciplinary education, but it’s a lot to take on. However, I always found that it becomes much, much more manageable with constant maintenance – time on one subject can be a well-deserved break from another! And to quote the sage wisdom of St Luke’s poet laureate Mr Cutting, one should make like a circus performer and keep all the plates spinning, lest they wish to face shattered crockery.
  2. Attack your weaknesses. This advice may sound trite (it does), but it is very tempting to spend time on all the topic areas that you’re absolutely nailing – often a lovely ego boost. At the same time, it can be just as rewarding to pinpoint an area that you’re dreading seeing a 20-marker on, and wrestling with it until it’s your bread and butter. Try to teach someone the stuff you don’t know – it's the quickest way to reveal holes in your knowledge, such as when I very quickly realised that not even I really got the plot of my narrative ( in one English essay).
  3. Talk to your teachers. It’s often fabled that once you reach Year 12, teachers get out of bed and suddenly are far more willing to help you, in contrast to your younger years. Could be true, but I like to think that it’s because it’s often not until the stakes are high in Year 12 that many students go out of their way to seek that extra bit of help – these people know what you’re learning better than anyone else, and if you show some passion, your teachers will do anything to lend a hand!


I then asked Kye about his experience of doing the Accelerated Maths program, and whether he felt it was helpful to him in Year 12 having completed the HSC Advanced Maths Exam when he was in Year 11.  Kye’s response was:

"The immediate draw, for many, to do an accelerated subject in Year 11 is that invaluable freedom you get from having already completed some units of study ahead of the bombardment that is Year 12. And although I knew that my choice of Year 12 subjects would negate the units completed with Maths Advanced, I still felt an immense benefit in having a bit of class time transformed into study periods. Too – for Maths in particular – if you are considering doing either Extension subject, it really helps to have built a foundation of content being solidified for over a year more than you would have otherwise.

But perhaps most valuable was how that early, low-stakes exposure got rid of the very hazy, ill-informed idea of what the HSC is actually like. Having confidence in knowing that it wasn’t anything all too daunting – rather, an opportunity to showcase all the hard work put in – made the build-up to the final exams in Year 12 a calm and, dare I say, enjoyable experience!"


For my final question to Kye, I asked him to reflect on his experience of being a Learning Prefect in 2023 and to share with us in what way the LEARNING@STLUKE'S framework helped him with his learning and prepared him for university.  Kye’s response was:

"The nature of that Prefect role meant I had to go out of my way to try to articulate certain nebulous things about ‘learning,’ whatever that means – a curious task, but it led me to become all the more cognisant of how I learn. Just like how communicating your understanding of Newton’s Laws, or a comprehensive history of butter, can help verify if you really know your stuff, if you can nail meta-learning or, learning about learning – all the rest falls into place.

Once you make your way out of the gates of high school, to whatever journeys you have beyond, it more than likely won’t be the content of what you learned that sticks with you, but instead the transferable skills gained from having understood. Just as importantly, the introduction of Wellbeing aspects to the framework in 2023 served as a constant reminder that all academic pursuits are, frankly, pointless if the person behind them isn’t doing well – a message all too easily forgotten!"


Stay tuned for the next instalment of ‘Advice from HSC Achievers.’