When someone talks about Year 12, my mind immediately goes to the HSC exams. Those tumultuous and intimidating papers that can make or break your future. However, you might also hear your teachers mention your trial exams a couple of times, well, I would hope so, mainly due to the fact that they play a foundational role in setting you up for those final exams.
Your internal assessment mark
How important are the trial examinations though? Similar to me, you might be thinking that the final round of HSC exams should be enough, why do we need an extra set of exams as well? Luckily, I had a surplus of post-HSC friends to explain where trials sat in the hierarchy of examinations, and luckily for you, I am willing to pass on that knowledge.
The technical importance of your trials is that they form part of your internal assessment mark. Think of them as another assessment dressed up as an HSC exam. The same way that English essay might contribute a percentage to your overall grade, so will each individual trial exam.
Depending on your school and HSC year, trials can contribute from 20-30% to your overall grade. However, just because they aren’t your actual final exams, it doesn’t mean they are an easy out or something to ignore. Actually, over most years, the trial exams are often harder than your HSC exams.
I always assumed this was because the education board wanted to start strong so that by the time the HSC came around, the exams looked easy (important to note, this assumption has been formed via my overly active imagination).
Opportunity to get that rank!
Another important aspect of trials is that they are a great opportunity to get that rank! It might be highly competition inducing but achieving a high rank through your trials is an easy way to make the HSC that bit cruisier in the long term.
You are given a rank for each subject at the end of the year, and wherever you fall can push your HSC marks that bit higher and guarantee you the goal ATAR you’ve had written above your desk all year. I struggled the most in Advanced English out of my five subjects but by ensuring all my assessments, particularly my English trial, were of a high standard, I came out of Year 12 ranked second in the year.
In doing so, even if I somehow flopped during the final exam, I was guaranteed the second highest English Advanced mark out of my year because of that pre-determined rank. It’s one of those elements of the HSC that can either be a massive aid or pain in your ass.
You can go hard at the start of the year and take it easy during the scary exam period, but alongside this it also means that you can’t rely on pulling it out of the bag at the last minute, you instead have to put in the work from day one.
Boost your Confidence
I apologise if I have set the trials up to sound menacing but they also give you the chance for a HSC dress rehearsal! By the time trial time comes around, most of you will have covered almost all the content from the syllabus. This is definitely something to be celebrated and taken advantage of. It meant that when you went in to sit your trials, your teachers would treat it like the real thing, which made the next round of exams a whole lot less daunting.
With your clear pencil case at hand, you will be ushered into either an exam hall or in my case, converted classrooms filled with an army of desks, each neatly spaced out. Sitting on your desk is booklet filled with hard going questions that will force you to reach into the depths of your brain library to source out enough information for those pesky three markers.
By knowing the exact situation, you would be going into later in the year, you’ll find unknown confidence, it’ll hopefully lessen any remaining exam anxiety. I found that by going hard and genuinely studying for my trials, I set myself up for later in the year.
Once the dreaded HSC was upon me, I already knew the majority of the content because I’d already gone through it a bunch of times for my trials. The more familiar you become with all the information thrown at you by your teachers, the more confident you’ll become when sitting your exams.
My main war strategy in what I like to call the ‘Battle of the HSC’, was to begin by rewriting the information under each syllabus point that I had been taught in class to better familiarise myself with each concept and then later testing myself to see if I could rewrite the same information without having to check my notes.
Once I had all the information in the bag, and by bag, I mean my HSC saturated brain, then came past papers. At one point my room looked like a printing studio. Piles of past papers filled every inch of floorspace that I had, and god forbid I ever open a window on a windy day, or else a paper-based tornado would flatten me (not to mention potential papercut wreckage).
Studying for trials is the perfect time to tackle that topic that just doesn’t make sense to you, and oftentimes is a good opportunity to start pestering your teachers for extra explanations on those harder to grasp concepts. In the lead up to trials, I came across a fair amount of syllabus points that I had filed away under ‘I’ll try to understand that later”. Luckily, by recognising where my weaknesses where, I could go straight to my teachers for a little extra attention.
Additionally, if your school or teachers are offering any extra study sessions, MAKE USE OF THIS. Having one on one time with your educators will clear up a whole lot more than you might think, and you can make sure you’re walking into those exams with 100% confidence that you covered every inch of that syllabus.
Feedback, feedback and more feedback!
Another benefit of putting in the hard work when it comes to trials is feedback, feedback and more feedback! If you treat those exams like the real thing, you will know exactly where any of your shortcomings fall once you get those exams back.
I found that a lot of the time the content of my answers was not wrong, it was instead the way I wrote those answers. The feedback from my trial exams taught me to be more succinct and straight to the point, my teachers called in ‘listing the answer but dressing it up in a sentence’.
This forced me to stop ‘fluffing’ up my answers and having too much ‘waffle’ in my essays, which in turn helped me finish exams a whole lot more quickly, giving me more time to re check everything I’d just done. Trials also helped me realise how much time I would have to allot to different sections.
For example, in business, there is a multiple-choice section, a short marks section, and essay section. By doing the trial exams, I learnt that I was spending WAY too much time on multiple-choice, leaving me to race through my business essays at the end when really, I should have been putting the extra effort and detail into them.
Your trial exams aren’t the be all and end all, they are only what you make them. You can use the as an opportunity to refine those pre-HSC skills and set yourself up for later, but if that fate isn’t yours, that is okay too! There is always time to pick up your game later in the year when you’re feeling more ready.
Trials can help give you that extra push, but at the end of the day, you can still pull through. This is your student journey and the best part of that is that you get to decide how what Year 12 will be for you.