I was never the brightest student in junior school. I did my homework, I participated in class discussions and I completed my assignments on time. I did the bare minimum to scrape by and this was reflected in my marks. About halfway through Year 11, I knew that this approach to my studies wasn’t going to get me the ATAR I needed to get into the course of my dreams. And so, in a stress-induced hurry, I set myself one task for the rest of my HSC journey:

Always hand in one extra item of work

I challenged myself to constantly produce and submit an additional piece of work every time a teacher would assign a homework task. If my English class had a narrative due, I would hand in two; if I had a maths paper to do over the weekend, I would try to complete one and a half. This habit quickly became second nature, developing into a regular feature of my weekly schedule. As this began to occur, my marks saw a significant increase. Challenging myself to this task drastically improved my performance as an HSC student, and it can do the same for you. Let me explain why: 

Increases the amount of knowledge you’re retaining

This habit, on its most fundamental level, promotes the retainment of a greater amount of information. This, for obvious reasons, is ideal in preparation for the HSC exams. Producing regular additional work encourages a wider level of reading. It increases both the quantity and quality of the information you are engaging with. It promotes the use of academic articles and university-level content, which allows you to work with more sophisticated ideas and concepts. This more nuanced application of your syllabus is a great appeal to HSC markers, who will take note of the extensive research and evidence of critical thinking.

Forces you to employ effective time-management

I am no stranger to the seemingly constant lack of time that exists for HSC students. I lived it, I complained about it, and I somehow endured it. Assigning yourself this task of completing additional work forces you to adopt effective time-management practices. You need to be relatively strict with yourself regarding self-assigned due dates and prioritising important tasks. I preferred to write lists every day, as it allowed me to have more flexibility with my schedule, however, those in favour a more regimented plan may opt to follow a specifically designed timetable. Regardless of what organisational structure you use, adding these extra pieces of work to your study load is only feasible if you can manage it alongside your other commitments. Thus, the successful adoption of this habit also subliminally encourages effective time-management skills.

Optimising your study time

The way you study also changes upon developing this habit. Suddenly, instead of just mindlessly reading over your notes, you’re actually applying your knowledge of the stimulus to past papers and practice responses. This is a highly recommended mode of studying, as it is a form of preparation most akin to what you are expected to produce in the HSC. I found that by doing this, I was able to considerably reduce the amount of time I spent studying. Instead of needing the whole weekend to rewrite my notes and memorise them, I could cover the same amount of information in a shorter period of time by completing practice questions targeted at specific syllabus points. 

Allows you to get invaluable feedback from your teachers

One of the important features of this study habit is the consistent feedback you get from your teachers. Receiving regular constructive criticism allows you to be constantly refining your responses and approaches to varying questions. This also ensures that you are regularly checking in with your teachers regarding your understanding of the syllabus and therefore fixing any areas where you are lacking in knowledge, rather than waiting the night before an exam. This feedback from your teachers is also really helpful for boosting your internal assessment marks. The more additional work you are producing for them to grade, the more feedback you are receiving, which means the more familiar you will be with what your teachers are looking for when it comes time to sit in-school assessments.

Boosts your confidence

Constantly producing additional work will help to boost your confidence when it comes time to sit exams. The knowledge that you have been proactive in your studying and have consistently been applying extra effort throughout the course of the year will help you to feel prepared for whatever questions the exams may throw at you. The large pile of additional past papers and practice responses should exist as a physical representation of your preparation and readiness, therefore appeasing some of the anxieties you may have when in an exam situation. This new mentality, a direct outcome of the adoption of this particular study habit, can completely change your ability to cope with the stress of the HSC – reducing the likelihood of breakdowns and anxiety attacks, and therefore improving your overall mental wellbeing.

Challenging myself to always hand in one extra item of work was the cornerstone upon which I built my study approach to Year 12.  Thus, when people ask me how I did so well in the HSC, it is always to this simple habit that I attribute my success. So now, I share this tip with you all, hoping that you too can take from it as much as I did and that it makes your Year 12 journey somewhat a little bit easier. 

Photo by Samantha Hurley from Burst

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