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Year 12 finishers conclude yet again that the secret to success in the HSC is a balanced lifestyle
As they finished what was called ‘The Year of Light’, HSC students from the class of 2015 saw not only the light at the end of the tunnel as they finished the final year of school, but also the spark of a new light that brings them into an exciting new stage in their lives.
We send our hearty congratulations to all school leavers from 2015, and wish them well for university.
Here we speak with a small group of students about their HSC journey.
Tell us how you tackled the last year of school. Was it stressful? What was your process of going about completing the HSC? Did you get tutoring, or participate in a study group or something similar?
Shaleen: Of course it was stressful at times, but overall it wasn’t too bad. Throughout the year I would write notes and learn all of the content while getting my English essays completed a few weeks before the exams. Leading up to exam periods I would revise what I had learnt and do past papers under timed conditions. Yes, I did tutoring. I would not have achieved my results without my tutors’ guidance and support.
Angad: Previous students and many teachers stressed that the final year of school was less of a sprint, and more of a marathon. I kept this advice in my mind as I tackled my HSC, slowly building up my study routine and hoping I would gain the momentum and increased motivation to conquer the harder and more important final set of exams. I found that I was most stressed at the beginning of the year, but as I studied and improved my results I also found a balance between the fear and courage that was required to be confident in my preparation, but also not be conceited in my actual exam. Tutoring was helpful in that it ensured I didn’t extend too far away from my path. Study groups proved the most beneficial though, as the act of teaching other students allows you to better articulate your ideas as well as improve your classmates’ results (because in the end you compete alongside your grade).
Sachin: The greatest challenge I had to overcome was managing my time – there is so much content to learn and I was also completing about 12 hours of extra-curricular activities per week. I managed my time through having a weekly planner of things that were due in the week and a monthly planner of events and assessments, so that I was never caught off guard and could always be prepared. I also prioritised my work through having a list of tasks on my laptop that I would amend every day. Each task was coloured in one of three colours: The tasks in red were urgent and had to be done immediately (i.e. within 48 hours), the tasks in yellow had to be done soon (i.e. within five days) and the tasks in green were not urgent (done when no red or yellow task was there). This ensured I was always doing the tasks that were urgent and hence was prioritising my time effectively!
Kieran: The last year of high school, without a doubt, can raise the highest levels of tension for students in their schooling life. I found the year stressful at times, but also very enriching and exciting. I persevered to balance out a healthy mix of study, socialising and exercise. I maintained a mind ready to learn and develop to prepare for my next exams, however I ensured that I healthily sustained this effort by finding invigorating (yet not consuming) distractions.
I relied heavily on class time and tutoring to ask questions involving aspects of my subjects which I was struggling to interpret or grasp. As a slow learner, I often found myself the most inquisitive and interactive when learning new concepts, and this profoundly helped me to fully comprehend what I was taught and helped me gain a good quality understanding of my content. I also used study groups to explain aspects I had learned and discuss with peers prominent, concerning features of our subjects.
Neha: I believe that in the HSC, ultimately, those who are willing to work hard, rise to challenges, gain further motivation from their successes and become more determined through their failures with the constant fight to succeed, will gain the best outcome. Accordingly, I tackled my last year of school and the HSC by balancing my studies with my hobbies and relaxation. My strategy involved effective time management, constant revision, discipline and focus.
Neha: Indeed, the HSC was quite stressful at times, particularly approaching exams. However, if you develop good exam and study techniques, you would be at much more ease. Remember, study smarter. I feel extremely lucky that I also have such great family who were always there to support me in the good times and the stressful ones too.
In terms of tutoring, participating in study groups or something similar, I suggest that if you feel you are struggling, definitely go seek help from others who can guide you.
Keertana: As the IB final exams covers content from two years of study (Year 11 and 12), I definitely experienced moments of stress. I found constant revision of previous topics on a regular basis was the best way to crack the final exams. Having a balance of extra-curricular activities along with studies gave me the drive to concentrate and focus on my goals. Some of the Higher Level subjects of the IB program were of university standard. As the syllabus was exhaustive, I received assistance through tutoring/mentoring to clarify my doubts.
What subjects did you enjoy studying the most?
Shaleen: Music was my favourite subject throughout high school. I’ve played the saxophone since Year 3 and have performed in various bands such as the NSW Public Schools Symphonic Wind Ensemble. Music provided me with the opportunity to take a break from studying and relieve stress. I accelerated music in Year 11 and managed to achieve my highest HSC mark in it, one year earlier than all of my other subjects.
Angad: Throughout, my favourite subject to study was Physics as the concepts and ideas within the syllabus proved interesting and remarkable. Economics was always interesting to learn as well, as whatever you learnt could be applied and witnessed in contemporary events. Finally, the theory within my Mathematics subjects also intrigued me; however study required rigorous practice which can be quite draining but proved the easiest to improve in.
Sachin: I really enjoyed all my HSC subjects, there was no one particular subject I resented doing. It is important that the subjects you do are what you love; if you are not passionate about your subjects you will struggle. This was quite clear in my Mathematics Extension 2 class where we had two groups of students: students that took the course because they loved maths and students who took the course for scaling. It was evident that students who were there as they have a passion for maths would consistently score above 75% and the students that did the course due to its scaling would rarely score around 60%.
Kieran: I most enjoyed Physics and Mathematics. Physics always involved interesting, sometimes mind-boggling, concepts that always stimulated my mind and made me re-think my understanding of the universe. When doing past papers, I always found myself immersed in a new situation that provided me with some new enlightening information. Maths was an equally stimulating subject, as I always found myself pushing through a difficult, perplexing question and feeling incredible after completing it.
Neha: Choosing Drama as a HSC subject has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. By far, I enjoyed studying it the most. Unlike my other “full-on” subjects (Sciences, Maths and English) which limited me to remaining seated for hours on end at a desk, choosing a creative subject like Drama allowed me to truly relax – a lot of the time I remember just rolling around in the huge empty room. Best of all, I was able to express myself in my own unique way and be assessed on it. Being quite a character myself with a big, expressive personality, Drama really complemented who I am and my passion for it saw me achieve great results.
Chemistry was my second favourite – it just added so much sense to the world and studying it really satisfied my curious mind.
Keertana: I have been asked this question from many people, but my response has always been that all my subjects are equal favourites. I believe all subjects are important as they help in the overall academic development.
How did you feel at the end of your first assessment of the year? How did you feel at the end of your final HSC exam?
Shaleen: After my first assessment I was happy that one set of exams were over, but it was daunting that every assessment block I finished was one step closer to the final HSC exams. There’s no way to describe the euphoria that I and the rest of my year felt as 110 boys in the hall finished all together after we completed 13 years of schooling. We rushed out of the hall ready to celebrate the end of another chapter of our lives.
Angad: To be honest, the end of my first assessments weren’t at all great, however my plan was to slowly improve my study routine throughout the year, keeping in mind that the HSC was a marathon. My poor results at the beginning of the year ended up giving me the motivation to push harder by the end of the year in order to do my best. At the end of my final HSC exam, I was very relieved and joyful as I knew I had given it my absolute best and the hardest part of the year was over.
Kieran: At the end of the first exam block I was feeling a mix of worry, as I had not performed as well as I had hoped, but also a sense of relief as I discerned that all HSC really involved was a series of important exams. With that in mind, I continued my sustained yet determined approach to the HSC right until the very end. After completing all of my HSC exams I was relieved, to say the least. I strongly looked forward to all of the amazing ways I could spend my life with freedom and minimal worries.
Neha: Hahaha, gosh, at the start of my HSC year I cried, and by the time my journey finished I also ended in tears.
Just before my first assessment I remember being so incredibly nervous and scared – like I was going to be sent off to get executed. Even though I was well prepared for my exam, I thought it was the beginning of the end of the world. However, after I left the exam hall, I walked out with this new-found confidence. I felt ready for the journey that was ahead. By the end of my HSC, I had become so used to the rhythm, pace and routine of studying that it dawned on me after I left the exam centre of my final HSC exam that I would never be doing this again and this crazy rollercoaster ride had finally come to an end. Initially I was ecstatic, but when I arrived home and saw my parents I just burst into tears. I was already missing the HSC.
Keertana: Following my first round of exams and assessments in Year 11, I was overwhelmed by the extensively vast syllabus. However, towards the end of Year 12, I knew I was well prepared to face the exams. At the end of the final exam, though I was reasonably satisfied and confident with my performance, I was still anxious about the final outcome.
How did you celebrate the end of your exams?
Shaleen: I went on a holiday to Byron Bay for a week with eight other boys from my school who all did extremely well in their HSC.
Angad: Straight after my exams my friends and I would always revisit our favourite local park where we would dump our schoolbags and textbooks and just kickback, de-stress and enjoy the fresh air. At the end of my final exams it was no surprise that we were back there in the park, waving goodbye to the more stressful parts of the year and welcoming the coming days where we would be able to play as hard as we had worked and afford some time to mess around.
Sachin: After the HSC I’ve been following the cricket. I have watched most of the BBL Games and am enjoying the international tours. I have also been partying hard and thoroughly enjoyed Schoolies.
Kieran: After exams I found myself doing enriching, rejuvenating activities which helped me forget about the more stressful aspects of the year and focused on enjoying myself and my life. A tradition my mates and I developed was spending times right after exams enjoying ourselves at our favourite park. We would mess around and let loose, helping us to maintain our composure so we felt refreshed for the next set of exams.
Neha: The end of the HSC almost marked the beginning of a new me. I was done with all of my textbooks and HSC notes so pretty much it was … party hard (which was long time overdue). Post-HSC is like sunshine and rainbows after a massive storm. I was out just about every day with family and friends, purely enjoying myself and participating in the things I missed out and sacrificed for HSC study. Having got my life back in my hands, this also meant I was able to re-immerse in my hobbies, in particular, choreographing and performing Indian dances for various family and community events.
Keertana: I went to the movies with my close friends to watch Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Following this, I went on an enjoyable holiday to Coffs Harbour with family and friends.
Social media played a big part of the lives of many HSC students this year. Did you find Facebook groups such as the HSC Discussion Group helpful?
Shaleen: My year at school had a Facebook group which everyone would post questions and everyone else would answer. This was definitely helpful. However, in my opinion the HSC Discussion Group was not very helpful and a very big form of procrastination leading up to the HSC.
Angad: The HSC Discussion Group on Facebook was a noble effort fronted by some honourable students attempting to help others. However, it ended up being a central hub for HSC ‘memes’ and jokes which, on the bright side, led to some destressing. Social media was a major key to success, allowing my school grade to engage in discussion about subjects, study groups and helpful articles on how to tackle the HSC. My grade ended up creating specific groups and pages for every subject, which would later open up to our fellow teachers who regularly posted up new material and study tips.
Sachin: The HSC Discussion Group, and by extension social media, in Year 12 is a double-edged sword. When used correctly it is greatly beneficial, however most students do not use social media properly and hence great harm can ensue. Recognising the danger of social media, my parents got my ISP and mobile service provider to block Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Although this was close to torture for me, on reflection I am very grateful that they did this as it prevented me from procrastinating whilst studying.
Kieran: I have always been a heavy user of social media, and for me this often was a source of procrastination and distraction. I mainly used it to keep in touch with friends. However, I did on several occasions discuss HSC content with mates to reconcile issues or challenging problems – both asking for advice and providing help to others.
Neha: Personally, this hasn’t really been true for me. During my schooling years I never had Facebook and I never really wanted to get it – perhaps because I didn’t want a distraction.
In saying so, 9gag had been one of my favourite stress relievers.
Keertana: I initially didn’t have a Facebook account because I thought I would get distracted from my studies. However, I was forced to join Facebook as my Italian study sessions required having peer-tutor lessons with students in Italy. Our cohort eventually made Facebook groups for all the subjects, so there was regular correspondence with everyone to share their tips and sort out any problems we may have experienced with the subject content.
Did you have a goal in mind while completing this year?
Shaleen: Yes, I set goals at the beginning of the year as they gave me something to work towards throughout the year. Setting long term and short term goals allowed me to stay focused and organised with my study habits.
Angad: When I first started, my goal was to beat my elder brother who also did very well in the HSC. In hindsight that goal was very egotistical and centred around pride, however it provided the pathway for me to also strive to achieve similar success in the first few months. Afterwards, however, I found courses I was interested to partake in university so my goal changed to reaching the ATAR cut-offs, my focus shifting from beating my own brother towards discovering my own potential.
Sachin: Going into the HSC my goal was to achieve an ATAR of above 97.7 as that would give me a guaranteed offer to my dream course. It is important to have a goal and be true to it as it keeps you motivated throughout the year.
Kieran: I always had a goal to maximise my ATAR to keep my options open. I never found myself adamant to get into one particular course, however I knew that a high ATAR was something important to keep my options open, and I knew that if I focused hard enough a respectable ATAR would come about.
Neha: Of course! My goal was to achieve the best outcome possible so that I could gain admission into the course of my choice.
Keertana: Yes, my goal since Year 10 has always been to study Dentistry.
What moments from the past year do you remember most?
Shaleen: Graduation. After the clap-out, all 207 boys in the year went to the courtyard and sang one last school song together before pilling on top of the school captain. It was an emotional experience as the entire grade had bonded over the six years at high school.
Angad: To be honest the best moments from last year didn’t come from me getting good results in school, but from the daily ‘banter’ my friends and I got up to during the recesses and lunches and after school periods. My favourite moments are more centred around celebrating a friend’s test results, the annual school muck-up day, a cross-dress day and graduating alongside my grade. The HSC really brought my grade together, inspiring mateship and forging lasting friendships. But earning my ATAR and accomplishing my goals wasn’t bad either…
Sachin: My most memorable HSC moment actually occurred in Year 11, but I feel if it not had occurred my ATAR would be much lower! In the third Economics task of Year 11, we were required to write an essay on the Federal budget. I received a mark of 7/20 which placed me last in the course for that assessment point which upset me as I ranked in the top four for every other assessment task that year for that course.
Kieran: To me, the muck-up day and cross-dress day were one of the highlights of the year. It was a great moment for us students to express our built-up HSC stress in hilarious ways and forget about the looming exams. Our school did a lot of incredibly funny things, such as setting up a classroom on a roof!
Neha: Haha, so many great memories, where to start? I might sound very serious here, but really, I would always love running amuck at school. I was extremely well loved by all my teachers, but a bit of a hooligan in disguise. To make the most of my final swimming carnival, I jumped in the pool with my friends in the Year 7’s race with floaties and noodles. The teachers couldn’t even get us out of the pool if they wanted – they didn’t want to get wet. At our final cross country carnival, my friends dressed me up with all these streamers coming out of everywhere – I was like a running Christmas tree. The Principal chased me through the school trying to stop me, but it was too late, the 4km race had already begun.
Keertana: I really enjoyed Year 12 camp as we walked up Mount Kosciuszko. Reaching the top reminded me that I needed to have the same determination in completing my final IB exams successfully.
I was also selected as an Australian Ambassador for the International Round Square Conference held at Bhopal, India. I found this experience to be very unique as I interacted with students from around the world. We discussed the emerging global issues, which can only be resolved by the current or future generations. I was pleased to meet many other IB students from the UK, USA, Singapore and South Africa at the conference. A short break from the routine studies like this helped rejuvenate me.
What other activities did you keep up during the year?
Shaleen: Sydney Boys places a strong emphasis on extra-curricular activities. As a Prefect of the school, I stayed involved in a lot of activities during the year. I competed in GPS grade competitions for cricket and football every Saturday. I played the saxophone in three different bands at school. I was an active member of the community service community, constantly fundraising for medical charities such as with Red Nose Day and Jeans for Genes Day. I believe that maintaining a balanced lifestyle is crucial to achieving good results in the HSC as it provides you with a break from studying.
Angad: I still participated in the regular charities my school upheld, such as Red Cross, Red Shield Appeal, Blood Drive, and also maintained my position on the Charities Committee. I also became a peer mentor for new students in Cricket and surprisingly won in my grade’s Table Tennis Tournament. It was important to me to also maintain a balance between studies and relaxation, watching movies, TV shows, listening to music and talking with my mates.
Sachin: In Year 12, I was a Full College Prefect at Newington, and a school PASS Tutor. I completed the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, was the Vice-Captain of the school’s Open Cricket Team, 3rd Speaker in the Senior Debating Team and volunteered regularly for the Salvation Army and the ‘Loaves and Fishes’ Soup Kitchen.
Kieran: I was a School Prefect and part of the Student Representative Council; a member of the Charities Committee; Vice House Captain; Peer Support Leader and First Grade Cricket Captain. I also involved myself with many healthy distractions such as going out with friends, playing sports like Hockey, and finding time to myself to occasionally watch TV or a movie.
Neha: Despite the shortage of time in HSC, to remain an all-rounder student, I made sure to squeeze in time for extra-curricular activities and community service through effective time management. I spent six weeks volunteering at an aged care home to help out elderly residents. Through this, I realised how small, friendly gestures can leave a profound impact on someone’s life and bring a smile to their face. I also volunteered to work alongside students with mental disabilities within the Peer Reading Program of Baulkham Hills High School. I helped them with their school work and their English language skills. It required patience but was rewarding when they felt proud about their progress.
Keertana: In the final years, I held the positions of MLC School Senior Prefect, Middle and Senior Years Round Square Leader. I also did Bharatanatyam, swimming, exercise at the school gym during spares (free period) with my friend to relieve stress, volunteering at the Anglican Retirement Village, took an active part in the Round Square Committee, Japanese Taiko Ensemble, and school choir.
What activities or events do you regret missing out, if any?
Shaleen: None really, I was pretty organised and made time for activities that I wanted to do.
Angad: I regret not participating in the 40-Hour Famine or the World’s Greatest Shave. I also feel like I should’ve continued to play in school and club sport teams in order to keep active and better my health. The HSC requires long hours of inactivity which can damage your mental and physical health; getting up and about will revitalise you and allow you to achieve even higher results.
Sachin: Personally, I was very happy with my 2015. I was able to not only maintain a strong academic transcript but also participate in a wide array of extra-curriculars.
Kieran: No serious regrets come to my mind. I guess what I would do is try to focus on approaching the HSC with a more objective perspective – remembering that the journey is simply a set of important exams and avoiding anxiety-inducing thoughts
Neha: HSC study and commitment requires imminent sacrifice. I had to put a hold on participating in some of my hobbies – particularly performing Indian dances for community, charity and family events. I also had to skip many celebrations, including two weddings of our close friends.
Keertana: I missed out on participating in Bharatanatyam concerts during this period; however, I do not regret this decision as I had to manage my time effectively.
What would you have done differently, overall?
Shaleen: I would have focused on my weakest subject from the beginning of Year 12 as it slightly dragged down my ATAR.
Angad: Though I competed the HSC as if a marathon, I feel like I may have slacked off a little too hard in the first assessments. As a result, they became the metaphorical anchor which kept pulling me down from even higher results. However, I only have myself to blame for that and in the end they didn’t really matter as I achieved my goal of getting over a 98 ATAR to get into my course.
Neha: Of course there are things that I could have done differently in my HSC, nevertheless I have no regrets. One of my weaknesses was that I would become so focussed on studies that I would often forget to take care of myself and eat well (or even eat at all). Thankfully, my parents were always there to force me to sit down and eat the healthy meals they prepared.
Keertana: I think I wouldn’t have done anything differently as I worked to a set plan with sufficient breaks and following good time management skills.
What key tips would you give students starting their HSC?
Shaleen: I believe that maintaining a balanced lifestyle is crucial to achieving good results in the HSC as it provides you with a break from studying. Setting goals early in the year provides you with something to work towards and provides you with an incentive to study. If you work consistently throughout the year it allows you to revise before exams without learning new content. Lastly, study effectively with no distractions rather than studying for long periods of time as you will retain more information when you are fully immersed in the work.
Angad: Just know my whole HSC study plan was paced on the fact the HSC is a marathon. If you don’t believe you have the capacity to work super hard the whole year, try not to burn yourself out early on. Start off slow and build up, getting higher results, studying harder, learning from your mistakes and excelling in the more important exams. And don’t forget that the final exams are worth 50% of your HSC, so never give up when you get bad results as shining in these exams allows you to make a comeback.
Sachin: I feel the most effective way to learn lots of content in a short space of time is to teach somebody, as it is an active task and also has a bucket load of repetition which helps memory retention. When teaching someone, you need to prepare by reading the textbook and doing practice questions so that you can understand and apprentice the concept, then you are required to be able to verbally communicate the content in a structured and logical manner. Also, whilst teaching, the person will inevitably ask questions which requires you to think about the content again, which helps you gain more of a holistic picture of the concept.
Also in Year 12, your teachers are your best friend. If a student gives a teacher a piece of work the teacher will always mark it and provide constructive feedback to help them get good marks in exams rather than receive that constructive feedback after exams. However, when giving additional work to teachers it is important to give it well before an exam as the week before they are inundated with desperate students so can’t give the best feedback. A few weeks before the task, teachers have more time and can provide significant feedback and can also sit down with you individually outside of class to provide a free tutoring session tailored to your needs! I am very grateful to all my teachers in Year 12 as they all provided me a plethora of free tutoring sessions in their own time which was invaluable.
Kieran: One of the biggest tips for the HSC is remembering that it is a year-long journey and so it is incredibly important to sustain a focus throughout the year and enjoy a healthy, happy lifestyle.
Neha: I would say it is better to always have a goal as some sort of inspiration to work towards as you progress into HSC – whether it be certain marks you want to achieve or your dream course you want to get admission into. Remain inspired and don’t feel pressured – pursue a career you truly want and will be happy with.
One of the biggest misconceptions of the HSC is that you need to constantly study. However, this is not possible and it is equally important to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. When studying, always try to stick to a timetable that dedicates appropriate amounts of time per subject, with time to keep aside for you to relax.
Most importantly, listen to your parents, respect them and work hard not only for yourself, but for them too – it’s the least we can do for all that they have done for us!
Keertana: Have a balance of studies and co-curricular activities. Practise with multiple past papers. Revise old and new topics. Study from the textbook, rather than only school notes. Find your best time to study – for me personally, early mornings and throughout the day were more effective than late night study.
Know any good HSC jokes
Angad: I’m a sucker for puns, so when I heard this physics joke, I died. Basically every time someone asked ‘What’s the unit of power?’ I would immediately reply with “Watt IS the unit of power!” and kept repeating it as if a question until the person would finally get the idea.
Neha: For those Physics students: My Physics teacher said I had potential… then he pushed me off a building.
Keertana: A student takes Biology to avoid Chemistry, and finds the first topic in Biology is ‘Chemistry of Life’.
Multiple choice questions: All the choices are correct. You have to choose the most correct one.
Describe your HSC year in three (or four) words.
Shaleen: Study, hard work, fun
Angad: Journey. Pathway. Appreciate.
Sachin: Coffee, coffee, coffee
Kieran: Work hard, play hard
Neha: Goal. Pledge. Success.
Keertana: Roller Coaster Ride