SACE 2020: Learning in lockdown

Adarsh Parekh, Sharanya Kamath, and Brinda Murlikrishna share their experiences.

Reading Time: 6 minutes


Students share their insights about surviving a stressful and unusual SACE year in 2020 with online classes, some cancelled formals, but a new way of learning.

Name: Adarsh Parekh (SACE)

ATAR: 97.75

Subjects: Mathematical Methods, Research Project, Tourism, English Literary Studies, Psychology, Micro-Business Operations (VET).

School: Aberfoyle Park High School


Name: Sharanya Kamath (SACE)

ATAR: 99.35

Subjects: English, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematical Methods, Information Processing and Publishing

Awards/State Ranks: English Merit, Information Processing and Publishing Merit

School: Wilderness School


Name: Brinda Murlikrishna (SACE)

ATAR: 99.4 raw (99.95 adjusted)

Subjects: Mathematical Methods, Specialist Mathematics, Chemistry, French, Korean, RP, Integrated Learning

Awards/State Ranks:  School Awards in Methods, Specialist Maths, French and RP State Award for Korean Beginners

School: St Mary’s College


With your HSC/VCE/SACE now done and dusted, you’ve probably had much opportunity to look back at it all with some wisdom. What did you learn about yourself in the academic year and 2020 overall?

Adarsh: With 2020 throwing the lives of Year 12 students into chaos, I learnt that SACE students this year have been able to effectively adapt through the challenges faced. Personally, I have become more disciplined, self-sufficient and independent, taking my learning more into my own hands.

Sharanya: I learnt that although there were moments of difficulty which demanded more time and hard work, it was these challenging experiences that were the most rewarding. Every effort matters – you can’t expect results if you don’t put in the effort. This encouraged me to refine my assignments and strengthen the quality of my work.

Brinda: The biggest thing I learnt would be to lower my expectations of myself, especially during tough times. As soon as I lowered my expectations and accepted that it was just an extremely hard year, I felt better about myself and my results and ultimately ended up doing better. It’s important to know that everyone is in the same boat as you, and everyone has their own challenges to overcome.


What were your expectations going into the year? How did reality (COVID) compare?

Adarsh: I was expecting it to be a memorable year. And it was, in a different way. Instead of being a year of celebration filled with focused study, school events, practical classes/assessments and other Year 12 ‘rites of passage’, COVID resulted in the cancellation of almost everything – except the ‘studying’ bit.

Sharanya: Although there were stressful times, especially when multiple assignment deadlines coincided, it was overcome through prioritising and time management. In a year where COVID created a stressful and alarming atmosphere, resilience was a crucial quality that helped me adjust to the situation. Several school and extracurricular events were cancelled; however this was viewed with a positive attitude and allowed more time for personal life.

Brinda: To be honest, I was initially worried about year 12 because I believed we were at a disadvantage because of the pandemic and that we would struggle more than previous years. I thought online classes would derail the year 12 experience but the year went quite well. Even though COVID had some negative impacts such as tests pushed forward. ultimately it was a fair year.


READ ALSO: VCE: Learning in lockdown


What was your initial response to online classes, and how did you make them work for your learning style?

Adarsh: I was neutral to the concept of online classes. Although a learning environment such as a school is obviously much preferred, I made online classes work with my learning style by taking down notes, highlighting the key points from the lesson and asking the teacher when I had questions.

Sharanya: At first, I was excited for online classes as this approach was more flexible and relaxed, yet I was quick to recognise the challenges, especially for subjects like biology and chemistry where we had to undertake practicals. These limitations were overcome by applying the flexibility of the course to focus more on theory and knowledge during online lessons, allowing the practicals to be conducted when face-to-face classes resumed.

Brinda: I did not like or support the idea of online classes as I tend to get distracted when I’m online. I was, however, lucky enough to only do one week of school online. During these online classes, I made sure to write down notes so I could better remember what was being taught, as personally, typing things on my laptop did not seem to help.


What was your studying technique?

Adarsh: I set personal deadlines for assignments, completing them before their actual due dates to do other things, keep organised and maintain a work-life balance. I also used the flashcards app ‘Quizlet’ during exam periods which effectively helped with content-heavy subjects.

Sharanya: Organisation is crucial for success. Following a schedule ensured that I was keeping up with my assignments and was especially important in planning my exam revision. After each lesson, I reviewed my notes to consolidate the information. Leading up to tests and exams, I aimed to attempt as many practice questions and past exams as I could.

Brinda: I’m an avid note-writer. I love taking nice notes on paper as I tend to recollect more information. I was also tutored quite a lot after school which forced me to put in extra time into each of my subjects. I liked playing some calm background music while I studied. What helped me the best was teaching and helping other people learn the content.


READ ALSO: HSC 2020: Learning in lockdown


What extra-curricular activities, hobbies, or TV shows helped you through this year?

Adarsh: As a violinist, I was the concertmaster of the Secondary Schools String Symphony (orchestra) and found that multiple activities such as karate, gym exercise, tennis and badminton helped me to destress.

Sharanya: In order to keep myself motivated and focused, I took breaks between studying to re-energise myself. This would allow me to return with a relaxed mind and in turn, maximise my productivity. I enjoyed playing badminton or watching movies. I also found that spending time with family and friends was important for my wellbeing and helped relieve stress.

Brinda: I danced three times a week, learnt a language outside of school, and I would take long walks at night to destress. At home, I often played Minecraft whilst listening to gaming music for hours at a time, but it was a good break from all the studying. My favourite TV shows to get me through all the stress probably would have been Lucifer and Gossip Girl. I also spent a lot of weekends with friends and went out. It was good for me as I was able to balance out my social life with my school workload.


What moments from the past year do you remember most?

Adarsh: The 6-day state-wide ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown which resulted in the cancellation of both formal and graduation for our school’s Year 12 students.

Sharanya: The challenges of learning online made me realise the value of learning face-to-face and increased my gratitude for my friends and teachers. Finishing my last exam was another memorable moment as this created a sense of achievement and relief. Graduation day was another highlight which allowed us to reflect on our achievements throughout our school years.

Brinda: The memorable moment for me would have been year 12 graduation, as it was the one day we did not have to hold back with the size of the event. I said goodbye to my peers, some of whom I had spent the last 13 years with. Saying goodbye to some of my amazing teachers was hard, but also really touching. It made me reflect on all the years spent learning from them and beside them.


What would your advice to future final year students be?

Adarsh: For future final year students, I would advise to manage your time and maintain a work-life balance, enjoy the little things, minimise procrastination, appreciate your high school friends and teachers, take breaks and have fun. Also, start preparing for final exams early in the year rather than leaving it to the last minute.

Sharanya: Things start to pile up if you fall behind, so stay organised. Create a schedule that can help you dedicate enough time for each of your subjects. It’s also important to maintain a balance between studying and your personal life. Don’t forget to take some time off to relax.

Brinda: I would recommend future year 12s to have a healthy routine. Studying all the time just will not do it, so learn to have fun and make new friends. Learn to have a life outside of school and distract yourself sometimes. And finally, develop a good sleep routine of at least 7-10 hours each night. When I slept well, I did well. It’s about how well rested you are, not how many hours you studied the night before. Even on the night before exams, I was really stressed but I decided to sleep early and ended up recalling more content. So good luck!


What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

Adarsh: For it to be even just slightly better than 2020.

Sharanya: In 2021, I’m looking forward to studying at university, meeting new people, the flexibility of the learning schedule, and the range of opportunities that are offered at university.

Brinda: As I am moving interstate soon, I look forward to starting a new life in Canberra where I will be undertaking my degree at the ANU. I am looking forward particularly to making new friends and going on lots of adventures around the world (if restrictions permit) and in Australia. I will be studying computing and languages, two subjects that I thoroughly enjoy, so I am super excited to begin my degree.


Favourite quote from a teacher?

Adarsh: Practice is everything.

Sharanya: Year 12 is like a tennis match – each term is a set, and the final exams are the tiebreaker. At times you may be falling behind, but by overcoming these challenges you will win the match. And just like tennis or any other sport, it’s important to have fun along the way.

Brinda: Life throws you many challenges. But what matters is how you deal with them.


Describe your academic year in three words.

Adarsh: One wild ride.

Sharanya: Challenging. Rewarding. Memorable.

Brinda: Challenging, Encouraging, Successful.

Manan Luthra
Manan Luthra
Writer, cricket fan, gin and tonic enthusiast. Emerging journalist passionate about art, sport, and education

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