Secrets to success

Reading Time: 17 minutes

Students from the community who completed Year 12 with outstanding results share their insights into surviving the final year of school

Name: Jaya Gaillard
ATAR: 98.55, VCE
Subjects: English, Mathematical Methods, French, Chemistry, Physical Education, Physics
School: Siena College, Camberwell

Name: Mohak Malhotra
ATAR: 96.05, VCE
Subjects: Mathematical Methods, English, Information Technology, Physics, Business Management, Software Development
School: Balwyn High School

Name: Seerat Ohri
Subjects: English, Mathematical Methods, Chemistry, French, Health and Human Development and Business Management
School: Genazzano FCJ College

Name: Sohil Chhabra
ATAR: 99.95
Subjects: English, Biology (2015), Chemistry, German, Maths Methods, Specialist Maths
School: Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School

Name: Ashna Prasad
ATAR: 96 (International Baccalaureate)
Subjects: Chemistry, Maths, French, Biology, English, Business and Management
School: Carey Baptist Grammar School

Name: Rhea Singh
ATAR: 99.85 (International Baccalaureate)
Subjects: Language and Literature HL, Psychology HL, Chemistry HL, Biology SL, Japanese SL, Mathematics SL
School: St Leonards College

What was your overall experience of Year 12? What were your expectations going into the year?

Jaya Gaillard: Before the year began, I expected it to be extremely stressful. Whilst some weeks were very hard to manage, there are more positive aspects throughout the year than I initially thought. There are many opportunities to celebrate, particularly with many close friends turning 18, so I felt my week wasn’t always just school work.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Jaya Gaillard

Mohak Malhotra: Year 12 was a fun and challenging year. It assisted me in realising my true potential and academic interests. I honestly expected tremendously difficult studies, tremendous mental pressure and a poor social life, but Year 12 did not prove to be a ‘Mission Impossible’. Studies were challenging but fun when you are dedicated and doing the subjects you enjoy.
Seerat Ohri: I had a lot of fun in Year 12. It was very stressful, of course, however I had a good balance which made the year a little bit easier. I loved my subjects and had a lot of support by my friends and family throughout the year too. Honestly, my expectations were that the year would be impossible. At the beginning of the year it felt like an extremely hard journey that would never end. However, as the year went on, I realised it wasn’t like that. There are many opportunities to give studies a break and to enjoy throughout the year. Of course, the year was difficult and stressful, but it was definitely not impossible.
Sohil Chhabra: It was a pretty hard slog, but overall a great year filled with new experiences with friends and family. I tried not to have too many expectations heading into the year – I just tried to do my best. However, I had to make sure I got the result I needed to get into the course I wanted. Besides this, I also wanted to make sure I didn’t sacrifice other aspects of my life, such as sport or other extracurricular activities.
Ashna Prasad: As one would expect, Year 12 consisted of many ups and downs. Frequently, I would notice my stress levels increasing, feelings of anxiety, anger and also being utterly overwhelmed. However, I have come to the realisation that Year 12 was one of the best years of my life. The relationships I developed with fellow students, teachers and family allowed me to persevere through these difficulties and achieve above and beyond my goals.
Rhea Singh: Coming into Year 12, I was quite nervous and apprehensive of the workload and the stress of the looming exams. I imagined that I would have no social life or time for my hobbies and would have to be studying for hours. However, while a lot of effort and hard work had to be put in, I found that in reality, through organisation and time management I had a lot more time on my hands. Because of the balance I was able to maintain between studying and other activities, Year 12 was honestly one of the best years of my life that I got to enjoy with my friends and family.

What did you learn about yourself?

Jaya Gaillard: I learnt that I was able to balance a lot more than I initially thought. As Co-College Captain, my schooling life was always busy and I knew I had to persist with all the various demands at hand.
Mohak Malhotra: I learned that I can achieve quite a lot if I am dedicated enough.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Mohak Malhotra

Seerat Ohri: I learnt that I am not a stressful person, rather, I am able to stay calm in busy times, such as during exam period or when I had multiple SACs within a small time frame.
Sohil Chhabra: I learnt that if I really put my mind to it and remain organised and motivated, I can achieve great things without having to sacrifice my social life and hobbies.
Ashna Prasad: Year 12 was undoubtedly the hardest year of my academic career to date, presenting challenges and obstacles that were difficult to overcome. What surprised me and allowed me to gain a better insight to who I am as an individual was my ability and capacity to rise to the occasion, the internal drive that allowed me to continue my hard work throughout Year 12 and to not falter in the seemingly overwhelming challenge of receiving a high ATAR. By forcing myself to continue along the path of study and to restrict myself of social events (such as all the 18ths) and leisure activities, I realised that tenacity and motivation can go a long way in life, and that I am able to continue bettering myself for new challenges that may come during university or when I’m in the workforce.
Rhea Singh: From Year 12 I think I learnt that if I take the time and effort to push myself, I can achieve more than I may believe. Throughout the year there were many stressful times where I would just want to give up, however by committing myself and having a strong support system around me I learnt that you can reach your full potential.

What was your studying technique? Did you have any added support from a tutor or at home?

Jaya Gaillard: I studied between three to four hours every school night, but ensured I took reasonable breaks, including after school sport or exercising with my cousins. On the weekends, I would study during the day but take the night time off to go out. I had added support from two tutors, one for English and one for Methods, who I saw before SACs. What I found most beneficial was seeking assistance from my subject teachers outside of class time as they were always more than happy to help.
Mohak Malhotra: I only had tutor for Methods because I knew I was weak at it and I needed external support. I did not have a specific ‘technique’ in my studies but one thing I always had was consistency. It is important to know that being consistent is critical if you want to succeed in Year 12.
Seerat Ohri: I usually studied on my own or in study groups with friends at school.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Seerat Ohri

Sohil Chhabra: For all of my subjects, it became quickly apparent to me that the most important part of studying is practice and not the rote learning of content. Although this content must be learnt, the best way to consolidate it is to complete as many practice exams, tasks and questions as possible. I had tutors for Maths and Chemistry. The most useful thing they provided was notes.
Ashna Prasad: My studying technique varied for each subject. For science based subjects, and also Business and Management, cue-cards were really helpful in learning concepts and consolidating weaker areas of knowledge. I would make the cue-cards based off mark schemes from past IB papers. This ensured that I was answering questions the way the IB wanted me to. During my actual exam, there were many repeated/similar questions to my cue card sets! As for Maths, English and French, I went through every past paper from 2009 to 2016. Although this was time consuming, it was very beneficial and prepared me well for my actual exams.
Rhea Singh: My studying technique was all about organisation. Every night I would plan what I wanted to do and which work I had to finish off. I would always make sure after a class, especially for the sciences, that I would review my notes to make sure that I understood everything completely.
As I was learning a language, Japanese, I had an additional tutor at home who mostly helped me with conversation as IB has a great focus on conversational orals rather than pre-prepared. I found flashcards also worked well for languages. I also took full advantage of the student tutors that my school had to offer in the library on the weekends, as well as teachers who made themselves available at lunch time or during the week who would help if I had any questions.

How did you decide what subjects to pick and why?

Jaya Gaillard: I chose the subjects that I was interested in and enjoyed, particularly French and Physical Education. I also kept in mind prerequisite subjects for University. It’s important to choose subjects that you like as you spend so much time and effort learning about them that it is necessary to stay focussed rather than being bored by subjects you dislike.
Mohak Malhotra: I had a clear direction of regarding career from a very young age, so I chose my subjects in accordance with that. I did not look at the scaling of my desired subjects, I chose them because I enjoyed them.
Seerat Ohri: I wanted to keep my options open and do a range of subjects that interested me.
Sohil Chhabra: I was always a maths-science kid and so my subject selection wasn’t a difficult process. The only tough choice I had to make was between accelerated biology and physics. I chose to do the accelerated subject as I was advised by my school’s career counsellors that it is quite difficult to do six subjects in year 12.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Sohil Chhabra

Ashna Prasad: For IB students, it is compulsory to study six subjects chosen from six subject groups (Language A1, Language B, Individuals and Societies, Experimental Sciences, Mathematics and the Arts). Within these six sub-groups, I chose subjects that I was most passionate about because it allowed me to be truly interested whilst studying – and this also helped me excel in each subject – because finding an interest whilst studying ensures productive learning.
Rhea Singh: Through doing IB I was already slightly limited in my subject selection as you have to pick a subject out of each group (eg. Maths, Science, Humanities, English, Language, Arts). From here though, I shortlisted subjects that I thought I would be genuinely interested in learning about or were prerequisites for university. I also talked to former students and teachers who had experienced the classes and asked for their opinion in regards to the teachers, the intensity of the subject and whether they enjoyed it. Personally, I love science so all my subjects were based around that area as that is what I hope to do in the future.

Did you feel there was much competition within your cohort?

Jaya Gaillard: All the other girls at school were always extremely supportive towards each other but of course there was healthy competition in order for all of us to succeed.
Mohak Malhotra: Yes. Balwyn High is one of the best schools in Victoria, meaning competition is always high because every student aims high.
Seerat Ohri: There is always a little bit of competition, however it was more supportive than competitive. Within my cohort, we had a good amount of competition, where we all helped each other become better students, rather than the type of competition that brings each other down.
Sohil Chhabra: Not at all. I had a really tight-knit and large group of friends, all with similar interests. I feel like I can attribute my result to them, as we have been helping and pushing each other since the first day of high school.
Ashna Prasad: Unlike VCE, in IB, students do not compete against each other. IB students have to reach a certain percentage during their exams, as opposed to being ranked against each other in order to score, so competition was little to none within our cohort.
Rhea Singh: There is always an element of competition and I believe that in some ways it is that competition that pushes you to achieve your full potential. However, through doing IB, where you are not ranked against other students as explicitly as in VCE, there was a larger element of team work. I feel and I developed close relationships with my other classmates through study groups which helped my understanding in many subjects by getting another perspective.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Rhea Singh

What extra-curricular activities or hobbies helped you maintain a balance between work and play?
Jaya Gaillard: Every term I participated in one or two extracurricular sports including Cross Country, Netball, Athletics and Swimming through school which ensured I maintained a balance between my school work and own life. I still found the time and energy to see my family and friends on the weekend.
Mohak Malhotra: Every weekend I watched movies in order to relax and relieve my stress. I exercised weekly to keep fit.
Seerat Ohri: I was involved in organising a few school events in year 12, however most of my free time was spent catching up on lost time with family and friends.
Sohil Chhabra: Throughout the year I played cricket, tennis and hockey, while also debating, taking part in the school Social Justice program and reading.
Ashna Prasad: Balancing the demands of a busy lifestyle was not an easy thing to do during IB. However, I played basketball with a group of school friends. This allowed me to get active as well as socialise!
VCE 2016.Indian Link
Ashna Prasad

Rhea Singh: Throughout Year 12 it was my aim to still take part in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities as that balance is so important. Also, as part of the IB course you have to fulfil Creativity, Action and Service components. I was part of the Student Council for my school and was one of the leaders in organising our school formal, the annual philanthropic Bangladesh Dinner to raise money for schools in Bangladesh and other Year 12 events. I also took part in Noble Park English Language School where I volunteered to help refugees and other migrants learn English, Sacred Heart Mission volunteering to serve meals to the homeless and was a part of the teams for Amnesty and International Women’s Day. I also love music so continued with my piano lessons, choirs and songwriting workshops.

What is your most memorable Year 12 experience?

Jaya Gaillard: There are so many I could choose from but my most memorable would be our very last day of school. We had so many celebrations which truly summed up an incredible year together.
Mohak Malhotra: By far, my Year 12 formal was the most memorable moment in Year 12.
Seerat Ohri: I would have to say my school’s Year 12 Valedictory Dinner was the most memorable experience. It was a day of celebration for all of our hard work throughout the year, and to celebrate the end of our high school journey. It was a lovely night spent with our parents, friends and teachers, and was definitely a night to remember for the whole cohort.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Seerat Ohri

Sohil Chhabra: The parties afterwards!
Ashna Prasad: I have been really lucky to have several memorable experiences during Year 12. I will never forget the Carey swimming carnivals, athletic days and the organised food trucks on the oval!
Rhea Singh: My most memorable Year 12 experience is probably the last day of Year 12 where the whole year level arranged to get together at the beach in the morning and then walk down to school together for a final brunch where we got to open our time capsules from Year 7 and say our final goodbyes. It was great to be all together with all the people who were part of your final year of schooling and it was a nice goodbye from school.
What would you do differently?
Jaya Gaillard: Overall I am happy with how things went but if I repeated the year, I would tell myself to stress less!
Mohak Malhotra: The only regret I have is that I did not do Hindi as a language subject in Year 11. If I did, my score would have been even higher.
VCE 2016.Indian Link
Mohak Malhotra

Seerat Ohri: I would definitely have got Maths tutoring sorted earlier in the year.
Sohil Chhabra: Well, I can’t really complain about how things turned out, but I would have loved to study physics.
Ashna Prasad: If I were to repeat year 12, I would try to stop procrastinating! It was so difficult for me to get myself to study sometimes and I would find myself on YouTube or Facebook…
Rhea Singh: I don’t think I would do anything differently in terms of studying as I balanced my time well and although I was nervous that all those times I had spent relaxing or having fun would potentially affect my ATAR, in the end it is very important to get that balance. However, I think I would try and explore different study techniques earlier in the year as it took me a while to find what worked for me. I would also try and get less distracted while studying as I often found that TV shows or YouTube would aid my procrastination and I wish I was more disciplined in keeping focused.

What perks did you enjoy (either at school or at home)?

Jaya Gaillard: I would go down to the dog park and walk around because I absolutely love dogs so I found this time really relaxing.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Jaya Gaillard

Mohak Malhotra: I have to say, I really enjoyed being a senior to all the year levels below me!
Seerat Ohri: I enjoyed the usual Year 12 festivities, such as school events. I enjoyed the sports carnivals, the swimming carnival and inter school activities. It was a really good break from studies and allowed us to express our school spirit one last time together as a year level.
Sohil Chhabra: Having the excuse of studies to get me out of chores at home, despite my brother’s complaints!
Ashna Prasad: At Carey, the school provided an endless amount of extra-curricular activities, which I pursued. I was a part of the debating team, basketball team, several orchestral groups (symphony orchestra, baroque ensemble etc.) and musicals! These perks allowed me to extend my friendship circle as well as take my mind off the stresses of year 12.
Rhea Singh: At school we had a common room for the Year 12’s which was a great place to chill and have some down time as well as get the Year 12’s together for pancake breakfasts or other activities. We also had a study centre and rooms specifically for Year 12’s which were nice quiet areas to study in. Another perk of Year 12 is that the teachers almost always make themselves available to answer your questions and really are invested in making sure that you understand concepts and they can help you as much as possible.
VCE 2016.Indian Link
Rhea Singh

What does the future hold for you? What are you hoping to study at uni?

Jaya Gaillard: I am taking a gap year next year, initially travelling to Niseko, Japan to snowboard in January. After this, I am spending the rest of the year in France with my dad’s side of the family, particularly my grandmother in the South of France. I am planning to enrol into Biomedicine for the following year.
Mohak Malhotra: I hope to run my own software company in the future. I am hoping to do a double degree in Engineering (Honours) and Commerce.
Seerat Ohri: I’m not sure what I want to study yet. There are so many options and now I have the time to focus on researching a number of fields to really see what interests me.
Sohil Chhabra: I’m still a little unsure, but I’m currently fascinated by the prospect of a career in medicine.
Ashna Prasad: My ATAR guarantees me entry into Commerce at Melbourne University, which is my first preference.
Rhea Singh: At university I am hoping to study in the area of science, in particular Medicine or Biomedicine. Science has always been one of my favourite subjects and I am very interested in this area as well as the contact with patients and the work ethic that a career in medicine would provide.

What would your advice to future final year students be?

Jaya Gaillard: Ensure you get enough sleep every night as schooling life in Year 12 can become rather exhausting. Don’t forget that going out to see your friends and family on the weekends is beneficial as it helps you take time out of your busy week. Most of all, believe in yourself and trust your own instinct with everything.
Mohak Malhotra: The only advice I would give to students is that you should perceive Year 12 optimistically and see it as an opportunity for you to gain invaluable life experiences. In terms of studies, I would advise that you start your end-of-year exam preparations well in advance. I wish you all the best for your future studies!
Seerat Ohri: Honestly, just to have fun in year 12. It is such a stressful year but it was really fantastic. There are a lot of fun times during the year and it is really great to bond as a year level in your final year. Take every opportunity you’re given and make time for family and friends.
Sohil Chhabra: Stay organised and don’t neglect your social life or hobbies. If you put in hard and efficient work, you’ll definitely exceed your own expectations.
Ashna Prasad: It is fundamental, even if there is a huge 30%-of-final-grade assignment due around the corner, to take control over stressful situations. Do not freak out. It is very important to relax, breathe, think, prioritise and then strategically deal with these situations.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Ashna Prasad

Secondly, sleep is crucial! I made sure that I had at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. It is not only physically beneficial, but is also helps to operate the mind more productively. One way of maintaining adequate sleep is to have a study timetable to ensure no 1am studying/cramming!
Rhea Singh: I think my advice would be to make sure that you make the most of your time in Year 12 by taking advantage of the opportunities available and building relationships with your classmates, teachers and friends. While studying is very important this year, make sure you give some time for yourself and other social activities as without these you will burn out before the exam period.


What expectations did you have for your child?

Kiran and Pascal Gaillard: We never placed any set expectations on Jaya. She has always been a motivated student, academically and in sport.  We have done our best to foster and cultivate her passions and been there as her support system, rather than place expectations.
Rajiv Malhotra: We as parents always want our children to perform better and better, but every child has his or her own potential. We were very realistic and we expected him to get an ATAR of 92 to 95.
Jasmine Ohri: All I ever wished for was for Seerat to get into the course of her choice at the university of her choice. I know that Seerat is a very hard-worker, and so I didn’t have set expectations for her so long as she tried her best.
VCE 2016.Indian Link

What was your experience parenting a child in Year 12? Was this your first child to go through the process?

Kiran and Pascal Gaillard: We went into this year knowing it would be a stressful time for Jaya so we ensured that she took regular breaks and had some balance in her life. We are a very close family so there were plenty of discussions around the dinner table about how she was coping. Our elder daughter, Shayana, completed her VCE in 2014 so we had a fair idea of the work load involved and the stress of exam time.
Rajiv Malhotra: We as parents did not have so many challenges as this is our younger child. Our elder son finished his VCE last year with an ATAR of 97.3 so we were very well aware about the stress levels facing a child in their VCE year. Mohak really worked hard and we as parents helped him by providing the right environment for his studies.
Jasmine Ohri: It wasn’t the first time as my older daughter went through Year 12 six years ago. I was a stress-buster for her. It was a very tough year for all of us, especially with the ups and downs throughout the year, however it was so rewarding seeing her succeed at the end.
Simmi and Navjot Chhabra: Sohil was our first child to do the VCE. We did not really have to worry about his studies as he stayed organised throughout. We just tried to be there to support him in whatever way we could.

VCE 2016.Indian Link
Sohil Chhabra

Singhs: As Rhea was our first child to go through Year 12, we didn’t really know what to expect. Throughout the year, at times Rhea was stressed from the IB workload and deadlines and it was important that as a Year 12 student’s parents we would listen, support and create a stress free environment.

Did you do anything differently to support your child, for example, taking time off work, relaxing chores for your child at home?

Kiran and Pascal Gaillard: We asked her elder sister to take over Jaya’s share of the chores during stressful periods. Other than that, we gave Jaya space when she needed it and continued to function as a normal household.
Rajiv Malhotra: My wife and I took a couple of days off work only during exams. The most important thing was we tried maintaining a balance. We had to cut down on inviting friends at home and participate in social gatherings, but we definitely took our children on outings to take breaks from their routine.
Jasmine Ohri: I took time off work this year to support her. I became her “punching-bag” and we spent a lot of time together, however it was a joint effort between our family and friends that supported her throughout the year.
Singhs: We made sure she had nutritious, home cooked meals and given full priority when needing to be picked up or dropped to school. We also made sure if she had a busy night she didn’t have to do chores such as washing the dishes.

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