The HSC balancing act

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HSC finishers dissect the final year of school and offer advice for prospective students

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After an intense year of hard work and preparation, the results have finally come out for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) graduates of 2013. Indian Link spoke to a few local students about their HSC experience, how they maintained a healthy balance between work and play and their plans for the future.

 

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

Rizul Makkar: My mum is a chemistry teacher. I only did a little bit of tutoring in English every two to three weeks, but other than that it was really just time management. I knew what I needed to do and I didn’t study too much but I knew that what I needed to study was right.

Nakita Dass: The key to studying for me was to find a way to understand and relate to the content of each subject. If you ask questions, participate actively in class and really engage with what you are learning, it is much easier to recall information in an exam situation. I learn best visually, so watching YouTube videos and downloading apps related to topics I was struggling with really cement concepts for me, made them easy to remember and was a welcome change from my textbook!

I didn’t have a tutor for any of my subjects, but all my teachers were extremely supportive, if I needed help they were always willing to give their time. My parents were incredible. They both made sacrifices throughout the year and were a source of constant inspiration and encouragement. They understood when I locked myself in the darkness of my bedroom for days, only coming out for food, and they sat and helped me go through my study notes at all hours of the day and night. There were tears and times I felt burnt out, but my dad always managed to make me laugh, my mum constantly reassuring.

Harsharndeep Singh Kahlon: I had a couple of tutors and I went to Matrix Education for tutoring. Mostly it was about being organised, having a fixed timetable and sticking to it. I was tutored in physics and 4 unit maths.

Aayush Jain: I had a tutor for 4 unit maths and English, which was my weak subject. I thought it was a good idea to get tutoring for an extension subject. My parents helped me out with anything I needed in terms of textbooks and general stuff.

Vikram Kumar: I had a tutor for physics and for maths. My studying technique was basically just revising the topics and content of the course and going over it thoroughly at school and home and asking questions where I didn’t understand the content.

 

Aparna Balakumar: I was a pretty visual learner so would stick my English quotes all over my room, and history timelines of key dates up on my ceiling. For more content heavy subjects like Business Studies I made flash cards, and in the lead up to exams had my brother read out questions while I tried to recall the content. I also had a giant whiteboard in my room where I would map out responses to practice essay questions for my humanities subjects, linking different ideas with different coloured markers. It’s all about being creative! My motto was that there was no point making a hundred pages of meticulous notes unless I was going to be bothered to read them (and I knew I wouldn’t be).

My home support was really great. In the lead up to exams it was often my parents who told me to take a break from studying to take my mind off the workload. I live in a large household (seven people), so it’s not easy to keep the noise levels low, but they all tried really hard to make my studying environment comfortable. I really appreciated that the whole family never acted differently towards me, forced me to study, or stopped me from going to parties just because it was an important year. They understood that I would do what needed to be done, when it needed to be done by, and trusted me to have the ability to say no to commitments if I felt I needed to.

Amy Shah: Yeah I did go to tutoring, set time to revise a lot. My family was really supportive and they knew that I would do well.

Tanveer Singh Mokha: Studying technique was mostly keeping yourself organised and always planning how to study for each subject, to know how much time each subject needs, that way you’re not losing out on any effort needed to put into other subjects. I did tutoring at Talent 100 and got help from my sister and family.

Riddhi Joshi: Yeah I did tutoring. I tried to study 2-3 hours consistently every night, including homework, assignments, and extra work. Home support was definitely very positive, my family stuck with me through everything, all the ups and the downs. I don’t think I would’ve been able to achieve what I achieved without them.

 

How did you decide what subjects to pick and why did you like them?

Rizul Makkar: It was set up in junior school. I was always interested in maths and sciences, as I got the chemistry background from my mum. Most of the subjects I did were subjects I was interested in.

Nakita Dass: When I initially chose my subjects at the start of Year 11 I took into account my interests, strengths and also potential future career prospects. I was one of the only ones at my school who didn’t take maths, but after struggling so much with it, it was a real relief to be able to focus on the subjects I understood and loved. I was confident when I made the decision that all my remaining subjects played to my strengths, knowing that I would need as much time as possible to really give my Extension 2 English and Visual Arts projects my all. I was also taking Spanish through distance education at The Open High School, which was brilliant, but required a lot of time, hard work and self-discipline. I have always been a creative person by nature and the visual arts course gave me space to breathe. The art room was my refuge throughout the HSC and it was a subject, like Extension 2, that gave me a lot of joy and fulfilment. Business Studies grounded me and kept my rational mind sharp. Business is definitely one of the more useful and applicable subjects to take. My choice to learn Spanish was slightly eccentric, however, it was a good fit for me as I have always enjoyed learning languages (having taken French and Hindi in the past).

Harsharndeep Singh Kahlon: From the beginning I always had a passion for maths and I wanted to make sure I did the highest level. It was recommended to me that I should also do physics. Software had a little bit of maths, so I chose it. I also liked essay writing so chose English extension.

Aayush Jain: I did well in School Certificate science as I really enjoyed science back then and I thought that doing three science subjects would be a good idea. I also really enjoyed Legal Studies, which I picked because I enjoyed legal studies within commerce, but it didn’t count in my ATAR.

Vikram Kumar: From year 7-10  you develop an understanding of what you like and don’t like and at the end of year 10 you realise what you want to do.

Aparna Balakumar: I always loved spending hours researching and editing an essay, and simultaneously struggled through 10 minutes of maths homework. Whilst I enjoyed aspects of the sciences, I was not a ‘natural’ at them, and always found more interest in learning about societies both past and present. My marks also reflected the larger aptitude I had for social sciences. That’s why when it came to subject selection, my family and I made the decision to forget about ‘scaling’ or ‘weighting’ and just take subjects I would enjoy and was thus likely to excel at. Two years is a long time to sit in a class you don’t have an interest in! Writing my 6000 word major project on voluntourism was something I found incredibly fascinating rather than a chore, and similarly learning all about the Vietnam War came in handy when I recently visited the region and viewed the historical sites firsthand. I loved that the things I was learning about in the classroom were things I could see the effects of and apply to my everyday world.

Amy Shah: I always liked science, so I picked chemistry and physics. Maths was always challenging but interesting at the same time. I learnt my strengths and weaknesses before starting year 11.

Tanveer Singh Mokha: Always thought my strengths were towards sciences and maths. I always enjoyed doing them and was good at them. I decided to do economics because my sister did economics and it looked interesting as it is about what’s happening in current world, I enjoyed it.

Riddhi Joshi: I definitely liked maths, I always liked maths. I wanted to choose the greatest amount of maths possible. I also enjoyed science and was interested in general economics as an understanding of the world because of dad, but mostly because I enjoyed the subjects.

How did you and your family celebrate your results?

Rizul Makkar: We went out for dinner. Before doing the HSC, I was accepted for a cadetship in investment banking with a company called UBS. The process of interviews and tests started in March and ended in August. So the celebration was more for the cadetship than the ATAR.

Nakita Dass: They [my parents] were absolutely ecstatic, especially as they knew that I’d had three main goals throughout the year, to become an all-rounder, receive a nomination for the Extension 2 Showcase and an ATAR of over 95. I’d had these goals, but they had seemed more like unachievable dreams when I first formed them. It was surreal to achieve not just one, but all of them. My parents are extremely proud, and I feel a huge sense of relief. They gave me the freedom to take the subjects I loved and to so many people, they were the ‘non-intellectual’ subjects, the ‘unimportant ones’. My parents have always taken the stance that if you’re not passionate about something, if it doesn’t excite you and make you think, you should be doing something else that does. It means a lot that I can thank my parents through showing them (and hopefully future students) that it’s not the subjects you take that determine success, but the effort and enthusiasm you put into them. At the moment my family and I are travelling through Europe, another absolute dream come true! We are hoping to have a barbecue when we get back to Australia to celebrate with the rest of my family!

Aayush Jain: My mum was still in India. My dad congratulated me. I wasn’t too happy with my mark, as it wasn’t the mark I wanted. I wanted a little bit better. My dad got me through it.

Aparna Balakumar: My family were so excited! I woke them all up in the morning just after I looked up my marks at 6am the day they were released. As I didn’t come out of many of the HSC exams thinking I aced the paper, and never made an estimation about my marks, it was a huge relief.  Coming first in the State for Society and Culture was the largest shock, and I called my parents straight after the Board of Studies called me and told them “you’re going to have to take Tuesday off work!” As a family, we all went out to the temple and then dinner afterwards. We were all just grateful that I received an ATAR likely to get me into the uni course I wanted. The bonus was just knowing that the effort I put in throughout the year was rewarded, and that I can look back proud of the marks I received.

Tanveer Singh Mokha: Tanveer Singh Mokha: It was a positive surprised and I wasn’t expecting it. I will probably celebrate with extended family and we’ll be going to India soon.

Riddhi Joshi: My parents were definitely happy with it. They would be happy with whatever I got because I tried my best. We went out for dinner.

What do you do in your leisure time? What are your hobbies?

Nakita Dass: I think all the free time I’ve had over the last year was spent sleeping, not something to be proud of, haha! I love to play the guitar and sing. I listen to all kinds of music and always have a book on the go. Travel is something I absolutely adore and I thrive on the constant challenge presented by new languages. Coming from a cross-cultural background, culture is always something that has fascinated me. I write a lot, mostly poetry, and cook whenever I get the chance. I love sport, I’m a bit of a football fanatic and can’t wait to start playing again now that the HSC is over! I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than at the beach, out at a restaurant or the art gallery with mates. I’m a pretty keen photographer too and am really interested in design and architecture.

Amy Shah: I like reading and craft. I volunteered at a retirement care village throughout Year 12. When I have too much time, I procrastinate, so keeping busy helps me do better.

 

Did you ensure you had a balance between study and play during the HSC?

Rizul Makkar: It was more about time management and getting on top of things, making sure that things never got out of hand and sticking to your plan. I think having a balance is the most important thing, if you don’t have balance you’ll never succeed.

Nakita Dass: I really tried to maintain a balance throughout the year and although my wellbeing suffered a couple of times here and there when things became a bit too overwhelming, I think I managed pretty well. Finding that equilibrium is vital if you want to succeed in life with anything! Go out and have a great time with your friends, exercise, eat well and don’t stop doing what you love. If anything, you’ll be more productive if you can take efficient breaks, don’t be too hard on yourself. That said, it’s important to know when enough is enough. There were plenty of times when I had to turn down a night out in order to get work done, it’s just one of those things. Procrastination is to be avoided at all costs, however sometimes inspiration sparks most vividly when you are under pressure. It’s important to remember that your final year of high school is something you’ll never forget. Make it enjoyable! The year passes so quickly and I know the connection I shared with my grade and teachers will be something I miss dearly over the years to come.

Harsharndeep Singh Kahlon: I didn’t really ensure I had a balance. I did used to watch TV but that’s about it, I was mostly just studying. Once a month or so I’d go out and play cricket. I still think that having a balance is extremely important and I think that if I had a balance, I would’ve done even better.

Aayush Jain: Yeah I definitely tried to. I would go on the treadmill for half an hour everyday. The only time I would be able to do it was at 10pm at night (laughs). I lost a bit of weight during the HSC. I wouldn’t have been able to cope with the pressure without the half an hour break, you hit a wall and can’t understand things anymore, so it’s best to go away and come back.

Vikram Kumar: Yeah, I tried to keep a strong balance between the two. I think it’s extremely important because if it’s out of balance you tend to go towards extreme of either side, which hurts the other side of what you’re doing.

Aparna Balakumar: Definitely. I didn’t put things like watching my favourite TV shows or learning how to drive on hold for the year. Ultimately the study levels did increase during assessment periods, but I maintained balance by watching a movie or interacting with my family following a past paper. I also studied at the library with friends on a few days, so we could bounce ideas off each other and eat out after our work was completed. I really think it’s only a stressful period if you give the HSC too much importance, and stop doing the other things that make you happy. Continuing driving my brother to cricket practice, or organising a concert with the school prefects were small tasks that really helped take my mind off formulas and quotes. Keeping so busy outside of study helped give me more perspective that the HSC wasn’t the be all and end all. This then allowed me to stay much calmer when exams rolled around, and also forced me to use the study time I did have efficiently.

Amy Shah: Yeah at first it was hard, but it is important so I tried my hardest. I made sure I maintained my time wisely. I prioritised.

Tanveer Singh Mokha: It is definitely important to keep a balance as you don’t want to get bogged down in studies. You have to make sure you keep focused but also do other things to keep your mind fresh.

Riddhi Joshi: I tried to be as involved as I could with the school community, charities, breakfast clubs, 40 hour famine and Amnesty International. I completed ARANGETERAM in Indian Dance as I found dance as a way to take my mind of studies and used it as a way of relaxation. Dancing ensured I had a balance during HSC. I think it’s very important to have a balance, it will stimulate the mind and keep a positive attitude, which is very important.

What does the future hold for you? What do you hope your next accomplishment will be?

Rizul Makkar: Getting through my cadetship and doing really well to hopefully working my way up into investment banking. I also would like to study finance at UNSW.

Nakita Dass: Next year I’m hoping to study English and Art History at The University of Sydney with the intention becoming a writer. I’m wary of saying that, it’s an ambitious path and a long one too, but I am hopeful that things will work out. Ideally I would like to go on to do an honours year and potentially postgraduate studies, but we’ll see how things shape up. It’s a bit of a long shot, but I’d love to do well enough in my first year to become a faculty scholar. I’d also really like to keep writing and publishing work. More than anything, I’m looking forward to meeting all kinds of new people and building up an arsenal of experiences with which to face the world. I think the next few years are going to be an adventure to say the least and it would be foolish to predict where I’ll end up, but the one thing I can say with certainty is that there will be plenty of stories to tell.

Harsharndeep Singh Kahlon: I’ve chosen actuarial studies at UNSW Australian School of Business and I am doing that combined with Bachelor of Economics. Hopefully I will become a certified actuary and work in risk assessment. I like it because it’s maths based and will have a high income.

Aayush Jain: I plan on studying law at Australian National University and I want to end up being a lawyer. I’ll probably have to move out to Canberra.

Vikram Kumar: I hope the future holds a good job, and an easy-going lifestyle. I haven’t thought that far ahead about my next accomplishment (laughs). I would like to do media/arts at UNSW and I want to go into graphic design.

Aparna Balakumar: I have no idea. But that’s the most exciting part! At university I’ll be studying Media and Communications, so hopefully somewhere that I can continue writing, researching, and exploring all the world has to offer. 

Amy Shah: I want to study medicine at UNSW and become a doctor.

Tanveer Singh Mokha: Not too sure yet, have to see till offers come out. I’m looking in the science field.

Riddhi Joshi: Definitely going to be doing physiotherapy and the USYD. See where I’ll go from there I guess.

 

What would your advice to future HSC students be?

Aayush Jain: It would be to get help as soon as possible if you find that you are not doing as well as you would like to be doing, especially if it is a compulsory subject such as English. Although teachers will always be there to help, sometimes teachers alone cannot be enough.

Vikram Kumar: Try to keep a balance between study and whatever you like to do and don’t get too stressed, it’s not the end of the world.

Amy Shah: When revising stick to the syllabus and make sure your know the dot points really well for all your subjects. Just keep going and be determined to do well, and you need persistence!

Tanveer Singh Mokha: Probably the most important thing is to pace yourself out, don’t overkill in the beginning, but build yourself up towards trials and the end of the year. At the same time, make sure you don’t procrastinate and leave the things you don’t like towards the end. I did English first in my study as I wasn’t too happy to do it, but I got it out of the way to focus on other stuff. Just be happy with doing your best.

Riddhi Joshi: My best advice to give right now would be to just try your best and not let some small negative incident hold you back.