As many students slowly come to the end of their year 11 journey, they are confronted by the most daunting challenge of their lives to date; the HSC. This concept of the HSC inspires fear and worry and doubt and confusion and apprehension in many students as they enter into the biggest challenge of their lives without knowing how to do it. Thats why I’m writing this blog post, a step by step guide that will help you to optimise your time and effort in order to succeed in the HSC.
First things first, never underestimate the power of the mind. This phrase was one of my mantras during HSC and kept me going when the going got tough. The thing is it’s not just some smart sounding phrase, there is a truth behind the statement. Your mind is capable of amazing things, especially during the HSC period as you are pushed above and beyond your psychological limits. Although this may be daunting, you must realise that it is only daunting if you make it so. A positive mindset will take you far in the HSC and needs to be a part of your conscious and subconscious mind from before the HSC begins. Instead of thinking to yourself “All these graduates make the HSC sound like hell” change your perspective to a more positive mindset, “I can’t wait for this challenge!”. Instead of thinking “I’ve struggled to improve my marks in the past, how on earth will I change that now?”, alter your thinking to a more confident and motivating outlook, “This is the year I will succeed, as long as I try my best and put my all into it, I will be just fine!”. A positive mindset is something many students neglect as they are oblivious to the power of the mind so think of this like your own personal cheat code to keep you motivated throughout the year, to continue doing your best and trying to achieve your goals.
No, I don’t mean you have to offer a sacrifice to the gods that be in order to succeed (although for some, this may be a better alternative to what I’m about to suggest). The HSC is an important aspect of each student’s life, and as such, it holds great importance to all who endure it. It’s funny how your future is determined by 3 terms worth of work and a couple of exams right? Wrong, you’re looking at the situation from a negative perspective, remember that a positive mindset is all you need to start on your journey towards success. You have 3 terms to do your absolute best so that once you’re done you can say “I’ve done what I can” and reap the fruit of your labour. What this means is that these 3 terms will not and must not be like your previous terms during your high schooling life, you need to take a different approach, one solely focused on doing your best. One of the most vital sacrifices that will exponentially improve your work ethic and study habits is to delete social media or reduce it to the bare minimum. It sounds harsh and to some, impossible, but trust me when I tell you that once you delete social media, you’ll realise just how much time you were wasting per week instead of doing something productive or beneficial. For example, I was my school’s vice captain and as such I was taken out of class a lot for extra curricular activities which impacted my ability to seek feedback or complete work under my teachers guidance. In order to overcome this boundary, I had to sit down and figure out how I could maximise my time both in and out of the class and the answer was clear from the beginning. Once I cut out social media from my daily routine, I could finish my homework from school each day in under 3 hours, leaving me time to study, exercise and still help around the school in my leadership capacity. This is only one example of a sacrifice you could make for just 3 short terms in order to ensure you have time to focus on your priorities but I’m sure, everyone has their own “Achilles heel” they must sacrifice, you just need to be brutally honest with yourself and figure out what’s holding you back. I know people who gave up or minimised time spent on a variety of things other than social media; competitive sports, casual/part time work, gym, Netflix, Youtube, console games etc. all it takes is for you to determine the unnecessary things taking up your time and eliminate them from your daily schedule and use that time to further your own education.
One of the most amazing things about our education system is that throughout high school, your teachers collectively seek to teach you one important lesson and yet that very same lesson, which by the way is the key to success in the HSC, is ignored by roughly 90% of students – practise makes perfect. You will always hear teachers droning on about how “if you put in the effort, the results will come” and yet for some reason students disregard this fundamental notion, relying rather on their own idea of productivity. One of the things you must realise is that school is a place where you are taught skills or techniques and the expectation is that once your teachers have equipped you with the necessary skills or techniques, it’s up to you to practise said skills/techniques in order to hone and perfect them, thus empowering yourself to succeed in the HSC. It’s like cooking a meal from a cookbook, you try the recipe for the first time and it turns out alright but the more you practice this recipe the better it becomes and you may even begin to employ your creative license whilst cooking in order to further improve the meal. The most amazing thing about the HSC is that you are essentially given a recipe for success in each subject (the syllabus/rubric), so everyone should have the same mark in the final exam right? Of course not because there are people who practice so much that they perfect it whilst others hold a mediocre result in their hands.
Ultimately, everything I have talked about up to this point relies on how disciplined you can be during this year, and once again it goes to show just how important it is to have the right mentality. All it takes to succeed in the HSC is a positive shift in your perspective, once you have that outlook, discipline will come as a consequence. Positive mindset = motivation, motivation = discipline, discipline = results. Once you are able to be disciplined, you will seek to organise your time more effectively, you will be more willing to study regularly, you won’t dread practise but rather look forward to it as a means whereby you can improve and get better, you won’t be let down by your results but will use them to spur yourself to greater heights, this is exactly what every HSC student needs and yet most can’t achieve it because they enter into the HSC with the wrong mentality.
One of the common phrases associated with the HSC is “burning out” where basically you work yourself to the point of exhaustion whereby you psychologically blow a fuse and thus, can not perform at the same level as before. Many students struggle with this but again, all you need is the right mindset and discipline. Once you have eliminated any distractions and made the necessary sacrifices, you will be able to observe how much of the day you have to yourself to both work and rest. Those who are motivated to study work harder which in some cases even means that they work faster. This means that they finish their homework faster, giving them more time to study at night or update their study notes whilst also leaving time for them to unwind. This is pivotal in the HSC to not only work hard but, as Wiz Khalifa says “Work hard, play hard”. Finding the balance between work and fun is difficult for some in the HSC but once you get into the flow of things and organise yourself, you will come to realise that its possible to perform well in the HSC whilst still living your life to the fullest, all it takes is a positive mindset, discipline and good time management. One of the best tips I could give any HSC student is to complete the homework they receive THE NIGHT THEY RECEIVE IT. Never, ever leave homework till the day before its due because, not only is it going to impede your learning and comprehension of certain pieces of content, it psychologically restrains you from performing well as you force yourself to study the same content as everyone else for shorter periods of time resulting in a natural disadvantage. Personally, during the HSC, I had my time set out like this:
- 4 – 4:30 pm = lunch
- 4:30 – 8pm = homework
- 8 – 9 = update study notes/study
- 9 – 9:30 = exercise
- 9:30 – 10 = do whatever I want (social media, youtube, games etc.)
- 10pm – 6:30am = sleep
I know for some people doing homework for 3 and a half hours straight sounds insane but that was just the way I would do my work. I found that, due to my positive mentality which gave me the necessary motivation and discipline, I became absorbed in my homework meaning I would work quickly and effectively, but this isn’t the case for most people so it’s a matter of doing what’s best for you. That being said, it is essential that you prioritise your sleep/rest over everything else because only a rested mind can absorb information and improve and the best way for you to achieve this is to work smarter, not harder. All in all, you need to identify your priorities in year 12 and allocate time accordingly to each whilst eliminating distractions to ensure you are always ready to learn.