A 98 ATAR student gives advice for Year 12

What is the biggest mistake people can make?

The first thing everyone asks me is, what subjects did I do?

I took English Advanced, Extension English, Studies of Religion, Visual Arts, General Maths and Modern History.

And why do I think that’s important to tell you? I think it is important to remove a stereotype that achieving 98 – 100 is only for people at the most elite schools, who are doing complex subjects. I mean, I did not do one Science and did General Maths. I didn’t lock myself away to study every day and night, I didn’t ace every exam or assessment, I didn’t submit practice papers to my teachers. But, what I did do was continually work hard through the year.

Working consistently made the final months easier – which is where you can accelerate your marks ahead of people who are playing catch up.

The key to success in the HSC is simple. Hard work. If you work hard, you will succeed.

Study right

There is a huge difference between working long hours, and working hard. Sitting at a desk procrastinating, or half working is a waste of time. Be honest with yourself, no can make you ‘study properly,’ so don’t waste your time and don’t lie to yourself about how much ‘work’ you are doing.

My tips:

Forget scaling

Teachers have been saying it for years, “Don’t worry about scaling.” But we do. They say, “do what you are good at, and you’ll perform well.” But we don’t believe them.

These teachers though… they are really onto something.

You’ll be so much better off getting above 95 in General Maths than you will be getting a 75 in Mathematics.

Do not worry about scaling, just worry about your ability to perform well in subjects. It’s a dangerous game to pick subjects based on scaling. As is trying to prioritise your study based on which subjects will ‘scale better’.

Do not write notes in study time, instead study in study time

Do not spend half of September before HSC or July before Trials writing our your study notes. You should have them done already and there are better things to do with your time, like learning them.

The biggest mistake people make is spending their time writing notes and not doing practice questions.

For Maths, I actually advise against study notes. It’s a skill based subject, and so you should hone in on practice questions and applying formulas to an exam with an open book. Next step is to remove the text book. So draw up big formula sheet and do the practice questions with this handy. Soon the formulas will just come naturally.

For English, I  recommend having a structure for every essay. Remember your quotes, your explanation of the quote (…this invites the reader to understand xyz) and then three – four variations of how you could apply this to various questions. Performing well in English is about your knowledge and analysis of a text, so lot’s of quotes – LOT’S OF QUOTES! Write them down over and over and over.

In the final days before an exam, 90% of your study should be attempting past papers, in exam conditions.


If you are doing well through the year, awesome, congratulations. If not, it doesn’t matter, because you have so much time and assessable percentage left to go. Keep going, don’t feel like you have ruined your chances at a good ATAR because of something you’ve done so far.


A 98 ATAR student gives advice for Year 12
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