How I achieved a 99.95 ATAR, Joanna Huang Year 12

How I Achieved a 99.95 ATAR: Joanna Huang

In Year 12, it rained the day before the start of every exam block

“Pathetic fallacy,” I used to jokingly tell myself as I stared out of the window, books and sticky notes scattered all around me, Yet though it didn’t seem like it then, Year 12 wasn’t all study and no play.

I graduated from James Ruse Agricultural High School in 2016, and received an ATAR of 99.95. The subjects I took in Year 12 were Extension 1 English, Extension 2 Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry.

Looking back, here are some of the things that I learnt throughout my HSC year:

Work hard, play hard

There’s no doubt that Year 12 is a stressful year for most. In fact, it’s completely normal to occasionally feel overwhelmed with the tasks and assessments that lay ahead. However, we do not study as well when we are overwhelmed, unfocused and constantly tired. We all require a method of relieving that tension within us, and for me, that ‘method’ included various forms of music, looking after newborn chicken, watching TV shows, and taking daily naps after school.

It was exactly these activities – activities some may call a ‘waste of time’, that were paramount to keeping me happy, healthy and motivated throughout my HSC year.

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So long as you have self-control over the amount of time you spend watching TV shows, playing games and hanging out with friends, there is nothing wrong with a couple of hours a day of what I call, ‘relaxation’ activities. But, I try not to multitask. Trying to absorb content whilst watching your favourite TV show will probably trick you into believing you have learnt the content when really you have not. I found 2-hour focused study sessions separated by one TV show in each interval the most efficient and helpful for me. Try out what works for you, and stick by it.

Focus on the bigger picture

Life was never designed to be comfortable and smooth. We have all been disappointed in ourselves before. And there will be times where we don’t do as well in an exam as we expected ourselves to do. I was no exception. It might have just been a bad day, a stomach ache, or not enough sleep the night before. But don’t let that put you down. Don’t get too upset over a single exam result.

Just like the charts of the ASX, marks will rise and fall over time. However, if you get too caught up in the disappointing result, it is like being zoomed in one small fluctuation on the stock-price charts. You lose sight of the bigger picture. Be resilient, zoom out, view the entire line graph and see the much clearer and accurate depiction of your performance over time. Keep sight of the overall trend, always seek for constant improvement and don’t let one disappointment let you down.

Have no regrets

We all know of that disbelief when a question you bet wouldn’t appear in the exam appears. And the immense regret of skipping the last page of the chapter because you thought it wouldn’t be tested. I used to complain about this to my dad, who would laugh, “of course it was tested. They know what’s hard and what marks will be lost.” And he was perfectly correct. They write exams every year, of course they would know. So from then on, I simply asked myself the following questions:

Would I regret skipping over this chapter, if this chapter was tested in the exam?

Would I regret not doing this past chapter if a similar or same question appeared in tomorrow’s exam?

My answer: Yes. And that’s my biggest tip on how I motivated myself closer to exams.

You’re not alone

At the end of the day, the HSC is not solely a test of intellect. It is a mind-game: a test of time-management, resilience and self motivation.

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Keep in mind why you are working hard towards your ATAR goal. For most, it is for you to get into the desired university course, and hence allow you to enter the profession of your dreams. It’s all about you. Stop comparing yourself to others, and focus on improving yourself. If you believe in yourself, everyone will believe in you too. But remember that you’re not alone. You have an amazing support network around you. Your family, friends, and teachers will all be by your side. Even if they don’t express their love for you, I’m sure that they are proud of you now, and will continue to be proud of you in whatever you achieve.

All storms pass to give way to a clear blue sky. So now, let the storm build your excitement in welcoming that beautiful day to come.

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