How I achieved a 99.95 ATAR: Jessica Bulluss, Year 12
I like to think of the HSC as a vast canyon that you need to somehow make your way across
You start off with nothing, and are somehow expected to build yourself a bridge strong enough to cross it. This bridge is built from ropes, and each rope is built from fragile, thin threads. For me, each thread represents a bit of knowledge that you acquired through your studies, and each rope is the product of hours and hours of hard work spanning not just Year 12, but the years you took to prepare for it. With less work and effort, your bridge will be flimsy, and the crossing scarily precipitous.
With this metaphor in mind, my approach to the HSC was to be as prepared as I could be for my upcoming exams; essentially to build the strongest bridge I could. You don’t need to sacrifice your wellbeing or hobbies, or most importantly of all, your sleep during your senior years, in order to build a strong bridge. In fact, these activities keep your mind capable of fabricating the threads. During my HSC year, I kept running and training for cross country at State Level, as well as playing in my school’s netball A team. I walked my dog every day, and I took breaks whenever I needed them.
I don’t believe in a rigid study schedule. This may seem surprising, but it does make sense upon explanation. It can be tempting to pedantically plan every second of every day, but you cannot anticipate your headspace at the time, or how well you can concentrate on a given subject. For me, I would always study according to how I was feeling in the moment. For example if I was attempting some Maths questions and nothing was making sense, I would stop and switch to some Chemistry. There’s no point in spending hours dragging yourself through a task if you’re not in the right frame of mind to do it. The HSC is all about maximising your study efficiency – you only have so much time to build your bridge, lest you exhaust yourself and can’t finish.
I would always make sure I did plenty of past papers in the weeks leading up to a major assessment, to ensure I was prepared. I was also juggling UMAT study, which I ultimately achieved a 100th percentile in. I would focus on UMAT during times I didn’t have major school assessments, and ensured that my schedule was flexible enough to accommodate it.
My parents were also hugely supportive to me, and never pushed me to study. They understood that it was a bridge only I could build, and that giving me my own space and time to develop my own building technique was the best way they could help. My mum always cooked me my favourite foods, and my parents kept the TV down when I was studying. Little things like that added up, and they were always there to talk with me about my worries if I needed it.
Indeed, building technique was something I learnt from my teachers and fellow students. I always used my time in class effectively and would ask my teachers for help outside class hours if I needed extra explanations of a concept. My classmates and I were all in the scary HSC struggle together, and we would trade threads and tips to ensure everyone got across just that little bit easier than if we hadn’t helped each other. It’s not a competition to get across, indeed, having someone else building a bridge next to yours might even support yours in return.
I guess, looking back on it all, everyone built their bridge differently. As long as you put your heart into your studies, let your teachers and friends help you, then you can rest assured that you will get across to that foreign, exciting land of university life.
Need some help navigating your studies in Year 12? Click here to find out about our 2 Week Free Trial for subjects such as Advanced English, Advanced Mathematics, Mathematics Extension 1, Mathematics Extension 2, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Economics.