Maximising HSC Success

College Blog Thursday, 24 Oct 2019

Prior to the exam period, students met with Mrs Michalski in small conference groups to reflect on the approach to studies they could take to assist in the improvement of their results.  Whilst being organised and having a tightly focused study schedule marked the beginning of success, students were encouraged to change at least one element of their practice. For some students this meant writing out practice essay questions in full form, for others it was posters on the wall with key quotes, concepts, formulas and subject specific terminology. Another strategy discussed was to study a difficult subject in an unusual place; students were challenged to read in the bath without the water, or under a table, or outside, or in a different room to where they would typically study. The research behind this approach supports that when we do something familiar in an out of the ordinary way it helps to trigger a memory more intensely than simply attempting to review ideas in the same manner where the brain may not deeply embed the learning.

Whilst as parents and teachers we know that, ultimately, HSC results do not determine a person’s “success” in life, we also know that it certainly helps to pave an easier path for our young adults to achieve their desired tertiary study or workplace goals.  Applying ourselves with excellence honours our Lord and the unique purpose he created each of us for. Norwest Christian College students have always had a high placement rate at university, particularly through early acceptance scheme. This year’s HSC cohort are no exception.

I am always a little reserved when students remark that they hold aspirations for university courses with extremely high ATAR requirements. Oftentimes this reflects a student’s high aspirations coupled with little true understanding of the process of the ATAR calculation. For example, an ATAR of 95 does not mean that the student’s average mark for the HSC was 95 but rather, once all of their subjects are calculated and moderated, they are in the top 5% of all students combined across the state. For this to be a likely scenario, is important that students reflect on their success in other external examinations including NAPLAN and ICAS papers. If they have consistently proven themselves highly competitive across their cohort in the state or even nationally, then they can be somewhat confident that their current study methods are a model of success for the HSC. If they haven’t yet achieved that level of success then it is evident some change must occur. In the same way that my health and fitness routine will not improve if I continue to be sedentary and eat poorly, similarly their degree of academic competitiveness across the state will not shift if the student’s study habits, classroom application, research and writing skills do not significantly change. I would not prepare for a marathon by lifting some light weights and going for a few sprints around the oval twice a week. If I was going to train for a marathon then I would have a long-term view on improving my level of fitness and my capacity to actually run the whole 42km. This kind of fitness regime is not going to develop over a mere few weeks. I would anticipate that it would be many, many months of intense, strategic training in advance with a team of experts who could coach me successfully through their experience and professional insight. We take this same long-term view of HSC exam success. It is for this reason that we have exam periods in both Stage 4 and 5, including 90-minute papers for our older students to help develop the academic fitness that is required before beginning Stage 6 studies.

Regardless of their age and stage, during this final exam period for all of our secondary students, I strongly encourage parents to work alongside their young person to support new approaches to revision and study methods: ask your child to teach you about the subject content; listen attentively and ask questions for clarity. If they can answer with accuracy and confidence, then they will feel assured that they are well prepared. The ability to respond out loud is a really valuable revision tool.  In whatever new strategy is adopted during this exam season, students should be encouraged by the wisdom in Proverbs 14:23 - “All hard work brings profit but mere talk leads only to poverty.” May our students continue to profit from their hard work and study. We look forward to celebrating with our HSC students when results are released on December 17.

Linda Hogan
Director of Secondary Teaching & Learning