In an education system that pits students against each other in a Hunger Games style academic game, with the winner coming out with the highest ATAR or final mark, sometimes you need all the help you can get. While I resent a ranking system that reduces whole people to numbers and do not believe in standardised testing that results in students regurgitating essays and facts, I am all for helping students survive their final years and getting through the game that is the HSC.

stay alive

It’s not worth doing the extra unit

If you’re doing an extra class just for the sake of it, and you’re not absolutely smashing it, drop it. It might seem like a good idea to give yourself a sort of safety net in case you flunk something else, but the added homework, deadlines and exams means when it gets down to the nitty gritty you’re probably not going to be doing your best anyway because you’ll have so much going on. If you’re not enjoying it, don’t have a genuine interest in the subject or you’re completely flunking all your assessments- cut it.

Syllabus is everything

When you hit your final years, knowing your syllabus is critical in preparing for exams and essays. They’re all available online, and some teachers will print them out for you; try to avoid shoving them in a crumpled heap at the bottom of your bag. The syllabus outlines everything that that subject will cover and what could be included in your final exams. Some subjects will copy and past long answer questions straight from the syllabus so it’s worth getting to know what’s actually on there. Late night cramming sessions and study notes should be organised based on this holy grail of documents.

homer reading

Put your marks in perspective

Your final mark is calculated by combining your final exam marks and the marks from all your in-house school assessments. So, 50% final exams, 50% everything else. This means you need to pay attention to how much each school assessment is worth, so you can figure out how much energy you should put into it (and how stressed about the score you get). If you have a bio prac coming up worth 15%, remember that in the overall scheme of things it’s only going to work out to 7.5%. Put things in perspective and don’t have a breakdown if you miss out on getting full marks.

Sort out your priorities

So you’ve worked out what each assessment is worth, now you gotta sort out what needs the most energy. The class quiz that’s only contributing to 5% of your final mark coming up on the same day your major project is due? Focus on the major project. If you genuinely don’t have time to prepare for both or all your study plans and schedules have gone to shit (I’ll admit, I was still working on my major project the night before), it’s going to be worth pouring what little time and energy you have left into whatever will get you the most marks.


When it’s over, it’s over

Once everyone has finished their final exams there’s the anxious wait until marks and rankings are released. And once they’re out…that’s it. You’ll probably talk to you parents about them, and you might tell your friends how you went. Chances are you’ll need to sort out what happens next in terms of uni or TAFE or whatever you decide to do. But once that’s all over and done with there’s nothing else, it’s game over. Don’t be surprised when all the work, blood, sweat and tears from the last year just gets forgotten about because regardless of what your final mark is, whether you completely flunked those last exams or managed to get into a top uni…no one really gives a shit after it’s done.


Emma Kocbek

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