Student Voices

  • Matt

    (Currently studying Mathematics and Chemistry)

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    Matt, please tell us a little about yourself

    I graduated from Maitland Grossmann High in 2007. Throughout school I enjoyed mathematics, I think because of the problem solving aspect, and science, I think because it helped me to understand how the world worked. In Year 12 the subjects I studies were Adv. English, Physics, Chemistry, Ext. 1 & Ext. 2 Mathematics and Music 1. I’m currently in my 4th year of a Bachelor of Mathematics/Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) at the University of Newcastle and thoroughly enjoying it.

    Describe your HSC year

    My HSC year was busy, it was demanding, but it was also exciting and a lot of fun. I had some early starts, a class where I was the only student and spent plenty of lunchtimes locked in music storerooms.

    How did you feel as you approached your HSC exams?

    I was nervous, I was stressed and I was worried about having to make post-HSC decisions about the next ‘step’ in my life. Reflecting on these feelings, I now realise that they were completely natural. At the time such a high importance is placed on the HSC and its easy to lose some perspective. The HSC alone is not going to determine the rest of your life. Its not the ‘be all and end all’. Whatever you want to do, there is always another pathway.

    How did you cope with these feelings?

    I found the best way to cope with these feelings was to be as prepared as possible. For me that meant keeping up to date with homework throughout year 12. After all, if you don’t how else do you know you understand the material? Chances are in an exam the questions will be similar to those you’ve already done. Practicing on homework questions gave me confidence, that I would know what to do when the exam came. I also put a lot of effort into internal assessment tasks, such as assignments. Knowing I already had marks ‘under my belt’ from these was calming going into exam periods.

    Have you got any specific study tips for HSC students?

    Use the two week break before the HSC to your advantage. If used well it will really help for your preparation. I spent that time mostly doing past exam papers, practising answer skill on the type of questions in exams, rather than reading through notes or making summaries. I tried to structure my days like school – start at 9am, take recess and lunch breaks, finish at 4pm. The routine helped to motivate me and once the ‘school day’ was over I relaxed, meet up with friends or did something else exciting. It was a great feeling know that I’d completed a solid day of study.

    Related link - HSC exam papers for all subjects, with marker’s notes

  • Shaylish

    (Currently studying Architecture)

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    Shay-lish, please tell us a little about yourself

    My name is Shay-lish McMahon. I am an Aboriginal woman from the EORA nation who grew up in Port Stephens, which is an hour north of Newcastle. I am currently studying a Bachelor of Architecture (Design) after attending Tomaree High School where the Aboriginal student population was extremely low.

    Growing up I would always tell my parents that I would one day design people’s houses. I would even draw house plans from the local newspaper. I’ve always been interested by space and form and how the environment influences an individual, that can in turn inspires a design concept. It is fascinating how these elements can then tell a story.

    Describe your HSC year

    I was an ‘average’ high school student who slowly developed a firm desire to attend university after watching both my older brothers achieve great things. My extended family also inspired me to strive harder and reach for my goals.

    My HSC year was a roller coaster of mixed emotions. I was studying PDHPE, Visual Arts, English standard, Sport Lifestyle Recreation, Society and Culture and Ancient History. The most challenging of my subjects was PDHPE. I certainly experienced a few hiccups during these 12 months but was able to overcome these with the support I had, in particular, from my Sport Lifestyle and Recreation teacher.

    How did you feel as you approached your HSC exams?

    Approaching my HSC exams I was a nervous wreck. I felt unprepared. I felt that I hadn’t studied enough. I felt that I hadn’t memorised enough material from the prescribed texts.

     How did you cope with these feelings?

    I coped with these feeling with encouragement and reassurance I got from my PDHPE, SLR and English teacher. Their words helped and eventually I felt more at ease sitting for the exams.

    Have you got any specific study tips for HSC students?

    Never doubt your own abilities! Stay focused and don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your studies. Stay true to the dreams and your passions.

    What does the future hold for you?

    I am extremely excited about the future and what it holds for me. I plan to join the six Aboriginal architects working in Australia.

    Related link- Architecture at the University of Newcastle

  • Andrew

    (Currently studying Education and History)

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    Andrew, please tell us a little about yourself

    I grew up on a farm about 30 minutes north of Raymond Terrace, where I went to school at Hunter River High School. I completed my HSC in 2009 and I studied Advanced English, Mathematics, Business Studies, Modern History and Physics. I really enjoyed studying History and Business. I didn’t mind Maths but our class did not have a regular teacher for most of the year which made things a bit harder. I studied Physics through distance education which was a tough subject to learn without a teacher but I pulled through in the end. I am now in my second year of studies here at the University of Newcastle where I am studying to be a history teacher. I am really enjoying it.

    Describe your HSC year

    I was lucky enough to be elected as school captain which I found to be a great experience. Looking back, I think it was good to get out and do some non-HSC activities. I suffered quite a large setback just before my trial exams when my grandad passed away. It took a while for me to turn my focus back on school. My final year of school was enjoyable but there was certainly a lot of work involved. In the end though it was worth the effort.

    How did you feel as you approached your HSC exams?

    There were certainly times leading up to the exams when I was doubting myself and stressing out. Overall though, I was happy with the way I approached the exams and even felt confident going into them. I had set myself goals well and I had planned my time to study so that I was well prepared but didn’t burn out. It was a balancing act. It involved lots of trial and error but by the time I sat my first exam I knew I was prepared and I walked out with a smile on my face.

    How did you cope with these feelings?

    I learnt that by setting myself small challenges that slowly extended my comfort zone l could learn much better than trying to learn it all at once. If I recognised that I was getting too stressed about things I would look to change something up. Stress is actually a good motivator but it is important to manage it before it gets out of hand and you lose focus and get frustrated.

    Have you got any specific study tips for HSC students?

    Get to know your syllabus – you’re not going to be examined on anything that isn’t in the syllabus. I got copies of the content sections and marked off each dot point that I felt confident on writing about.

    Do past exams – I found these were very useful and once you’ve completed one, then work out what parts you felt comfortable with, and what parts you didn’t. I found especially with Maths the past exams were so helpful. I did them ‘open book’ with music going outside in the sun. Try making study enjoyable!

    Practice writing (Not Typing)!! – you need to be able to write for 3 hours straight in many exams, so build up the muscles in your arm and you won’t cramp up after half an hour. Find an assessment that you went well in and write it out a few times, or, get one you didn’t do well in and improve it. Talk to your teacher about it.

    What does the future hold for you?

    I am planning on spending all of next year studying on exchange in Germany. I have been working hard to save up some money. While I am over there I will also be teaching English in some of the local high schools. I am pretty excited about that. Once that is finished I will come back to Newcastle and finish off my degree and from there … the world awaits!

    Related link – Board of Studies Syllabus documents

  • Kirsty

    (Currently studying Business)

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    Kirsty, tell us a little about yourself

    I completed my HSC at Irrawang High School where I studied English, Maths, Ancient History, Business Services Administration and Legal Studies. I found English and Maths to be the most challenging. There was so much content to remember! I liked Ancient history as you could think about the topics visually and that’s my favourite way to study. I’m currently doing a degree in Business with a major in Tourism and Marketing.

    Describe your HSC year

    When I started my HSC year I had no idea what to expect. My HSC year was also the first year they brought out the new core focus ‘Belonging’ for English. It was new and challenging for myself and my classmates. I relied on heaps of friends to get me through the study. We all did our studying together which helped me not to feel alone as I went through this process.

    How did you feel as you approached your HSC exams?

    I was a little overwhelmed. It is hard when I started thinking about all the things I had to study hard for. I honestly did not know how well I would go with the exam pressure. I felt really tired during the weeks leading up to the exams and during the exams. I couldn’t always sleep very well.

    How did you cope with these feelings?

    Walking helps! I went for a walk most days. Studying when you are too stressed out simply won’t help you. Nothing new will ‘stick’.  I always tried to eat breakfast lunch and tea. I had honey tea in the morning. Looking back on that year I wish I had done more to help me cope with not sleeping. Sometimes I think a bit more ‘me time’ would have been nice too.

    Have you got any specific study tips for HSC students?

    Try different techniques and see what best suits you; whether it is writing summaries or participating in group discussions. I found that I studied more effectively using diagrams and by colour coding my subjects, which I still do here at university.

    I would recommend you eat as healthily as you can – iIt really does make you feel better. Some light exercise is a great idea too; like walking to school if this works for you.

    Make sure you organise all your materials before that final exam study period. It’s a lot easier to maintain your final study sessions when you can actually find what you are looking for.

    Study where it makes you feel most comfortable. Otherwise, you simply won’t feel like studying at all.

    What does the future hold for you?

    I am in my first year of study at University so I have 2 more years to complete my degree. When finished, I’m hoping to do Event Management and then Tourism Marketing later on. I’m actually really looking forward to getting out into the world!

    Related link – HSC Tips and Tools at Board of Studies “Students Online”