Very insightful and useful for everyone doing the HSC in 2017Hi all,
Apologies for the radio silence over the last couple of months. I have been super busy working with students to prepare for the final HSC exams. Many of you will have heard a bit about the difficulty of the HSC Advanced AoS paper this year. My personal thoughts are a bit mixed on this - I find the visual stimuli a bit weak typically for HSC, and often a bit unfairly arbitrary given the intense limitations of the AoS paper. However, equally unfair was perhaps the unusual length of the paper which - in conjunction with the fairly high degree of difficulty in the texts - is indeed pretty rough. The main consolation you must remember is that you are marked against everyone else, so generally speaking 'its all relative'.
Intelligent students going into HSC this year (2017) will, however, pay attention to this development. The BoS has clearly shown that it is putting its money where its mouth is regarding making the exams more challenging and less easy to be pre-prepared. This can go two ways: if there is a big enough backlash then you can expect the most generic, docile paper in the world next year. However, if the BoS continues with the same rhetoric it has so far to the press, you may expect more challenges of a similar nature. Being able to anticipate how these changes will manifest next year will be another crucial aspect of your HSC English success.
On another note, a typical question students ask me around this time of year is along the lines of 'how do I even get started? What do I do?'. On this note, I thought I would publish a suggested 'timetable/plan of attack'. As with my other posts, there is no point mandating a specific way to approach HSC English; everyone is different. This is merely by way as a platform for how I would approach it, and for you to have something to work with.
Watch this space
Thank you for this very long and super detailed post Phaedrus900. We all appreciate itHi all,
As promised, I thought I would send out a bit of a timetable/suggestion on planning for HSC. I have been fairly reluctant to do this previously, as I think that how you study is highly personal, and always hated teachers and others who tried to impose a style on me. Also, you need to be able to work it out by the time you get to uni (sort of), as noone will be there telling you what to do when.
Having said that, it is often really useful to be aware of some successful strategies other people have adopted - particularly for subjects which you find difficult and uncomfortable. From there, you can adapt what works to suit you. Trial and error, and being willing to change it up is pretty massive in finding success.
So to condense a bit of what worked for me and I've seen work for others in both HSC and uni, here are a few tips:
1. Set down-to-earth, precise and pragmatic goals at all stages of your planning: I think this is probably the one area I was well ahead of some of my colleagues when I first started HSC. Many people don't plan at all, and just sit to study. Others set plans like 'I am going to the library to do 8 hours of English'; or 'I'll just sit there until I've worked out my AoS'. Some people with incredible endurance and/or brilliant, naturally organised minds might be able to do that. For me, and for many others, this is not a plan at all - as soon as I get bored, frustrated, tired e.t.c I have nothing to fall back on: no goal, no plan and no incentive to carry me through these emotions/blocks. Therefore, its easy to go do one of the million other things youd rather be doing.
I am a big picture person. It gives me an aim that I can actually be driven towards e.g. (95+ in maths 2U) as opposed to one that doesn't mean anything ('finishing my homework; doing a chapter e.t.c). Secondly, it militates against anxiety, because once you have the big picture, then break down HOW you can achieve it, it doesn't seem so insurmountable. Ultimately your HSC success is success in 10 best units, which in turn is success in assessment after assessment, exercise after exercise, problem after problem. The good news is that each of these is achievable when broken down to this granular level; the tricky part is doing your best again and again - having endurance and focus. A precise plan helps to articulate the manifestation of your overall goal in a way that is real and achievable at a day-to-day level that you can work with in amongst all the other stresses of your ordinary life.
Therefore, as in my sample plan below, you must break down what the exact tasks of the unit/module you are doing are. HOW you can be successful in each (e.g. reading the novel, gather critiques, reviewing past papers, drafting a model response, doing practice exams etc etc), and find an appropriate orderly way to execute these tasks.
One of the biggest errors people made leading to countless lost marks in HSC, is to not plan properly and leave themselves vulnerable to random events and problems. Noone can help having two exams in one day, or getting sick the week before an assessment. But obviously, appropriate preparation and balance puts you in a far advanced spot. More importantly, and subtly, planning allows you to always have a vision of the big picture. Weighting for internal assessments is huge. If you suddenly realise you have a 15 % maths exam for which you literally haven't opened the book,naturally you will panic and focus all your attention on it. If, however, you have a 40 % long term paper for History due in the same period, it's a disaster to neglect. Proper planning means you will constantly prepare for History, do enough for maths, and have a much more even approach leading up to both.
NB: This doesn't mean cramming is bad. In fact, I was always cramming. I did 14U and played sport, and need heaps of socialising and down time, so I definitely didn't have time to coast through every assessment. Cramming is a very strong way to learn vast quantities of information efficiently and expediently. But there is a huge difference between planned and focussed cramming and panicked cramming, as you all probably know by now.
2. Really I could just leave it there. If you can do 1) even 60% right you will have a relatively painless, successful year. But there are a few more nuances to mention of a more psychological nature.
Find out what works for you; be ruthless: There's a fine line between going with your own eccentric study habits and just procrastinating. Yet it is also an obvious one if you are honest with yourself. I used to work in crowded spaces (because I drew energy from activity and didn't feel excluded from life), worked best with someone else studying next to me, listened to music non-stop. All three of these are disasters for some people, but they worked beautifully for me. However, some subjects - particularly English, where I was actually doing higher level study like synthesising my final set response, required me to be alone without noise. Even though I hated that process, I had to be ruthlessly honest with myself that doing my usual stuff was just producing rubbish.
Whatever works for you, do it all the time. But when something stops working, or it just isn't right for your results, cut it away immediately. Being honest also means acknowledging when you aren't studying at all. One of the strangest things I've witnessed so often is people who do the 'right' things - get up early (though exhausted), meticulously set up their 'study space' in a quiet place, bring every book ever written on their relevant subject and set themselves the goal of topping the state in that single session (lol), and then sit and literally procrastinate for 8 hours. Then spend 2 hours more complaining about how they didn't achieve anything, and CAN'T succeed in the subject. Then, having binged and gone to bed late, they do the same thing again.
This is a not-too-exaggerated process that everyone goes through. But the smart and successful people learn, and stop doing it. You must be introspective and then honest about the results. If you need time off, so be it. But do it properly. No half-measures. If you want to socialise, do it well and have an amazing break with your mates. Don't go there and complain together about how you hate study. I really think a mark of success for most people I've met when studying is to be where you are. If you're studying, study. If you're being house captain, be house captain. If you're partying, do it really well.
Another aspect of this honesty is with your subjects. Many students hate English, understandably. What isn't understandable, if they want to succeed at HSC, is they put a disproportionately small amount of effort in. This is stupid for two reasons. The obvious one is that as 2U it counts for at least 20% of your HSC. But the more subtle point should be understood by anyone who has some understanding of moderation/scaling or even basic statistics. If you are already a wizard at mathematics, although it might feel nice to keep getting stuff right, how many extra marks will you gain from your next 10 hours of work. Conversely, if you don't know how to form a thesis, and continually get 11/20 for English, do you think that 10 hours might get a bit more if spent on English?
Of course being honest is easy to 'say', the pain of it is different. But you honestly can do it. And it's a pain necessary to success, as it is in most parts of life.
3. Quality of Study/'Technique'
People speak about having the 'right study technique'. I am actually against this as well. I honestly think that if people really have the drive to learn, and someone/something to help them overcome the road blocks, they do. And they don't just learn, they do stratospherically well. Conversely, adopting the 'right' approach - some generic way to do things - won't increase their likelihood of learning, unless it suits them. If anything, it's discouraging because they then think the problem must be them 'I'm doing it how I am meant to, but I still don't get it, I must be stupid, I'll never get it'. Far from it, that way simply doesn't work for you.
However, against this, there are certainly more effective ways to learn than others. These ways are ultimately about tailoring your learning to the result you want to achieve. If you need to write an essay on mechanics, no amount of learning of Shakespeare will do much for you. Nor will high level algebra. You need to first become knowledgeable enough on your designated area of mechanics to form beliefs, theses, arguments - that stand up to and incorporate evidence. Then you need to synthesise that learning into a coherent piece of writing called an 'essay'. Any other learning, while great generally, is extraneous if not superfluous to achieving your goal. This isn't so much about 'technique' as it is about relevance. And really, this is just an offshoot of the above discussion about HONESTY. You need to be honest about what you NEED to study, rather than what you want to and what feels easiest.
Many students and friends (and of course me too when I don't want to do the subject!) will avoid being pragmatic because it's too painful. Maybe they have had bad results with essays, or feedback that says they aren't forming a 'thesis', or their writing is vague. So instead of doing the obvious, but painful step of remedying their problem i.e. learn to write a thesis, write cohesively etc. they subtly procrastinate. They do 100 hours (literally in many uni cases Ive seen) of reading about their topic. They read and read. Then as the deadline approaches they read more. Then they read more. Then they have a day to write their essay and they cobble together huge swathes of their reading (OTHER people's writing on the topic) and get 60/100 because they haven't done the task. They haven't provided a personal, original thesis on their topic area. They've effectively just done a very high level, deeply researched synopsis of other people's work. Fine, but not successful.
You MUST make your study practical. There is no substitute for doing whatever it is you will be doing on the day of your assessment or exam. Doing a past HSC 2U paper from beginning to end not only gets you practicing the requisite skills, but also teaches you to feel the progression of the paper from easy to difficult, manage your time, think and most importantly experience in advance of the real deal, what it's actually like.English is identical. You can read your sets texts 10 times and do terribly if you don't synthesise your answers and ATQ (answer the question) on the day. Practice papers help with this.
There's a lot written on this subject in psychology and different types of 'learning'. 'Active learning', where you are required not only to know your subject but to create new material (e.g. essay response), engages far more of your brain and memory, because it involves much more complex processes of synthesising, judgment, analysis and lateral though, than simply unilateral comprehension. I found during HSC that marking, editing, teaching and giving feedback gave me an incredibly detailed understanding of subjects in a very short space of time.
Of course, you need a certain level of understanding before you do this 'active' process. There is no point practicing a maths exam if you have no idea what the questions even mean. You need a balance between straight forward reading/learning and this high level thought. But make sure your detailed plan leaves plenty of quality time for these processes, and stick to them, no matter how painful. You'll be amazed by the results.
All this talk of learning reminds me that it's pretty hard to stay focussed on a lecture/rant and this one has gone on plenty long enough. As always, I hope it's helpful. Also, it is only meant as a guide/platform. If any of it doesn't accord with your own experience, please ignore. Just a few ideas for those that might be struggling. Feel free to send through any questions on this.
He really liked the way you explained concepts and actually answered his questions with clarity. He even asked if you tutored any other subjects because he really enjoyed your teaching style. Thanks for all the advice on these forums.Thanks for your awesome feedback Kayz - I think those kind of reflections are priceless for any tutor. Very much appreciated. Really enjoying tutoring your brother