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How to use your mid-year results to smash trials

By Charlie Hale on 18 June 2018Exam adviceStudy tipsNSWblog

Now that the mid-yearly exams are out of the way (what a sick joke they were…) and holidays are within reaching distance (almost there, guys), it’s preeeetty easy to be falling into the slacker’s routine. The problem with that, though, is this whole HSC thing is getting more real by the day.

Pleasantly surprising, or just plain awful, at this point you’re probably over the tears, tantrums or smug celebrations that came with getting your mid-year results back. But they’re not ready for the back burner yet. Round 1 is complete, but round 2 is just starting and those mid-year results contain a whole bunch of cheat codes you need to learn if you’re going to succeed in Trials. Cracking those codes is your fast-pass ticket to awesome trial results. So we covered every mid-year exam outcome possible and produced what’s basically a personalised study strategy for the upcoming holidays…

If your mid-year results made you either cry or self-high-five

There’s a lot of work that needs tackling these holidays and there’s no better motivation than the results you just got back. Mid-year exams are your first “proper” indicator as to where you sit in terms of marks and ranks. If they didn’t live up to your hopes and dreams, let them be a show of how much more work needs putting in. If they exceeded expectations, let them fuel aiming for the stars.

If you didn’t have time to study everything

  • Start earlier. Cool, glad we got that very innovative piece of advice out the way
  • Make yourself a comprehensive, specific study timetable, which breaks down all your topics and factors in your ‘trouble’ areas that need more study time.

If you misread the question

It’s surprising how many people slip up because they haven’t read the question properly. It’s actually one of the most common ways to lose marks. If you’re prone to misreading the question even though you swear you read it twice, try this nifty trick: read the question. Put your pen down and read the question again, slowly. That’s it! Sounds simple, but without the urge to rush and write down an answer immediately, your chances of misreading the question are much lower.

If you come across a question that is particularly long, or complicated, follow the same advice, but for a third step, highlight or underline the important key words before you begin formulating an answer.

If you had a total mind-blank

Mind-blanks are usually the result of trying to memorise the content without first getting a good understanding of it. The reality is, no matter how well you know your response, if you don’t actually understand what you’ve learnt, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

If this is the case, revisit the content in a few different ways:

  • Step 1: condense your notes
  • Step 2: watch an Atomi video
  • Step 3: explain the concept to someone else

If you can successfully teach someone else a concept or idea, then you have most likely got a firm understanding of it.

If you knew the content, but still got poor marks

Exams don’t just test the what, they also test the how. Basically, this means that you need to know how to apply the content to a question, as well as learning the content itself.

Past papers are your friend here, but they won’t do any good unless you get them marked.

We’ve also written a whole bunch of posts on applying your knowledge in the exam:

If your marks weren’t consistent

This is pretty standard advice, but if you did well in some subjects and not in others, you need to prioritise your weaker subjects. Consistency is key for a great ATAR and while it’s tempting to spend more time with the subjects that make you feel good, you’ve got to share that love around.

Now that you have a clear indicator of where your weak spots are, you need to set aside enough time to tackle them.

If you just couldn’t get your head around a certain topic

It’s totally fine not to know something at this point. In fact, it’s great that you know the areas that need extra help. If something isn’t clicking in your brain, there’s no point wasting time rereading the same notes. Try tackling it in a number of different ways, such as: flashcards, mnemonics, Atomi videos that specifically explain an idea, sticky notes around your room and discussing it with a smart friend or teacher.

If you didn’t back up your answer with sources and quotations

Understanding the basic concepts and ideas is one thing, but if you can’t backup your answer with sufficient evidence, you’re not going to be reaching those top bands.

  • Plan your essay responses with quotes and evidence from the text and create a “bank” of quotes to learn by heart.
  • If you’re having trouble remembering which quote belongs to who, say them out loud in different accents and voices to help you differentiate them.
  • Create flashcards and deploy mnemonics to help you remember the evidence.

If the pressure was all too much

We’ve been there and it sucks. But it’s totally a thing, which means we wrote a great post about how to deal with it here.

If you aced pretty much everything

Ok smart cookie, so you did well. But consider this: you’ve been competing against your school, (a small pond) but eventually you will be competing against the entire state (a much larger pond).

NESA has a load of example marked answers worth looking at online that showcase subjects like Drama, Visual Arts, Ext II English and D&T from previous years.

Don’t forget that there’s always room for improvement, so unless you got full marks, there’s something to work towards these holidays.

If something else entirely happened

Ok, so we might not have covered EVERY possible mid-yearly outcome, but hopefully you get the general pattern. Read between the lines, pinpoint what went wrong, come up with a strategy to remedy the problem and put said remedy into practice. Good luck!

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