It can be really discouraging if you feel like your performance isn’t up to standard early on in Standard Maths, and it’s easy to feel like there’s not any point in working hard anymore because you’ve already lost the ground and can’t make it up.
But that’s not necessarily the case – plenty of people come from behind to achieve fantastic results!
Personally, I all but failed my half-yearly exam for Advanced Maths, but I turned it around in the last half of the year and walked out with a Band 6 – so it can be done!
But the real question is how? Let us walk you through our 6 step plan towards bouncing back from bad HSC Standard Maths marks!
Step 1: Get yourself back on deck
Particularly after something as high-stress as Trials or a major assessment, if you don’t meet your expectations of yourself, it can be super upsetting. But you know what? That’s totally okay.
Take some time to vent. Cry, punch a pillow, binge on bad foods, whatever it takes.
Let it out!
You need to let it out now, or it’ll force itself out at some time you really don’t want it coming out. If you’re frustrated or sad or angry, be frustrated or sad or mad with conviction until you’re back in a better place.
There’s no point in pushing yourself when all you want is a rest, because you won’t do your best work and you’ll end up having to revisit it anyway.
So crash and burn for a while if you have to! Better now than later. Get back some motivation and promise yourself you’ll work harder.
You can do better. Now you just have to take that “can” and turn it into a “will”.
If you’re the kind of person who feels like they’re wasting too much time by spending it on silly things like too many feelings (Yes, you can have too many feelings. I was the same – you’ll grow out it), you might find it more beneficial to analyse your situation from an objective standpoint: Where are you sitting relative to your cohort? Do you have any assessments left you can use to get back some ground?
Remember not to look at your scores – in terms of HSC success, they’re irrelevant. Focus on your rankings. HSC marking isn’t necessarily about getting good marks – it’s about getting better marks than everyone else.
Also remember that lots of schools, especially private or selective schools, pitch their internal assessments and Trials well above HSC level, so it’s quite possible your 70% in Standard Maths could represent something more like a high-80%.
Step 2: Collaborate with your friends
Collaboration is definitely the most underused technique in the study toolbox.
Because each school’s internal assessments are set and marked at different levels, a combination of your internal assessment marks and your entire year group’s marks in the HSC are used to calibrate what is, roughly speaking, a conversion scale.
What this means is, the better your year group as a whole performs in the HSC, the higher each individual will score. So it’s in your best interests to study as a group and improve not just yourself for Standard Maths, but everybody.
If you’re afraid you’ll just mess about all the time, fret not! We’ve got your back. This particular model is optimised for 2 Unit Mathematics, but no-one ever said we couldn’t share.
Step 3: Set goals
Goal posts and setting expectations.
Three qualities of a good goal
Is it when you play one song, or when you know a few chords, or when you can play any song by ear?
A better thing to do would be to make smaller goals for Standard Maths, with each one being fixed, well defined, and able to be audited. Your criteria should be as quantitative as possible, rather than qualitative.
|Bad Goal||Good Goal|
3. Within sight
Your goal should also be within sight – you should always be able to see the destination. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Promising yourself you’ll do 7 past papers a week, is not a great plan of attack. 7 days a week, that should be doable right? Yeah…
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Promising yourself you’ll do 7 past papers a week for Standard Maths is not a great plan of attack. 7 days a week, that should be doable right? Yeah… nah.
A past paper generally takes 3 hours, that means 7 papers will take 21 hours! If you don’t find yourself doing a lot of homework, simply writing down that you will, won’t make it happen.
A Standard Maths past paper generally takes 2.5 hours; that means 7 papers will take 17.5 hours! If you don’t find yourself doing a lot of homework, simply writing down that you will not make it happen!
One of your long terms goals may be a specific ATAR you’re aiming for. You can use a reverse ATAR Calculator to see where you need to be. Remember your aim should be within sight, it should require a bit of effort but not an overnight miracle.
Maddi has a great article on how to use the Reverse ATAR calculator here!
When you’re just starting out, try and set the bar really low, so low that if you don’t complete the goal – you’re shocked. Maybe something like ‘do 5 multiple choice questions a day’. This will take 10 minutes tops! So you will definitely be able to find time.
You may think such a tiny goal is pointless but if you’re doing very little currently, 5 questions a day over just two weeks is 70 questions you otherwise wouldn’t have done!
Step 4: Learn from your mistakes
So perhaps your Standard Maths assessment or Trial didn’t go to plan. But have you considered the possibility of that being a blessing in disguise? Just ask Elizabeth: she got 43/100 in her Modern History Trials, but bounced back and got 98/100 as her raw mark in the HSC.
Mistakes are an essential part of learning, and your assessments and Trials are, frankly, something you’ve never done before.
You’ve done exams, sure, but never ones built to address 13 years worth of learning in one go. It’s a new level of content, and particularly if you’re not familiar with working under strict time constraints, it’s really, really difficult to do well.
But here’s the catch – we call it ‘Trial’ for a reason. It’s a practice run. So use it as a learning experience!
Take a look at your trial, and try and attribute every mark you lost to a category:
1 being “I didn’t study this hard enough”;
2 being “I ran out of time”; and
3 being “I freaked out”.
This will show you the areas you need to crack down on:
If you have a lot of 1s, target your study to those topics.
Lots of 2s? Take lots of practice papers to experiment with different time management strategies. If you don’t quite get what I mean by that, start by trying to do an exam back-to-front, and see if that changes how much you end up finishing.
Or is it lots of 3s? Do lots of practice questions and papers, but get a family member or friend to act as a “supervisor” to make it seem more official. Also, try and dedicate extra time to the topics you freak out on – more than likely, they’re your weakest links!
Step 5: Be mindful about your learning
Remember how we spent a while de-stressing after Trials? It’d be a crying shame to let that all go to waste just getting stressed all over again!
Work hard, but keep in mind that the HSC is just stepping stone to the rest of your life. And at the end of the day, you can’t do better than your best, and no one expects any more than that of you (P.S. if they do, don’t listen. They’re either selfish, stupid or both).
Remember to seek help if you need it – and not just academically, but personally.
If you feel like it’s all a bit too much, talk to your parents or friends or coach or teachers or dog or even your wall. If you’re feeling low for a lot longer than normal, talk to someone at Lifeline Australia (13 11 14) or Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation, or another appropriate professional.
There are plenty of people out there who would be honoured to take up the position of Head Cheerleader for your learning – and they want to see you succeed too! So let them help.
Step 6: Keep that chin up!
Long story short, remember that nothing is set in stone until the exam clock ticks over time, and even then the only thing that solidifies is one mark – which is, in the grand scheme of things, quite insignificant.
There’s always another way in to your dream uni course, and once offers close your ATAR will almost entirely evaporate.
So pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on bigger and better than you were before in the knowledge that it couldn’t bowl you over.
Looking for some extra help with HSC Standard Maths?
We have an incredible team of HSC Standard Maths tutors and mentors!
We can help you master the HSC Maths syllabus and ace your upcoming HSC assessments with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!
We’ve supported over 5,000 students over the last 10 years, and on average our students score mark improvements of over 19%!
To find out more and get started with an inspirational HSC English tutor and mentor, get in touch today or give us a ring on 1300 267 888!
Matt Saunders is a huge nerd who first got into writing through fanfiction. He’d known science was the path for him since a young age, and after discovering a particular love of bad chemistry jokes (and chemistry too), he’s gone onto to study Forensic Chemistry at UTS. His HSC in 2014 was defined in equal parts by schoolwork and stagecraft, which left him, weirdly enough, with a love of Maths strong enough to inspire him to tutor any level, along with 7-10 Science and HSC Chemistry.
Vamsi Srinivasan is looking to uncover the next hidden truth of the universe. He was so fascinated by the beauty of Physics and Mathematics during his HSC that he went on to study Physics at University. Vamsi is now in his second year of a dual degree in Physics/Computer Science. He loves physics and maths so much, he wanted to share his passion and has been an Art of Smart coach for the past 2 years. He’s helped coach students in physics as well as all ranges of HSC Maths from General to Extension 2. In his spare time you can find him watching Tennis or Formula 1 or perhaps listening to his favourite podcast ‘Hello Internet’.