BlogStudyHow These 3 Tips Helped Hamish Save his Exam Marks

How These 3 Tips Helped Hamish Save his Exam Marks

Feeling screwed for your HSC exams? Can’t seem to find a balance between study and the rest of your life?

Let us introduce you to Hamish, a Year 12 student who managed to save his exam marks only a few weeks out from HSC Trials while still staying healthy and sane.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s find out what his top 3 tips were!


  • Hamish is a Year 12 student from Engadine High
  • He is one of 70 incredible Art of Smart Pathfinders from across NSW for 2020
  • Hamish studies Economics, Legal Studies, Business Studies, Standard Maths and Advanced English
  • He loves to play cricket, go on challenging bushwalks, and is a mega-fan of the show ‘SUITS’
  • He wants to study both Law AND Economics

The Challenge

Hamish was always concerned about how he would study for Trials. His school sits the exams super early and being the first HSC block, he had no idea how he was supposed to tackle it. Additionally, while Hamish’s marks have usually been high, he has always had problems with juggling work and fun.

In the Pathfinder Program there were two main factors that helped him implement new strategies to bounce back and ace his HSC Trials:

  1. His Pathfinder Mentor – Winnie Li
  2. The Pathfinder Trials Intensive

In this article, we’re going to give you a sneak-peak into the top tips Hamish learned to help you prepare for HSC exams.

Tip 1: Finding a Healthy Balance

For Hamish, knowing when to chill out and take a break has always been a problem.

“My biggest issue has always been balance. I’ve been constantly focused on study and have compromised a few other things in my life.”

He has a bunch of passions outside of school, and a major one is sport!

“I am a huge cricket fan and love playing the game. Whenever I get the chance, I try to visit the cricket nets or watch whatever cricket is being played on TV.”

Hamish playing cricket

Luckily, his mentor Winnie has played sport at a national level during her HSC so she understands balancing commitments and passion while still trying to do well at school!

“She helped me get that balance back and lead a healthy lifestyle by working out a schedule to balance sport and my part-time job so I can still maintain high results.”

This was super important for Hamish leading up to Trials as his old study habits just weren’t working.

“After my exam blocks in Year 11 I would just crash. I would be doing so much work that I’d be so tired afterward. Winnie came in and went through my schedule and put in specific times for study breaks.”

Regular breaks are a must when studying for exams. They keep you from getting stressed and overworked and help you retain information.

Card games

However, Hamish found success also relies on the QUALITY of your study break.

Winnie helped Hamish implement study breaks for a certain amount of time every day. A certain hobby or activity would also be allocated to these breaks. This means instead of just going on his phone, Hamish would do exercise, go for a walk or play cricket.

The thing is when you’re doing something like playing cricket, you don’t take a break to relax, it actually serves a purpose. Whether your studying or playing sport, the point of a break should always be to refresh and reenergise so you can go harder when you get back to it!

But how long should your study breaks be? Find out in this video.

“Since I implemented better breaks I haven’t crashed. This is because I’ve had consistent balance, preparation, and planning to help me stay healthy.”

Tip 2: Focus On Your Weaknesses

It was Week 5 of the term, and Hamish’s Trials were in Week 9. He had about 4 or 5 weeks before he was going to be tested on absolutely everything he’d learned.

He thought: “If I knuckle down and really focus I can get all of these topics done.”

“However, 2 weeks later I had done 7 topics worth of study yet couldn’t remember a single thing! The problem was that once I looked over a topic I didn’t have the time to go back and revise it all again.”

He brought this problem to Winnie and she provided him with a simple strategy students can use to identify the information they don’t know and hone in on their weaknesses:

The Past Paper Spam

  1. The first step here is to do as many past papers and questions as you can. A great place to find them is on the NESA website or here in our resource section.
  2. As you’re going through these questions, if you find something you don’t know when marking the paper write it down in A MISTAKE BOOK (This is a collection of all of the question types or concepts you don’t understand.)
  3. The next step is to bring this mistake book to a teacher or tutor and get them to help you understand the weaker area.
  4. After this, you need to SPAM the weak area. Do a bunch of study/notes and practice questions on the particular topic you struggle with to make sure you’re confident.
  5. Once this is complete you can return to your past papers and start all over again!

Not only does this technique ACCELERATE your study as you come to focus on your weak areas, but it also helps you get used to EXAM STYLE QUESTIONS.

Hamish says: “At first I took the technique with a grain of salt. I didn’t really feel comfortable trying a new method of studying. However 10 days before Trials I tried it for Mathematics and it worked!” 

Every single day Hamish would do an hour and a half of past papers. By the end of one week he’d done 7 years of past papers.

When he finally got into his Trial exam he could tackle a bunch of questions and topics that were similar to the ones he’d targeted in his past paper spam.

“In the Trial exam, I ended up getting 95% in Mathematics. If I had followed my initial study strategy there’s no way I would have done as well.”

Do you need help prioritising your own study? Here’s another awesome method you can use!

Tip 3: Collaborate and Listen!

As a part of the Pathfinder program, Hamish also attended a HSC Trials Study Intensive.

In this intensive, Art of Smart CEO Rowan Kunz explained a bunch of HSC study tips such as:

  1. The Traffic Light System
  2. Feedback Loops
  3. Improving memory retention

However, another great part of the intensive was LEARNING FROM OTHER STUDENTS.

AOS Students

Collaboration can be an extremely effective tool when preparing for exams. In the case of Hamish, talking to other students was particularly helpful as he was essentially walking into Trials blind because they were so early.

“I needed new study strategies, and hearing the group discussion gave me a bunch of new ideas”

This is why you may want to think about holding GROUP STUDY SESSIONS with your friends leading up to exams.

Want to learn how to make a group study session work? Check out this video!

So there you have it. Three awesome tips you can implement in your own study to save your exam marks.

Struggling to Prepare for Your HSC Exams?

Get a mentor like Hamish’s to help you develop a personalised study plan in The Pathfinder Program!

Learn more or get started with an inspirational Pathfinder Mentor and get in touch today! 

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Facebook!

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