One of the cool things about working with Art of Smart is that we’ve all done really well in the HSC. In addition to my fair share of snooping around of other people who’ve also done really well, and much ‘scientific research’, gossiping/discussion as well as just having a good think about it, there seems to be one habit that applies to many top students.

Working one week ahead of school.

School is not creative: everything you learn is based on the Syllabus – the holy grail of all teacher’s timetables. This, my friend, is how you know exactly what is coming up in class, and by knowing this, you can read and work ahead of your class.

This means that instead of doing this week’s work, you’re working on next week’s work!

It seems counterintuitive to not work on homework or the topic of the week, and instead spend your time on something that isn’t even required of you. I’m sorry, I know you’re all screaming internally.

But let me make my case.

You’ll have a better understanding

I know this sounds odd, but school isn’t really for learning, but consolidating.

What I mean is that you generally don’t have a lot of time in class to go over new information: periods aren’t long, and chances are that you read over it as a class or your teacher talks at you. Either way, that environment often isn’t ideal for learning. And even if you’re superhuman and understand everything, it doesn’t leave you room to discuss content like you would with a tutor or study group.

If you’re one week ahead, you’ve done the basic concept overview, so when it comes to class time, you’re actually consolidating.

Trust me, class is more engaging when you’re already clued in on what you’re learning and you can ask discuss, and apply that information rather than frantically trying to write notes and understand.

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You’ll remember more

If you’re a week ahead, class time becomes revision time.

And I’ve already written an article on this where I explain more, but in a nutshell: revision is really important for actually remembering information. So even having skimmed the info for next week’s class, you get more out of class-time than having done nothing at all. You’re actually reviewing work.

Being a week ahead also means you can ask questions. You can’t ask questions in class if you’re learning, but if you’ve already understood the ideas, it’s time for you to use class-time to consolidate your knowledge.

You’ll have more time for exam study

Because… you’re already studying for your exams!

Because it’s like you’ve almost been doubling up revising throughout the term, you’ll find that you need less time to cram before exams. This means free time, which is so crucial to the frantic weeks before exams.

Apart from the obvious benefits of having more time, it allows you to do rapid learning exercises like past papers as well as give yourself time out.

You’ll have more time for homework!

I know this one seems more like a disadvantage rather than a benefit because most people would rather lick crusty under-table gum than have more homework.

I’m not saying you have to do more, I’m just saying you have more time to do it.

This is really helpful because I know 99% of students get stuck on work, and started ahead means giving yourself the leeway to ask your teacher earlier. I’ve never met a teacher who doesn’t at least give you the stink-eye if you ask them “wait, how do I do this math problem?” 10 minutes before the work is due.

So maybe working ahead doesn’t sound ‘super cool’…

But getting a higher ATAR might. I’d give it a go.  It’s a simple HSC study tip that works. Work at your own pace. If it’s just not possible for you to work ahead, maybe even briefly looking at the next week’s work is within your time constraints.

Good Luck!

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Sophia Zou recently completed the HSC in 2013, so fortunately for AOS Community Blog-readers and perhaps less fortunately for her, the memories of Year 12 are still fresh in her head. Sophia considers it her mission here to help students make the most of their final years at high school. Her interests include political science, Simon and Garfunkel, and pretending to be a tea aficionado. Alongside tutoring at Art of Smart Education, she spends her time playing the piano and studying Government & IR and Languages at the University of Sydney.