HSC Business Studies Strategies from First in the State

Catch Up With Top Achievers
9 min readApr 4, 2021


By Tim Yang

Catch Up With Top Achievers: 2019 HSC Edition

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“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’” -Audrey Hepburn

Hey there! I’m Tim and I am very glad that you have taken the initiative to read my article about getting an idea on how you can come first in the state for HSC Business Studies! You see, many students simply jump right into studying, without figuring out the correct and most effective learning techniques first. Because of this reason, they may limit their academic potential. It is great that you are trying to improve on how you learn! And speaking of learning, I can tell you that this is one of the most valuable skills the HSC has taught me. Knowing how to productively learn will help you transition quickly into the workplace, and obtain new skills that are in high demand, and most importantly, help you become a better version of yourself. Before we get onto some tips and tricks, I would like to share with you my HSC journey, so you can avoid the mistakes that I made and learn from my experiences.

Adam Ma and Tim Yang promoting 2019 HSC Edition at UNSW in October 2019

My Business Studies Journey

Contrary to what many may believe, my HSC Business studies journey began with a dramatic error rather than success! I had dropped sixteen ranks from year eleven after the first year twelve Business internal assessment task. Initially, the shock significantly demotivated me from studying Business. My mind was full of self-resentment and anxiety. I kept asking myself, “how was I going to get to Band 6 for Business Studies this year?” You see, my school’s ranking was and is still quite average compared to other schools overall in NSW. This meant I had to score very high in internal rankings to even have a chance at achieving an aggregate Band 6 Mark for business studies. The long story short, my chances for recovering my internal ranks were slim to none, and so was my chance in getting that Band 6. This realisation was made worse because in the previous year’s Business cohort, no one had achieved Band 6! I needed at least a Band 6 for Business to get a high enough ATAR to get into the course I desired. What was I going to do now?

Well, I didn’t lose all hope, as the old adage goes, “There is always light at the end of the tunnel, and you just have to keep going”, and “keep going” was exactly what I did. The terrible mark I received in my first Business assessment was like an alarm bell that propelled me into developing a more serious attitude towards studying the subject. I began doing more past paper questions, writing more essays and business reports. I began asking for more feedback from teachers; inquiring into the fine details of the syllabus that rarely any student would care about. But I didn’t just do the past papers. I actually ensured they were ‘double marked’ so that I could clearly identify any improvements I could make. I did this by marking them myself, and then handing it to a teacher for feedback. The double benefit of marking the past paper yourself is that you get to see your answers from the perspective of a HSC marker, and thus understand how to avoid losing unnecessary marks. To put it bluntly, it’s like you are becoming ‘one’ with the sample answers and marking criteria that you use to mark your own responses.

Doing these tasks in order to get better was difficult at first, as they ate into a significant portion of my study time. However, as I practised more, they became easier. From my learning experience I had created a new systematic way to study, and understand Business Studies, and score well on exams. I was surprised that my system had worked so well! I discovered that I had received full-marks on my mid-course exam following my dreadful first term mark. Full marks indeed! It was something that hadn’t been done for more than a decade at my school. Through this change in my studying method, my ranking shot up to first place. I was now even more driven to improve my Business Skills than ever before. From then on, I was able to maintain first place for all of my other internals. This enabled me to secure first place overall at the end of the year for Business Studies. I now had a fighting chance to State-rank this subject!

Then of course, you know how the rest of the story went. But the truth be told, I did not know I was going to get first rank in the State for Business Studies, until the very moment the premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, called me on a cloudy Friday morning; while I was lazily eating my breakfast cereal to notify me of my achievement. I guess the overarching lesson you can all learn here is to always stay determined until you have achieve your goal, and always stay humble afterwards. This was something I told myself nearly every time I headed into an exam room.

Tips I value the most for effective learning

If you feel like you are, or will be, in the situation that I was in, you need to ensure you have a ‘growth mindset.’ “What is a growth mindset? And Why should I get this mindset?” you may ask. Well, if you have a ‘growth mindset’ you will strive towards continuous improvement, and believe that you can get better, and constantly evaluate yourself to see which areas you can improve on. This mindset is crucial in getting closer to full marks in the HSC. You need to understand every single syllabus dot point inside and out, and be able to write concise and coherent business reports, and be able to analyse hypothetical situations adeptly. The most valuable feature of having this mindset is that it makes you resilient to failure. You will begin to see that every mistake you made and corrected is one step closer to your success. This resilience towards making errors was what helped me get out of that dreadful situation, and for that reason, you should also adopt a ‘growth mindset.’

My second tip for you is to ensure you get enough sleep! It does not matter whether you are staying up till two in the morning to study for a test held the next day, or to binge watch YouTube/Netflix, if you want to ace HSC you should have been sound asleep before then! As school should start around 8:30 am, you need to be asleep by the latest 12 am each night, to get that adequate eight hours of sleep (depending on how long it takes for you to travel to school, you may have to sleep even earlier). And before an exam, you should sleep even more! I actually had around nine hours of sleep the night before almost all of my exams. The reason why you should sleep well is that it helps you absorb new content and skills that you learnt during the day. Indeed, individuals who slept well had over a 40% higher memory retention ability than those who were sleep deprived according to one study (Walker, 2008). Sleeping better before exams will give you an edge over the majority of your peers (by making you feel less stressed and more refreshed), who likely did not sleep well from over-studying the night before. So, my tip here is: sleep well, feel well, and you’ll do well.

Tips specific to Business Studies

1. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE Business Studies (BS)

If you think that Business Studies contains just general knowledge, and that memorising the syllabus is enough to guarantee you a Band 6 in the HSC, you are WRONG! Teachers can ‘smell’ that attitude from just looking at the executive summary in your reports, and from looking at the first sentence of your short answer questions, and they will punish you. Therefore, ensure you understand the details of the Syllabus as well.

Here is an example on the topic of Operations: The strategy of supply management requires the business to manage its E-commerce related sourcing through E-procurement, that is a system that allows suppliers to directly access a business’ information via online means. Through E-procurement systems, the supplier can automatically replete a business’ stock rather than through the traditional repletion method of the business filing orders for stock. This increases the business’ volume flexibility, and lowers warehousing costs as fewer stocks need to be kept at the one time (stock is filled automatically). Through helping ensure inventory levels are adequate, E-procurement also lowers the chance of being out of stock, which can delay customer purchase orders, and so result in customer dissatisfaction. Having stated this information, you can link all of the positive points about E-Commerce to the strategic role of operations (i.e. cost leadership and goods/service differentiation), and how it helps operations achieve strategic objectives (in this case: flexibility and speed — you may also know them as performance objectives, which is an operations strategy itself).

The above example demonstrates that all those points come from just the one sub-dot point: E-Commerce under Supply Chain Management! This is the kind of understanding you will need to TOP THE STATE! So, don’t underestimate Business Studies, or else it will crush you hard.


If you do not use case studies you will NOT get a Band 6! Section IV of the HSC business studies exam require you write an essay, or business report based on one topic of the syllabus that is supported by real-life examples/case studies. For example, you can use Qantas as a case study to support your arguments to an operations question such as: “Evaluate: the effectiveness of operations strategies can help a business respond to its external influences.”

For this question, you must to use some data regarding Qantas’ relating to operational performance in order to evaluate its operational strategies. Accordingly, we can only say Qantas’ quality management is effective in ensuring aircraft safety and thus the quality of its flights (a customer expectation), only if it has a good safety record. Qantas does have a perfect safety record (no major accidents). On considering this evaluation, we can say Qantas’ quality management methods, such as quality control in the form having engineers check the planes’ electronic and mechanical systems before take-off are effective. Therefore you need to be as detailed as possible when using a case study to support your argument. Don’t just identify the statistic, and then say some strategy is effective, describe the strategy as well! For example: Qantas’ has been using established technologies (the strategy) such as electronic bag tags, and an online check-in system (how the strategy is used by the case study business), which lowers labour costs; this has helped Qantas effectively lower its overall costs (the objective and evaluation) by seven billion dollars in the last thirteen years (further statistical evidence)

Note: You don’t need to include too many statistics in your extended responses- unlike for Economics. Of course, you can include statistics, as long as they support your argument. For example, statistics may be appropriate to include if you are trying to show improvements in certain Business KPIs to substantiate, for example, the effectiveness of certain business strategies.


Each syllabus dot point should not be considered in Isolation. Many dot points are related. For example, you can link dot points by showing how a business functions’ strategies improve its processes, and/or also helps the function achieve its strategic role.

Here is an example regarding the strategic role: The marketing strategy of personal selling helps create long-term customer relationships. This means that in repeated sales, the salesperson and the customer can develop a personal connection. It delivers a more individualised and enticing message to customers, which can also lead to more sales and perhaps profit. For these reasons, the promotional strategy of personal selling helps the marketing function achieve its strategic role of realising profit maximisation.

Regardless of your current ranks and marks, just remember that you need to believe in yourself first to achieve the goal ATAR that you want. There are a lot of tips to take in, and each of them will take some effort to master. No matter how bad things get, know that there are always other pathways for you to get into your dream university course. When you’re not studying, make sure to hang out with your friends and family from time-to-time. The HSC is not your whole life in this coming year, but merely a part of it.

Thank you for reading, and good luck with the HSC!

Yazhou (Tim) Yang

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Catch Up With Top Achievers: 2019 HSC Edition by Adam Ma, Fionn Parker, and 12 other HSC State Rankers can be purchased in other formats directly from Catch Up With Top Achievers.

Originally published at https://www.top-achievers.com.au on April 4, 2021.



Catch Up With Top Achievers

Catch Up With Top Achievers is a student-led high school study guide publisher in Sydney, Australia.