“You don’t need to start taking things seriously until you are in Year 12”

Catch Up With Top Achievers
4 min readApr 3, 2021


Introduction by Fionn Parker

Authors and volunteers at the 2019 book launch at UTS, Sydney, Australia

“You don’t need to start taking things seriously until you are in Year 12.”

There are a lot of myths about your final year of study. Indeed, phrases such as “rank doesn’t matter,” or “I’ll just lift for externals,” are commonplace around the common room. These misconceptions are black holes for HSC students, becoming quagmires of procrastination and, ultimately, disappointment.

However, of all these myths, there is none more damaging, none more infamous, than the classic “nothing counts until year 12.

You may have been a Year 7 student when you first heard this. You were probably freaking out about your French vocabulary test, cramming the answers in at lunch time with your best mate. Oblivious to your anxiety, a burly Year 12 student with a flimsy beard (which you falsely take as a sign of maturity) practically trips over you as he saunters through the corridor.

“What are you doing?” he booms.

“Just studying for my t-t-test n-next period,” you manage to splutter, shocked he has even recognised your existence.

“Studying? Mate, let me give you some advice — nothing counts until Year 12.”

As he strides away, his chortling laugh washes over you, shaming you for your studiousness.

The thing is, that kid couldn’t have been more wrong. In all honesty, he was probably employing the same study-technique cocktail of procrastination and mass memorisation as that Year 7 kid. There is one difference: he is doing it in Year 12, when the stakes are much higher!

What he fails to recognise, to his detriment, is that whilst marks from previous years do not directly influence your ATAR, the effect that they have on how you prepare and ultimately perform in the final exams cannot be overstated.

The earlier years (in particular Years 10 and 11) are where you build the bedrock of writing, learning and critical thinking skills. These will serve you in good stead for the HSC year and beyond.

You cannot expect to simply go from an 11/20 to a 20/20 over the course of a few months, simply because you are going to “actually start trying now,” (the amount of times I heard this line throughout Year 12 was pretty shocking)!

The fact is that the exams that you are subject to in the earlier years often mirror the nature of the HSC quite closely. This is the time where you hone your memorisation skills, develop your essay writing structure, and practice your exam techniques. You can figure out what works and what doesn’t, as well as how much effort is required to perform to the best of your ability.

Just as doing HSC past papers will help you prepare for the final exams, the effort that you put in during the earlier years will give you a platform to keep your results at a consistently high level, as well as alleviate many of the significant stresses of the Year 12 workload, by having confidence in your previously established skills. It gives you time to work on developing that ‘X-factor’, the ‘personal voice’ and the ‘point of difference’ that teachers love, rather than just haphazardly trying to nail down the basics.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” my Year 9 Mathematics teacher, Ms. Cooper, used to say. What she meant is that you can’t expect to fly by on your own natural intelligence through the earlier years, even if you are getting adequate results. This is because when you get thrown into the deep end of year 12, the fact of the matter is, you won’t know how to swim.

To probably erroneously use another’s words once more, “I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand separate kicks at once,” said Bruce Lee, “but the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times.” By giving yourself a base of skills, by knowing how to succeed and what success feels like through your early years, preliminary exams and internals, you may just break the wooden board that is the HSC!

What can students do to reach their maximum academics potentials?

The idea of creating a book came to us. We noticed that schools often neglect the teaching of study skills.

In this book, you will learn about how past HSC Top-Achievers approached their academics throughout high school. Each of them has conquered high school by achieving great HSC results. One ancient Chinese proverb goes: “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” It is your responsibility to have clarity when you go into your senior years in high school. We will do our best to help you, to set you onto the right path to a successful journey.

Copyright © 2021, Tree Niu Bee Pty. Ltd.

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.



Catch Up With Top Achievers

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