HSC tutoring: don't leave it till late!

Many students wait until Term 3 or 4 of year 12 before deciding to find a tutor. While seeking tuition support late in year 12 is better than doing nothing, this is far from ideal. Generally, higher ability students tend to find a good tutor early in their Preliminary course, or even in year 10, and sticking with them until the end of the HSC. There are several advantages to finding a good tutor early in your High School career.

Find a good HSC tutor and stick with them! HSC Tutoring Quality tuition providers often have set structures for their courses. For example, at Dux College, we offer a structured schedule, so we make sure all our students cover all topics well ahead of time. This leaves for revision and discussion on optimal exam technique, reinforcement of skills and perfecting overall knowledge. However we find that students who join mid-way through our schedule may have covered some topics we are yet to cover, but have skipped over topics we have already covered. This mismatch in the new student’s knowledge poses a difficulty for them in that they must spend extra effort in catching up with the class.

Our highest achievers are students who have been with us since year 10 or 11, and have gained the fundamental knowledge throughout those early years. Students from this group are generally more adaptive to new concepts as they are introduced, because they have a strong foundation in conceptual understanding, instilled through following our course structure over a longer period of time. It is less common to see spectacular improvements in school rank from year 12 students who join us in the middle of term 3 or 4, because they have not had the same opportunity as most of our other students who have been with us in the long run. However we do see spectacular improvements on school rank from our students who have joined us in year 10 or 11, as the extra tutoring makes a large difference to the bottom line: exam results.

Seek help early! We get the most phone calls from interested students and parents during the weeks after major assessment marks are released back to students. The biggest example is probably at around late April, when year 12 students start to get their half-yearly results back. Some receive a nasty shock at disappointing marks, and feel the sudden compulsion to seek tutoring. Although we are happy to help these students, and we try our very best to bring in and improve students in these situations, we feel that these students would have gained so much more if they found us EARLIER.

Also for the reasons mentioned above, the earlier students find a good tutoring service, the better. HSC tutoring is definitely not something to be left to the final few weeks of major exams and assessments. The benefits are best realised over a longer timeframe, and solid knowledge is built over several terms of tutoring, not merely several weeks. Rome was not built in a day!

Having said that, we do not mean that all students who join us in the middle of their year 12 are not gaining short-term improvements. Our students in this category are very happy with their improvement in marks and general course understanding, within weeks of tutoring. However, we feel that their potential is so much higher. What separates a UAI 99+ student from a UAI 90-95 student is consistency in everything they do. The first step, getting into a routine habit of tutoring and doing higher volumes of more challenging curricular work has a large benefit in itself. Another factor may be the fact that many students simply do not have access to quality teachers in their school environment, which is supplemented by finding a reliable tutoring service. However, in order to wholly move into a higher level of achievement (say, aiming to Dux your grade, or attain a 99+)

Short-term tutoring Some students feel the need to seek tutoring services for certain topics out of a subject, then leave after those topics are covered. In these situations, we recommend finding a private tutor. Sometimes students and parents do not appreciate the degree of interconnectedness between topics within any one HSC subject. For example, HSC science subjects like Physics or Chemistry are very conceptual in nature.

If a student is having trouble understanding the concepts in a later topic, chances are they have gaps in their fundamental conceptual understanding. For courses like HSC mathematics, particularly the more difficult Extension 1 and Extension 2 courses, an imperfect understanding of one topic is indicative of faults in conceptual understanding in other areas of the course. For example, in Extension 2, almost all of the topics are linked to each other, and to topics in Extension 1 and even 2 unit.

Students who feel they need tutoring specific to certain topics run the risk of being overconfident in their abilities as a whole. We recommend taking a deeper approach in remedying ‘holes’ in understanding, by investigating all related and associated topics and concepts. This can not happen in the short while available in covering just one topic, but rather over a longer period where the class can cover several topics. This allows enough time to fully explore how individual topics are interconnected. A common prerequisite of a band 6 responses (when HSC markers gather to determine the band cutoff criteria) often draws upon the degree to which students display an understanding of how different topics relate to and interact with each other. For these reasons, we do not recommend students seek out tutoring help intermittently.

Ideally, students should identify early on which subjects they feel they need long-term support (outside of the normal school support, which in many cases is quite minimal) and seek a quality tuition service early on in their course, preferably before year 12 begins. Remember, consistency is the key!