We get asked this question quite frequently and we tell our customers “as early as possible”. Obviously there’s a conflict of interest in our answer since we’re in the high school tutoring business ourselves, so let me give a few reasons why I say this, and to elaborate a bit on the issues as well.
Joining at the beginning of the year
Joining at the beginning of each year is the ideal because most tutoring colleges start their programmes for each year start at the beginning of the year (beginning of term 4 for year 12). Joining in the middle of the year is disadvantageous because you may have missed a module or two, or several topics. While you can catch up through self study and attending our tutorial workshops, it is obviously healthier and less stressful if you started at the beginning of the year. One of the major advantages of attending a tuition college as opposed to private tutoring is you get access to a structured programme that guarantees you will cover the entire course at a pace that’s advantageous to you in internal assessments (because remember, you’re up against your peers at school competing for the same top ranks, and if you learn ahead, you’re in the best possible position to secure the higher ranks). But this advantage is lost if you join in the middle of the year, when the class is already up to the end of module 2, and you need help with module 1.
Of course, late is better than never, and we’re not saying it’s a futile exercise joining in the middle of the year. As mentioned, we offer free services like unlimited free tutorial workshops, and we can give you the notes you missed out on, allowing you to catch up. But our point is it would’ve been healthier for you (in terms of knowledge retention, depth of course understanding and exam technique – these things build up over time) if you had joined at the beginning of the programme.
Switching tuition last minute
If you’re already attending a tuition college, you’re well advised to stay in that programme until its conclusion (unless it’s actually not helpful at all). Switching to another tuition provider after the middle of the year or near the end can do you more harm than good – and we’re saying this even though this may reduce our customer base (since many of our students come to us after being unhappy with other tuition companies). We tell these students “unless the place you currently go to is terribly bad, you should stay because if you switch now, you may have not covered some topics we’ve already covered, and vice versa”.
Again, I refer back to the point that HSC tutoring centres offer a structured programme designed to be comprehensive, and if you switch near the end of the year, this could be harmful because the order of topics covered at one place will differ significantly to the order of topics chosen by another place. That’s why we urge you to act sooner rather than later – if you feel the place you currently attend is not helpful at all, switch early rather than later.
Get the information you need before enrolling
It’s important to ask the questions that matter – find out where the classes are up to at the place you’re considering. Obviously if the class is covering topics not relevant to your school assessments, it’s of little value to you. Most of our subjects have parallel classes, some of which are deliberately a module or several topics behind because the students in those classes joined us later in the school year. Those classes will still cover content ahead of school pace, but you will be able to cover topics that should be covered early in the year.
Another thing to check out before enrolling is what sort of revision the classes will be doing, or whether there’s any revision scheduled at all. Revision is essential before assessment periods – the content covered over the months in the HSC year become a staggering amount and students need a few weeks worth of classes dedicated to consolidating knowledge – putting it all together and practice doing exam papers. Our programmes are scheduled in such a way as to allow a healthy amount of revision weeks before each key assessment period. During these periods, students focus on exam-style questions (as opposed to textbook style questions – a very important distinction!) and covering up any gaps they identify by doing exam papers. The earlier you start doing past papers, the better you will do in all your exams – that’s a fact!
Make good use of your time
For many of you entering year 11, this is a timely article reminding you that year 11 is an excellent opportunity to learn your content in advance. No assessments in the preliminary year count towards the HSC, and some students take advantage of this fact by using this time to learn ahead of the pacec at school.
Students who are finding the year 11 pace a bit leisurely can, in some circumstances, begin to study some of the year 12 content to ease the load when year 12 starts. For example, students can self-study or seek tutoring in Extension 2 maths – certain topics (e.g. Complex Numbers) have no overlap with Extension 1 or 2 unit, and therefore can be self-accelerated without complications. Some preliminary modules in science subjects (e.g. Physics, Chemistry and Biology) have little value in terms of relevance to year 12 content. For example, the ‘Electrical Energy in the Home’ topic has almost no overlap with ‘Motors and Generators’ or any other HSC Physics module. Students should first seek some honest advice (e.g. from their tutor or an unbiased school teacher) of what content is actually important / relevant to year 12, and what content isn’t. This information is useful as it allows students to allocate more time towards self-study and learning ahead. The advantage is the fact that no exams or assignments done in year 11 (testing your knowledge of year 11 content) will count towards the HSC, so students can effectively ‘gain time’ that their peers would not have.
Collect notes, make notes and ask questions
Explore your personal network to expand your collection of notes (e.g. do you have family friends who have recently completed their HSC? Try to get their notes). If you attend tutoring, ask your tutor for notes and revision materials – start gathering notes as early as you can, especially year 12 notes.
In terms of self-study, it is a good idea to write down any questions you have as you read through your notes / textbook during year 11and ask your teachers when you get the chance. As year 12 comes, you will find more of your peers will be doing the same, and your teachers will no longer have the capacity or energy to answer your questions with as much detail / enthusiasm as before.
Settle your plans for HSC tutoring early
All reputable HSC tutoring colleges have an internally set course schedule that ensures their students cover the requirements of the syllabus comprehensively. It is always a good idea to settle on your tutoring plans early and join these programs earlier rather than later in order to avoid missing important content early in the term. (Tutoring colleges often teach at a slightly accelerated pace in order to give students familiarity to content before it is assessed, unlike at schools which assess content immediately after it is taught)