Effective time management is an important life skill to have. It is definitely one of the major determinants of whether you will be successful at whatever you are doing in life. Time management skills are especially important for a student in years 10, 11 and 12. As you may have noticed, the jump in difficulty in being a high school student is significant when you enter year 11 (suddenly you have 12 units of subjects to worry about and receive homework/exams from, instead of just the 3 main ones – English Science and Maths). Also keep in mind the HSC subjects individually are suddenly harder than what you’d expect coming from year 10. As a result of this non-linear jump in difficulty, many students have not been able to properly adapt to their new situation.
How many times have you left an assessment task to the last minute because you didn’t pace yourself correctly, or you submitted low quality work / received low marks due to being overwhelmed by exams and assessments? Have a read of the following insights and think about what you can do to improve your time management skills – this will surely be one extracurricular skill to have that will translate to higher marks!
Urgent vs. important
Firstly understand the difference between a task that’s urgent, and a task that’s important. One thing that separates successful people from the rest is that successful people spend most of their time doing important things, rather than urgent things. For example, on any given day you may have one or several friends on facebook to reply to, send birthday reminders, or reply to people saying ‘hi’ on msn – these are all urgent, non-important tasks. Stop doing these things!
Important tasks are things that count. For example, studying for your school assessments / exams – it’s a certainty that you’ll need to do that assessment or exam so why ignore it until the last minute? Starting that assessment task now rather than later – you’ll eventually need to do it so why not start sooner rather than later? Do you really need to stop everything and get distracted by ‘urgent, non-important’ things like if your friends are inviting you to join their multiplayer online game, or your dog needs a walk, etc? Obviously we’re not saying ‘lock yourself in your room and study for 18 hours a day’ – you need to strike a clear balance between study and recreation (see next point).
Set clear boundaries: work while it’s work time and rest while it’s rest time
It’s important to find a good balance between work and rest. Set a clear time of the day after which you’re ‘off the clock’. This time should be dedicated to leisure. Avoid things that remind you of work – e.g. you could have all school-related stuff in your study room, and keep your bedroom free of any school-related material, or keep your school-related material in your room and spend your leisure time in your lounge. Resting and working in the same room could be stressful as you can be interrupted by emails, msn messages from friends who stress you out, or simply glancing at unfinished assignments left on your desk. Just like work, rest is best done without distraction in order to fully regain energy for the next day.
Also never plan to do important tasks in your ‘spare time’ – there’s no such thing as spare time and if you have this habit, you’ll certainly leave many tasks undone and neglected. You’re either working or resting, both activities are important to maintaining a healthy and sustainable work ethic.
The 80:20 rule
Also known as the ‘Pareto Principle’ or the ‘law of the vital few’: when applied to the field of time management, this ‘rule’ states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. While there’s no mathematical significance of the 80:20 split, this rule alludes to the non-linear return of time invested – i.e. if you only put in 50% of your effort, you will get close to 0% of the results. But if you put in 100% of effort, you will get 100% of the results. That’s why it’s important to invest as much effort as you can, maintain a sustainable healthy work ethic throughout the year, and not be distracted by non-important tasks.
Keep a todo list and follow through with your plans
All effective time-managers keep a todo list. Split your tasks into 3 categories and put a number / letter next to them to remind you of which they belong to:
Your student diary can fulfil this task. In our modern age, you can also consider using your iphone to synchronise with google docs so that you have access to your todo list everywhere (while at school, or on the train etc).
Watch your sleep
The human body works most efficiently when you maintain a constant sleep schedule. Sleeping at around the same time every night (not too late) will ensure you’re energetic and motivated during the day. It’s impossible to follow through with any time management plan / todo list if you’re lethargic all day. As a general rule, aim to reserve 8 hours of sleep each night – and you can’t sleep bank (i.e. sleep 6 hours for 3 nights, then 10 hours over the weekend) – it doesn’t work and will leave you fatigued and unmotivated during the day.
About the Author
Terry Wu is a maths tutor at Dux College. Having achieved an almost perfect ATAR himself in 2009 and HSC state ranks, he is an expert at time management and study skills. He is a passionate advocate of the ability for students to do well in the HSC through ‘acquired skills’ such as effective time management, effective study skills and learning exam technique.
Year 10 is a critical time for prospective HSC students. The reason is that the Preliminary subjects you choose in year 10 for year 11 will determine what subjects you ultimately do for the HSC. If you get your subject selection wrong, you may be stuck doing subjects you don’t particularly enjoy, or subjects that offer limited benefit in terms of scaling.
HSC scaling – a brief reintroduction
The subjects you choose in year 10 determine how much you will benefit from the process of scaling. Briefly, scaling refers to the process by which raw assessment marks (e.g. from your internal exams and external HSC exams) are converted into scaled marks, which are marks on a common scale that allows the degree of achievement in different subjects to be compared against one another in a statistically fair way. The scaling process is undertaken by the UAC and the result of this process – your aggregate scaled mark (out of 500) – is the sole determinant of your ATAR. Therefore we can safely say that HSC scaling is a big deal if you intend on scoring a high ATAR.
In order to maximise the positive effect of HSC scaling, one must choose courses that are ‘scaled high’ – or in technical terms, have a high scaled mean. The scaled mean for a subject is an important statistic, which tells us the average scaled mark obtained by the subject’s cohort. The higher this statistic for a subject, the higher the subject is scaled generally. Scaled means are publicly available in Table A3 published each year by the UAC.
For full technical details on how the scaling process works, see our article on the topic: http://www.duxcollege.com.au/hsc-scaling-i-49.html
So why is subject selection important
It’s important to get your subject selection right the first time, because there’s limited to no chance to change after you’re well into year 11. Also the beneficial effect of scaling could be huge, or could be non-existent, depending on which subjects you chose. If your goal is to maximise your ATAR, you should also consider the scaling of a subject on top of whether you think you’ll enjoy it. The general rule is to select subjects you’ll be good at, amongst the subjects that offer a scaled mean of 29/50 or above.
What are some good subjects?
Have you noticed a pattern with graduates that score an ATAR of 99+? A significant portion of them do a combination of the following subjects:
What these subjects all have in common is that their scaled mean is all above 28/50 (most are around 30, with the best scaling from Maths Ext1 and Ext2 which goes as high as 45/50).
These subjects have higher scaled means due to the way in which the scaling process works. Year after year, the candidature of these subjects does comparatively better than their peers who do other subjects, including compulsory 2 units of English, which is used as a common scale to compare. What this means is that a high scaled mean often indicates higher subject difficulty, due to the fact that those students who do high-scaling subjects tend to do comparatively better than their peers in other subjects.
However, when it comes to advising students on what subjects to choose for year 11, we always advise students to go for as many of the aforementioned subjects as possible – so long as they can handle them. For example, a student with aptitude and interest in maths should always choose Maths Ext 1 in year 11 – this opens the possibility to take up Extension 2 in year 12, which has a massively positive scaling effect (the majority of ATAR 99+ graduates have completed the Extension 2 course). If a student absolutely hates maths, that’s OK – choose some sciences and some humanities subjects (e.g. English Extension 1 and Modern History with History Extension, or Economics). Many graduates with a combination of humanities and social sciences have scored 99+ without having done any level of maths! What’s important is the ability to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, and choosing decently-scaled subjects based on this understanding.