Top 10 Common Mistakes Made By Year 11 Students

It’s 2020, the beginning of a new decade, and you’re finally about to start your HSC journey. It’s crunch time, you tell yourself. Time to study more than I’ve studied in my entire life. But then, it hits you. How on earth do I plan on doing that? Well, we can tell you what not to do. Here we present the top 10 common mistakes made by Year 11 students. 

1. Studying with friends at the library

It goes like this. You think that having a friend with you at the library will motivate both of you to stay focused and keep each other accountable. To a small extent, yes, but all you need is one person who’s that tiny bit too conversational and you’ve just thrown 3-hours of precious study time straight out the window. Oh, and of course the food breaks! That slow meander to the cafe across the road and another hour is gone. If you want to properly study in groups, you need to separate and find your own individual study spaces. It’s all about focus. Without it, your library sessions are just a “feel-good-but-waste-time” trip. There are situations where study groups are the best option, but more on that next time.

2. Thinking “it only gets serious in Year 12”

Don’t worry, I thought this way too. But in reality, this mindset is the start of the problem. It may not seem like procrastination at the time, but in essence, it’s the same thing. ‘It only gets serious in Year 12. This won’t count anyway. Your prelims don’t mean anything.’ You keep pushing things further and further back until it’s already Term 1 into Year 12 and you’ve just underperformed on all your assessments and solidified your rank at much lower than it should be. The only way to really overcome this is to start putting a manageable amount of pressure on yourself now. Year 11 sets up the foundation, content-wise, but also habits-wise, to your performance in Year 12. Year 12 might start in a whole year, but your HSC journey begins now.

3. Saying goodbye to all your extracurriculars

I’m sure many of you have told yourselves that in Year 12, you’re going to buckle down, quit all your extracurricular activities, and do nothing but the triathlon of eat, sleep, and study for the HSC. Except you get to the HSC, you have no more extracurriculars anymore, but you’re still barely studying. It makes you think that you’re being productive and using your time well, simply because you’ve given yourself more of it, but what commonly happens is that a student will study three hours per week, quit all their extracurriculars and still only study three hours a week. This tactic only becomes useful if you use the extra time you’ve gained effectively.  

4. Creating a strict study timetable to follow

Like with everything, life doesn’t follow a strict week by week schedule, so don’t expect your weeks to look the same. We’ve all planned out a jam-packed colour-coordinated timetable, assigning a different colour to each subject and a different to-do list on each event. Of course, it makes sense to use a strict timetable, but everybody has different study habits – a strict timetable works for very few. But organisation isn’t the same as studying, and often the trap of a tight timetable is that when a student accidentally misses one study session, everything spirals out of control and they end up completing nothing that day because they ‘started too late.’ That’s too robotic and rigid, and you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself failing to adhere to it for long. And the tendency after that will be to, unfortunately, quit. 

5. Writing study notes the wrong way

Writing notes is by no means problematic. In fact, it’s a great way for you to concentrate all the content that you’ve learnt into one place so that you can refer back to it anytime when you want to revise closer to the date of your assessments. However, I cannot stress the number of times I’ve seen students dedicate copious amount of hours grinding out notes, either to sell, or just to make it easier to look back on in the future. They would copy paragraphs from the textbook, manually create labelled diagrams because they can’t find the right one on the internet or rewrite everything they already know. It can be a huge effort that shaves into the time you have left to do more productive and effective work. Don’t create notes to sell or to ‘feel good’. Create notes to learn.

6. Ignoring their mistakes

We said it before but we’ll say it again: doing practice problems and past papers are the single most effective way to improve your confidence and boost your marks. The issue here is that students tend to smash through mountains of questions and call it a day. But that’s only half the battle. The real learning comes through when you carefully sift through your answers and take the time to really understand where your mistakes are. Make mistakes anytime outside of an exam and you don’t lose marks – it’s really that simple. In Year 11 & 12, I had a personal log where I documented all the mistakes I’ve ever made from past papers and it was a life saver to say the least. The worst thing you can do is to get a question wrong, think you know how to correct it, and then still lose marks in the exam for the same type of question. It hurts, trust me. 

7. Trying to memorise, rather than understand 

With content-heavy subjects, it seems easy to think ‘I’ll just memorise exactly what will be tested, and it would all work out fine.’ Unfortunately for you, the new HSC syllabus is designed to work against that, pulling together dot points from all over the syllabus that requires knowing, not reciting. Memorising is important, but understanding is the easiest way for you to memorise large volumes of content without having to forcibly commit it to memory. Particularly for Physics & Chemistry, you will quickly realise that there are a lot of underlying concepts that pervade multiple syllabus dot points, so having a strong grip of the foundations means that you can understand and thereby memorise much, much faster. 

8. Treating procrastination like the enemy

Procrastination shouldn’t necessarily be treated like the enemy. It is very healthy to have downtime and commit time to activities that you enjoy (even if it’s just watching Netflix), as frequently as on a daily basis. What you need to do is negotiate with yourself – don’t create a schedule or plan that will make your future self hate you. By allowing buffer time to plug in procrastination into your daily routine, you can have a much healthier, guilt-free relationship with it. For me, I would always set a workload that I wanted to complete for the day, and once done, the rest of hours left were for me and only me.

9. Spending time planning to do work instead of doing work

If you’re anything like me, you’ll set out to start studying, and open your journals, to-do lists, files, word documents, and then 3 hours later, find out that you’ve spent all your time there and not actually doing any work. With all these ‘study tips’ constantly being force-fed to us, it seems easy to just begin with a ‘Okay, let’s write a list of things I have to do, and allocate them to my study blocks.’ But then, you spend too much time on the list, and it simply grows larger and larger. You keep having to push back the allocated study blocks because time keeps passing. All I can say is to just start. Forget thinking about what you need to do, start doing what you have to do.

10. Focusing too much on theory without practice. 

With many content-heavy subjects such as HSIE or Science, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of ‘if I know the content well enough, I can focus less on the problems.’ But a few days before your Chemistry test, you finally open a past paper for the first time and realise that you don’t know how to do any of the calculation problems, that make up almost half the paper. You write down three pages of content in your history essays, but you don’t get any marks for it, because you don’t know how to present your knowledge in a means that tells the marker what you know. Yes, knowledge is important, but what matters more is practice. In this case, quality isn’t necessarily over quantity. You need to find a balance between learning and application. 

So how does one overcome these mistakes? It seems almost counter intuitive to need to study how to study, but ultimately, it’s these very habits that determine your performance over the coming years.

Luckily for you, we’re holding a Free Year 11 Kickstarter Seminar on the 16-18th of January, that goes over these very points and teaches you how to study smart, not hard! For more information on the event and registration, you can visit our social media pages, linked below:

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