‘You are not defined by your marks’: a young teacher reflects on her own HSC experience

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Adriana Moore teaches a class at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Kensington.
Adriana Moore teaches a class at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Kensington.

You are not defined by your marks or a final number.

Looking back now, no one ever asks what marks I got.

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop wrote in a letter in 1889: “Do your best and God will bless your best efforts.”

Since graduating from university in 2014 I have been teaching religion and history at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Kensington. Last year was my first year out of university and I taught an HSC class.

My students excelled in their Studies of Religion I course, and across all their subjects. More than 95 per cent of my students scored in the top 10-20 per cent of the state.

From early on I worked with them on learning the meaning of different directional words that are in exam questions (analyse, evaluate, explain, describe).

The HSC markers are looking to see that you have understood what that word means and demonstrated it in your answer.

Many people go in with pre-prepared responses but to get top marks you need to show you have implemented what the directional word is asking of you. For example “explain” means to relate the cause and effect which is more simple compared with an “evaluate” question which involves making a judgment.

It is not enough to simply memorise a lot of syllabus content and list all the facts you can recall, you need to show the marker you have done what the directional word in the question was asking you.

Adriana Moore
Teacher Adriana Moore.

Start highlighting the directional words in exam questions so you know how to focus your answer.

You can use this tactic across the various subjects.

Multiple choice questions can be tricky as sometimes there is more than one right option and you need to select the most correct answer.

Make sure you go with your first instinct as that is often correct unless you have a good reason to change it (sometimes you can over-think it and change the correct answer to another incorrect option).

There are online tools that generate multiple choice tests based on past questions for a range of subjects, for when you feel like you need a break from writing.

Never be afraid to ask your teachers for help or to email them extra practice questions for marking.

Even though you have now finished lessons at school there are still more opportunities to get feedback through emailing your teachers. They will be happy to know you are still preparing and they are there to support you every step of the way.

There are ways to get into whatever uni course or career you want, so stay positive.

Make sure you keep a balance of study, sleep, family, Mass, prayer such as the Rosary and exercise.

Don’t forget St Joseph of Cupertino, patron saint of exams.

To the family and friends of students, let them know you are praying for them and schedule the time to pray for them.

Offer to give them lifts to and from the library, be an active listener when they need someone to talk to, and provide regular meals and snacks. Be extra understanding that it can be a stressful time for young people, so don’t put too much pressure on them.

Finally, congratulations on finishing school, and always remember to let your light shine.

Visit boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au for study resources.