Secrets Revealed: What Your Year 12 Student Doesn’t Want You to Know about their HSC preparations

The Higher School Certificate (HSC) and International Baccalaureate (IB) are high-stakes sets of exams for final year high school students in Australia.

In NSW, those exams start in a little over five months, although all school-based assessments are scheduled to be completed within the next 5 – 6 weeks.

As parents of HSC students, you want to ensure your child is prepared and on track for success…BUT more often than not, Year 12 students aren’t as forthcoming with information about their HSC preparations as we would like (or need) so we are best placed to help constructively.

Even though we’ve ‘been there and done that’ and survived, the reality is, there is a whole lot more ‘production value’ given to the Year 12 exams and most students simply don’t have the wherewithal to be able to navigate the space confidently, let alone artfully.

Which is why NOW is the final ‘check point’ for ‘on track’ left for parents to be able to finesse your child’s approach to HSC 2023.

Running with what you you know (so far)…

No doubt you’ve sat through your parent/teacher consults and re-read the report card for the fifth time, yet it probably feels as though you’re still none the wiser.

Looking at it rationally, you can see that your child is ‘putting in the hours’, and maybe you’ve even splurged on a tutor or four (Rest assured, you’re not alone) – but improvement seems minimal.

Now this is the point in the conversation where parents who are forking out hundreds a week in tutoring usually feel buoyed by what is sadly for most a false sense of security that everything is ‘on track’.

Now don’t despair, you’re efforts are not wasted – yet…

A good rule of thumb: If the results are not much improved after 6 months of tutoring, it’s highly unlikely to improve any further in the next 20 weeks.


When the Inputs are not aligned to an increase in Results, it is not because they are academically challenged, or the tutor is bad. More often than not it is because despite their 11.5 years of schooling to date, your child doesn’t yet know How 2 Learn beyond the baseline repeat to retain momentarily rather than How 2 Learn to produce content into working knowledge.

The knowledge production processes is only partially adopted within existing school system – despite the best efforts of informed and passionate educators.

Now, if your child is being tutored and they are at a private or selective school, brace yourself…

Usually, this is where conversations with private school parents momentarily turn to confidence as they feel comforted in the knowledge they are paying a lot of money for their child’s education.

Until I utter the words…

‘How much you’re paying in school fees makes little difference to HSC performance if your child has not yet learnt How 2 Learn.’

But isn’t that the school’s job?!!! (Yes, I hear you screaming at your screen)

The short answer: No, it is not. (Just give me a moment to explain)

Schools were originally designed to keep children busy so parents could work, or like my Great Grandfather (x 8) when he founded the Sydney Free Public School (what is now known as Sydney Grammar School) – a job & title! 🙂

Seriously though, in NSW children are mandated by law to attend school. Accordingly, ALL schools design their program to an agreed format aligned to Syllabus.

Within a particular school setting, teachers ‘teach’ in class to expectation of the School Leadership and always to the mean.

Therefore, the school’s ‘role’ in delivering the ‘schooling process’ is stable, infinitely defendable, aligned to policy (if not parental expectation) and therefore unlikely to change in any manner shape or form for your child before they sit for HSC 2023.

So where does this leave your child..?

By the time students get to Year 12, ‘success’ comes from identifying and ‘plugging’ the knowledge gaps around process (How 2 Learn) and content (What 2 Learn) for performance (HSC Exam Success).

This is a very ‘DOABLE’ fix – but it requires a dedicated multi-pronged approach which starts with breaking students out of ‘trained’ behaviours (copious note taking for hours a night) and giving students permission to Learn How 2 Learn the syllabus material in a way that will develop their mental fitness and not only enable them to ‘Perform’ in exams, but develop and nurture life-long learning skills for life @home @school @uni @work and @play. 

What does this mean for HSC parents..?

  1. It’s time to REALIGN YOUR EXPECTATIONS around the ‘school offering’ and fortify your child to confidently and capably jump into the driver’s seat on their first real academic test – their first learning journey as a (soon to be) adult.
  2. It is also unrealistic to expect the way your child currently presents academically is likely to improve without strategic interventions, so CREATE A PLAN with your child for their HSC 2023 journey that you both commit to from hereon.

I hesitated for years to work with HSC students, because one thing I learnt when I launched my How 2 Social including The Art of Social Parenting, in the early days of FACEBOOK – was that parents, carers and educators in a school environment did not like new information that fell outside the scope of what they knew or what they had to.

A new media researcher at the time, in my dissertation, I flagged the mental fitness issues and detriments of social media and social networking technologies on individuals, teams and organisations.

Having entered my research on the synergies and antagonisms between the individual, team and organisation within International Rugby, I saw the potential of the tech and the variant ways in which it could be harnessed to enhance, stifle or negate at both a personal, teams and organisational level.

As an academic in training, I also saw the benefits drawn from ‘connections’ as well as the unsolicited, unmonitored and largely unmanageable realities of the way humanity had designed to use and abuse the tech.

Just like social tech, where the untrained and ill-informed stumble publicly when storytelling on multi-media (same story of multiple platforms) let alone trans-media (multiple stories across multiple platforms), students need to refine their capability to perform in HSC tasks by developing, nurturing and refining both their:

  • Mental Fitness – A daily self-care routine that nurtures a Sense of Self is paramount. Yet, horribly scarce amongst today’s 17& 18 year olds. Despite the science reiterating without a healthy, balanced mind and heart, calm and confident, simply doesn’t exist.
  • Academic Fitness – Students perform when they understand what they are being asked to do, in what context and how free they are to ideate when discussing components of said subject. Yet, very few students actually know how to answer these questions for themselves, nor ask their teachers HOW 2 extend their current efforts and build ‘fit for purpose’ subject specific strategies to ensure their HSC success.

For the past 10+ years I have been a sessional lecturer at The University of Sydney in the MECO department. In that time, I have taught at both undergrad and postgraduate level and I can hand on heart tell you, the same issues exist for ALL students across ALL levels and timezones.


Because these are the skills students do not necessarily learn @school or @uni until they proactively seek guidance.

It’s the little things…

Managing expectations is key – both for students and educators.

Consequently, dialogic interactions (two-way communication) are front and centre in the HSC 2023 ‘Success’ equation.

More specifically, student initiated teacher communication.

By the time students start studying HSC content, irrespective of the school attended, the student-teacher relationship should morph in line with the social transition of the student as child to adult.

Put another way, it is at this time that the teacher morphs into mentor and becomes a component of the student’s support team.

Top students embrace this evolution as not only is it empowering for HSC performance, it is a necessary foundation for excellence in tertiary learning.

Now I’m not talking about taking out an advertisement in the SMH, rather a subtle change of how the student empowers themselves to succeed in the HSC.

For me, the shift was a subtle one…

I remember going to my 3 Unit English teacher at the beginning of Term 1 in Year 12 and asking if she had a handout on How 2 Write a paragraph. 

After a wry smile (she initially thought I was joking) she actually gasped in horror on realising I was serious, promptly inviting me to follow her into her office before she set about retrieving an A4 sheet (okay it was a stencil) from the ‘Year 7 English’ file in her desk. 

I remember thinking that single A4 sheet of paper was worth its weight in gold.

The confidence the content on that stencil gave me was invaluable to not only HSC exams (all my subjects were essay-based) but also my professional writing career.

Simply by identifying and acknowledging my technical block and then communicating that to my teacher, in less than 5 minutes, she single handedly eradicated my concerns and self doubts and helped clear the remaining ‘blank’s’ (knowledge gap) for me across ALL of my subjects because I now confidently knew how to place paragraphs with purpose on key content that was answered the question and was aligned to syllabus.

Confidence and Consistency is Key 

HSC students need to adopt the role of a DIRECTOR and strategically direct the ACTION, EFFORTS and OUTCOMES for THEIR HSC SUCCESS STORY. 

So… to help minimise the stress for ALL, here’s a little insight into some of the secrets your Year 12 student might be keeping from you and a couple of tips and tricks that may prove helpful for guiding them to success in HSC 2023.

What they aren’t telling you:

They don’t actually know HOW 2 Study!

Yep! That’s what I said – Your child may not actually know WHAT to do

More specifically, HOW 2 construct their study time, let alone their subject notes, despite their best efforts.

Accordingly, they need specific, targeted and informed guidance per subject from an experienced educator – not a kid starting out on their own academic learning journey.

Insert caveat-If your child benefits socially from interaction with a school or uni-aged tutor, don’t discount the benefits just know what you’re paying for and redefine what ‘success’ from the monetary exchange actually looks like if it’s not improved performance.

Common angst producing realities for Year 12 students also include:

  1. They’re Struggling with Time Management

Managing time effectively is crucial for HSC success, but your Year 12 student might not have mastered this skill yet. This is especially true for those who have had their days and study timetables given to them for the past 5 years. Not surprisingly, your child may be finding it difficult to balance school work, extracurricular activities, and social life. So creating a realistic study schedule, which sets SMART goals, and establishes daily, weekly, monthly priorities by subject is a must. NOT SURE HOW 2 GUIDE THEM? CLICK HERE

  1. They’re Feeling Overwhelmed

The pressure to perform well in the HSC can be immense, and your Year 12 student might be feeling overwhelmed without telling you. Be observant of any signs of stress or anxiety in your child, such as changes in sleep patterns, irritability, or loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Encourage open communication and provide emotional support to help them navigate this challenging time. If they tell you to F* off or get stuffed – follow it up with a hug – irrespective of where you are physically.

  1. They’re Relying on Last-Minute Cramming

Procrastination and last-minute cramming are common among students, but they are not effective strategies for long-term retention of information. Your child might be putting off studying or relying on last-minute cramming without realising the negative impact on their learning. Encourage them to break down their study material into smaller, manageable chunks and develop a consistent study routine to prevent cramming. NOT SURE HOW 2 START? CLICK HERE

  1. They’re Not Actively Engaging in Learning

Active engagement in learning is vital for HSC success, but your Year 12 student might not be fully participating in class or seeking help when needed. Encourage your child to be proactive in their learning by asking questions, seeking clarification, and participating in discussions. Remind them that it’s okay to ask for help and that doing so is a sign of dedication and commitment to their education. NEED A HELPING HAND TO MOTIVATE YOUR YEAR 12 ? CLICK HERE

  1. They’re Afraid of Failure

Fear of failure can be a significant barrier to HSC success, and your child might be struggling with this fear without sharing it with you. Help them develop a growth mindset by emphasizing the importance of effort, persistence, and learning from mistakes. Praise their hard work and encourage them to see setbacks as opportunities for growth, rather than as a measure of their worth. NEED HELP TO ALLAY THEIR FEARS? CLICK HERE

Being aware of these secrets your Year 12 student might be keeping can help you better understand their HSC preparations and the challenges they face. 

As a parent, your support, guidance, and encouragement are invaluable in helping your child navigate this critical period as they embark on their first real academic contest (remember: For them the HSC is the Equivalent to the Hunger Games – as they’ve been told repeatedly their future is riding on how well they play! 

Yet, by addressing these hidden concerns and fostering open communication, you can help your child succeed in HSC 2023 and lay the foundations for a bright and happy future, irrespective of whether HSC 2023 is their only academic challenge or merely the first of many.

Invoke the Art of Presence

Just remember to Breathe… the HSC/IB journey really doesn’t have to be a battle, nor does it have to be an anxious road for all to hoe.

So if you need help or have any questions, please feel free to comment below or contact me directly on Insta @TiffJunee or drop me an email: as I’m always happy to help parents illuminate the path for their child – the ones @DMA we call ‘budding HSC Success Stories’ 🙂

Just remember, no matter which path you choose, you are not alone and help is only one ‘click’ away

Good luck xo

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