On the surface Ellie, Nikita, and Lani are quite similar: three high-achievers who are dedicated to studying for their HSC exams which start in a week.
But how they are each going about it is completely different.
Nikita's a fan of flash cards, Lani likes to rotate between three subjects a day, and Ellie prefers to focus on one subject daily.
"I think once you do your first exam you kind of get into the rhythm of it, and I think it'll be okay, but I'm definitely a bit stressed," Lani said.
Senior lecturer of secondary English at Macquarie University Dr Janet Dutton, who was the chief HSC English examiner for five years, said it was normal for all students to be a bit nervous.
We sometimes need to be a little bit nervous in order to perform to our best so it's just a question of finding ways to make that productive- Senior lecturer of secondary English at Macquarie University Dr Janet Dutton
"We sometimes need to be a little bit nervous in order to perform to our best so it's just a question of finding ways to make that productive," she said.
The three Illawarra students are each studying between four to six hours per day during their study break while making sure they take time off to go for a swim or walk outside.
Dr Dutton said taking break was the right approach.
"We know it's more effective to do three half-hour blocks than it is to do an hour-and-a-half... so a three-hour block will be better broken up into six half-hour sessions for example," she said.
Ellie has been practising past HSC papers with her friends who "keep each other on track" and take walking breaks together.
"[I'm] trying to keep in mind that there's something outside of studying even if that seems really major right now," she said.
Dr Dutton said she advises year 12 students to spend time re-reading sections of their English texts or listening to an audiobook version. To receive high marks she said students shouldn't rely on memorised answers but instead to respond directly to the question and stimulus.
Nikita's said completing high school felt like a big achievement "because not as many people in my family have done it".
Nikita and Ellie both want to become high school maths teachers while Lani wants to study quantum physics.
These goals are in reach, with all three students getting early entry at the University of Wollongong (UOW).
UOW's Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Theo Farrell said this program allowed students to secure a place in their desired course early, before they sit their final exams. "We consider it beneficial for the welfare of HSC students to be able to offer the security of a place in university as they enter their final exams," he said.
Lani received early entry to UOW's engineering and science degree but still wants to achieve a high ATAR to allow her to study quantum engineering at UNSW.
"[The quantum engineering degree] just sounded fascinating and throughout high school I loved learning about quantum physics," she said. "I'm naturally very curious, so I love knowing why things work."
Nikita received early entry to bachelor of maths education and said this had helped her feel less stressed about exams.
"It is definitely good to know that next year I have a plan," she said. "Something to go to no matter what happens, as long as I show up."
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