How to take notes

Note taking is a skill this isn’t really taught. You are just forced to work out how best to remember all the information that is thrown at you during the day – but often walk away with a notebook filled with scribbles that mean nothing when you read it back weeks later.

Here are 5 of the most effective note taking strategies to help you write awesome notes:

1. The Cornell Method

Divide your page in to 3 parts.

At the top will be a big open section for notes that you take during class. Write everything down that you think will be important.

In the second section, you re-write the most important parts again. This happens after class, when you can re-read your notes and find the key parts.

The final section will be a summary – write a paragraph summarising the notes from the day, so that in a month or so when you need those notes you can just read the summary to see if it is valuable to you.

2. Use a flow chart

Write the subject at the top, then use a flow chart to break it down. Each page is organised by topic, but then gets refined in to sub-topics as the flow chart goes along.

This is an excellent method for visual learners!

3. The dot point method

Similar to the flow chart above, you use dot points to list all the important parts of a subject.

Give it a main heading, then sub headings and then dot points under each of those.

Really simple and effective in the lead up to exams.

4. Keep things simple

This isn’t really a unique method, but is a general rule when it come to taking notes.

The point of notes is two fold. One is for you to be able to remember them and the second is so you can look back over them in a few months time and catch up at a glance.

The simpler the better.

5. Find what works for you

Some people colour code with highlighters. Some underline furiously. You need to find what is going to work best for you via trial and error.

Try a flow chart and see how it feels. Try breaking your page up in to 3’s.

Ultimately the real test will come in a few months when you need to revise your notes – and you can test how easy it is to understand what you are trying to convey.

Note taking is a huge part of year 12, so owning the process is really important. Keep practicing and master it!

Nic Rothquel


How to start Year 12 the right way

First up a huge round of applause for making it this far.

12 years of schooling has lead you up to this point and you really do deserve a pat on the back.

Year 12 is going to be huge. There will be triumphs and setbacks and there’s a good chance you will want to throw in the towel at some point.

But, it is also your opportunity to show the people who care about you what you are really capable of.

One of the things you will notice about year 12 is that it hits you in waves. You’ll be coasting along thinking life is awesome, then in one week you’ll receive 18 assessment task notifications and suddenly the sun won’t shine as bright.

Here are 5 things you should do now to ensure the year ahead runs as smooth as possible:

1. Get a diary bro.

A real paper diary, an app on your phone, your calendar on your computer – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you use it.

You need to be the master of your time. You can’t depend on other people to keep you accountable when it comes to time management. Use your diary like a rule book – create tasks and reminders and stick to them like they are life or death.

2. Ensure you’ve covered any holes in preliminary content

Many subjects like maths and sciences build on year 11 content, and if you aren’t on top of it you are going to get left behind.

This week, revise those subjects – look over your yearly exam and make sure any grey areas become clear ASAP.

3. Work out your best focus hours.

We are not all the same. Whilst we are all required to be at school between 9 and 3, that doesn’t mean they are our most productive hours of the day.

I’ve learnt over the years that my personal best focus hours are between 10pm and 2am. This is for a number of reasons – wife and kids are in bed, the house is quiet and I can’t really communicate with other people – so it is where the magic happens.

You make not be able to stay up so late, but still try to identify the best hours for you. Maybe you work best early in the morning, or right after school, or after dinner. If you can nail this sweet spot, you will find you are far more productive in those hours than at any other time – and one hour of study during this time is more effective than 4 hours at another time.

4. Identify your biggest time wasters.

Using that diary from point 1, track your time this week. In particular, pay attention to time spent on things that don’t move you towards your goal. Facebook, Netflix, Xbox – these things need to be viewed as a luxury in year 12 and not an everyday thing.

You may not need to cut them out now, but at least when things start getting busy, you’ll know how to find a few extra hours in each day.

5. Write your goal down.

Few things motivate you like having a goal that you see every day.

Take some time to work out what you want the year ahead to look like. Come up with a goal – is it dux of your school? A certain ATAR? A postion in a class?

Write it in your diary (see point 1) so you can see it every day. Once you’ve written down the goal, work backwards to work out what you need to do to make it happen.

Your goal might be to come first in English – so working backwards from this might mean getting 20/20 in every assessment task. Make notes on how you can make this happen and continue moving backwards.

Having a visible goal will make year 12 so much easier.

Year 12 is going to be huge, but I know you can master it. Keep going and make it count!

Nic Rothquel


The formula for a perfect essay introduction

The intro to your essay is so important. Just like meeting someone for the first time, it is your first impression and sets the standard and expectations for the entire essay. You want it to be intriguing, engaging and concise, while also showing your mastery of the written language.

There are 5 things I look for in every introduction. You want your intro to stand out from the crowd – it needs to reach out from the page and slap your marker in the face. Remember that there are 80,000 Discovery essays written in the HSC – you need to distinguish yourself from the rest of them.

Here are the 5 things that make the prefect essay intro:

1. Commanding opening lines that establish you really know what you are talking about.

Every essay you write is dealing with a theme – whether it be Discovery or context or after the bomb mindsets. Those opening lines of your intro should reflect your understanding of that theme. Don’t open your introduction by diving straight in to your text – write a few lines about the theme. Define it, discuss it, even criticise it – just show that you understand it fully.

2. Provide every detail of your text

The expectation is to include the title, author, type and year. Whilst it won’t necessarily cost you marks if you fail to include these, it again shows that you understand fully what you are talking about.

3. Give a brief summary of your text through the scope of the theme

Outline your text, but don’t simply explain the story – outline how it connects to your argument. For example, you might discuss Prospero’s journey of self realisation and forgiveness, or Frost’s connection with nature as a source of Discovery. This needs to be brief, but you are still setting the expectation of what you are going to be discussing.

4. Answer the question boldly

We want to see you take a strong side on an argument. There is nothing more boring for a marker to read than an essay that sits on the fence – that defends an argument without passion or engagement. Some of the best essays I have ever written are those that actually argue against the question – because the student is willing to go against the standard flow of talking about how effective a composer is and actually highlight its flaws (this naturally has to be well supported with plenty of examples). Whatever you choose to do, ensure you take a strong position on the question – don’t be a fence sitter.

5. Bring it back to you, the audience

We want to know you have gained something from your study. The end of every introduction should come back to this – how has it challenged your views of the world – how has it grown you as a person? Always offer some personal insight – not with personal pronouns (unless Adv Module B), but by sharing how it has aided the responder or audience.

These are 5 steps that will allow you to write incredible introductions every time. Make the best first impression possible by nailing your introduction, and setting your essay up for success!

Mr Rowe

HSCmarking is a service that supports HSC students by giving them detailed and constructive feedback on their essays in 48 hours guaranteed. Upload your essays before every exam and assessment to ensure your essays are the very best they can be. Learn more here

How to choose the perfect related text

We have a little chat box on the bottom right of our website which is designed for students and parents to ask questions about what we do and how it works – but it ends up being used for all sorts of things and one of the most common questions we get is this:

“What is a good related text for Discovery???”

I wanted to tackle this both as a means of referring students to when we get that question, but also to help students who might be wondering the same thing.

First of all, it is a terrible question. It is far too broad. There is no one related text that works perfectly with every prescribed text. You don’t want to just find a related text that deals with discovery, you want a related text that supports your thesis.

You need to consider the prescribed text you are doing, the characters or poems you are going to focus on and the core themes you are going to draw from it.

For example, if you are doing the tempest, a great related text for your discussion on Prospero might not be as good as if you are focussing primarily on Miranda. Same for Robert Frost’s poems. You need to identify your own thesis before you can start looking for a related text.

To do this, take a look at the course rubric. It offer a dozen or so thesis statements that you can search for in your prescribed texts.

Once you have defined your thesis, then you want to choose a related text that matches it closely or is the complete opposite. You don’t really want in between. You either want to show that your RT supports your idea or opposes it. That is the whole point of the related text; to enhance your argument. Too often I see students choose RT’s that have nothing to do with their argument and therefore don’t earn the marks they deserve.

So unfortunately, there is no quick answer to the question of what makes a good Discovery related text. Sure, you can look for suggestions 0nline, but you really need to know your text intimately and understand the argument you are going to make before you can consider choosing a related text.

Have you written a practice Discovery essay and want to know how it compares to the other 80,000 that will be written in the HSC? Upload it now and in 48 hours you’ll get tonnes of detailed, actionable feedback that will help you sculpt it in to a band 6 response.


Good luck!

Mr. Jones. (English marker)

How to write the best Module B essay ever


So you need to write a Module B essay? Lucky you!

Module B is hard. Admittedly some electives are much easier than others (I’m looking at you ‘speeches’) and some of them are seriously difficult (if you are doing ‘in the skin of a lion’ my heart goes out to you!). Regardless of your elective text, there are a few things you need to do to ensure you get 20/20 in Module B.

Firstly, you need to understand what module B is – and that is a critical study. A critical study is exactly what it sounds like – approaching a text critically to offer a balanced discussion on its effectiveness to achieve its purpose. This means that we want you to adopt a perspective on your text – whether it be for or against the question proposed to you. Make sure you keep coming back to this – how good of a job does it do in achieving its purpose?

Secondly, we want to see a personal voice come through. You might have been told since year 7 to avoid personal pronouns in essays, but this is an exception. For the first time, phrases like “In my opinion” and “I believe” are permitted – even encouraged. You just need to be able to back your opinion up with examples from your texts. Either that or…

Use additional critics to support your argument. The best Module B essays always have external critics that support the thesis of the writer. For example, if you were doing Citizen Kane, you would find a literary critic who shares a similar understanding of the film as you. This adds legitimacy to your essay and makes it seem like it is more than just your opinion.

Don’t be afraid to criticise your text. Some of the best Module B essays I’ve ever read have been those that tear apart their text and use other critics to support it. If you think one of the speeches is not an enduring speech, explain why – and use a good one to juxtapose it.

Finally, you need to know your text really well. One of the hardest parts about a Module B essay is not knowing what they are going to ask. If you look at the last few years of HSC papers you will see such a wide spread of focusses each year that it become almost impossible to predict. The only solution for this is to know your text like the back of your hand. You need to be able to adapt at the drop of a hat. This isn’t discovery – you can’t go in with an essay basically memorised. The question will be challenging – but it favours the bold.

These things are all unique to Module B, but are what your markers are going to be looking for so make sure they are there in the forefront for everyone to see!

If you’ve written a Module B practice essay make sure you get it marked by an HSC marker at You’ll get detailed and actionable feedback within 48 hours guaranteed – just what you need to write the best module B essay ever! Upload your essay now.

Best of luck!

Mr Rowe

English Marker