Anna Norrish, a former tutor and social worker in-the-making, suddenly fell unwell throughout her VCE. Anna shares with us how she achieved such an exceptional ATAR while battling a debilitating illness.
My name is Anna. I have recently completed a degree in psychology and am currently working full time as a social worker which I love. Tutoring is also something I love doing, particularly English, psychology and humanities. I think my love of tutoring developed because of an amazing teacher I had in year 10, 11 and 12 who was such a huge inspiration to me. Her dedication to teaching was so obvious and her passion rubbed off on all her students. I vividly remember how she could be talking about something funny (like her pet turtle) and could still link it back to legal studies. I always remembered everything she taught us because she was so entertaining and I ended up acing my year 12 legal studies exam because of her passion and genuineness in wanting to help students do their best and that inspired me to become a tutor.
I did not have an easy time at school and unfortunately fell very unwell during year 11. I was subsequently hospitalised and missed the majority of year 11 due to illness. However, I was committed to finishing my schooling because I loved learning and was determined to still do well at VCE. In the end, I realised the only option for me to complete my schooling would be to do it via Distance Education. This meant that I was sent school work in the mail, had no face to face contact with teachers and had to set up my own study timetable because there were no bells telling me what class to get too. Due to my illness and all the medication I was on to get me better, I could often only concentrate on study between 12pm and 5pm. Once I realised that this was my best study window I would make sure that I set this time aside every day to focus on my study. I kind of ended up setting myself my own timetable. I would set myself goals of what I wanted to get through each day and would break up my day by doing an hour or so of each subject so i didn’t get bored. I also contacted my legal studies teacher from my old school and asked her to privately tutor me in legal studies. This was a great way for me to get some face to face contact with a teacher.
"I would set myself goals of what I wanted to get through each day and would break up my day by doing an hour or so of each subject so i didn’t get bored."
These would definitely be my top tips for anyone studying year 12: set yourself some goals to work towards, break your study up between subjects to help with boredom, and seek some support from a tutor. I was actually very confident with legal studies already but I knew I could boost my score a bit by seeking some support and it definitely helped. As exams came closer, I looked on the VCE website and did heaps of practise exams. I timed all of my exams and would do 1-3 practise exams per week in the weeks leading up to the exams. This was especially helpful for English because it helped me learn to write under time pressure and helped me learn how to get each of my three essays down to an hour each.
Importantly, I also took some breaks from study. I worked, caught up with friends and spent time engaging with my hobbies. Scheduling in some regular breaks was really important. I also made sure I had some great things to look forward to after exams. I wasn’t in a regular school do i didn’t get to graduate but I still booked a fancy dinner out with my family and made a night of it.
I was fortunate that I was out of hospital by the time of exams and was feeling much better. Through creating my own timetable and routine while I was in hospital I was able to create a good study schedule. Despite the hardship I experienced in year 12 I was able to achieve an ATAR score of 95.6 which is something I am still extremely proud of 6 years later. Year 12 isn’t an easy year but it is one year out of your life. I don’t regret working as hard as I did that year because it helped set me up for university which I loved. However it is also important to remember that your ATAR Score does not define you. There were various points during year 12 where it didn’t look like I was going to be able to sit my exams and I had to consider alternate pathways to get into university. Fortunately, this all worked out for me in the end but I know that with determination I still would have found a way to get where I am today.