Getting an OP 1 can seem like an impossible task, especially with the many factors that go into the OP calculation!

However, I’m here to show you that no matter what, you can get the marks you want at the end of high school to give yourself the best possible start for the future.

How? Well, what counts the most is how hard you are willing to work to achieve your goals!
Sometimes you need to do just a little bit extra to really boost your grades!

So… here are five things that I did during my senior years of high school that allowed me to achieve an OP 1.

1. Do Extra-Curriculars

2. Do Your Own Research

3. Help Other Out

4. Do The Things You Don’t Have To

5. Constantly Strive To Improve

1. Do Extra-Curriculars

It is a common misconception that to do well at school – really well – you must throw yourself entirely into your schoolwork while leaving your friends, hobbies, and interests behind. 

I won’t deny that getting an OP 1 does take a massive commitment of time, energy and determination, but if you focus solely on school you will, quite simply… burn out. 

Being able to have breaks from schoolwork is important in keeping you sane and focused! 

Also, don’t forget… participation in extracurricular activities also looks fantastic on resume and scholarship applications! 

However, while there is no ‘one’ extracurricular activity that will help your grades, there are ways to be clever about how to choose what you dedicate your time to.  Choose extracurriculars based on:

  • What you know you enjoy
  • Are most likely to stick with
  • The time spent travelling to and from the activity
  • How flexible they will be with your schoolwork
  • When they are scheduled

These factors are super important, as you don’t want a big game of basketball or a music rehearsal the night before an exam or during the days leading up to an assignment due date! 

For example, I enjoyed doing extracurriculars at my school. One week in year 12 I was completely bogged down in school work and study. However, as some of these extracurriculars were run by my own classroom teachers, I was able to adjust my schedule around and keep my focus on my school work! 

2. Do Your Own Research

There is no denying that the OP system and now the ATAR system too is quite specific in how marks are given! 

However, there are definite strategies to succeed outside of merely being able to write a good essay and solve problems correctly. While some schools may already be aware of these strategies and share them with students, there are also ways you can be proactive and find out exactly how to successfully meet all the criteria! 

The best place to find out how grades are assigned is right at your fingertips! There is a detailed list provided in the criteria sheets of all assignments and exams! Each subject is likely to have a standard list of criteria that will be either the same or at least similar, across all assessment pieces. 

For example, a key criterion in senior English assessment is “evaluation of perspectives and representations of concepts, identities, times and places”. However, it is a criterion often missed by students (myself included). 

It initially sounds like a confusing mess straight out of a thesaurus, but it means that you must analyse how texts are constructions by their authors, who have made conscious decisions to include concepts, characters, and settings to convey a specific message. 

So, even if you write a fantastic assignment, but haven’t fulfilled this criterion you will NOT get the marks! 

I discovered this only after handing in many English assignments, in which I kept getting stuck on the same mark. Finally, I realised that I was being marked down in the same criterion each time. With this knowledge, I was able to make sure I completely addressed all the criteria next time and saw an immediate improvement in my results!  

If you’re keen to learn more, the QCAA website
has a ton of resources available, most importantly sample assessment pieces as well as syllabus and learning guides!

3. Help Others Out

As the OP system is based on your position relative to your peers, it is easy to think that the way to succeed is to keep to your own and fend off the competition! 

However, in my experience… that is the exact OPPOSITE of what you should do for several reasons. 

It is widely known that the best way to learn a concept is to teach it to someone else! 

Helping your classmates will allow you to discuss, learn, and understand the content for your exams and assignments. 

Even better… your classmates will likely help you in return! There have been so many times where I have been sitting outside an exam room and a friend has brought up something, which I’ve never heard of that turned out to be on the exam.

While waiting to go into a year 12 exam, a friend taught me a concept I had missed throughout my study (it can happen) that I took into the exam and used to get an A+. 

Furthermore, year 12 is without a doubt difficult! Having a support network of friends (especially peers) is invaluable. During these times, being able to rely on each other means that at the end of the day everyone can cross the finish line together! 

4. Do The Things You Don’t Have To 

At some point, every student gets given a task by a teacher that doesn’t count towards their mark or has no due date – and every student at some point has not done this extra work. 

However, to get really good marks you need to do the extra reading, the unessential homework, and revision each day!

Not only will this extra work increase the quality of your assessment, but it will prove to your teachers that you are willing to take extra steps to do well. It will also give you more confidence when walking into exams and enable you to draft your assignments more effectively. 

This is particularly useful in humanities subjects, like Modern History. Before a Modern History exam, I ensured I remembered at least one extra piece of information on each topic studied. This not only boosted my confidence, but it also allowed me to write a more effective, coherent, and in-depth response, as I wasn’t just relying on the limited scope of my class notes and revision materials.

5. Constantly Strive To Improve

What helped me the most but is something that is often overlooked is the process of constantly improving your work!

Many people think that by year 11 or 12, you must be stuck in your ways and have no time improve. This is FASLE. Every new assessment item is a chance to re-evaluate your work and make improvements! 

Even if you’ve had a shaky start to the year, you can make small, incremental differences to your grades! 

While working hard is a way to get good marks, if you forget to check your results and learn from past feedback, you will find yourself getting the same grades every time.   

So, how do you make genuine improvements to your work? 

Firstly, read your draft and assessment feedback and look at the criteria sheet. After every assessment make a note of three things or criterion you can improve upon and take it on-board for next time!

Secondly, speak to your teachers, and don’t be scared to be direct. Ask them, “what can I do to improve?” or “how can I get an A?” They are the ones marking your work, so they know exactly what you need to improve upon!

Right before a Geography exam, I asked my teacher what I needed to do to improve my mark. He was able to have another look through my work and tell me exactly what criteria I needed to address. Teachers are almost always willing to help, so I recommend giving it a shot and asking them what you can do to get a better mark!

So, there you have it… getting a high OP is not an impossible task! 

I was definitely not an OP1 student when I started high school, so I know first-hand whatever your current grades are, so long as you are willing to put in the effort and hard work, you can get the results you want!

Even if you’re not thinking about OP and you have your sights set on a high ATAR instead… try incorporating these tips into your study routine and see what works best for you! 


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