People often ask me how much I had to study to get 99.95 ATAR. And I would tell people: **zero**.

Now that's not the entire truth - I exaggerate. To do well in the HSC, you obviously need to study. But you can greatly minimise the studying you need to do. The point I am trying to make is that I rarely had to sit down before an exam and relearn any content. Because I understood it when I first learnt it in class, it stuck in my head.

To drive my point, try to memorise these letters in 30 seconds:

E O R U V X V G N N E E I U F X V G N E

How many of you can actually recite that without looking? Not many. Even if you can, do you think you'll remember it in 3 months time? 1 year? Probably not.

This is the approach that many students are taking with the HSC – **memorising**. They try to rote learn and memorise all the content. They don’t know why something is true - it "just is".

But what if I told you the pattern behind this sequence? Each letter in the sequence is the third letter of the corresponding number in words: ON**E**, TW**O**, TH**R**EE, FO**U**R, FI**V**E, …. Ahh!

Now, if I asked you to recall this sequence of letters in one year's time, you wouldn't have trouble. You could even extend my sequence and explain why each letter is where it is. This is **understanding**; the foundation of effective learning - the key to HSC success.

Here’s the one thing you can do to understand.

**Ask why.**

It’s as simple as that. Next time your teacher tells you something, ask them why. When you read something in a textbook, question it - why is it true? Then, find out. When you know why, you truly understand it, and it isn't just an isolated fact. Your brain can draw links between that fact and knowledge you know already, helping you embed it into your long term memory.

Do you understand your content or do you just memorise it? Tell us in the comments below!

## Gary Liang

Gary Liang is the founder and director of Keystone Education. He achieved an ATAR of 99.95 in 2012 and 5 state ranks in Mathematics, Mathematics Ext 1, Mathematics Ext 2, Chemistry and Economics. He is now studying Economics and Science (Advanced Mathematics) at the UNSW Australia, where he is the recipient of four scholarships.