Home School 2020 Dux Interviews: Alice Clifford

2020 Dux Interviews: Alice Clifford


First of all, congratulations on your amazing achievements! Thanks so much for agreeing to answer these questions. 😊

What was the biggest challenge you faced during year 12, and how did you overcome it?

I mean obviously we experienced year 12 during a pandemic, which was extremely challenging for everyone. But to be a little more specific I struggled with the standards that I set for myself, which might have been a bit too high and actually made me less productive. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and as IB is quite assignment heavy, my perfectionism was a drag on my efficiency. I really tried to get every IA and assignment perfect word-for-word, which would likely mean that you sacrifice going to bed early or spending time with friends, and generally end up more stressed. You don’t need to be perfect! Once you read over something and think it’s good, you can just put it away and not dwell on it.

How did you stay motivated during this time? How did you cope with stress?

‘Coping with stress’ suggests that I was good at managing my stress or anxiety, which if I’m being totally honest, I wasn’t good at. It’s OK to know that you don’t need to be perfect, and you are allowed to feel anxious and stressed because VCE/IB is stressful! I was very lucky to have some teachers at MLC that really looked out for me, and I sought their advice quite often about specific things that were worrying me. As for being motivated, I don’t think there is really a secret to it. What kept me going in the day-to-day classes was that I really cared about my subjects and I genuinely found everything I did very interesting. But as for the grunt work of studying, I saw it as something I needed to do to feel like I had tried my absolute hardest.

At what times and how much did you study throughout year 11 and 12? Would you recommend a study timetable?

Yes, I would 100% recommend a study timetable for when you are studying for exams and specific SACs or IAs. Honestly, I can’t really remember how much I studied every day because it depended on what I had coming up. On an average day I would say around 4 hours a day, but some days that would be closer to 6 hours and others 1-2 hours. It depends, and you will know when you can take it easy and when you need to keep grinding. Study timetables are very good for holidays and periods where you have full days for studying. Try to be realistic though, schedule in breaks and account for the time it takes marking your own work or starting the work.

Did you have any useful study techniques that worked well for you in terms of exam preparation?

Throughout my 2 years of IB, I took very detailed notes in class that I didn’t need to go through and re-take during exams. I also made summary notes and sheets (for Bio, Chem and Psychology) prior to the topic test of every topic. This was good for studying while I made them, but also very helpful quick notes for when I was studying at the end. I also made sure to immediately ask for help when I didn’t understand a topic (especially in HL Chem) and didn’t leave it to the end. You’re too busy going over heaps of content before exams to start fully learning something new, so try and not put it off.

As for exams- during the SWOTVAC period (the time off school before exams) and in the days between exams, I used a study planner that I made in excel and put on my wall so I could plan out my day to the hour (don’t worry they weren’t all full). I did every IB exam for my subjects that had the current curriculum. I marked them all and then wrote on the cover page the specific areas of content I got wrong. Then before I did another exam for that subject, I set aside 20 minutes (or less) to look over those content points.

Make sure you keep the practice exams and the study plans to remind yourself of what you accomplished. It’s so much easier to take a break when you can see what you have actually done for the day instead of feeling guilty that you haven’t worked enough.

Did you keep up any hobbies or extracurriculars during year 12?

Because we were in lockdown for the majority of the year, I couldn’t do normal co-curriculars like I would have in normal circumstances. However, I was in the prefect exec which took up a significant amount of time throughout the year, especially when trying to run initiatives like the SRC and year 12 celebrations. I also started painting; I generally painted something on a Friday evening to try and relax a little. I’m particularly good at art but I did it for the act of painting itself rather than the end product. I was also involved in a range of lunchtime activities like Amphitheatre, Green Team, PAF, house cheer and IB book club, which I really recommend.

They say that you must sacrifice one of the trinity- social life, school and sleep- in order to do well in year 12. Would you say this is accurate? How did you balance all three?

I honestly don’t think you NEED to sacrifice your sleep if you’re organised. If you get home and do solid and efficient work, and you plan out when your IAs/ SACs are due, then you should not need to stay up really late. Having said that… things happen and I was the last one awake in my house many nights in a row. I can’t really speak to having to sacrifice social activities because I didn’t need to worry about that during lockdown. However, if by social life you mean “going to parties” then you might need to sit them out from time-to-time if you have a really important deadline and unfinished work. But not always, and you shouldn’t do anything you will regret. But you absolutely should not let your social life in terms of “actually maintaining relationships” be jeopardised in year 12! You need your friends!

What are your plans going forward? (Uni, course etc.)

I’m going to Melbourne University and doing a Bachelor of Arts and then a Doctor of Medicine. In my Bachelors’ I’m double majoring in The History and Philosophy of Science and Psychology. Luckily I’m already into Medicine, so after 3 years I’ll be doing med to hopefully specialise in surgery.

Anything else you’d like to say to the year 11s and 12s going through VCE/IB?

Best of luck! You can do this- all it really takes is hard work and organisation.



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