HSC challenge halved for twins

OLSH Kensington twins study outside between exams (clockwise from left): Celine Surtees, Georgia and Jessica Elchah, Sophie and Claire Williams, Juliet Stinson and Petesa Surtees.

For a handful of Year 12 students at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College Kensington, a unique HSC support is at hand.

Four sets of twins from the school are currently sitting HSC exams and say their sibling is one of the best study aids they could have, acting as a support and motivator.

Petesa and Celine Surtees, Juliet and Lucinda Stinson, Georgia and Jessica Elchah, and Claire and Sophie Williams, have quizzed and taught each other, swapped notes and divided topics with their twin for note-taking and revision in preparation for exams.

“Sophie and I do this for Modern History because it’s so high-content,” Claire said.

“If your twin is studying you feel the need to study too. Also if you’re up at 2am and need to go through something, you can’t just go to a friend’s house. When you sit there and you have to break it down for someone it suddenly makes more sense to you.”

Your twin is completely honest with you.

– Claire Williams

Sophie agrees. “It’s like that Einstein quote that says you don’t really understand something until you’re able to simplify the answer,” she said.

Jessica and Georgia share some subjects including Legal Studies, PDHPE, and Studies of Religion.

“She teaches me all of them and that helps her study,” Jessica said.  “Unless it’s from a textbook we don’t share notes because if we have different teachers who have different ways of teaching and different opinions it’s just confusing.”

Georgia said it was good to have someone else at home who understood how difficult the HSC can be – especially after the shock of the first English exam paper on Thursday which, unlike past papers, didn’t include a visual stimulus.

“If you’re at home and no one else understands how stressful it was, and how much it could have an impact – you’ve got someone else there who [gets it]. What scared me is that I think our trials are going to be easier than these exams.

“They made English a lot more difficult. It’s the only exam the whole state is supposed to be doing so I feel like kids have already lost confidence because they’re already struggling with these exams which are supposed to cater to everyone.”

Petesa and Celine were among the students to get part of their HSC assessment out of the way before the written exams with their Visual Arts major works.

Celine created a collection of watercolour drawings about an individual going through an adventure of their imagination. Petesa chose photo media for her artwork. Both said it was good to have a creative springboard on hand in the form of their twin.

“I could tell her ideas and she could critique my work,” Petesa said. “She’s really creative and she wouldn’t hold back – it was an honest opinion.”

We don’t share notes.

– Jessica Elchah

The protectiveness the twins have shown of each other throughout the year extends to life beyond exams, when they will take on travel, work and university. Most plan not to tell others what ATARS they get to avoid the inevitable comparisons.

Juliet said while she had chosen different subjects to her sister, who has had to file for misadventure in early exams, the desire to see each other do well was the same.

“Lucinda and I do nothing the same [subject-wise],” she said. “I’m hoping as much as for myself that she is doing well.

“I’m a morning studier because I get distracted and tired in the evenings so I set my alarm for 4am.

“Everyone always says if you don’t know something five minutes before the exam you’re not going to know it. I just don’t think that’s true!”

Twins share what is great about having a sibling to sit the HSC with

Petesa Surtees, 18:

“It makes the whole experience more comforting and relaxing to know that there’s someone there who is going through the same as you. You have another bond. It also inspires you to keep motivated. If you stop and look around and see your twin is there you continue to keep pushing yourself.”

Celine Surtees, 18:

“I find it comforting that we sit in alphabetical order. You know that your twin is either in front of you or behind you. It’s easier when you know that they are near you while you do the exam.”

Juliet Stinson, 18:

“Probably knowing that in the room there’s something wanting you to do just as well as they are, rather than it being all about themselves. I’m always constantly thinking ‘I hope Lucinda is fine’. Even if I can’t see her, I’m just hoping as much as for myself that she is doing well.”

Claire Williams, 17:

“I think the best thing is that with a twin, there’s no undisclosed information between the two of you. You know exactly what position they’re in and if they are in the same position as you, you know there are probably a lot more people in the same position. It’s reassurance.

“When you ask a friend how they went I an exam, they’ll say ‘I thought it was easy’ and you can feel bad about yourself if you found it challenging. Your twin is completely honest with you.”

Sophie Williams, 17:

“I’m sitting the HSC with someone else who understands how hard it is. It’s also motivating. There can sometimes be a really competitive nature between the two. Someone is going to get the higher ATAR.”

Georgia Elchah, 18:

“You’re not doing it alone so if you’re at home and no one else understands how stressful it was, and how much it could have an impact – you’ve got someone else there who knows and that’s comforting.”

Jessica Elchah, 18:

 “Basically the motivation. I’ll sit down and get lazy in my exams, but I’ll look around and see Georgia writing and have to keep writing too. Just the thing of having someone afterwards who understands how challenging it was is comforting too.”


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