Finn tops the state – twice

Posted on December 13, 2017

St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill student, Finnegan Waugh, has topped the state in a Higher School Certificate subject two years in a row.

Waugh, 17, came first in the state in HSC Chinese Beginners this year with a score of 99 out of 100 – a year after topping the state in 2 Unit Mathematics while still in Year 11.

He undertook Chinese Beginners through the NSW School of Languages and was the only student at his school to study the subject.

“I had more free time in my timetable because I chose that subject,” Waugh says. “Once a week I’d have a phone call with my teacher at the NSW School of Languages. I’d have a lesson with her once a week and the rest of the time she’d put work online and I’d have to do that and hand it in.”

Waugh, who boarded at the school in Years 11 and 12, received additional support and teaching from St Joseph’s Chinese language teacher, Samantha Chadwick.

Languages have always interested Waugh, who completed Japanese Continuers and Japanese Extension for the HSC this year too, as well as English (advanced), topping his year in all three subjects.

An excursion to Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Miyajima in Year 10 left a lasting impression on him and he had hoped to study abroad in Tokyo next year – but missed out on a place. “It was really fun using Japanese, even though I couldn’t speak that much at the time,” he says. “It was great.”

“I think it’s one of the more simpler languages to learn,” he says of Japanese. “You don’t have to think about too much theory; it’s more just focusing on learning the words, learning instructions. And then Chinese has some similarities to Japanese – not that many, but it’s got a couple. So in Year 11 I picked that up.”

After entering an accelerated maths stream in Year 10, which prepares mathematically gifted students to sit for their HSC exam 12 months early, Waugh was able to sit his HSC 2 unit Mathematics exam in 2016. He says getting a subject out of the way in Year 11 definitely freed up more time to study in his final year.

“Doing [maths] last year helped because I got more time to focus on it, even though I was a year younger. Everyone in our class did really well and we were all really happy with the results.”

In between studying, Waugh played football for Joeys and basketball with his friends. He was also a member of the school’s debating team. “Debating did take up a lot of time but it was fun and probably good exercise for the mind as well,” he says, adding being a boarder at the school also worked well for him.

“All the study time is supervised, and you get a lot of free time as well, so you get the work done.”

“I think the most important thing is to keep up motivation throughout the entire year, study consistently, and make sure you show up for exams well-rested and confident.”

Waugh hopes to continue using Chinese and Japanese post school. “I put in a lot of time and it would be disappointing if I lost them,” he says. “Being able to speak languages is something that I’m interested in, so I hope I can keep them up.”

“Definitely travel to Japan, travel to China, that’s something that I’m interested in doing. Maybe after uni – take a couple of years off after that.”

He is still deciding what to do next year but thinks he’ll probably go straight to university and study Computer Science and Maths, or Science at The University of New South Wales.