High school students are buying study notes from Facebook groups, where sellers compete by sharing their ATARs and slickly-designed samples

Facebook: HSC Discussion Group 2020
  • Entrepreneurial Australian students and ex-students are making thousands of dollars selling their final year course notes in online Facebook groups.
  • The sellers say the size of the groups have helped them sell more more than they expected – but it also means they have increased competition.
  • People selling notes are posting their academic results, sharing samples and creating slick, well-produced guides to try and entice students to purchase their notes.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Jess performed well in her final year of high school last year and was accepted into university. Then she had an idea: Why not sell her study notes to other students looking for help?

“I wanted to give it a go and make a little bit of money out of something that would go to waste,” she said.

So she prepared her notes and posted about them to HSC Discussion Group 2020, a public Facebook group for final year students with 44,000 members.

She listed notes for each separate subject, promoting the quality of the notes and her academic performance.

“BUSINESS – EXTENSIVE NOTES WITH CASE STUDIES FOR ALMOST EVERY DOT POINT – YOU WILL NOT FIND NOTES THIS DETAILED. I got a Band 6,” she wrote, referring to her high academic achievement in the subject.

Supplied: Jess

Jess is one of many students and former students β€” who are referred to using their first name only at their request β€” who are using Facebook groups to offer their study notes for sale to tens of thousands of members.

While selling study notes is nothing new, these online groups give individuals unprecedented access to potential buyers at zero cost. Multiple sellers told Business Insider they have easily sold hundreds of dollars worth of guides just by posting to the group.

But the scale also presents new challenges as well. Note sellers have to compete against many others, all vying for attention from the same buyers.

Isabella is another student who sold her notes through Facebook and word of mouth. After she began advertising her notes, students from her former high school began to contact her to buy them.

She said the reason her notes were popular were because of their high quality, and the lengths she went to differentiate herself from other sellers.

“I think advertising your marks, particularly if you achieved a Band 6, makes your notes more attractive,” she said.

“I would provide samples to interested students to see if it was what they were looking for. I also included memes on the front cover of all my notes.”

Posts selling study notes in popular Facebook groups now follow a similar pattern: sellers display samples of their notes, as well as proof of their final year academic results. The results serve as proof of the the quality of the notes.

The competition isn’t just limited to sellers in these Facebook groups. Companies like ATAR Notes sell notes using a subscription model, in addition to offering some free guides.

And it’s not just paid offerings. Other Facebook groups have popped up exchanging notes for free through networks of Google Drive and Dropbox links.

But, according to Jess, free notes passed from student-to-student aren’t as good as the ones she bought from ATAR Notes. That quality is why she decided to sell her own.

“I know last year I got free notes, but they were never the same quality as what you paid for,” she said.

“I tried to show my notes were a little more aesthetically pleasing than most.”

Another seller, Amir (a pseudonym), said there is a perception that free notes are worse in quality.

“When someone knows something cost them money, they’re inclined to perceive them as more valuable, naturally,” he said.

Amir said he’s sold more than $1,300 worth of notes since February this year, selling them at “relatively cheap” prices of between $5-80 a pop. He believes that students are comforted by the knowledge that the person who produced these notes performed well.

“Notes that are free usually aren’t coming from a 99 ATAR student and are thus lacking the reassurance that students are seeking when buying quality notes,” he said.

The guides themselves vary wildly. People sell everything from handwritten notes to highly produced, professional looking guides. And there’s price variation to match: sellers charge from anywhere between $5-$100 for their notes, based on their academic performance, production value and other factors.

Isabella even speculates that notes belonging to students from high performing schools may even receive a premium.

But not all sellers are motivated just by price. One seller, Chloe, said her philosophy about note pricing was influenced by her experiences as a buyer.

“I made my notes a very reasonable, cheap price so I think that’s why they stood out. I was looking for notes a while back and a girl tried to get me to pay $30,” she said.

“Yes, the notes took me a long time but I know some people don’t have money and they don’t need that added stress.”

And while sellers are making money, they also believe they’re doing a service for the students.

“There’s nothing unusual about selling their HSC notes,” Amir said. “I believe it’s good for them to get access to notes written by Band 6 students.”

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