With the HSC exams just around the corner, the collective groans from year 12s in anticipation of the final hurdle can be heard across the state.

By now, the word “belonging” is the last word any year 12 student wants to hear.

However, in just over a month, the HSC will be another distant memory.

It may not seem like it now, so here are some useful study and exam tips to help students through the crucial exam period.

Exam Tips

1. Time management
With only two to three hours of allocated time to cover a year’s worth of syllabus material, time is of the essence when it comes to exams. Utilise your reading time wisely by looking through the questions in the paper and identifying which ones need to be given more time than others. “Time management is a huge factor because students can become bogged down by the questions,” says Prue Salter, founder of Enhanced Learning Educational Services. Ms Salter emphasises the need for students to finish a HSC exam with at least 15 minutes remaining to leave time to check answers.

2. Read everything carefully
While reading the questions and mark allocations thoroughly seems like an obvious thing to do, many students forget to do so due to pressure and time constraints during the exam. Noting the mark allocations is important in determining the amount of material which needs to be written for each question. Don’t fall into the trap of writing a paragraph long answer for a one mark question. Make sure you know the HSC key terms used in each question before the exam.

3. Before the exam
Leave plenty of time before the exam to get ready, eat a nutritious meal and arrive at the exam centre early. When you arrive at the examination hall, don’t surround yourself with classmates that you know will stress you out. “When students are waiting around they shouldn’t sit with their friends and look at what they did or did not study,” says Ms Salter. Whether it’s revising your notes by yourself, chatting to friends, or taking a walk; do something you find relaxing.

4. Plan your essays!
Planning your essays before writing them is a great way for you to map out what you’re going to say in a structured and clear manner. While it does take a little extra time, writing down your thesis and main points of arguments is crucial so nothing is forgotten while writing under pressure. “The first part in your plan is to understand what your thesis is… then you can brainstorm all your ideas on the page opposite,” said Ms Salter.

Study Tips

1. Choose an effective study space
An effective study space means getting rid of clutter and distractions on your work space. Everything on your desk should be there only for the study task you are completing. Finding a suitable learning environment is paramount – whether it’s at a local or university library, in your home study, at a cafe, or in a park.

2. Know what learning technique works for you
The HSC is not much so much a measure of intelligence, but rather how effective your revision and memorisation techniques are. Doing as many practice HSC papers as possible leading up to each exam is crucial for students to test their knowledge. Some effective ways to help you remember your study notes and essays are recording them and listening back to yourself, writing them down, or reciting them out loud.

3. Have a reward after studying
Allowing yourself to have a reward after studying can be an effective motivation technique as it gives you something to look forward to. If you’re one of those people who checks their phone constantly, make set breaks every half hour where you can do so for a few minutes.

4. Exercise and sleep well
Exercise and sleep are sacrifices every HSC student makes when it comes to the exam period. However, they can be effective tools to de-stress after a day of studying. Even just fifteen minutes spent outside walking can be a useful way to get some fresh air. Effective sleep is also important for memory retention. Pulling all-nighters before an exam day to cram extra revision is never a good idea.

What past high-achieving HSC students had to say:

Sophia Ma, ATAR: 99.0 – Studying Medicine at UNSW
I found that it was useful to balance group study and individual study – group study was good for motivation but I also needed individual study to focus on what I didn’t know. For science exams try to always underline the key verbs. For maths show all steps of working and watch out for restrictions like undefined values. Generally, I think if you have been studying consistently, you’ll be fine in the exam. My best exam tip is to be prepared, and that involves not slacking off, hence why the motivation is so important.

Tang Li, ATAR: 98.7 – Studying Journalism/Law at UTS
One of my biggest hurdles was getting sick right before the HSC English Advanced exam. I had to resort to studying in the doctor’s office. Since I mostly did humanities subjects, writing out essays and practice questions in order to train your arm for the real thing was very important.


By Amelia Zhou