This week, thousands of Year 12 students in NSW will sit for one of the most important exams of their lives.  A major exam that can impact their future is extremely stressful.   So, we’ve gathered some expert advice from teachers and ex-HSC students on how to study and cope with HSC Exams.

How to study for the HSC

1. Use the syllabus


Your subject has a detailed syllabus that you can use as a guide for your revision.   The HSC exam is likely to ask questions based on the important points in each section.  Use your textbook and reference materials to prepare notes for each of this section.  Writing notes helped you internalised the answers so you can remember them better.  File your answers separately according to sections.  Before the exam, read your notes again.  Use mind maps to help you memorise the information. 

2. Have a study buddy

study partner

Do you have a close friend you can discuss answers with?  It helps to have someone to study with.  Arrange Q&A sessions where you can ask one another questions from the syllabus.  Asking and answering questions can help you memorise the information easier.

3. Prepare a revision timetable

Burning the midnight oil is not going to help you on the exam day.  When you are exhausted, your mind will not be able to absorb any information so whatever you study beyond that point is redundant. 

Instead, prepare a schedule to study that will give you plenty of rest between study periods and no-late nights. 

4. Practice past examination questions

Exam techniques help you stay calmed and focused during the examination.  Before the exam, practise answering past year examination questions and time yourself as you go.  Time your efforts so you know you are completing each question according to the time allocated on the actual examination. 

5. Learn some examination techniques.

On the day of the examination, it is important to use the reading time productively.  Don’t jump into the answers immediately.  Read the question carefully.  Write out a simple plan for your answers.  You can use bullet points for this.  That way, you have a structure to follow and you are less likely to overlook key points that are important for getting better marks.

Write in full sentences.  You don’t need to use complex words to impress the marker.  So, don’t stress out if you can’t remember the word.  Try explaining it in your own words even if it is simple English.   Ideally, your answer (except for subjects where answers are calculations or formula.  For example, Mathematics) should read like a mini essay. A small introduction paragraph, a content section (where you provide the answers) and a few sentences to summarise what you have written.   

Always read your answers back to yourself so you can fix grammar or spelling mistakes.  


6. Stay healthy

HSC students

Your HSC exams are three hours long so you will require physical and mental stamina to perform effectively.  Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise in between your studies.  Make sure you are well-rested before the day of the examination. 

Top tips from past HSC students

Here is a collection of useful tips from past HSC students:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t understand a concept or terminology when you are revising, seek help.  Perhaps your family, teacher or classmate can help. 
  2. Make notes, use mind maps, videos, and any tools you think will help you remember concepts better. If you have difficulty remembering a concept or formula, write it down on post-it notes and leave the note in places you will see.  For example, your mirror, the fridge, on your computer screen.
  3. Have a study plan. Study 2 subjects in the morning with short breaks every half hour.  Study 1 or 2 subjects in the afternoon.  Do your studying when your mind is fresh not at night when you are tired. 
  4. Change your study zone. If you only study in your bedroom after a while it can become claustrophobic so, try using different parts of the home for your revision.  Borrow dad’s study.  Use mom’s sewing room.  Go to a café, a local library, or a park.  
  5. Practise your past examination questions. Practice gives you confidence because you have an idea of what to expect on the day of the examination.  During practice, time yourself so you have enough time to complete each question.  On the examination day, you will be surprised how well you coped.  
  6. Take care of your health. Eat healthily and get enough sleep during exam week.
  7. Do things that are not stressful during exam week. Hang out with friends. Play a round of computer game.  Connect with friends on social. Listen to music.  Watch a movie.  Go for a walk in the park.
  8. Go to bed early on the eve of the examination. Eat a solid breakfast. Listen to music to calm your nerves.  Have a quick revision 15 minutes before going into the examination hall.  Surround yourself with positive vibes.
  9. Practise writing with a pen. Make sure you have all the stationery you will need for a 3-hour examination. 
  10. 10HSC is not about memorising. It is about understanding concepts and being able to express your understanding of words.  
  11. Put things into perspective. HSC is important but it’s not the end-all and be all. Don’t worry about how you performed this academic year.  Look forward.  Not backwards.  And do the best you can do.  
  12. Avoid junk food and caffeine because they will only make you sick.

How parents can help

HSC examinations are not about you.  It’s about your child.  Every human being is different.  Some students need long-term goals.  Others are happy with short-term ones.  As parents our role is to support our children.  It is natural for us to aspire for our children, but we also have to acknowledge and accept our child’s decision. 

HSC is extremely stressful.  Some children have no experience dealing with this amount of stress and parents can play an important role in mitigating this risk. Keep your child motivated in his/her studies by telling them that you are proud of them, whatever the outcome.   Ask them how they are coping with the stress and give them lots of hugs to show them that you love them. 

Make sure your child is eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of study breaks and having enough sleep.  If your child wants a break from their studies, be generous and allow them this time-off.  Make sure you have a mature conversation about returning to their studies when they have rested.  Check on their progress regularly but don’t impose your will on them.     



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