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Get your study routine down before the HSC

By Danielle Barakat on 16 September 2018NSWblogStudy tipsHSC

So now that you’re done and dusted with trials, your focus should be towards the next set of exam, aka the HSC, aka the beginning of the end, aka the last batch of stress and anxiety before eternal freedom from school! Sounds like a dream…

But just to bring you back to reality for a sec, before we get there, I’m sure you’re all experiencing a really confusing time at the moment. Trials are done and graduation is in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime you’re still getting back trials marks and either realising that you have an awesome study routine and system that works for you and gets you the marks you want OR you realise that you have a sh*t load of work to do before your HSC exams. If that’s you then there a few things you can do to make sure you’re on your way to some band 6’s. You can start sharing notes amongst your friends, prioritising your weaker subjects or by focusing on re-working your study habits and learning from your mistakes.

Let’s take a look at exactly how you can do this in time for your first exam (which is English Paper 1 on October 18th for those who still don’t know 😰):

Make yourself a study timetable

If you felt like you didn’t have enough time to study for the trial exams, good news is that you have at least 2-3 weeks of holidays to study before the HSC exams. That’s a lot of empty, long days that could very easily be absorbed by procrastination so to make sure that doesn’t happen, get yourself a study timetable.

A study timetable that outlines exactly what you’re going to study on which day for each subject is the perfect way to make sure you are managing your time well and will ensure you have time to cover everything you need to before the exams start.

Luckily it’s super easy to put together: grab a calendar, grab the syllabus and start allocating specific dot points to specific days. My strategy would be to cram as much of the easy stuff into one day as possible, and then give yourself more time for the content or concepts you find a little harder. Oh and remember, factor in ample time for past papers!

Syllabus specific study is key

Making your study syllabus focused is a really good idea if you came across questions in your trial exams that you didn’t expect to be there. This means you didn’t know your syllabus well enough before the exam and should spend a little extra time getting yourself really familiar with not only the content, but also the student outcomes as these dictate a lot of the HSC questions you’re going to get.

This means going back through your notes, and cross-referencing them with the syllabus to make sure you have notes under every single dot point. That’s step 1. Step 2 is now to learn the content, which you’re going to smash now that you’ve made yourself a study timetable. Step 3 is to now memorise the syllabus. Memorise exactly where each dot point fits so you know not only the content for each dot point but also the context. This will really help when answering questions in the exam, especially the ones that require you to bring in more than one syllabus dot point in the one response.

Past papers

So you have your marks back from trials and you see that you just didn’t answer the question correctly. You knew the content but didn’t know how to apply it properly. This means one thing and one thing only… past papers.

The only way to learn exactly how to apply all that content you’ve learnt is by doing as many past papers as you can, getting them marked, learning from your mistakes and then doing them again.

All the content you learn is worth nothing if you don’t know how to answer an HSC question. So, get those past papers out and do them under exam conditions so you can replicate exactly what it’s like, and without your notes in front of you you’ll be able to judge exactly how much you know.

Get creative

How many times have you read over the same line in a textbook and the concept won’t enter your brain or how many of you experience that feeling when you’re sitting in an exam and you know you’ve read the answer to that question but it’s just not coming to you???

Yep, this happens to all of us and usually means that you are not engaging completely with the content whilst you’re studying. In other words you’re boring yourself to death. SO in this case it’s time to ditch the textbook and get creative. Find other ways to engage with your content and make it more exciting for yourself. This could be in the form of flashcards, mnemonics, or even watching a few of our Atomi videos. You could even try making colourful posters and sticking them around your room, turn some History facts into a song, write a rap to remember your Business strategies. Do whatever it takes to make things more interesting so you can actually remember it when you need to.

Manage exam pressure and nerves

How many people had a mental breakdown during trials?

🙋🏻‍ 🙋🏻‍ 🙋🏻‍

So our main aim is to avoid that during the HSC because let’s face it, no one enjoys a mental breakdown. The best way to do this is to focus on these four things:

  1. Practise the situation beforehand - Yep! You’re going to be mimicking an exam room. Ask someone to give you a past paper, leave you alone for the designated time and then get the paper off you afterwards. No phone, no notes, no stopping the timer. You will eventually become desensitized to the nerves of an exam room.
  2. If there’s a problem, speak up straight away - In the exam if you can’t see the clock, say something. If you need to go to the bathroom, tell a supervisor. If you feel a bit panicked and need some fresh air, speak up.
  3. Be prepared - bring extra pens, go to the bathroom before the exam, eat a good breakfast and don’t let other people freak you out before walking in to that exam room.
  4. Take small steps if you start to panic - take a deep breath, pinpoint the stressful thoughts and refocus your mind, finish the questions you know you can do, and then come back to the hard ones.


The best thing to come out of trials is taking what didn’t work too well and learning how to turn this into strategies that are going to ensure your HSC success. So, be sure to get your study routine down in the next few weeks and when it starts working buckle in and get it done. There’s only 2 months left so let’s make the most of it.

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