Back to The Staffroom

Super specific CAFS advice

By Lauren Condon on 26 October 2017HSCExam adviceNSWblog

CAFS is pretty similar to other big HSIE subjects when it comes to doing well. You’re going to want to study that syllabus closely, hit up the practice papers and pay a lot of attention to keywords from the syllabus and in the exam questions. But you’re probably already all over that (or at least you already know you should be doing those things 🤔 ). So, a weekend out from the exam, let’s tackle some of the nitty gritty aspects of CAFS to make sure you’re as ready as possible to go.

1. Understand the difference between reliable and valid research

Okay, so you know that Research Methodology is one of your core options and one of the syllabus dot points here is ‘reliability and validity’. Now, you’re probably thinking that those words sound pretty similar but it’s sooo important to remember they have different meanings.

For a quick refresher, reliability is talking about the consistency of measurement as in you should be able to conduct the research again under the same conditions and get similar results. On the other hand, validity is talking about whether your research is actually measuring what you want it to.

This means, research can be valid but not reliable; but also reliable but not valid; and just because something is reliable and valid doesn’t mean it’ll be right! Confusing? Yah… let’s look at an example.

  • Let’s say you wanted to research the impact of social media on youth’s wellbeing. If you made a survey of questions and gave it to 20 teenagers, then gave the same 20 teenagers the same survey in a week, you should get similar results each time. That’s reliable research. But what if the survey was full of questions about whether magazines and fashion ads made the teenagers feel bad about themselves? The research might be reliable but it’s not actually measuring the impact of social media so it’s officially invalid 🚫 .

Now this will actually crop up a bit directly in multiple choice or a short answer. But it’s also worth knowing the difference because anytime we are assessing or making a recommendation on research, we need to be really clear about the difference between the two and address them both. Lucky us...

2. Learn a community organisation in depth for your ‘Groups in Context’ section

Let’s look at another one of your core topics: Groups in Context. So, the best advice here is to learn one community organisation inside out that you can use it as evidence across all the questions.

To be completely honest, nearly every one of those 6 - 10 markers on Groups in Context is going to need you to bring up a community organisation, whether they specify it or not. So of course, you should have a few key examples up your sleeve but make sure you know one of those organisations really well and can express their mission, some of their initiatives and even the impact of their work.

Let’s look at some past questions here like Question 28(a) from the 2016 paper:

Not much explanation needed here but we can see that they’re directly asking us about a community organisation.

Let’s try question Question 27 from the same paper:

See, this one is a little less obvious but if you knew a community organisation in depth, you would have so much content for this answer. What terminology does the organisation itself use and why? Do they have protocols or policies on language? Have they run campaigns trying to change commonly used terminology?

Whatever the question, knowing a community organisation back to front will give you so much evidence and room for analysis.

3. Make sure you’re using the correct terminology from the syllabus

This one could really be as simple as, when you’re talking about research methodologies, the difference between saying ‘first hand source’ and ‘primary source’. Neither of them is incorrect but ‘primary source’ really is the right terminology and it’s the terminology from the syllabus which makes it nice and easy for your marker to give you full marks 💯 .

Especially when you get to questions with slightly more marks, it’s a really really good idea to give a definition whenever you bring up a term from the syllabus. For example, let’s take a look at Question 30, Part C from the 2015 CAFS paper:

So one way to answer this question would be to look at the different types of technology and their possible impact. You might choose to chat about Household Technology, Information & Communication Technology and Entertainment Technology (because, you know, they’re the ones specified in the syllabus). So as you bring up each of those points, make sure you define the technology before you explain the impact like “Entertainment Technology includes technologies that provide families with entertainment options including experiences, venues and games.

It’s really not a difficult or time consuming step but it’s going to make your answer a whole lot better 💯 .

4. Understand the different types of wellbeing and always try to address at least two of them

Wellbeing is absolutely one of the keystones of CAFS. It crops up in every topic across year 11 and year 12 so it’s really important that you pay some attention to the different types of wellbeing and how to answer any question that involves wellbeing.

Let’s have a quick recap of the different types of from the syllabus:

When you are tackling ‘wellbeing’ in a short answer or long response, try to talk about at least two different types of wellbeing to show that you know it’s a multifaceted idea and there are a lot of factors at play.

For example, a community initiative that gives financial aid to disadvantaged youths might be addressing their short term economic wellbeing but not directly addressing their emotional wellbeing.

BONUS: Make sure you know one piece of legislation for your option topic

Okay so you know that one piece of legislation could be asked for specifically in Section II of your CAFS paper under whatever option/topic your school is studying - and this is definitely more likely in the Family and Societal Interactions option where legislation makes up a hefty part of the syllabus.

But even in the other two options, it’s a really good idea to closely know a piece of legislation that you can bring into the 15 mark essay. This is going to be how you show the legal and political measures that have been taken to address the issue at play, what areas of the issue have been addressed and improved… and what still needs to be done. It’s solid evidence and gives you a springboard for some really good analysis as well. Start thinking legally.


Stick to the old favourites of CAFS study like practice papers but also think about some of the nuts and bolts of the subject. Whether it’s wellbeing, legislation, community organisations, specific CAFS terminology or properly assessing research, spend a bit of time on them now and you’ll find yourself feeling scarily confident for your exam 👍 .

Try Atomi for free and receive regular updates from the Staffroom.

Learn More