How to survive your HSC exams: Some advice from a past HSC student

| Last Updated: 30 January 2021 How to survive your HSC exams: Some advice from a past HSC student  
Exam Advice » How to survive your HSC exams: Some advice from a past HSC student

I know that the HSC seems so far away, but time flies and before you know it you will be sitting your first HSC exam. I had made a list of exam advice that I had learned along the way and wished I knew when I was doing my HSC.

Time Management is key

Yes, you may have three hours to complete your exams. However, time flies in the exam room, so you have to make sure that you are going to finish your exam. So here is some advice so you can complete your exams on time and also have time to check over your work. Make sure that you are always looking up at the clock so you don’t lose track of time. 

At the front of each HSC exam (including trial papers), it will show the recommended time you spend on each section. This one is from business studies. You can find an exam for your subject on the NESA website.

For a lot of subjects, you have to complete 20 multiple-choice questions. However, it does not take you 35 minutes to do so. You can save a lot of time by spending less time on your multiple-choice, so you have more time for your other sections. Try and time yourself doing each section of your exam to see how much time you can save. I recommend spending no more than 15 minutes on 20 multiple-choice questions. 

By spending less time on multiple-choice, you will have more time to plan your extended responses. This is because it is harder to get a mark in extended responses than it is in multiple-choice. By doing this, I was able to finish the majority of my exams 20-30 minutes early. Try to leave 10 minutes at least, so you can check your answers.

By doing lots of practise papers in exam conditions and timing yourself doing each section. You will be able to get a know how long it takes you to do each section, so you do not run out of time in the HSC exams where it counts. You can find many trial papers on the AceHSC website. 

Make sure you take working pens into your exams.

This is one I wish I knew before my trial exams. I took three pens into my business studies trial exam, and every single one ran out. I had to ask the exam supervisor to give me a pen. Luckily because I managed my time effectively, I had only one paragraph left on my essay with thirty minutes to spare.

However, just in case, make sure all of your pens work before your exams. In fact, for the HSC and even trials make sure you have a brand new pen per exam. In the HSC to avoid repeating what happened in my business trial exam, I purchased six brand new pens for each exam (One pen per exam). I took the barcode sticker off the pen that I used in the exam to make sure I knew which one I used so I wouldn’t use it again.

Consistent Study

In order to smash your HSC exams, you need to study consistently to make sure that you know the content. Everything that you need to know for your exams is on the syllabus. For more information about studying, essential study tips!

Try not to talk to people before the exam

I know this tip may be difficult to do; however, you do not want to confuse yourself before you go into the exam hall. There will be people that ask you questions before the exam, which can confuse you and stress you out, which is not what you want since the HSC is already stressful enough as it is.

Try and not talk about the exam just before you walk into the exam room so you don’t stress out more. As long as you study consistently and know the syllabus for your subject, you will be fine. 

Make sure you have checked you have done every section.

You may think this tip is silly, however under stress; people can accidentally make a mistake. The HSC is a stressful time for a lot of people and stress can make people do silly things. In the PDHPE HSC exam, one of the students didn’t do a section which was worth 20 marks.

This means that the maximum score that he would have got for his HSC exam was 80. This is if he got full marks for the sections he did complete. Thats why I recommend doing the test in order. This is so I know that I have done all the sections. Some people prefer doing essays first which can work for some people.

Be careful with doing the essay first as some people spend too much time on the essays and end up rushing the rest of the exam. I always did the multiple-choice or short answers first, depending on the exam. This was to not only ease me into the exam but also ensure that I remember to do every section of the paper.

Improvise, adapt and overcome.

There will always be questions in the exam that will throw you off and can stress you out. My main tip is not to panic and take a deep breath. This tip is one that I wish I were told before my English Paper One exam where the essay question was based on a theme that I was never taught in class. 

improvise adapt overcome gif

This was my exact essay question in English paper 1:

2019 English Advanced HSC Exam – Paper 1 — Section II

I wasn’t prepared for this question as I had not studied the theme of deception (some people in my year didn’t even know what deception meant). When you get a question that you are not familiar with, try and not get thrown off and remember what you do know.

You have to adapt to what you do know and try to incorporate the keywords of the question. For this question, I based my paragraphs on what I did know which was the themes of prejudice, morality and love. Then I used the examples and quotes I did memorise and tried to link it to deception as much as possible. 

When you have a question you were not prepared for, it is easy to let yourself get very stressed and throw you off for the rest of the exam. You can not let this happen. It may not be the best answer, but at least you have written something down. By writing a solid response, you have assured yourself that you will get some marks.

You can write as much as you want on the question booklet

You are allowed to scribble, colour and write as much as you want on the exam booklet. This is because your exam booklet will not be marked. However, make sure that you remember to write your answers and the things you want to be marked in the question booklet provided to you. In all my exams, I brought in a couple of highlights so I was able to highlight the keywords of each question. Also for maths, highlighters helped me visualise the question better so I was able to solve it much more manageable. 

Best of luck.

The HSC period is one of the most stressful times that you will face, as long as you follow these exam tips and study consistently, you will achieve your best. These exam tips worked for me and maybe you may find other tips that will work for you. Good luck and I hope you do well and get the ATAR you want.

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Isabella Thanos

Hi, I’m a university student studying a Bachelor of Computer Science at UTS. The subjects I did for the HSC were Advanced English, Mathematics, SOR 2, Business Studies and Design and technology. Feel free to message me if you have questions about the HSC. Connect with me @Facebook or @Linkedin