14th August 2020
If you’re in Australia, the Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the biggest set of exams you encounter before Medical School. Here are seven tips to study smarter – not harder – for your HSC.

By Catherine Mao

Short HSC Study Sessions

Some studies have shown that an average concentration span is as short as 15 minutes. Our ability to concentrate and retain information diminishes the longer we study and so it is useful to implement regular breaks. With shorter, intense periods of study, you will ultimately be more productive than during a longer and less effective study time.

A great tool to use is the Pomodoro technique. This involves 25 minutes of effective study, then a five-minute break. Every four study cycles, you take a longer 15-30 minute break.

There are plenty of mobile apps and websites that can help you track these study/break cycles.

Write Summaries

Writing your own study guides and summaries for topics, concepts and texts can help you consolidate your knowledge and create great resources to come back and revise from.

When you just read from a textbook, very little gets retained. The act of reading information, understanding it and then synthesising it into your own words does wonders for helping you learn and remember things.

Learn The Syllabus First

Before you rush into studying a subject, make sure you’re clear on the HSC syllabus requirements. These are easily accessible online and through your school. The syllabus should be your absolute guide for the depth and breadth of knowledge you’d be expected to know. You won’t be asked any questions beyond them.

There’s nothing worse than spending all of your time on something that unfortunately won’t translate into marks.


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Study In Groups

Grab a few like-minded friends and form a study group where you divvy up the topics and then teach them to one another.

You can keep it interesting by creating slideshow presentations, fact sheets and quizzes. When you have to explain a concept or idea to someone else, you have to first fully understand it yourself; this is one of the best ways to learn.

Organising a study session with other people also increases your overall motivation, as you’re accountable to them.

Write Out Your Goals

Take five to ten minutes to plan your HSC study sessions before you start. Write out some realistic goals and study areas you want to focus on and place it somewhere visible. This can help break down a large and intimidating amount of work into smaller, achievable chunks.

Having a reminder of what you wanted to achieve and seeing your progress through it can help you feel more motivated to keep studying. It is also a helpful way to structure your study session.

Test Yourself Early

It’s tempting to avoid practice tests until you feel absolutely ready. While attempting one without any knowledge at all is a sure-fire way to dampen your confidence, leaving them to the last minute is also a bad idea.

They are extremely useful about midway in your study. They can help you to identify areas you might need to work a little more on and act as a way to check that you’re on the right track with what you have already studied. Plus, you may be surprised at how much you actually do know!

I would suggest simulating examination conditions as much as possible to give you a sense of time pressure.

Find The Right Study Environment For You

Our study environments can hugely affect our productivity and stress levels. What works for your friends might not be the same for you, so don’t be afraid to go out on your own and experiment.

Here are some variables to consider:

  • open vs closed spaces
  • natural vs artificial light
  • morning vs night
  • silence vs ambient noise
  • accessibility to snacks/drinks
  • proximity to other people

Some people study best in cafes, others in absolute silence in the library, whilst others can be comfortable at home. Find what works for you and make the most of it!


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