Doing well in HSC sciences requires a slightly different approach than HSC maths or English subjects. HSC sciences, like Chemistry, Physics and Biology, place a heavy focus on the syllabus. Detailed knowledge and familiarisation of the syllabus is very important.
TIP 1: Know the syllabus Knowing the syllabus very important. Firstly, all HSC science exams can only test you on content within the syllabus. Most of the time, HSC exam questions will simply be a syllabus dot-point that has been reworded.
For example, an actual HSC Chemistry syllabus dot-point is “Describe hydrogen bonding between molecules”. A corresponding exam question can ask something simple like “Describe hydrogen bonding between water molecules”. Alternatively, exam questions can be slightly more complicated, for example: “Identify a compound that exhibits strong hydrogen bonding and descbribe how hydrogen bonding affects its melting and boiling temperatures”. However in both cases, the question can be reduced to simply describing your knowledge of how hydrogen bonding works as between molecules, and how this phenomenon affects some of the chemical’s physical propertie(s).
If you have an excellent understanding of the syllabus and have covered in detail each dot-point, you will know enough to get a Band 6. We emphasise the fact that exams can only test you on what is in the syllabus. If you ever don’t understand a concept because it has been poorly explained to you at school, or the concept is very difficult, ask your teacher whether it is in the syllabus. If it is not, understand that it will not be examined, so don’t worry too much about not fully understanding that concept. However, if a concept is within the syllabus, or required by one of the dot-points as background information, you should know it well.
TIP 2: Know what’s important for practicals / experiments HSC Sciences’ syllabi contains many dot-points requiring students to “conduct a first-hand investigation”, or “gather data from a first-hand investigation”. These dot-points are responsible for the regular experiments you conduct at school. It is very important that you do not neglect the information presented to you during one of those experiment classes at school. Many students think of experiments as fun (and they are), but they ignore the fact that each experiment deals with at least one dot-point in the syllabus, sometimes several at once.
The things you need to know in ALL experiments are:
The important thing to remember here is to pay attention in school during experiment classes, and not to ignore these dot-points during your study and revision.
TIP 3: Understand the concepts We do not recommend trying to memorise too many things. HSC sciences cannot be mastered through memorisation, and all of the top students who achieve a HSC mark of >95 genuinely understand the concepts in their subject.
Understanding the concept is very important to succeeding in HSC sciences. Before an exam, there is no way you can predict what specific questions will be asked of you. You will only know that everything tested will be in the syllabus, but the specific wording of your questions can catch you offguard.
If you rely on memorisation of the course content, you are inflexible. A question that is slightly unorthodox in approach or worded in an unfamiliar way will catch you offguard, and you will run the risk of losing easy marks. However, if you genuinely understand the concepts involved, you can always derive the answer in the spot, even if the question is worded in an unfamiliar way, or requires unorthodox thinking. This way, you are a flexible student, and no matter how the exam is set, you will get a high mark reflecting your good ability.
There are certain situations where memorisation is appropriate. Generally, these are:
But always strive to understand the underlying concept, as it will benefit you in the long run.
TIP 4: Make good use of the resources available to you What we mean by this is, for example:
Most teachers will answer any question a student asks them, as they will be happy to know that their students are so dedicated to doing well. After all, the satisfaction of seeing their students succeed is one of the main reasons why teachers choose this profession! However not every student has access to teachers that are willing and happy to answer many questions or explain concepts at length. In this case, there may be other resources available to you. For example, find good tutoring and ask the teachers there!
Another thing to keep in mind is making your own syllabus dot-point summaries. Synthesise and gather all your knowledge, summarise it and write it onto paper. It is a good idea to submit your notes for review by your class teacher (or after-school tutor) to make sure your knowledge of the course is comprehensive. Going this far may seen daunting, but remember that high marks can only come with hard work.
Conclusion Our top 3 tips for succeeding in HSC sciences are:
Following this general advice will improve most students’ approach to HSC sciences, as these are the main shortcomings of most HSC science students of today.