Tag: HSC tutoring

HSC Tutoring- Tips for success in your HSC Trial Exams

At the time of writing this article, we’re in the middle of term 2. Most year 12 students have their HSC trial exams in early term 3, which means while there’s still (almost) an entire term left, it’s about time students begin to prepare specifically for their trial exams.

Learn to use the HSC Standards Packages

For almost all HSC subjects, the Board of Studies has standards packages publicly available for students to read http://arc.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/go/hsc/std-packs/. We recommend students look at the standards packages for their subjects – they will give you an idea of the quality required for a band 6 response. Standards packages are particularly useful for humanities subjects like HSC English where your expression and writing style also come into play. Get a feeling of what’s acceptable expression, and details like general paragraph length, the way literary techniques are referenced, how often a text is quoted and the length of quotes etc. Even if technically your knowledge is as good as anyone’s, a poorly structured essay (where you use poor expression, or reference the text in superficial ways or spend too much time on insignificant points etc) will mean the difference between a band 4/5 and a band 6.

Familiarity with the standards packages will also help with subjects like HSC Chemistry, Physics, Biology and the social sciences (Economics, Business Studies etc). In the case of the HSC Sciences, they give you fresh ideas of novel, acceptable ways of structuring your answer. Some questions can be fully answered in terms of a table or as a dot-point list (e.g. identify / outline questions). Also note the details featured in diagrams / graphs – full marks are given to students that remember details such as labelling the axes, or drawing a line / curve of best fit properly (ignoring outliers in appropriate situations) and being able to justify the choices made.

HSC sciences – always refer to the syllabus

HSC sciences like Chemistry, Physics and Biology, are prescriptive by nature. This means the syllabus tells you exactly what you need to know, content wise, and does a great job at that. While studying for these subjects, it’s always a good idea to have the syllabus in front of you, printed or on your computer screen. The dot-points give you a clear picture of what you need to know, and the scope to which you need to know each aspect of the course. For example, if a dot-point requires you to merely identify the qualitative aspects, this means you only need to be able to name the aspects it’s referring to, and qualitative means you won’t be required to do calculations on them.

Another reason is some syllabus dot-points are worded as if they are paraphrased exam questions. This is particularly true for dot-points requiring you to ‘Discuss the impacts on society of…” or “Assess the environmental impact of…”. You very well might get an exam question, worth around 7 marks, that basically asks you to demonstrate your entire understanding of one of those dot-points if they ask you in a general way.

Be careful for internal assessments however, as school teachers are known to set exam questions that are dubious in terms of whether they fit within the scope of the syllabus, so you must also cross reference your own materials with the notes given by your school teacher to make sure all gaps are covered.

HSC Maths – only do exam questions

When it comes to maths, exam questions and textbook questions aren’t the same. The former type are often are structured as a compound question with several subparts. Exam question are often designed with deeper consideration, and incorporates more unique aspects of mathematics (e.g. in Maths Extension 2 question 7 and 8). In contrast, textbook questions can get repetitive and give you a false sense of security. Because textbook questions lack variation in style, once you master the several types of questions it contains and are able to do its exercises, this does not mean you’ve experienced all types of questions an exam can throw at you, particularly if you go to a school that has a talented maths department.

There’s a limitation on the types of questions for each topic an exam can throw at you. If you do Maths Extension 1 and 2, it also takes great effort and skill to design a truly novel and unique maths question at that level. As an industry insider (yes I’m a teacher) I can tell you that many schools simply take exam questions from past papers of other schools. When I did my HSC Maths Extension 2, I actively sought out past trial papers from top private and selective schools for practice before my HSC trials. What I noticed was in one year, say 2002, there would be a question in school A’s paper, then in the next year, say 2003, there would be an identical question in school B’s paper. So it’s a good idea as a student to use past papers as practice – there’s definitely more exam papers worth doing than your time would permit, that’s why I recommend only do exam papers instead of textbook questions.

I spoke with a teacher who works at a top Sydney selective school about how their teachers set exam questions for their year 12 students – “We get exam questions from schools that are out of NSW – resources we know typical students don’t have access to”. So while exam questions are definitely recycled, they aren’t always from sources you’d expect. But it’s still worthwhile doing exam papers for practice, purely for the sake of familiarising yourself with the general style of exam questions which you can’t get from any old textbook.

HSC-First-hand investigations / experiments / practicals

In addition to learning the theoretical content of the course, students should remember not to neglect preparing for first-hand investigations and other practical skills-based dot-points that are in the HSC Chemistry or Physics syllabus. These dot-points can be examined in one or several of the following ways:

  1. Exam question asking for correct procedure, safety issues, sources of error, or other related discussion
  2. Practical exams

Practical exams are particularly important because all students will definitely have at least one in year 12, and they are often worth around 20% of total internal assessment. We recently filmed some of our in-class practical demonstrations of experiments that are most likely to come up in practical exams at school.

In addition to learning the theoretical content of the course, students should remember not to neglect preparing for first-hand investigations and other practical skills-based dot-points that are in the HSC Chemistry or Physics syllabus. These dot-points can be examined in one or several of the following ways:

Exam question asking for correct procedure, safety issues, sources of error, or other related discussion

Practical examsPractical exams are particularly important because all students will definitely have at least one in year 12, and they are often worth around 20% of total internal assessment. We recently filmed some of our in-class practical demonstrations of experiments that are most likely to come up in practical exams at school.

HSC Chemistry

Perform a first-hand investigation and solve problems using titrations including the preparation of standard solutions, and use available evidence to quantitatively and qualitatively describe the reaction between selected acids and bases

This experiment is important because it is one of the most commonly chosen experiments for Prac Exams. Prac Exams could come any time throughout year 12 — but most of the time they occur as part of your trial HSC exams, and usually worth around 20% of total internal assessment. Therefore it is important to pay close attention to proper titration procedure and understand the underlying processes of neutralization reactions.

For this titration, our unknown was a solution of NaOH (the analyte) and our standard solution was oxalic acid (crystals in dihydrate form) — the titrant. Glassware was rinsed properly with either deionised water or with the solution it was to contain (conical flask, volumetric flask — water / pipette, burette — solution). A total of 1 ‘rough titre’ and 3 accurate titres were done. The average of the 3 accurate titres were recorded and used to finally calculate the concentration of the unknown NaOH. Our indicator was phenolphthalein due to its slightly basic endpoint (the titration was between a strong base and a weak acid, therefore the equivalence point would be slightly basic). Tip: If required to make your own standard solution, make sure you design your standard solution so that it was enough moles for you to do 3 titres.


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