HSC Tips

Top tips for Physics HSC exams

Procrastinated too much before HSC? As the exam approaches, we gathered some tips from one of our experienced tutor. Even if you know all of these, a gentle reminder is always helpful.

1. Answer the question – What is the key word that the question is asking of you? Assess the significance of? Analyse the contribution of? Discuss? Identify? Make sure you are completely familiar with each of these key phrases or verbs and how to go about answering a question with each one. Highlight them in your test paper if you need to!

2. Structure – Just because it’s a science subject, does not mean you can write your answer without some form or structure! Try to practice answering extended response questions by following a structured format – for example, IDEAL acronym

  • Identify the relevant concept,
  • Describe it,
  • Explain why it is relevant
  • Analyse/assess the consequences
  • Link it back to the question

This just lets markers have an easy time following your response – and shows that you know your stuff! (You can still use dot points and tables to answer questions, this is not an English exam)

3. Break it down – Sometimes, calculation and even extended response questions may require some high level critical thinking, requiring more than a single step and employ various different concepts. It’s extremely beneficial to think of the question in multiple parts before attempting to get the answer. Try to plan out your working and/or response before even beginning to write anything down. This way, you will have a sense of direction and reduces the chances of error! Partial marks can also be valuable even if you did not get to the final answer.

4. Diagrams – Use diagrams, symbols, pictures, anything that can help you better understand the question or concept. Especially for those pesky multi-part calculation questions, drawing up a quick diagram can be extremely helpful to get an idea of what the big picture is. Even for worded questions – if you can demonstrate your understanding clearly through a labelled diagram, do it! This just shows the marker that you are familiar with the concept you are talking about. Just remember – make sure all your diagrams and clear and labelled.

5. Time management – Now, the HSC Physics modules are by no means simple, so you want to maximise your marks in the three hours that you are given. This will apply to all your exams, but it will be most important in subjects in the STEM field, as there are many sections broken down into many questions. If you are not sure how to answer a particular question, move on and come back to it later if you have time. A good rule of thumb is if you don’t know how to make a start or get the answer after 5min, move on. This ensures that you are able to get the marks for the questions that you DO know how to do, instead of missing out due to one tough question!

6. Checking – While it is always a good idea to double check your work by finishing the entire paper then going back and checking, sometimes this may be inefficient, especially for such a long exam. Your brain is going to be tired after doing all those questions and the last thing you want to do is go back and do it all again. Chances are you’ll brush over some mistakes you made while going back and double checking! The best thing to do is to check as you go, as this also eliminates the extra time you may need to re-read the question and understand it again if you were to go back at the end to check. Checking as you go will involve checking with common sense (does my answer seem reasonable? It would be nonsense to have a ball that flew at a speed of 500m/s etc.) as well as making sure your calculations are carried out correctly from line to line. It may also be a good idea to check for any spelling and/or grammatical errors! While checking your answers, check the time – how much of the paper do you have left? Is it worthwhile to skip the difficult questions and do all the questions you know if you are short on time.

Good to you all.

For extra tuition and HSC help, contact Sirius Learning today.

Written by Yihong. L |Maths and science tutor| Sirius Learning

Yihong has been working as a specialised high school focused tutor with 4 years of experience after achieving outstanding Mathematics results of 99 in Extension 1 and 93 for Extension 2 in the HSC and band 6 (top band) for all her science subjects. Yihong currently studies at the University of UNSW in a bachelor of electrical engineering and spends a vast majority of her time outside of university mentoring and tutoring high school students. Yihong’s strength lies in her patience and ability to explain the concepts clear and precisely for students. Yihong is passionate about motivating and supporting students to achieve their academic goals.

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