BlogStudyHow to Convert the HSC Chemistry Syllabus into a Study Checklist

How to Convert the HSC Chemistry Syllabus into a Study Checklist

The HSC Chemistry syllabus is already in dot point form — so what’s the point of putting effort into making a study checklist out of it? (No pun intended.)

It may sound like a redundant task, but simply copying your syllabus word by word does not address the underlying concepts or skills they want you to break down.

So how can we convert this convoluted mess of a syllabus into a straightforward checklist that confirms our knowledge? 

In this article, we’ll be helping you break down the dot points in the new HSC Chemistry syllabus by its theory, practicals and the respective skills behind them!

Let’s dive in!

Theory Study Checklist
Practical Investigations Checklist

Theory Study Checklist 

A huge chunk of the syllabus is dedicated to theory, so it is important to build an in-depth understanding to ace it.

Here are 3 steps to break down the theory component of any chemistry dot point!

Step #1: Highlight the key word/s in the dot point

Firstly, you want to identify any key words in the syllabus dot point and highlight them.

For example:

Classify the elements based on their properties and position in the periodic table through their:

  • Physical properties
  • Chemical properties

To identify key words, find the unique terms used in these sentences that you cannot find in others.

The key words here are: “Properties, position, periodic table, physical properties and chemical properties.”

Take these keywords and find their definitions. This is crucial as it forms the basis of your understanding. 

Need a recap of essential keywords? Check out our guide to Module 5: Equilibrium and Acid Reactions to build your study notes!

Step #2: Identify any underlying chemical or molecular interactions

Because the new syllabus values depth-over-breadth understanding, ask yourself ,‘what are the underlying chemical or molecular interactions that contribute to your observations?’

For this particular dot point, what are the physical or chemical properties of elements that determine their position in the periodic table?

By questioning and finding explanations (either from the internet or by consulting your teacher), you develop an in- depth understanding that markers look for in Band 6 students.

If you need a recap of concepts in the HSC Chemistry syllabus, make sure you check out HSC Together for FREE video resources explaining each syllabus dot point and topic!

Step #3: Identify what the verb is asking you to do

Here’s the most important bit, identify the verb and what it is asking you to do. The verb will always tell you what you need to know!

Here is a table of frequently used verbs and how to respond to them: 

VerbWhat does it mean?
Identify/calculate/classify/outlineJust write out information/ fact/ observation
Explain/ Account forRelate cause and effect; provide how and why
Discuss/ Assess/ Evaluate Identify issues, provide arguments for and against, provide opinion
AnalyseBreak down the data; describe trends and provide justification for observations

For a complete table of verbs commonly used in the syllabus and exam questions, check it out here!

In the end, your checklist should look something like this: 

HSC Chemistry Syllabus Study Checklist

Now we’ve got the theory dot points all dissected, let’s look at the other half of the syllabus – practical investigations! 

Practical Investigations Checklist

Because the new syllabus encourages depth-over breadth understanding, just knowing the methods and safety information about practical investigations simply isn’t enough. To score a Band 6 in HSC Chemistry, you need to go a little further.

While some practicals just require you to analyse your results, a lot of them require you to apply theory to account for your observations! 

But where can we start? Here are two steps to consider when formulating your practical investigations checklist! 

Step #1: Write out the practical investigation details

Firstly, you need to write out the practical investigation details.

Practical investigation details include:
Practical Investigation DetailWhat's Involved
AimIdentify your independent and dependent variable. How does this relate to any theory you have learned in class?
Method/MaterialFull detail such as volume and weight isn’t important, but make sure all the glassware and reagents are stated. If it helps you remember, write this in dot point steps or a flowchart to make it look visually interesting.
Observations/ResultsWhat did you expect to see from the practical investigation? What have you observed? Here is the best section to explore any underlying molecular interactions that might’ve contributed to your observations.
SafetyBesides the lab coats and safety goggles, what are the specific safety precautions related to this practical? Are there any toxic reagents? Was the gas chamber used?

Step #2: Identify the relevant practical skill

Ultimately there are 7 key practical skills NESA wants you to master by the end of your HSC life.

These are: 
  • Questioning and Predicting 
  • Planning Investigations 
  • Conducting Investigations 
  • Processing Data and Information 
  • Analysing Data and Information 
  • Problem Solving 
  • Communicating

Because these skills are already embedded in your practical investigations, it is crucial that each time after you’ve completed your practical investigation, you identify the relevant key skills that you’ve learnt!

If you go over to the ‘Working Scientifically’ section of your syllabus, (you should find it after the Year 11 or Year 12 Course Structure and Requirements section) you can find each of these key practical skills outlined.

 It should look something like this: 

HSC Chemistry Syllabus - Study Checklist Outcomes

For example:

Let’s say your practical investigation has heavily focussed on the above key skill of “questioning and predicting.”

First, check if you’ve met the outcomes — have you developed a valid hypothesis for this investigation? 

Second, see if you’ve satisfied the detailed aspects of this key skill – which concept have you used as a foreground for your investigation? What are some of the primary or secondary data available to support your hypothesis? Does your hypothesis match current evidence? 

If it helps, you can write your practical investigations out in a spreadsheet.

You can make a copy of our FREE practical investigations spreadsheet we’ve designed right here!

If your investigation has addressed more than one key skills, feel free to add another column!

NB: This spreadsheet is just an example. The notes written here are fictitious. 

And there you go, a straightforward and organised checklist that tells you exactly what you need to know! 

That wraps up our guide to turning the HSC Chemistry syllabus into your very own study checklist — good luck!

Check if you’ve got all the info you need with our Module breakdowns:

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Kate Lynn Law graduated in 2017 with an all rounders HSC award and an ATAR of 97.65. Passionate about mentoring, she enjoys working with high school students to improve their academic, work and life skills in preparation for the HSC and what comes next. An avid blogger, Kate had administrated a creative writing page for over 2000 people since 2013, writing to an international audience since her early teenage years.

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