It’s the night before your HSC Chemistry exam and you’ve done no HSC Chemistry study – what do you do?!
The first step is not to panic – you still have all night to work on your short-term memory retention.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how to maximise your short-term memory retention as you only have one night to learn all of your content.
This is fine every now and again, although we advise that you diligently study throughout the year, so you can use this Chemistry cramming time as a supplement to your existing knowledge, not as your main base.
But don’t stress, in this article, we’ve got 5 tips towards maximising your HSC Chemistry study in one night!
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive right in!
Tip #1: Pick your Battles
The chemistry syllabus is pretty content heavy, and lots of it is very complex content that requires more understanding than memorisation.
There’s also things like answer structure and exam technique the can help you gain marks. The only problem is, it’s too late for lots of that now.
You can’t teach yourself this amount of content with the level of understanding you need in one night, and you can’t make any drastic shifts in the way you answer questions. This may sound pretty bleak, but it’s important to stay realistic.
Chemistry cramming can’t solve all your problems. If you try to do everything tonight, you’re going to burn out and go into your exam tomorrow flustered, tired and unprepared.
So you have to use your time wisely – make the changes that you can make.
Similarly, remember to stick to your guns!
You know what you know, so when you’re standing outside the exam hall with 10 minutes left, and you hear two people bickering over what an acid is or something, don’t let what they say derail you. Have confidence in what you’ve learned!
Tip #2: Revise from the Syllabus
Remember, everything you need to know is in that document somewhere, so this’ll keep you from wasting your time on anything you don’t need to cover.
Also, all the possible questions you can be asked are in the syllabus, so the more familiar you are with the syllabus, the less threatening the questions in the exam will sound.
If you need to review concepts from HSC Chemistry, make sure you head over to HSC Together here which has FREE video resources explaining concepts within each syllabus dot point!
Half the battle in any exam that goes over 2 hours is keeping your nerve, so if you can avoid freaking out over a question you weren’t ready for you can save yourself a lot of pain.
Use this little system to rate you confidence with each syllabus dot point – next to each one, give yourself a rating from 0-5 for your confidence with it.
- 0 = I know nothing about this dot point and unless I study, I’m screwed
- 5 = I know this dot point back to front – I’m going to kill the exam
After a while, it should look a little like this:
You can see in this one that our hypothetical student is good at memorising little facts, but not so much at figuring out more complex concepts.
Yours might look quite different – and that’s totally okay. Use your rankings to figure out what you need to address.
While you’re on the syllabus, keep an eye out for any concepts that build off of others – it’s not any good trying to learn the more difficult concept before you understand the foundations!
Tip #3: Leave your Strengths Till Last
It can be very tempting to just go for content you’re confident with.
For example, if you’re really confident in Acid/Base Reactions but completely weak in Organic Chemistry, don’t solely focus on Acid/Base Reactions to try and get and even better mark – you want to make sure ALL your modules are strong.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this has worked in the past.
But it’s a colossal gamble.
You could, conceivably, perform very well using this. But suppose that the questions in Organic Chemistry are very specific and hard, and you can only manage to answer a few questions.
You’ve just cost yourself a huge amount of marks, since Chemistry papers are marked holistically – that means your mark is relative to the performance of your peers.
So you should spend your HSC Chemistry study time making yourself as well balanced as possible.
Use short-term memorisation techniques like repeatedly writing the content out or using rhymes or songs to encode it into a smaller form to maximise retention.
Tip #4: Look for Patterns in Past Papers
The people who write Chemistry exams aren’t exactly famous for their creativity – so you can exploit the predictability this creates. Just read through maybe three years worth of past papers and identify questions or question structures that appear religiously.
Pay special attention to the what 6/7-markers have been in the past and see if you can guess what module yours might be coming from.
You can check out our master list of past papers from the past decade of HSC Chemistry exams here!
Don’t get hung up on your guess though – it’s wise to be prepared but nobody’s psychic so you could be wrong. And you don’t want something silly like that catching you off guard on the day!
This is an easy way to target your chemistry cramming where it needs to go.
That said, don’t forget about all the little 1-2 markers! They mightn’t be worth much on their own, but if you miss them all, they’ll add up real fast.
Tip #5: Develop some Emergency Mnemonics
Frankly, this is a long-term skill you’ll need as a chemist.
Since there are lots of formulae and little factoids that, while you can just look them up, are common enough that you’ll want to know them rather than having to stop to leaf through a textbook every 3 minutes.
And it’s no secret that chemists love terrible puns, so use some to your advantage to encode information in an easy-to-remember form.
The lamer it is the better it sticks in your mind! One I still use, even at uni, is PORK – Products Over Reactants = K (the equilibrium constant). It works so well because it’s so stupid!
There’s nothing worse than dropping an easy mark because you stressed out. So set these up as your safety net!
I’ll even throw in a 6th tip for free – take care of yourself!
It’s very threatening when tomorrow is the big day, but make sure you sleep well, eat well and take some time to breathe. Being calm will be just as powerful a weapon as having the syllabus burnt onto the back of your eyes.
And that wraps up our top tips for maximising your HSC Chemistry study the night before an exam – good luck!
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Matt Saunders is a huge nerd who first got into writing through fan-fiction. He’d known science was the path for him since a young age, and after discovering a particular love of bad chemistry jokes (and chemistry too), he’s gone onto to study Forensic Chemistry at UTS. His HSC in 2014 was defined in equal parts by schoolwork and stagecraft, which left him, weirdly enough, with a love of Maths strong enough to inspire him to tutor any level, along with 7-10 Science and HSC Chemistry.