Should you memorise your HSC Modern History essay or improvise them in the exam?

There’s so much content to remember, so memorising would be helpful but it’s also hard to predict the questions – so what should you do?

This is one the the biggest debates during the HSC. 

The first thing you should know is there is no right answer as each person learns differently. However some options have more merit for particular learning types than others.

Are you memorising essays for HSC Modern History? There are actually other options!

Here 3 different options to learning your HSC Modern History essay!

Option #1: Memorising Essays for HSC Modern History
Option #2: Memorising Notes for HSC Modern History
Option #3: Memorising Essay Scaffolds 

Option #1: Memorising Essays for HSC Modern History

Memorising essays involves pre-preparing a response to a particular questions and being able to rewrite it almost word for word during an exam.

Many students have successfully used this technique to get the marks they want.

However, when using pre-prepared responses you need to be able to adapt them to any questions you are give.

The Pros of Memorising Essays for HSC Modern History

  • Saves time: Great for people who get ‘mind blanks’ during exams and waste lots of time thinking of what to write.
  • Always prepared: No matter what the question you always have a prepared response.
  • Reduces stress: Reduces stress and increases confidence because you already know what you are going to write in the exam.
  • Helps time management: Knowing exactly how much time it’s going to take you to write a response.
  • Reduces editing time: Great for people who are weak on essay structure as they don’t have to ‘edit’ their structure during an exam

The Cons of Memorising Essays for HSC Modern History

  • Need to adapt: Might not have prepared essay ready for the question they ask (or you have difficultly adapting your prepared essay to the question).
  • Accidental gaps: If you forget a part of the essay (even a sentence or two) it can really reduce the strength and power of your argument.
  • Memory game: Unless you have a photographic memory it’s going to take a while to remember your essay almost word for word.
  • Time management: Underestimating the time you need to write a pre-planned essay in an exam.
  • Needs time: You can’t memorise an essay the night before an exam – it needs to be prepared well in advance.

Option #2: Memorising Notes for HSC Modern History

With this technique you learn all the information against your syllabus notes and then apply them during an exam.

Often students who adopt this approach don’t have any type of plan for writing an essay during the exam.

The Pros of Memorising Notes 

  • Content queen: You can answer any question NSEA throws at you and can easily adapt the information you know to the question. 
  • Variety of choice: Can choose the best facts and information for the question rather than attempting to mould a pre-written response to the question. 
  • Uses your strengths: You can choose which essay to answer based on your confidence responding rather than choosing an option simply because you have a prepared response. 
  • Memory recall: Good for people who struggle with memorising text (and essays).

The Cons of Memorising Notes

  • Mental blanks: If you struggle with ‘mind banks’ it’s easy to forget important information and/or not know how to answer the question.
  • Time management: Time management students can easily go over 40 minutes and not including all the information. 
  • Forgetting to reference: Can forget to include evidence and historiography in your essays.

Option #3: Memorising Essay Scaffolds 

This technique was my personal preference when it came to essay writing during HSC exams for any subject.

It involves creating an essay plan for each dot point which includes important facts and quotes you can use in a response.

The benefit of this technique is that you are able to prepare what you would write for every syllabus dot point.

The Pros of Memorising Essay Scaffolds 

  • Prepared: Allows you to have a response for every single question BOSTES can throw at you.
  • Armed and ready: Takes shock factor out of essays because you are prepared for all the possibilities.
  • Quick and easy: Scaffolds are quick and easy to make  (each plan should take 5 – 15 mins depending on detail).
  • Abstract thinking: Gets you thinking about unique ways to answer common Modern History questions.
So should you memorise your HSC Modern History essays? Figure it out below!


Looking for some extra help with HSC Modern History?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC Modern History coaches and mentors!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today!

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Facebook!

Milana Gusavac thought she had seen the end of HSC until she realised that others out there needed help surviving year 12 just like she had. Now she’s a member of the Art of Smart team while perusing her studies at the University of Sydney, studying a Bachelor of Psychology. When not learning or helping others Milana can be found with her nose in a book or marathoning TV shows.