hsc study plan

How much should I be studying? 

That’s a question that almost every student will find themselves asking at some point.

Am I studying enough? Shouldn’t I be doing more? Am I doing enough to match the high achievers?

These are just a few of the seemingly never-ending stream of questions that we all ask ourselves.

But here is a fact that may make you feel a lot better:

Everyone is different and the number of hours studied varies greatly from person to person.

Yes, you heard that right, there is no definite number of hours which determines the effectiveness or the quality of your study.

In this article, I’m not going to tell you how much to study.

Instead, I’m simply going to explain thoroughly all the factors that determine typical hours of study and inform you of the recommended amount. So, let’s go!

The Bare Minimum
The Recommended Amount 
My Personal Study Hours
Quantity vs Quality 
Factors Affecting Study Hours

The Bare Minimum

There might be no set amount of study applicable to everyone, but there is a bare minimum of study hours that is required per week. For HSC students, it’s common knowledge that consistent study is the key to consolidate knowledge and retain information efficiently.

The bare minimum for HSC students is 1 hour of study per day, equating to a total of 7 hours per week.

Although nowhere near the recommended amount of study, there have been numerous cases of students studying an hour a day and performing reasonably well in the HSC. Studying less than this amount can be overwhelming as the vast amount of work needed to be completed in the HSC demands at least a 7 hour commitment a week.

On average, the recommended amount of study hours a week is dependent on the number of units undertaken by the student for their HSC. Once again, consistency and dedicated commitment is needed to survive and thrive in the HSC.

The recommended amount is 2 hours of study for every unit undertaken per week

So for example, if you study 12 units in your HSC year as the majority of students do, the recommended amount is 24 hours of study per week. This equates to roughly three and a half hours of study per day.

If you study 10 units, that equates to 20 hours per week or roughly three hours of study a day.

The following table gives you a summary of what I was saying above:

Number of Units TakenHours of study a weekHours of study a day
10202 hrs 50 minutes
11223 hrs 10 minutes
12243 hrs 25 minutes
13263 hrs 45 minutes
14284 hrs

Again, keep in mind that the recommended amount does not apply to everyone. Some students study up to 50 hours a week and display tremendous commitment and drive in order to succeed in their HSC.

On the flip side, talented students may study less than 20 hours a week and still manage to achieve ATARs in the 90s.

What’s important is that you find a study routine that works for you, make a commitment and stick to it to the best of your ability

My Personal Study Hours

I undertook 11 units in my HSC year. As far as my study hours go, I had a fairly convenient and set schedule.

On weekdays, I would come home at 4pm, have a break until 4:30pm and study until 9:30pm. On weekends, I would generally start at 10am and go until 5pm.

So, if we do the Maths on this schedule, that equates to 39 hours a week (give or take 2-3 hours). This schedule worked for me and found that around 40 hours a week enabled me to finish my work and revise thoroughly on all subjects.

That amount may seem excessive, but I found that in order to excel in the subjects I undertook I needed to make that sort of commitment.

The subjects I took during my HSC year were Advanced Maths, Advanced English, Extension 1 Maths, Chemistry, Physics and Ancient History.

There are many aspects that determine how much you study so you don’t all have to study 40 hours a week!

Study hours are unique to every student and each of us have an obligation to establish what works for us and stick with it.

As far as how much time I devoted to each subject, I found out very early on that prioritising my weaker subjects was very important in determining my final ATAR.

I spent the most time on HSC Physics and English Advanced and spent the least time on HSC Maths Advanced and Ancient History. One bad subject is all it takes to bring down your ATAR, so ensuring consistency is key during the HSC.

For more information, there’s a whole sub-title dedicated to this topic found below the following topic.

Note that I did take breaks in between those study times! I took a 10 minute break every hour.

Quantity vs Quality

This is a debate that will rage on until the end of time.

The truth is that a combination of both is needed to study efficiently and succeed in the HSC

There’s no point in sitting in front of your study material for 8 hours in you’re going to study with no plan and/or procrastinate most of the time.

Conversely, you can study like a machine with complete concentration and focus but if you do it for only half an hour, chances are you’ll find yourself wanting.

Factors Affecting Study Hours

The subjects that you undertake definitely have an impact on your study hours, due to the degree of difficulty of each subject.

What I mean by this is that a subject like Extension 2 Mathematics contains an enormous amount of coursework and is arguably one of the most challenging subjects to take in the HSC for most students.

Similarly, HSC science subjects such as Chemistry and Physics also require a substantial time commitment and are complex as well as content-heavy, meaning that you probably have to spend more time studying to stay on top of your work.

Generally the higher scaling subjects in the HSC require more of a commitment and will demand more study hours from you.

However, individual strengths have as big, if not more, of an impact on study hours than your subjects!

The fact of the matter is that everyone is different and have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Some people may be really good at Science, some may find Maths easy and some may find that they’re a natural at writing.

If you do find that you’re strong at a particular subject, you can use that to your advantage and devote more time focusing on your weaker subjects.

As stated earlier, I found that I could perform at a high level in HSC Mathematics without spending a lot of time, so I utilised more time to focus on my weakest subject, that being HSC Physics.

It’s really important that you identify your strengths and weaknesses and determine your study schedule accordingly. This is the very meaning of the phrase “working smarter”.

The biggest mistake you can make is to devote the majority of your time to your stronger subject(s).This might be because you hope that your performance in that subject(s) can overshadow your weaker subjects.

The HSC rewards consistency across all subjects. If you neglect your weaknesses, you will find that your ATAR is dragged down considerably

So, what does this all mean?

Hopefully you now have a good understanding of all the factors that determine how many hours you should study.

If you find that the recommended amount of study is something that could work for you, definitely utilise it. After all, you can change it to suit yourself at any time.

What’s important is that you establish a study routine that enables you to stay on top of your school work and succeed in your assessments and tests.

I know the number of hours stated in this article may seem daunting to some. But trust me, when you study with an established routine and are focused on your study, you won’t even notice the time.

Best of luck!

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Aditya Krishnaswamy sometimes found writing in the HSC tiresome, but is very fond of it nonetheless. Completing the HSC in 2015, he found that his experiences studying HSC Advanced Maths and English, Physics, Chemistry and Ancient History were begging to be shared with keen school-goers with the hunger for success. About to study Advanced Engineering at the University of Sydney, Adi hopes his time tutoring in two organisations as well as his time studying in 3 different countries across 2 continents in his 19 years of life can help you get through the pressurised odyssey that is the HSC. A lifelong follower of numerous sports (namely cricket, American football and rugby league), he might even be able to educate the sporty side of you!