There is a huge mistake that most students make when studying for their HSC Exams.

Studying for your first exam first! 

That might sound a bit counterintuitive, but it’s a big mistake that most students don’t even realise they’re making.

In this video and post, Rowan from #AOSTV shares:

1. What happens when you study for your first HSC exam first
2. A counter-intuitive strategy to change this
3. Why you should study in reverse instead and why it works
4. How to put a reverse study schedule in place for your HSC Exams

Get prepared for your HSC Exams without studying for your first exam first!

What Happens When you Study For Your First HSC Exam First

When students get their HSC Exam schedule they look at the first paper they’ve got (usually English Paper 1) and start studying for that.

What happens next is that this study tends to take up a lot of your time, and you give your first exam the most attention and focus.

Then, by the time you get to your exam period and get to your 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th exam, you suddenly realise…

“Oh s&*t! I haven’t done enough study for my other exams!”

And what ends up happening is your results in your first exam are pretty good, but then they start going down for each subsequent exam, simply because you haven’t given each as much time as they deserve.

Sound familiar?

So how do you better plan your time and schedule study for HSC Trials and your HSC Exams to avoid this mistake?

Here’s how:

A Counter-intuitive Strategy to Prepare for your HSC Exams

Study in Reverse!

That’s right. 

Don’t start studying for your first exam first, but study for your last exam first. And your second-last exam second. And your third-last exam third. And so on…

So what will happen is the week or two before exams start, you’ll be working on study for the first exam you’ve got coming up.

So why does this work?

First of all, it means that you’re building a foundation of knowledge for your later exams, earlier on. This means that by the time you get around half-way through your exam period, you don’t have to madly cram the whole subject into your brain at the last minute, because you’ll already have a solid foundation and simply need to revise.

This helps you maintain higher results for each of your exams, across the entire exam period.

Secondly, the week before your first exam, you’re study for your first exam. This means you’re taking advantage of the recency effect and making the most out of your study!

So How Do I Actually Put This Strategy into Place?

Step 1: Your Timetable

Get out your exam timetable and look at it, paying specific attention to the order of your exams.

Step 2: Plan it Out

Next, pull out your diary or calendar and start identifying what subjects you’re going to study on what days, keeping in mind the strategy of studying in reverse

Step 3: Make Yourself Accountable

First, download your free Wall Chart Template you can use to keep track of your plan:


Next, fill it in with what subjects you’re going to study on which days and stick it on your wall!

This helps keep you accountable and moving on the right path because you’ll be able to see your plan everyday. There’s no point writing your timetable in a diary, chucking it in your drawer and losing it forever.

Recap – HSC Exams: Why You Shouldn’t Study For Your First Exam First!

To recap what we’ve learned today:

#1 Studying for your first HSC exams first is a big mistake! Doing this means you’ll spend all your time on one or two exams and neglect your other subjects entirely. Don’t start studying for your first exam first!

#2 Study for your HSC exams in reverse. Start by studying for your last exam first, your second-last exam second, and so on, until you’re about a week out from your exams and studying for your first exam! Sounds counter-intuitive, but makes total sense.

#3 Put this strategy in place for your HSC Exams. Get out your exam timetable, and plan what exam you’re going to study for and when. Then download your free printable wall chart, fill it out and stick it up where you can see it! This will help you keep yourself accountable and stick to the plan.

Looking for a tutor to support you while you ace the HSC?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational coaches and mentors!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a large 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!

Isabella Hanley loves science. She loves science so much she’s making it her career. While completing her Bachelor of Medical Science she is also a Coach and Digital Content Manager at Art of Smart. She is super passionate about sharing her knowledge on surviving the HSC since completing the HSC herself in 2014. In her downtime she enjoys Netflix binging like a pro, singing in the shower and hanging out with her awesome rescue dog, Ruby.