After 8+ years interviewing top performers and 98+ ATAR scorers, we know what their number one HSC study trick is:
Maximising Your Class Time through a Simple 3-Staged Process
You have to attend class and you spend majority of your school week in class, so instead of merely ‘attending’ class, it makes sense and is highly beneficial for you to make the most of your class time- right?!
Implement this simple 3-Staged process to avoid being one of those dopey fish and instead, use your class time to maximise your study and ultimately your results!
Step 1 – Before Class: Study Ahead
Before you close the tab on me and think there is no way I can ‘study ahead’, I can’t even manage to keep up with what we’re currently doing in class, bear with me because studying ahead actually makes study easier and quicker in the long run!
You don’t need to understand everything (that’s what classes and teachers are for!), but to familiarise yourself with the content and gain a basic understanding.
So how do you actually study ahead?
Step 1: Print off the syllabus, know where you are up to in class and mark each point off as you go along.
Note: you can’t be tested on anything that is not in the syllabus, so the syllabus should be your best friend! (not literally because that’s kinda sad, but you should know it well and be constantly referring to it!)
Step 2: Look at the next syllabus point you are up to and use the textbook (or other resources: books, internet) to read through the information for your next class.
Step 3: Write down questions of what you don’t understand to ask in class.
Step 4: If you have time, take notes and highlight important information.
Step 2 – During Class: Confirm and Contribute
So now you’re working slightly ahead of your class, which begs the questions, what do I do in class now if I already know the content?!
Remember though, working ahead isn’t an excuse to slack off, so let’s go through how you should be using class time: to confirm your knowledge and contribute to your class discussion!
Step 1: Take notes in your own words
Instead writing down word-for-word what the teacher said, you write the information in your own words. It may seem difficult and clunky at first, but you will improve the more you do it!
Step 2: Ask questions
you don’t understand even if you think they’re dumb: not only will another person likely have the same question, but I think it’s 100% sillier to not ask the question in class and risk getting asked it in an exam, just because you think it might be stupid…!
Step 3: Contribute to Class Discussions
which keeps you alert and more interested. This doesn’t mean you need to turn into the class know-it-all, like Monica Geller from Friends…rather, answer questions to test your knowledge and raise discussion points to think about a topic from an alternative perspective (see below in ‘benefits’ for an exam tip!).
Step 4: Get a head start on homework during class
I usually did this for maths in the left over class time. I know it’s called homework, but wouldn’t you rather do the work in class and have free time at home?! I definitely would!
Step 3 – After Class: Summarise and Revise
It is best to do this step after school on the same day you had the lesson, as the information is fresh in your mind.
Here’s why: according to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, one day after you’ve learnt something new, you retain less than 60% of the original content! Meaning you’ve already forgotten about 40% of what you learnt 24 hours earlier!
But reviewing the material helps combat the forgetting curve, as you can see below! The more you review the material, the less you forget, and the more you remember! Great news for the HSC, right?
Now, if you’re following our plan, you should already have the relevant syllabus point written out in your study notes. All you need to do now is summarise and refine the syllabus point by taking out unnecessary information and adding detail from your class notes.
The way you summarise your notes depends on how you learn best and what is appropriate for the subject. Some examples are:
Summarising and reviewing your material is the most important stage, for three main reasons:
Reason 1: You’ll already have summary notes when exams start
Once you get to exam study, there is less to do (yay!) as you’ll already have your summary notes for each syllabus point. This allows you to focus on revising those notes and doing examples and past papers, rather than spending your study time writing up notes.
Reason 2: You’ll have a fresh understanding
It is much better to write up study notes when you have a fresh understanding having learnt the content that day or week.
Reason 3: Ask questions now, instead of later
It allows you to ask your teacher questions if you still don’t understand something, rather than having a whole list of questions at the end come exam study time!
It’s that simple!
Ideally you want to do this 3-Staged process for each of your subjects, every time you have a lesson.
But let’s be real, if you are managing to do this 3-Staged process for every subject, every lesson- you must be an absolute wiz. Realistically, you may have sport, music, social or other activities and other school work that you have to do after school and on weekends.
I recommend picking one or two of your most difficult subjects to use this method on. Trying to keep up with every single subject if you’re doing 12 or 14 units will be difficult and you will likely become demotivated if you can’t keep up!
Start small with one or two subjects, and you can work up or down from there!
And most importantly, good luck!
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Lauren Lai was keen to move on from anything HSC-related back when she graduated from Cheltenham Girls in 2013. However, after realising so many students go through similar academic, motivational and wider life struggles, she joined Art of Smart Education to share her experience with and encourage current students. Lauren is in her fourth year of Law/Social Research & Policy at UNSW and has a passion for Indigenous rights. Lauren loves Jesus, exploring forests and staring up at the moon for a solid few minutes whenever she gets the chance.