Ancient History practice questions

“Making my own HSC Ancient History practice questions? Why would I ever do that?”

Good question.

Although on the surface it may seem counter-intuitive, as you lose the element of surprise, but in fact it’s also beneficial to construct your own Ancient History practice questions, in addition to answering ones created by NESA.

You’re able to force yourself to think critically and test your knowledge of syllabus dot points by devising your own set of practice questions! This ensures that there’s nothing NESA can do to throw you off track come exam time.

Here’s everything you need to know to get you started on writing your very own set of Ancient History practice questions!

Step 1: Review Real Past Papers

Before you devise your own HSC Ancient History practice questions, have a close look at the structure of the questions in past HSC Ancient History exams.

How are they phrased? How open-ended are they? Are they similar to the syllabus dot-points?

Fortunately for those studying HSC Ancient History, most of the essay questions can be easily isolated to a few syllabus points.

Such a question includes Compare the effects of the eruption of AD 79 on the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum” (from the 2019 Sample HSC Paper) which can be answered almost exclusively with information drawn from the syllabus point The eruption of AD 79 and its impact on Pompeii and Herculaneum.”

Others, however, are much broader, existing to test your overall knowledge of the subject, and will require you to draw information from multiple syllabus points in order to answer the question.

This includes questions such as “What does the study of human remains reveal about everyday life in Pompeii and Herculaneum?” also need to be factored into the creation of your questions.

To make sure you don’t get blindsided, try to create a variety of questions that focus on small, definite syllabus dot-points, as well as a combination of dot points, and questions that require you to incorporate knowledge from a large chunk of the syllabus knowledge.

Step 2: Learn Your Question Key Words

When reading over past papers, you should notice that many of the questions begin with a directive verb, which tells you how to present your answer.

Check out these examples from the 2018 Ancient History HSC Exam:
  • Explain what the evidence reveals about food and dining in Pompeii and Herculaneum

  • Outline key characteristics of economic exchange in this period

  • Identify TWO features of the Menelaion

  • Assess the ways in which Hatshepsut used titles and royal images during her reign

  • Describe Xerxes’ role in the invasion of the Greek mainland

These key words determine how the question will be answered. If you are outlining, you are providing an overview of key features. However, if you are assessing, then you are required to present a judgement about a topic.

Note: It’s important to utilise a mix of key words when writing your questions

This will ensure that you can practice using syllabus information in as many possible ways that could appear in an exam. Not only should you be able to outline a syllabus point, you should also be prepared to explain, or make an assessment.

Matching different key words and syllabus points will not only help you create a larger question bank, but it will also ensure that you have a thorough knowledge of the syllabus and help get you exam ready.

You can take a look at NESA’s key word Glossary for potential question starters and their meanings here.

Step 3: Pinpoint Your Weakness

Figure out which areas of the syllabus you are weakest in, and focus your question-crafting on those areas.

This way you’ll be spending your valuable study time answering questions that will have a larger impact on your learning than most of the ones you’ll encounter on the NESA past papers.

After all, only you know what’s best for your study.

For example, if you’re preparing for the Pompeii and Herculaneum question on Reconstructing and preserving the past and you know a lot about ‘ethical issues’ but very little about ‘changing interpretations’, then focus on creating Ancient History practice questions that assess your level of understanding on that particular area to ensure you know it by the time you do the real exam.

Step 4: Answer Your Questions

Once you’ve created your list of practice questions, order them from most difficult to least. 

Give yourself a bit of time before you plan to answer your Ancient History practice questions to revise the material that the questions are assessing and then attempt those questions as if it were the actual HSC.

That means closed-book, timed exam sessions (use the recommended amount of time for each section as per the official exam booklets) with pen and paper.

Doing this with diligence and some semblance of regularity will effectively strengthen the weak points and further improve on your strengths in syllabus content.

Note: Practising a large variety of questions will develop your exam skills, boosting your confidence for your Ancient History Exams.

In the end, creating your own HSC Ancient History practice questions is just another way to supplement your studies and ensure that you’ve covered all the assessable content.

Looking for extra help with HSC Ancient History?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC Ancient 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!


Jack Theodoulou studies a double degree of Education/Arts majoring in English at the University of Sydney. Previously an instructor of classical guitar, Jack began coaching at Art of Smart in 2015. In his spare time, Jack often finds himself entangled in a love-hate relationship with fiction-writing and a (possibly) unhealthy obsession with video games.