What no-one tells you about studying for the HSC

HSC students

Hindsight. It’s a valuable thing that you don’t yet have in these months leading up to the dreaded HSC. Don’t leave yourself wishing you had done differently – use these tips to your advantage and study like a pro.


The whole year counts


Just as important as your final exams is the work you do in class and after school throughout the year. That sentence may have induced some audible sighs, but hear me out – revising throughout the year is the way to go, and there’s some real mathematical proof to back it up.

If you’re leaving study to the last minute, you’ll have two weeks of holiday in which you can cram. In those two weeks, you have 336 total hours. Take away 8 hours a night for sleeping, and what does that leave us?

336 – (14 X 8) = 224 hours left to study.

If you studied one hour for every day of school you attended, you’d need 180 hours – That’s enough right? Not quite.

A general rule of thumb is to study 2 hours per week, for every one unit of study. If you’re studying a somewhat standard 12 units, that’s 24 hours per week.

24 X 36 weeks in the school year = a whopping 864 hours.

Trying to cram that 864 hours into anything less than the entire school year is bound to lead to burn-out and a lack of motivation – it’s also just plain mean to your future self. Studies have also shown that spacing out your study over more time leads to superior long-term memory, as opposed to quick revisions back-to-back.


Sleep is important for the HSC. Yes, really!


Now that you’ve got good study habits underway, it’s time for a good night’s rest. A 2005 study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre investigated the role of sleep in memory. Participants in the study were taught a series of finger movements similar to piano scales, and told to memorise them.

Their brain activity was measured via MRI before and after a good night’s sleep. The results? The areas of the brain controlling motor skills were more active post-sleep, while the area that controls emotional responses like stress or anxiety were less active.

While you’re sleeping, your brain will still be working hard to commit your study to memory with greater strength and less anxiety – so why cut that precious sleep time short? Put down the coffee and grab a pillow.


Don’t put all your eggs in the ATAR basket

Now, we may have just spent 350 words convincing you to do your best during HSC year, but it’s not your only option. Studies are showing that only one in four students are actually using their ATAR to enter tertiary study. This is because there are so many alternate pathways; starting a degree to transfer to another or entering TAFE are just some of the atypical entryways gaining popularity.

This means you should be wary about choosing subjects that will boost your ATAR instead of laying groundwork in skills you’ll need for university. Sports and extra-curriculars may count towards scholarships or grad programs, so it’s not necessarily a good idea to skip these in favour of more study hours.


Need to know more?

Check out this guide to alternative university pathways, find out how to choose a degree when you’re unsure, or get the lowdown on dealing with your ATAR.

artificial intelligence
Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.