Maximising Your Trial Marks

Holidays start soon and for many of you, trials are a little less than a month away. Thus these holidays are incredibly important in maximising your trial mark. The first thing you should do before you start studying is to set a numerical goal for each subject.

Now that you have a goal, it is imperative that you create a study plan in order to achieve this goal. Such a study plan should include reinforcing the coursework and doing as many past trial/HSC papers as possible. (you can find a collection here)

Now, those two things are fairly broad so let’s break down how you could potentially design your study plan.

Reinforcing the coursework

For the first two to three weeks it is imperative that you learn and understand the material completely. The first subject you should concentrate on is probably your worst subject. This is because it is probably going to take you longer to understand and have a mastery of your content as you most likely struggle with it.

If you haven’t already done this, begin with writing notes. Writing notes is an active form of learning and is more likely allow you synthesis the material easier and quicker. Make sure that these notes don’t focus on quantity but instead on quality ensuring that they are mainly composed of bullet points and are as short as possible. Most students go through enough of the content in class and a textbook is also a great resource for detailed notes but it is significant that your notes are primarily composed of key words or phrases that can help you remember the bulk of the regarding the topic. It is also advised that the headings are in the same phrasing as the syllabus and this will enable you to ‘tick off’ topics as you go through them, and by doing so, this will set you up fairly well when answering past paper questions as you’ll realise that the questions that you have to answer are drawn straight from the syllabus. Furthermore, it may be of use to incorporate past HSC questions in your notes, this will help you relate your knowledge to exam questions.

This process should take roughly 2-3 weeks or so if you work hard and efficiently. This number is greatly reduced if you have been working on your notes throughout the year.
Past Papers

Once you’ve learnt and reinforced the coursework, the last 1-2 weeks should be used to practice past trial papers. Use the link above for most subjects. In addition to other school’s papers, it is important to look at your own school’s papers as it will make you familiar with the style of questions your school uses.

Past trial papers MUST be done in test conditions. The first time you go through a past paper subject you’re probably going to have multiple mental blanks or simply not know the answer. Being in such a position you are probably going to be tempted to refer to your notes and string together an answer. I HIGHLY recommend that you don’t take this approach as you are simply impeding your own memory as you become overly reliant upon your notes rather than the knowledge that you have in your brain. Instead, try your hardest to remember the answer and write doing anything that relates to the question. Then once you’re done you should always mark and review your paper. Even if you have gotten the question right, I guarantee you that there will at least one thing that you missed completely and would’ve made your answer better. Thus, I recommend you to follow this common method used by any highest performing students is that they just write down these extra ideas/words or phrases underneath their answer in a different colour as it reminds them of the extra points that they should be covering in their answer. It is important remember and realise that HSC markers do not look for how much you write but on what you write and in some instances marks are provided based on certain words or phrases that you write in your answer.

That works for short answer questions and for maths past papers, but what about subjects with essays?

When practicing essays, you should make sure that you’ve memorised whatever needs to be memorised for your particular subject eg for English, quotes, techniques and analysis. Now for essays you should set yourself in exam conditions like usual but limit the time that you have to write the essay itself, so for English, in the exam you have around 40 mins for each essay so practice writing essays in 35 mins. This will help account for any difficult questions, mind blanks and generally any unforeseen occurrences in the actual exam. Now once you’re done with the essay file it away so that you can review later on. This will help you think about various arguments or points that you’ve made in the past and can potentially reuse in the exam.

Ideally you’ll do about two past papers a day for about 2 weeks just before the trials. This should be enough for you to fully solidify the content and hone your exam technique. But as mentioned above, try to complete as many as possible.

So there you have it, maximising your trial marks only takes two steps namely learning the content and attempting questions under exam conditions. By following this plan with a solid work ethic and realising that despite the massive time commitment studying takes now, you’ll reap the bigger rewards latter.


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