HSC Physics is one of those subjects students tend to have a love-hate relationship with.
They love the interesting subject matter and just how well it scales compared to other units, but hate how tricky the content can be and how intense the workload can get.
If you’re looking to get rid of the hate part of this love-hate relationship, you’ve come to the right place! This article covers everything you need to do to ace HSC Physics and land yourself a Band 6.
We’ve summarised all you need to know into 8 life-saving steps.
Keen to know more? Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Write Solid HSC Physics Study Notes
A Year 12 student’s notes should be their most prized possession throughout that tumultuous year.
They are, in essence, a collection of everything you could possibly need to know to ace the HSC and get an awesome ATAR.
HSC Physics is super content-heavy. This means that having extensive notes, which you will continue to refine and summarise throughout the year, is an absolute must.
Follow the syllabus to a tee. Make sure you’ve covered all of your syllabus points, so that come exam time, there won’t be any nasty surprises waiting for you.
Step 2: Use Your Holidays Wisely
While it is important that you use your holidays to rest up and relax, they should also be used to log in some extra study hours.
Doing so can be a great way to get on top of your workload, wrap your head around difficult content and build strong habits before entering the next school term!
#1: Plan, plan, plan
Going into the holidays with a clear study plan will do wonders for your productivity. Having a list of everything you need to get done can help motivate you to slowly chip away at each of your tasks!
You should use the syllabus to sort out which dot points and topics should be prioritised.
Rate your understanding of each point and allocate more time for sections you feel the least confident with. This will help you to use your time more efficiently, which at the end of the day, is what we’re all after.
#2: Repetition is key
The only way to build good and consistent study habits is by training yourself. Dedicate a specific amount of time each day to studying.
Start small and be realistic! Don’t say you’ll block out 8 hours of study a day if you currently struggle to commit to 1.
Gradually building up to larger study blocks will help improve your attention span and focus long-term.
#3: Set SMART Goals
Goal setting is a great way to help you stay motivated when studying. Try setting SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time specific goals will ensure that you have a clear idea of what you’re working towards over the holidays.
They also make evaluating whether or not you’ve achieved your goals easier. This will help you determine whether you need to change your study approach for future holiday periods.
An example of a SMART goal would be: To complete all past practice paper questions regarding Kinematics by the end of the 6-week holidays.
#4: Catch up on content
You should definitely use the holiday period to catch up on any unfinished work from the previous term. Just because you’ve probably already had your internal assessment on Kinematics, doesn’t mean you don’t need to continue studying it.
It is highly likely it will pop-up again in future assessments and almost certainly feature in your Trials.
#5: Get ahead!
In the final few weeks of the holidays, you should start preparing yourself for the next unit of study — Dynamics. Read ahead, get your bearings and prepare questions for your teacher when you go back after the break.
Step 3: Become a Formula Wiz
Formulas are a critical component of the HSC Physics course.
It can get overwhelming at times, having so many to remember, but their importance cannot be stressed enough. Not only should you memorise them, but also have a solid understanding of how and why each of them work.
This will be particularly useful for when you come across questions which require a higher level of critical thinking and problem solving.
You should identify which formulas you need to know, including those not on the reference sheet.
Remember: Be aware of what units your formulas are working with, so that you apply them to your question correctly!
Step 4: Be Receptive to Feedback
Physics is a hard subject. In this course, you deal with complex theories used to address difficult questions which result in even more complicated answers.
What I’m getting at here is that you’re bound to make mistakes or struggle with content at some point. When this happens, you should welcome any and all feedback.
Make the most of your errors
Go through old exams and focus on the questions you got wrong.
Ask yourself, how could I do it differently? Learn from your errors. This is a far more effective strategy than copying exemplar responses.
Keeping an error log — a record of all the questions you get wrong throughout the course — can help streamline study.
Use your teachers
Your teachers are some of your most valuable resources throughout the HSC. They are there to help you and will readily welcome any questions you may have which show that you are working hard and being proactive in your learning.
Taking on board their feedback is super important. They want to see you do as well as possible in the HSC and so it is in your best interest to listen to any constructive criticism they may have.
Step 5: Nail Your Extended Responses
The HSC Physics extended response portion is, without a doubt, one of the hardest sections of the entire HSC exam.
Acing those 6 marks can completely change the outcome of your exam.
To help you figure out how to do this, we’ve broken it down into 3 easy steps!
#1: Figure out your structure
You can opt to use a variety of different structures for your extended response answers. It is important that you think carefully about which format best suits your question.
You can choose to use a table, which is recommended when you need to do a comparison or talk about topics in various categories.
You can also use an annotated diagram. This style is best used when describing an experiment or equipment.
Finally, you can choose to use the good old-fashioned essay format, which is the obvious choice for when you need to provide a discussion.
#2: Plan it out
You should always plan your responses before putting pen to paper. Try brainstorming, or writing a dot point plan of everything you need to include!
This is a great skill to develop, as it can help ensure that you don’t forget critical elements of your answer when placed under the pump in exam conditions.
Now that you’ve figured out your structure and planned your response, it’s time to put your head down and write.
To learn more about how to nail those extended responses, check out our article How to Write a Killer 6 Mark Extended Response for HSC Physics!
Step 6: Stay One Lesson Ahead
A lot of high-performing, Band 6 Physics students said that they would always try to stay one lesson ahead in the textbook.
They would read the textbook to learn the content the night before, so that when they got into class the next day, they knew what to expect. This meant that they could use class time asking important questions and practising applying their knowledge, rather than learning it for the first time.
This links back to the whole idea of using your time wisely and efficiently throughout the HSC.
Step 7: Be Aware of Common Mistakes Made
Knowing about some of the most common mistakes made in HSC Physics exams can help you avoid them.
At the end of the day, continuously making small oversights can really add up and potentially affect which band you end up falling in.
We’ve collected some of the most frequently made mistakes and given you tips on how to avoid making them!
|Mistake||How to Avoid It|
|Forgetting Units||Make sure you’re always including the unit — even in your working out!|
|Not Presenting Answers in SI Units||Ask yourself, “Is my answer in SI units?”|
|Confusing Potential Changes and Negative Signs||Remember these two things: If there is a drop in height, the potential change will be negative and if there’s an increase in height the potential change will be positive.|
|Assuming Net Velocity is 0, at the Apex of Projectile Motion||While vertical velocity is zero, this does not mean the net velocity is too, as there is still horizontal velocity. Never forget horizontal velocity!|
|Forgetting the Constancy of Light||Remember: the speed of light is constant everywhere.|
|Not Adjusting Hand Rules for Different Situations||Use the right hand grip rule for questions involving fields around a wire, or the magnetic field of a solenoid. For positive charges use the right hand palm rule. Finally, the left hand palm rule should be used for negative charge or induction questions.|
Step 8: Complete Practice Questions and Past Papers
Answering practice questions and past papers is one of the most important things you need to do in order to secure that Band 6 once you sit you HSC Physics exam.
Lucky for you, we’ve got a whole bunch of questions you can look at for different modules and we’ve also compiled all the past papers for HSC Physics below:
There you have it!
You’ve now got all the steps and resources you need to work towards achieving a Band 6 in HSC Physics!
Once you work through your time management skills, your study notes, respond properly to feedback and get plenty of practice with questions, you’ll have the confidence to tackle your HSC Physics exam. All the best!
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Jessica Arentz is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney where she studies a Bachelor of Arts/Advanced Studies (Media and Communications) (Marketing). She currently volunteers at 2SER community radio station as a producer and newsroom reader. When not writing, you can find Jess searching the web for cheap flights or spending her days with her head buried deep in a book.