HSC exam tips - on exam day

As a high school student the HSC is a milestone in your education. Review these 5 tips so on the day you are all set to shine.

It’s time!

Don't forget the no-brainers. Make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes early for your exam so you’re not worried about being late.

Also, make sure you have the equipment needed and allowed for that exam. This might include pens (black), pencils, an eraser, highlighter, ruler, approved calculator, watch, and water bottle (with no labels).

Visit NESA and review the exam equipment list.

Remember that mobile phones, smart watch and programmable and electronic devices (other than authorised calculators) are not allowed into the exam room.

Take a moment to do some breathing exercises or whatever helps calm your nerves.

Think positive and feel confident that you’re prepared and ready.

Tip #1: Read the paper properly

You've taken your seat and filled out your name and number. When the exam time starts, begin by going through the entire exam paper, including the important front page, during reading time.

  • Make sure there are no surprise hard questions that may require more attention/time.

  • Find compulsory questions.

  • Choose the alternative you prefer when a question has options.

  • Make sure you know how long to spend on each section – keep 5 to 10 minutes at the end to check over the whole paper. Allocate time wisely. Give yourself more time for the harder questions.

Tip #2: Make notes

Once you can start writing it’s a great idea to jot down everything filling your brain that you think you might forget. Do this on a blank page of the exam paper. This will allow you to concentrate on one question at a time. It also gives you something to refer back to later, like your own reference material.

Tip #3: Start with an easy one

You don’t have to start the exam at Question 1 and move through in that order. It can be helpful to start with an ‘easy’ question first - yes, of course the idea of “easy” is all relative. But starting out with the question that you’re most sure of having a great answer, will calm your nerves and build your confidence. Leave the hardest questions for the middle of the exam time.

Tip #4: Look for keywords

Circle or highlight important words in questions worth 8 marks or more – these questions usually require multiple paragraphs.

  • For an extended response, planning is essential.

  • Read more about what a keyword is.

Tip #5: Make sure you really understand the question

This is obviously really important. Misinterpreting a question can really hurt. Focus on reading the question clearly and answer the question asked in the format required. It’s a good idea to re-read the question a few times and be absolutely sure you’re clear on the specific question before you start writing. No exam question will ask you to write down everything you know about a topic.

Use the marks allocated to understand the amount of time you should give to each answer (the higher the mark the greater importance) or number of lines given as an indicator as to how much you should write.

  • Don’t spend a lot of time on a 2 mark question at the expense of a 10 mark question, which will require planning and multiple paragraphs.

  • Don’t use dot points unless you are specifically asked to list them.

  • Use a topic sentence.

Tip #6: Think you've finished?

I know we said 5 tips. This is a bonus tip: Check, check and check again.

Before you are told to put your pens down, spend your time checking you have answered each question and looking over all your responses. This is why it’s really important to leave at least 5-10 mins at the end for checking time. Sometimes a review of multiple choice is useful because you trackled those first, before you were warmed up.

Read as a reader, not as a writer. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Have I followed the exam instructions regarding which questions to answer and have I used the answer booklets correctly?

  • Have I always answered the question asked?

  • Is my answer obvious and clear throughout my response?

  • Do extended responses flow logically, linking my ideas to my point of view or answer to the question?

If you’ve left anything crucial out, don’t panic, you can still add it in as an extra paragraph. Even if this means your answer is no longer as well structured, it's more important to have an answer that meets the question.

We're wishing all Year 12 students the best of luck for their final exams!

Related posts


  • Exam time


  • Mental health
  • Physical activity
  • Wellbeing

Business Unit:

  • Communication and Engagement
Return to top of page Back to top