Top 7 HSC Survival Tips
Our English Tutor Alina Haque talks us through the tips that helped her earn five Band 6 and E4 rankings in English Advanced, English Extension 1, English Extension 2, Modern History and Visual Arts. Find what got her through the HSC

By Alina Haque

1Know your strengths and weaknesses.
Even though subject selection isn’t an easy process, consulting your own academic history, as well as talking to your teachers, past students, and checking the syllabus for exam/assessment requirements can point you in the right direction. Thinking about what subject scales better won’t matter if your final mark for Physics is 70 whereas Visual Arts could have been a 95. As a general rule, pick the subject you want to be doing at 2AM in the morning — at your lowest of lows, what assignment will you have the motivation to finish?

2. Be consistent.
The HSC is a marathon, not a sprint. It rewards students who approach it with dedication, not scattered study. Remember that your marks after 17 hours of exams aren’t the result of studying the night before — they are the culmination of your efforts across the whole year, including subject rankings. Listen actively in class, stay organised, take notes and revise regularly.

3. Study smart, not hard.
For subjects like Biology and Modern History, which have clear syllabus points, it can be much easier to create notes by adding on to the existing. Websites like or HSC Discussion Groups are extremely helpful in providing notes and essays. For Major Works, start them early to develop sophistication. For “practice subjects” like English, read and write critical material, and for Maths, do your homework. For all subjects, complete as many past papers as you can — especially under time constraints. After trials, create a cohort-wide Google Drive divided by subject to compile resources.

4Stick with the right people.
I was really lucky to have a great support network during Year 12. HSC is a team effort and you’ll grow incredibly close to the people around you. Having a close-knit circle of friends that you can trust to read your essays/assignments and break down material with can benefit everyone. Motivate each other and never worry about the unnecessary stress of competition because it is uncontrollable. Also, teachers and tutors are there to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra marking, clarification or just to talk through your work. 

5. Stay focused, but maintain perspective.
It isn’t unheard of to encounter more than a few existential crises in your HSC journey, but getting caught up in them is often a waste of time. Don’t disregard the decisions you need to make, but have faith in the fact that everything works out in the end. The most successful students don’t sweat the small stuff and keep the bigger picture in mind — a motivating end goal to work towards.  

6.  Listen to yourself.
Keeping your body and mind healthy during HSC is a must. If you’re short tempered or too tired to concentrate, listen to yourself and take a break. Talk to someone, clean the space around you, play some music, write in your journal, take a nap or go for a walk. I found that after milestones like the last trial exam or a major-work hand in, going out to a five hour long KBBQwith a few close friends to pour out our feelings worked as a great stress-reliever.

7. Expect the unexpected.

If I’ve learnt one thing from the HSC, it’s that what is was the most certain rarely went to plan. I dropped the un-droppable Maths, restarted my major work halfway through and ranked first in the subject my parents told me to drop in Year 11. Believe it or not, those weren’t even the most significant events of my HSC year. Against all odds, I survived. Take some risks, record the memories and always remember: Year 12 only happens once, so cherish these times while you can.