When it comes right down to it, the HSC is a numbers game, and a fairly complex one at that.

The numbers you are probably envisaging at the moment are ATARS, HSC Marks, University Cut-Offs, all very important numbers. But here are a few more.

There are about 330 days from now until the beginning of the HSC. That is, let’s say, 8000 hours until you walk in to Paper 1.

If you study for about 3 hours per day until then, you will get about 1000 hours of study time. Let’s assume you’ll do a bit more in the lead up the HSC, and give you 1200 hours.

It sounds like a lot right? However, keep in mind with that 1200 hours you have to:

  • Complete all your assignments. If you get another 2 for each subject, that is about 10-12 assignments. How long could that take?

  • Do all your study for Trials

  • Do all your study for the HSC

To be honest, it is a lot of time, definitely a figure which should make you go, “Oh, that is actually quite manageable.”

However, time is not unlimited. There is, like it or not, a clock ticking, and it will go by very quickly. How do you make the most out of HSC time management to ensure you maximize your results?

You do NOT have to spend the same amount of time on every subject.

I want to immediately debunk the myth that you should treat all your HSC subjects equally and give them equal attention. I do not believe this at all. Why should a Mathematics wiz, who can already smash any 2U question that comes at them, spend as much time studying for 2 Unit as they do for English, the subject in which they struggle? It isn’t practical, it isn’t efficient, and it isn’t working smart.

The key is to put your time into the right places. Here are my five tips for properly prioritising your time to the correct areas and the correct subjects to maximise your effectiveness in the lead up to HSC Exams.

Put more time into the subjects you are struggling in

This one seems obvious, but it is actually somewhat hard to put into practice. Irrefutably, you need to spend more time on the subjects that give you trouble. The thing is, if you have trouble with it, chances are you hate studying for it, so very often, the opposite happens and students spend less time on them!

Avoid this trap at all costs. Allocate your time to address trouble areas. If a study session is easy, it is not well spent: Getting 50% in a practice paper is much more beneficial to you than getting 95%, you learn way more. Invest your time where it is needed, not where it is wanted.

Work on All your Subjects Simultaneously

In the lead up to an exam block it may be extremely tempting to study for your subjects one at a time in the order corresponding to your exams. That is, one week on English, one week on Math, one week on Legal. This does make sense on the surface; it maximizes the amount of time you can spend on each subject, because you study for your last exams, last. However, it has a major caveat.

If you do all your study for English first, by the time you reach the exams, you’ll be out of practice, having not written an essay in a little over a month!

Studying is like weight training. You have to work every muscle on a regular basis, or it will start to shrink. It’s exactly the same as that whole “never skip leg day” thing. Divide your time so that you work on all your subjects in an appropriate proportion in a given week. Then, a day or two before the exam, focus more energy on that subject. This is, in my opinion, the best way to work so as to ensure you get the most out of the work you put into the subject.

Memorisation Takes Longer Than Skill Development

It is irrefutably the case that memorizing facts, such as quotes or laws, takes longer than developing a skill, such as simplifying a fraction or resolving a vector diagram.

Confused? Let me elaborate.

Memorization takes time, but your brain is better at locking something away when it is stimulated in more ways than one. It is, for most people, faster to learn how to integrate than it is to remember all your Ancient History sources, due to the simple fact that integration is a process. It is like mental muscle memory development. Memorizing facts, however, normally does not have an associated process, and this has two effects:

  • The brain tends to take longer to process them.

  • The brain relies more on sleep to retain the information. That is, your brain requires a few nights of rest to lock everything away

You can learn to Integrate in one session in one day, but it takes a few sessions over a couple of days to learn your cases for Crime, at least in my experience.

How does this apply to your time management? Quite simple. Recognise that memorising quotes takes longer. You should absolutely focus on this sort of stuff early in the game: I recommend that English and the humanities get the first of your attention in any study schedule.

Keep Track of All The Time You Spend on Each Subject

Very often, students will spend all their time on one particular subject without realising it. This is especially true for those with a Major Body of Work (Music, Art, Drama, etc). The amount of hours you invest in those final performances/pieces can quickly climb to astronomical heights, and take away time from other subjects.

To prevent this, keep track of how long you are working on each subject, beginning whenever you choose. Make a simple spreadsheet or Word document, and write hours next to each subject every day or week. Check on this record periodically, and you may be surprised what you see!

Simple checks and balances like this keep you on track and ensure that you are not spending more time on a subject than you believe you need to. It keeps you accountable for your actions, which almost always leads to a better work ethic! 

Be Extremely Careful Trying to Play the System

I know that there is a psychology amongst students to play the system. Purposely “abandoning” a subject to boost marks in others. This is a very dangerous game and one which I recommend against.

Do not assume that abandoning all hope for an extra few units, and investing that time into 4 Unit Math, will improve your score. Anything can happen on HSC Day, and more units is more chances for success.

Essentially, if you are counting a subject towards your HSC, you should be aiming to do your best in it.

By all means, there may be subjects which you really enjoy that you don’t stress about your HSC results for. Mine was Music 1, it was a subject I enjoyed and I wasn’t overly stressed about getting a Band 6. But I still tried really hard because I enjoyed it, and I got a Band 6 anyway, which is common for subjects you enjoy (hence why you should pick subjects you like).

However, don’t consciously try and play the system. Students with high results have high results consistently across all their subjects, they don’t “funnel” their resources. Further, if you are doing extra units, be sure you can handle the workload!

So, that’s my 5 tips for balancing your time across your subjects! Remember to jump on the forums and ask any questions you had, add your own tips/experiences, or just to say hi! Balancing a lot of different subjects, particularly those from different branches of the HSC (Arts, Science, Humanities) can be the most challenging thing about Year 12, and it is an important skill. I hope these tips help you bring the balance between your subjects back to where it should be.

Want to chat about Time Management, or just chat? Post in our HSC Discussion Thread to connect with your peers and ask literally ANY question about time management, study skills, and more.