Having done both HSC Biology and Chemistry I know the feeling of looking at the syllabus and thinking “how on earth am I going to memorise all of this content?” Fortunately, I figured out a sort of schedule that helped me to learn all of the information that I needed for each assessment that came up. The way I like to think of studying for science is like writing and performing a show:
Obviously writing a script is one of the first steps in creating a show. Similarly, in studying for Science, you have to write your notes. The best way to do this is by copying out the syllabus outcomes for the module that you are learning and writing down all the relevant information under each outcome. This means that you can make sure that you have covered all of the content you could possibly be asked about! Writing your notes should be done as you learn the information in class. I suggest setting aside some time at the end of each week to update your notes with everything you’ve learnt that week. I find that the best notes are colourful, simple (dot points not sentences!) and have heaps of diagrams, tables and images that might help you – see my biology notes below.
When you’re writing notes, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing down HEAPS of information (most of which is irrelevant). Therefore, before the exam you have to make sure to condense your notes because it will make the memorisation process so much easier! I find that an easy way to figure out which information is the most important is by reading back over the outcome from the syllabus that you’re focusing on, imagine the outcome in the form of an exam question and identify what information is essential to answer that question. You could also refer to our ATAR Notes study guides to see what our tutors thought was important under each outcome. You can do this step whenever, but if you get a notification for an exam and you haven’t condensed your notes yet – do so quickly!
In this stage, you have to memorise the information and practice. Everyone is a bit different in how they like to learn, so this will vary from me to you, however, some potential ways to memorise the content includes:
Making your own worksheets
Posters for around your room
Meeting with friends, teachers or tutors to go over the information
In this stage, you should also start doing HEAPS of practice questions and past papers. I cannot stress how important and helpful a good past paper is!
Now that you’re almost ready for the performance, you want to identify your problem areas and fix them before the show. These are pretty easy to identify – if someone mentions a part of the syllabus to you and you cringe and start to feel sick, that’s probably a problem area for you!
To tackle my problem areas, I would ask my teachers and the people around me questions, watch videos on YouTube and honestly just write the information out in heaps of different ways with lots of diagrams until it made sense. Below is a sheet I made to teach myself one of my Year 12 biology problem areas: immunity.
The night before the performance, you should really just go over anything you can’t remember or still struggle with. You need to trust your memory – if you remembered something a few days ago, it’s probably still in your brain somewhere so you need to focus your energy on learning the things you don’t know rather than reviewing the things you already know.
Then, you can go into the exam feeling confident. Break a leg!