Jess Laven graduated with a 96.60 ATAR. Though Jess completed the QCE, these tips are broadly applicable to all states. As always, note that not all study techniques will work for all students - but there's no harm in experimenting!

In Senior high school, and particularly in the lead-up to my Year 12 external exams, I spent a lot of time memorising content. This is easier said than done, so what was my strategy?

For English, as well as Humanities subjects such as Legal Studies and Business, I had a process:

  • Step 1: Compile the information you need to remember in one revision document per subject.

  • Step 2: Read and re-read the document’s contents until you are familiar with it.

  • Step 3: Recite the contents of the document without looking at it. Refer back to the document as needed until you can recite it completely from memory.

Compiling Information in a Document


To make this revision document for subjects like Legal Studies and Business, I used the Syllabus as a guide. I would copy and paste the Syllabus section that was relevant to my exam into a document. Then, I would treat each requirement in the Syllabus as though it was an exam question and write an answer accordingly.

This process is largely straightforward for these Humanities subjects because most of the Syllabus requires that you can describe or explain certain concepts. Therefore, you can easily treat these sections as exam questions.

However, it’s trickier for those sections that say you need to be able to analyse or evaluate something. You can’t predict what they will want you to analyse or evaluate in the exam, but this doesn’t mean you can’t prepare at all. For example, for Business, you can ensure you have the evaluation criteria and analytical tools memorised. For Legal Studies, you can ensure you have the legal criteria memorised.


My external English exam was based on Macbeth. I read the play multiple times, did desktop research and used resources like the ATAR Notes Macbeth Text Guide to find strong quotes and analysis ideas. I then put this information in a document, creating a table that organised the quotes according to themes, as you can see in the example below. You will likely have many themes listed across the top, but not every quote will relate to every theme, so some columns will be blank. This is why the "Ambition" and "Guilt" columns are blank in the following example:

Quote, Act, Scene and Context



Good and Evil



"O valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!" (1.2)

Duncan describes Macbeth after hearing of his defeat of Macdonwald. Macdonwald was a Scottish nobleman who was rebelling against the king.

The basis of the praise is Macbeth's ruthlessness and his defeat of Macdonwald.

This illustrates that Macbeth was originally portrayed positively.

It was considered masculine to engage in violence.

Read and Recite the Contents

Once I had created my revision document, I would read it many times over. I would then eventually try to recite it until I could do so fluently without looking at my notes. Sometimes, I would focus on one question or one series of questions and memorise these before moving on to a different section. Other times, especially if there was less content to remember, I would memorise everything at once.

When reciting the content, I would have my revision document open on my laptop in front of me, but I would look away from the screen. This meant that if I stumbled on something or couldn’t remember something entirely, I would be able to look down, trigger my memory and keep reciting.

Sometimes I would look at my laptop screen to see what the question was, particularly in the early stages. As I became more confident, I would know the revision document so well that I had not only the content memorised but also the questions.

While most of the time my recitation process was an individual effort, sometimes I would give my laptop or paper notes to a family member so they could ask me the revision questions. They would then be able to follow along to see how accurately I remembered my answers.

... sometimes I would give my laptop or paper notes to a family member so they could ask me the revision questions.

Benefits of My Process

1. You can use any resources to help you

My process allowed me to use all the resources I had available to me to write the best possible answers. This included notes from class, my teachers and Google. I was essentially trying to write my exam answers before even seeing the paper. Therefore, using my process meant that I was doing an open-book exam.

2. You can check your word count

Word limits were a big challenge for me throughout high school. My process allowed me to keep track of how long my answers were and make adjustments as needed to suit the word count requirements. In some cases, the Syllabus indicates general word count requirements for different sections of exams.

3. You cover all possible exam questions

Using the Syllabus to guide what you include in your revision document ensures that you don’t miss any content. You can avoid getting a nasty surprise in the exam. If it is in the Syllabus, it could be on the exam.

4. You save time during your exam

My methods often allowed me to start writing as soon as the exam began, without needing to try to recall content or consider how I should word my answers. Of course, this wasn’t the case for every question because many Humanities subjects give you stimulus on which to base your responses. However, it typically worked for the first few exam questions that asked you to explain or describe a concept.

Everyone memorises content differently, but if you are looking for a new strategy to try, give my process a go. It could be your ticket to acing your exams.

Good luck!