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Study Techniques for HSC Economics

By Giuliana De Bellis in HSC
9th of March 2021

Learning Content and Making Notes

Depending on how you learn, will depend on how you should go about approaching content in Economics. Personally, I hand-wrote notes in class based on my teacher’s presentations. I would then type up my notes into a document. Once a week I would read through these notes and cut out any unnecessary information. Closer to exams, I would read through my notes side by side with the textbook and ATAR Notes book, ensuring I wasn’t missing any information or had unnecessary detail. I would also add in extra notes I had collected from the news and other relevant sources.

Personally, I used the previous edition of these notes to solidify my knowledge in Economics. I highlighted my hardcopy and handwrote extra notes from the book. For students who note-take in class, I would recommend using this book as a supplement. For students who prefer making notes before content is covered at school, or don’t take notes in class this book contains enough notes to cover the syllabus comprehensively. You may find supplementing this book with a textbook may enhance your understanding of Economics.

This method of note taking allowed me to revise content at the same time. When I typed my notes, I would revise content from that day, then compiling my notes allowed me to revise every week-month. Alongside my extended readings from the news and other resources, this allowed for a wholistic study of Economics, where I had a deep understanding of the course. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this book, understanding the content is much more important than (and actually helps with) memorisation!

Now, I learn easily from reading and writing so this method worked for me, however, it won’t work for all students! So, here are a list of techniques you could try out to learn content and make notes for Economics:

* Make mind maps on topics, including mini diagrams to help you remember link

* Watch YouTube videos explaining concepts (even if they aren’t HSC-focused!

* Watch the ATAR Notes Lecture series for Economics

* Make flashcards with definitions, key concepts and formulas

* Record yourself speaking your notes, and play it back on repeat

* Attempt practice questions and past exam papers

Revising Content

To revise on content before exams, I would print my final notes, highlight key components, and handwrite a condensed cheat-sheet like version. In this process, I would also speak my notes out loud, have someone test me on the content, or better still, have group study sessions where you revise the content and discuss theory with your friends. Group study sessions are a highly effective form of revision! Often, our memory associates content with events, funny moments, quirks or anything of interest – so group study sessions can often assist you with understanding and remembering difficult concepts.

Essay Plans

When it came to prepare for Trials and HSC, my preferred method of practicing applications of my knowledge was the creation of essay plans. By the HSC, I aimed to have essay prepared for each sub-topic, e.g. for each economic issue in topic 3. I found essay plans were the most efficient way of preparing for these larger exams, as they wouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes to create (shorter than writing an entire essay), but allowed me to organise theory and create links in my mind – effectively applying my understanding of the content. It also allowed me to recall case studies and statistics, and practice analysis – which are tricker components of economics study.

I would set out these essay plans in dot-point form. My introduction would be 2-3 dot points. Paragraphs would have a topic sentence-like title, with theory, links and examples below. My conclusions would also be around 2 dot points. All up, an essay plan might be around 1-2 pages. I preferred writing my essay plans on A3 paper so I could visually see the progression of my essay on one page.

Studying with essay plans effectively allows you to practice for short answer questions too (as these are often in a similar format to body paragraphs) and recall information tested in multiple choice questions, effectively minimising the time you need to study, and maximising the development of your Economics skills.

Practice Papers

Many students attempt practice papers before they understand content. In my opinion, this can be bad for motivation and confidence levels. If you are nearing an exam (contrary to popular opinions), I think it is more important to take a step back, ensure you understand all the theory being tested, and then focus on practicing and applying your knowledge. Going to practice questions will give you exposure to typical exam-style questions and will build up your analytical skill, but without a foundational knowledge of the content FIRST, your efforts will not be as effective.

Furthermore, you may identify topics of weakness you should prioritise practicing over others, saving you time. I also recommend students to have everything they practice be marked, for this reason you may wish to start by practicing essays and short answer questions in the lead up to an exam and getting feedback on those with enough time for you to apply this feedback. Multiple choice questions can be done closer to exams as they can be self-marked.

Truthfully, I spent much more time understanding content and writing essay plans than doing practice papers. But again, this was what worked for me – you may find you learn best through practical tasks, and practice papers may help you more.

In the lead up to the HSC, I found my weakness lied in multiple choice questions, so I spent most of my ‘practice time’ grinding past HSC and Trial multiple choice questions, rather than essays or short answer questions. The main piece of advice I can give is to focus on which skill (e.g. multiple choice, short answer or essay questions) and topic (e.g. inflation) you are the least confident in to practice. Start here, and work towards those topics you are more confident in. Although this may feel uncomfortable when studying, it will maximise the efficiency of your study and result in the greatest boost of marks possible, as you are improving upon your weakest areas.

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