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Before your Advanced Maths Exam

There was an infamous story at my school where a student had pulled an all-nighter before their final exams and they couldn’t focus on their examination because they could see words from the paper float off and above the page! This proves how important it is to take care of yourself before and during your exam periods so you don’t suffer like this poor student.


If you’re highly organised and on top of your game, that’s great! Try to help your peers and friends too to reach your level of productivity as the HSC also considers the efforts of your cohort as well.


Being physically healthy and productivity


By now you’ve probably all heard the recommendations, “Teenagers need to sleep between 8 to 10 hours every night”. It might have become a cliché by now but remember that sleep is incredibly important in enabling you to focus and maintain productivity, especially in times of overwhelming stress. To get your 8 hours make sure you stay away from your phone at least one hour before you go to bed and avoid coffee and caffeine in the evening.


Being able to get sufficient sleep will help you to reach your maximum productivity! But just because you’re productive doesn’t mean you will be able to ace all your exams – you need to divide your time up evenly so that you study for all your units equally rather than be productive for only one subject.


Another way to split up your productivity equally amongst your subjects is to aim to go through at least one past paper from each subject per day. Now that the HSC is slowly creeping up, it’s important to go through past papers to revise what you do know, don’t know, as well as study exam type questions. You may spend 2 hours on a Maths paper, 2 hours on a Legal Studies paper, etc. Or, if you don’t have time, you may opt for breaking down the paper into sections (like MCQ, short answer, questions 1-5, etc) and going through each section on separate days. You may spend 10 minutes on MCQ today and spend 30 minutes on questions 11-15 tomorrow.


Approaching abstract questions


After the mathematics syllabus changed from 2019, the HSC has incorporated more abstract questions that relate to real-world problem solving. One of the things that I always found difficult was having so many words and concepts thrown at you, and then trying make sense of it all. As such, having a hack for organising the way you approach these questions is really handy. This is the easiest way that I found for organising your approach to dealing with these questions.


Have a look at this question 20 from the 2020 HSC:



Notice how the question gives us certain values in an anecdotal way? Most non-MCQ questions will be sorted out like this and you must recognise what certain values represent.


For example, as we know that this question is asking us to use the trapezoidal rule, we must find what ‘n’, ‘a’, and ‘b’ represent from the trapezoidal equation on your reference sheet:


So, you may write:


See how we can equate parts of the equation from the reference sheet to the values given in the equation? You can do this for all of your abstract questions! Have a look at the working out now that we’ve found what each pronumeral or term means with respect to the question:



Were you able to get the same answer? Try this method for the rest of the 2020 paper, other trial papers, and other past papers from 2001-onwards, VCE papers, textbook questions, etc!

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