Final Exam Prep – how to use the formula sheet and why it’s your best friend

The exam is fast approaching, and you’ve been hard at work revising difficult concepts and working through a mountain of revision questions! What now?

Well, first things first, you want to make sure you’ve made the best use out of all the resources available to you – that includes working through the 2020 HSC paper back to front (seriously, it’s the only paper for this new syllabus you have and is the best indicator of what your exam may look like!).

The next best thing are the resources available on the NESA website (see the link in my first article) – these provide valuable information on the kinds of questions you could be asked and is good for consolidating understanding of concepts.

Finally, you want to attempt some harder textbook questions as well as trial papers and just try to get an overall feel for each topic as best you can.

Another useful tip is understanding common mistakes that students have made in previous years (as well as your own personal weaknesses) and how to tackle these. The following is based on my experience.

Classic mistakes:

  • As I’ve said already (I made a whole blog post on it!!), students often fall into the trap of not revising year 11 content – huge mistake!! Last year, the exam consisted of over 50% of the marks going to year 11 content

  • To answer those harder questions worth more marks, think about how different concepts are interrelated and how to make use of previous parts of the question

  • Silly mistakes!! Show all working and leave time at the end to check your answers – work quickly, but carefully. You want to minimise marks lost on things like calculator and arithmetic errors.

How do you do this?

  • Work smart, not hard:

o Mark HSC papers meticulously

o Worry about timing only once you’ve got the hang of it – I recommend working on accuracy and then efficiency – this means do questions you struggle with in untimed conditions until you can consistently get the answer correct, and then work under timed conditions to build efficiency and time management.

Final advice:

  • The way to practice maths is by doing past papers!! (You can never do too many)

  • Make sure you familiarise yourself with the formula sheet before the exam!

  • During the exam, don’t spend too much time on one question if you get stuck,

  • Do as much of it as you can to guarantee partial marks and flag it for later

  • Don’t spend too much time on MCQ compared to long response (use the recommended time of 15mins for section 1 and 1hr 45mins for section 2). Think about mark allocations and how to maximise your marks.

  • Have a nutritious meal in the morning and get plenty of sleep the night before!! (seriously, sleep is a game changer for a maths exam where you need to be on the ball)

The formula sheet


By now you would have used the formula sheet many times, in exams and assessments. So why is it going to be your best friend in the exam? Well in reality, it’s your only friend!

Whilst the formula sheet definitely gives some peace of mind about not having to memorise every formula, it’s still important to know how and when to use each by applying them to questions as you go through. Taking a few moments before the exam to jot important notes/ additions to the formulae provided can help you focus and organise your thoughts. For example, you can begin by crossing out sections you wont need in the extension 1 exam (which is really only the complex numbers and mechanics section on the last page). Also be aware of where certain formulas are on the sheet, and exactly what is there – you’ve got area of arcs and trapeziums and surface area of cylinders and spheres and volume of cones should you need it.

You may also want to add the reverse sums and difference formulas (or at least know how to derive them) under the trigonometric functions section of the formula sheet:

Happy revising!

Afrina Islam

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