I remember my first Year 11 Mathematics exam and being stumped by 53% in my first exam. I was distraught. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to excel in maths because how in the world would I be able to jump back up?

Lo and behold, I came first in my grade for Mathematics in Year 12 and managed to score a 98/100 in my HSC exam.

It may seem stressful and challenging to raise your ranking or grades in a short time but there are several ways you can improve other than practicing textbook questions and completing the chapter reviews.

Past Papers and Textbooks

You should aim to find as many Maths textbooks as you can to solve as many problems as you can - Fitzpatrick, Cambridge, Maths In Focus, Terry Lee. Maths In Focus is a good book to understand and get a grasp on the concepts of all topics through simpler questions. The Cambridge textbook does similar but has a bit more detail and includes more complex questions. Fitzpatrick also introduces the concepts well but in much more detail and has many more exam-like questions. Terry Lee, parallel to Fitzpatrick, includes high level exam questions but does not include sufficient concept explanations for a beginner student. You can find these textbooks at your local bookstore or perhaps your local library or school library.

Similarly to practicing textbook questions, you should aim to complete as many past papers as possible. I knew so many of my friends who disregarded past papers prior to 2019 because the syllabus changed but the old syllabus is still very much the same. You can still use older past papers to practice your calculus, finance calculations, trigonometry!

I aimed to complete one or two past papers per day. You want to have consistency in completing past papers and maintain a strict structure in your studying so you can constantly jog your mind and keep your brain ‘mathematically’ active. You can find past papers on several websites online or perhaps ask friends or cousins from other schools to send you past papers! Aim to complete HSC past papers first, then work with trial papers from other schools.

After you’ve completed a past paper or a question from the textbook, you always want to mark your work immediately and see which topics you struggled with. Make sure to mark the question with a circle or a star. You may highlight it as well so you can come back to the question later in the day or later in the week and do the question again to see if you remember how to solve the question. If it’s a textbook question, you can always write the questions you got wrong on a post-it note and stick it at the front of the textbook or the textbook chapter.

My mother always told me to ‘own’ my questions. By understanding how to solve the question and what steps to take in approaching the question you got incorrect, you can own the question!

Stuck on a question?

If you’re ever stuck on a question, have a look at your working out and see where you went wrong. Otherwise, have a look at the mathematics reference sheet and see how else you could change a formula to fit the question, or perhaps use several formulas, adjust them, and try to fit them into what the question is asking from you.

For HSC Mathematics exams, they’ve included a lot more worded and real-life scenario questions that may seem difficult to digest at once or comprehend completely. You want to read the wording slowly and highlight or underline keywords and numerical values from the text.

If you’re completely stuck on how to do a question or a concept, go back to your textbook and make sure to read up on the theoretical content at the beginning of each section of the textbook and re-do the questions. This may seem tedious to re-solve the questions but it won’t hurt just to complete a few of those questions!

Being consistent

You want to have consistency with your studying! You may focus on one subject at a time closer towards exam days but during the term, you want to continue completing as many questions or past papers as possible every day. If it’s difficult to stay consistent, especially during lockdown, try to add your friends on a studying app like ‘Forest’ and record your studying times to stay productive, away from your phone, as well as still keeping in touch with your friends and how they’re doing.

Remember, even if you’re unfulfilled or believe you have a middling rank or mark, your grades are 50% of your total HSC mark so you can always make it up in your HSC exam! We’ll go through that in the next couple of articles. In the meantime, make sure to check out other HSC blogs as they have useful tips and tricks that you can also use.