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Tips on Universe to the Atom & Exam room tips

We are so close! This blog contains some sneaky aspects of Mod 8 – Universe to the Atom, and some (hopefully) helpful ideas concerning in-the-exam tactics. We’re in the endgame now.

Know Your Theory

There’s not too much to say for Mod 8, except that you should know your stuff. This is obviously the case for the other modules, but Mod 8 can pose tricky and subtle questions like:

Describe the differences between a meson and the Z-boson.

There are many terms and categories of particles for the Standard Model of Matter, and there are many assumptions and limitations for each model of the atom. There are specificities in each nuclear fusion process, and several stages of the universe’s evolution. The stars have multiple paths of life, and the HR diagram is packed with information.

My best advice is to analyse each subsection carefully, and look at every subsection. Don’t skip over de Broglie’s limitations because it’s “unlikely you’ll get asked it”. Don’t brush over the evolution of the universe because it hasn’t appeared in any past papers. The HSC can throw anything at you, so it pays to be prepared.

With that said, there are lots of strategies you can use during the exam to boost your result even more. Here are a few which I used during my HSC Physics exams (along with other subjects where applicable!).

Read the Question, Answer the Question

It is surprising how many marks are lost for not answering the question properly. If they ask for THREE historical models of the atom, give them three. If they ask you to EXPLAIN how an AC induction motor works, follow through the logic and show a cause and effect. If they ask you to ANALYSE various models of light, show them the good and the bad parts of each model.

Take the time to carefully read the question, then read it a second time.

Long Answer Responses

The eight or nine markers can be devastating. One entire blank page to write as much as you can about a problem. Here’s my golden rule:

The amount of marks the question is worth is the amount of pieces of information you need to make.

Take the 2020 HSC 9-marker on the magnet dropped through the copper cylinder:

Nine marks means NINE statements, or inferences, or observations. One observation could be that as the magnet falls, gravitational potential energy decreases, and kinetic energy decreases. (Can you calculate this kinetic energy?? Show them you can!) Another inference could be that, from the graph provided, there is zero net force on the magnet as it falls through the cylinder. (Refer to the graph!) And so on.

Nine marks, nine points. Seven marks, seven points. Include calculations (these count as a point!).

Include Equations

Another significant factor when tackling these longer questions is to include equations. Physics markers love it when you setup your problems by stating the equation, then substituting values and so forth. In a long-answer response, to connect the theory to the question, stating an equation in the middle of a sentence when you refer to a law or equation is fantastic!

Complete the Exam in Order

This is niche, but some students jump around and tackle the hard problems straight after the multis, or maybe do the calculations first then the worded answers after. This is confusing, tricky, and problematic. The best option is to do the paper in the order it is presented.

There are a few reasons for this:

Starting with the multis warms up your brain. You obtain the mindset required for the harder problems later on, and the first few multis are marks for showing up!

There are hints in the multi-choice. Often, multi-choice questions have bits of theory or facts that could help you answer short-answer responses (one might contain the speed of light calculated by Fizeau, for instance, that you could use to add extra detail later on)

Mark allocation. Starting a hard problem (seven, eight or nine marker) early on means that you are less likely to have ample time to knock over the easier two, three or four marker short-answers. You are better off answering three or four, four mark questions, than one eight marker, and be so drained of time.

Above all else, stay calm. If you don’t know something, please don’t freak out. Leave it for now, and come back to it later. If you still don’t know, then at least you’ve tried your best – that is all that matters now.

I truly wish you all the best for this year’s HSC. It’s been an arduous year, but delayed gratification means amplified results. I would usually say to you good luck, but I’m hoping you won’t even need it.


Signing off now.


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