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7 HSC Exam Study Habits Band 6 Maths Students Have That Others Don’t

In this article, we share tips from the Matrix Maths team that will help you ace your HSC Exams.

The HSC Exams are coming fast. they are your last chance to save your marks and cement your rankings… but don’t fear! You still have a chance to make a significant impact on your marks. that’s why we’ve compiled these 7 HSC Exam study habits Band 6 Maths students do that others don’t.


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How do I study like a top Maths student??

  1. Create a practical and effective study plan
  2. Familiarise yourself with the:
    1. Syllabus
    2. Reference sheet 
  3. Brush up on Year 11 Maths content
  4. Revise your notes and memorise your formulas (create a formula book if you haven’t already!)
  5. Complete past papers:
    1. Open book
    2. Exam conditions
  6. Rework challenging questions and your common mistakes
  7. Create a study group and take turns teaching others


1. Band 6 students create practical and effective study plans

The first thing that Band 6 Maths students do, is that they create a practical and effective study plan by figuring the following:

  • Goals
  • Weaknesses and strengths
  • Time

Study plans are important because they help you organise and balance your studies for your different subjects and topics.

It is crucial that you are creating a study plan that is practical and achievable because you don’t want to lose motivation when you begin to fall behind on your schedule.

So, here some things you need to consider before you start planning your study timetable:



Band 6 students always set themselves goals because it gives them a sense of direction.

Imagine running mindlessly without a destination in mind… you will get nowhere productive.

So, it’s important to set your Maths HSC exam goals, whether this is to improve your Maths marks, to achieve a certain rank, or to boost your ranking.


Weaknesses and strengths

Knowing your weaknesses and strengths will allow you to better prioritise your studies.

What Band 6 Maths students do is that they allocate specific time periods to focus on their weaknesses, whilst still revising the other topics.

This means that they can improve on their weaknesses, whilst still maintaining their confidence in their strengths.

So, this is how you can figure out your strengths and weaknesses:

Then, you should use a Priority Matrix to decide what’s urgent and what’s important to schedule your days:





Being realistic about how much time you have to study, take breaks, and do personal activities is very important.

Remember, you should spend some time on all of your Maths topics, not just your weak ones.

This will ensure you don’t forget what you learned 3 terms ago… which can happen even if you did really well for that topic!

So, break down your studies into smaller chunks and be practical about the time allocation.

If you find that you are struggling to plan effectively or make time to study each Maths topic, then you can also join our HSC Exam Prep Course. This course will help you revise all the Maths topics and provide you with plenty of practice questions.

If you want to learn more about creating an effective study plan, take a read of our article: How to Create a Study Plan that Works.



2. Top students familiarise themselves with the syllabus and reference sheet

Band 6 Maths students understand the importance of being familiar with the Maths syllabus, reference sheet, and exam structure.

Let’s see how and why!



The syllabus is one of the most important tools to studying and preparing for your Maths HSC Exams.

This is because it clearly identifies which topics, sub-topics, content and formulas that you will be assessed in your HSC Exams.

With it, you will be able to easily identify your missing gaps of knowledge and your strengths to prepare your study schedules.

Take a look for yourself:


Screenshot of NESA’s Math Adv Syllabus: Calculus


The sub-topic is ‘anti-derivative’, and the dot points include the content and formula you must know to ace your HSC Maths exams.

So, to take advantage of your syllabus, you should follow these steps:

  1. Read through the syllabus carefully
  2. Rate your confidence level for each dot point out of 5 (1 being not confident at all, and 5 being very confident)
  3. Cross-check your study notes and/or exam notes to ensure that you have all the relevant formulas

After doing this, you will be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses to figure out the topics you need to focus on more.

You can find the syllabus here:


Reference sheet

For Maths Adv, Ext 1 and Ext 2, students are given a reference sheet to use during the exams. Here is a link to the exact formula sheet that you will be given in your HSC exams: NESA’s Maths reference sheet.

Band 6 Maths students always take advantage of this reference sheet and use it during the exam.

They’re not wasting brainpower attempting to memorise these formulas, and they know where everything is placed on the sheet so they’re not wasting precious HSC exam time flipping through the pages of the reference sheet.

So, this is what you need to do to:

  1. Download and print out the Matrix Maths Formula Handbook
  2. Remember which formulas are included and not included
  3. Know where different formulas are placed on the page
  4. Use the reference sheet as you work through past-papers.

However, remember the reference sheets only includes some important formulas, not all of them. So, you still need to write your exam notes and memorise the other formulas.



Here are a few pages from NESA’s Maths Reference Sheet that will be provided for you in your Maths exams.

If you need help remembering which formulae are which, read our guide.


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3. Band 6 students brush up on Year 11 Maths content

Remember, your HSC Maths exams will also assess you on your Year 11 content.

Year 11 Maths is considered as ‘assumed knowledge’ in your HSC exams.

Top Maths students achieve Band 6’s because they are confident with their preliminary content, as well as mastering new HSC content.

So, it is crucial that you allocate some time to revise your Year 11 content and ensure you understand everything.

To do this, aim to:

  • Read through your Year 11 notes
  • Memorise formulas from Year 11
  • Revise and spend more time on challenging topics
  • Ask any questions you have on the Matrix Q&A Board (You can gain free access to this as a Matrix HSC Exam Prep student)


4. Top students revise their notes and memorise formulas

By now, you should have detailed Maths notes (whether this is from your classwork or Matrix workbooks), and a formula book.

Band 6 students will use both types of notes to prepare for their HSC exams because they recognise the benefits of both.

Let’s see what they are and how to use them:


Detailed Maths notes

This is a Matrix student’s Maths class notes that they’ve been writing throughout the year.


Matrix student’s detailed Maths class notes.


These notes are much more detailed and the important information are spread across a large chunk of pages.

You won’t be able to possibly remember everything you’ve learned 3 terms ago…

So, they are especially useful to when you want to revisit everything you’ve learned in class, including formulas, explanations, and class examples.

So, to revise your detailed notes, you should:

  1. Highlight important formulas and notes (Read over them if you’ve already highlighted)
  2. Read and understand examples for different question types for each topic
  3. Carefully review challenging questions and work through them on a separate piece of paper if you have time (If you want to look for more challenging questions, Matrix HSC Exam Prep Course will provide you with plenty of practice questions for each topic)


Formula book

Now, just because you’ve revised for Maths using your detailed notes, that doesn’t mean that you’re done. Band 6 Maths students will also revise with their formula books!

But what is a formula book?

Below is an example of a Band 6 Maths student’s formula book that they’ve been writing throughout the year.


Simple and concise Maths exam notes

See how it is concise, simple and only contains the most important information?

They are especially useful when you want to quickly memorise your formulas or revisit any formulas you’re unsure of.

Formula books are a set of concise notes containing:

  • Math formulas 
  • Math rules 
  • Important notes (in pencil, in brackets or in the margin)
  • Important and relevant diagrams and graphs
  • Method to solve challenging questions (eg. how to solve auxiliary angles)

So, if you haven’t written one already, get a small notebook and a pen and write down all the important formulas and rules.

This book is especially useful when you want to revise during the days leading up to your exam because all the important information is condensed.



5. Complete past papers: open book and under exam conditions

Top Maths students understand the importance of completing past papers, both open book and under exam conditions.

Each method has their own different advantages, so aim to complete a variety of the two.

Let’s see what the benefits are, and how you can complete your past papers this way.


Open book

Open book past papers are highly beneficial to do. Treat this as a learning opportunity to fine-tune and develop your Maths skills.

Let’s see the benefits of open-book exam practice:

  • Practice answering every question in an exam (instead of skipping questions because you run out of time)
  • Learn how to properly and fully answer a question without rushing
  • Learn how to answer challenging questions by referring to notes or solutions (instead of skipping)
  • Spend more time working on challenging questions
  • Expose yourself to a wide variety of questions

So, how do we complete an open book exam?

  • No time limit or other restrictions (However, still try to keep distractions to a minimum and study in a work-friendly environment)
  • Refer to your notes if you forget any formulas (However, try to do this as minimal as possible to train your memory!)
  • Refer to the solutions or notes if you need help solving challenging questions
  • If you still don’t understand the solution, seek help by dropping a question in the Matrix Q&A Board (you’ll gain free access to this feature by being a Matrix HSC Exam Prep Student) or by asking friends or teachers

You should aim to complete all the questions in your past papers.

Once you’ve completed a significant amount of open book past-papers, then you can start skipping easy questions and focus on the intermediate and challenging questions.


Exam conditions

Does the sound of doing past papers under exam conditions stress you out a little? Well, this is why we need to do them!

Completing past papers under exam condition will help you deal with exam stress and develop your exam-taking skills.

Top Maths students understand the following benefits::

  • Develop time management strategies
  • Test memory of important formulas and rules
  • Practise how to use the Maths reference sheet effectively
  • Improve ability to deal with stress
  • Improve ability to apply knowledge and think on the spot
  • Develop exam-taking tricks (eg. Skipping and flagging challenging questions to return to later)

So, let’s see what ‘exam-conditions’ mean:

  • Closed book (i.e. no notes or formulas, except the formula sheet)
  • Timed conditions (2 hours for Maths Ext 1 and 3 hours for Maths Adv and Ext 2)
  • No phones, electronics of any other distractions
  • Quiet and work-friendly environment
  • Tell your family and friends to not disturb you for the duration of the ‘exam’
  • Treat it like an HSC exam

Aim to complete at least one past paper for each of your Maths subjects throughout the week.

If you are low on time, then you can break the exam up in 1 hour or 1.5 hour sessions. Remember to complete them under exam conditions!



6. Top students rework challenging questions and common mistakes

After working through a good amount of past papers – both under exam conditions and open book – you should start to solely focus on challenging questions.

These are usually question types that you tend to answer incorrectly, or questions that tests your least confident topics.

To do this, you should:

  1. Identify challenging questions: Scan through past papers to find challenging questions, find your incorrect answers from your previous papers, or go through challenging class or textbook examples
  2. Attempt to answer these questions without looking at the solutions (It’s okay if you can’t. Just jump to Step 3)
  3. Carefully review the solution and understand it
  4. If you got it incorrect or you feel unconfident, then try answering it again

Remember, if you need help identifying challenging questions from the textbook, just go to the solutions to find the mapping guide (for older past papers). Select the questions from your weaker topics and work on them.



If you find are still struggling with some challenging concepts, you should:

  1. Ask your teachers
  2. Read through solutions
  3. Review textbook and notes
  4. Seek help from friends
  5. Continue practising

Always remember to mark your work and seek help if you need it!



7. Band 6 students create study groups and take turns teaching others

Remember, your HSC journey is not supposed to be a lonely one! You have your friends who are on the same journey as you.

So, take advantage of this and work together with your friends to improve in Maths.

You can call or meet up with your friends and:

  • Teach each other complex Maths concepts
  • Seek help for your weaker areas
  • Help your friend with their weaker areas
  • Work through challenging questions together

Teaching others is one of the best ways to learn. Why?

Well, when you teach people, you are testing your understanding of the concept. If you are struggling to explain a concept, then that means that you don’t have a strong enough understanding of it.

Teaching people also helps you consolidate and better memorise Maths concepts as you are expected to verbalise it.

You can extend your understanding of your content, especially when your friend asks you challenging questions.


Lift your Maths marks

Start HSC Maths confidently

Expert teachers, weekly quizzes, one-to-one help! Ace your next assessment with Matrix+ Online.

Written by Tammy Dang

Tammy is a former student of Matrix and is now studying Law / Media (Screen and Sound Production) at UNSW. She is a Digital Content Writer for the Matrix Education blog. Tammy aspires to become a lawyer in the future while continuing to run her art business.


© Matrix Education and, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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