Matrix Blog

Mathematics Standard 2

7 HSC Maths Standard Myths Debunked

We're here to debunk these common HSC Maths Standard Myths!

Doing Maths Extension will give me good marks. I’m naturally bad at Maths, so I can’t improve. These are myths we’re sure you’ve heard of before! Well, in this article, we will debunk these HSC Maths myths.


7 Common Maths Myths

  1. You need to do Maths Extension to get a good ATAR
  2. You’re either naturally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at Maths
  3. There is only 1 right method to solve a question
  4. You need to get the correct answer every time
  5. Memorising the formulas is enough to do well
  6. You need to work on Maths 24/7 to improve
  7. Maths is not a prerequisite for University



1. You need to do Maths Extension to get a good ATAR

One of the most common Maths myths is that you need to do ‘high scaling subjects’ like Maths Extension 1 and 2 to achieve a good ATAR.

However, scaling will not save your marks if you are struggling to achieve high marks for the subject.

This is because your ATAR is determined by both your assessment mark and your ranking.


So, what is scaling and how does it work?

Scaling refers to the conversion of your raw marks to a UAC ATAR score. It is similar to money conversions. Each country’s currency has a different conversion rate.

With the HSC, each subject has a different conversion rate based on the difficulty of the subject.

So, yes. Maths Extension 1 and 2 will scale better than Maths Advanced or Standard.

However, if you are unable to do well in Maths Extension 1 and 2, your marks will not be ‘scaled up’ for you. It is better to achieve a consistent 90% for Standard Maths than it is to achieve a consistent 50% for Extension 1.

If you want to read more about HSC scaling, take a look at our Beginner’s Guide to Scaling.


So, how do I select the right Maths level for me?

Doing well in Maths will requires time and effort. So, there are a couple of things you need to consider when you are choosing the right Maths level to study:

  1. What are your previous Maths marks like? Are they strong, average or weak?
  2. How much time and effort are you willing to put in to improve/maintain your marks?
  3. Do you enjoy studying Maths? Do you have an interest in it?
  4. Do you want to study Maths at a higher level? (eg. Maths Extension 2 or Maths in University?)
  5. Does your desired University course require a specific Maths subject/grade?

Remember, not studying Maths is also an option! If you have weak marks, don’t enjoy it or it isn’t a pre-requisite for your University course, then it’s fine to not do Maths at all.

If you are tossing up between Extension 1 and Advanced, and have pretty decent Maths marks, choose Extension 1! You can always drop it in Year 12 if it’s too difficult, but you can’t pick it up in Year 12. Also, you’ll be learning the Maths Advanced subject in Extension 1 too, so you won’t be relearning a whole new course if you decide to drop Extension 1.

Also, if you are considering Maths Extension 2 in Year 12, you must take Extension 1 in Year 11 first.

If you want to learn more about selecting the right Maths course, take a read of our Choosing the Right Year 11 Maths Course article.




2. You’re either naturally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at Maths

Maths is a skill! And like all skills, you can refine and improve it.

So, if you’re unhappy with your Maths marks, don’t give up because you’re ‘bad’ at it. Instead, put a bit more time and effort to refine your skills!


So, how do I improve my Maths marks?

Here are some hot tips that will help you improve your Maths marks.


1. Ensure that your basic Maths skills are solid

Unlike humanities subjects, problem questions will require you to draw on your knowledge of previously learned techniques, methods and formulae.

This is because everything in Maths is inter-related!

For example, you cannot complete a calculus question if you don’t know trigonometry. You cannot complete a trigonometry question if you don’t know algebra!

That’s why it’s crucial that you understand and are confident with your basic Maths skills, so you don’t have a sudden ‘blank’ in your exam.

So, how do we ensure that you know all your basics? Well, that leads us to our next point…


2. Know your syllabus

Your syllabus should be your bible! It identifies every topic, sub-topic, content and formulas that you will be assessed in your exams.

Let’s take a look an example:



You can find the Year 11 and 12 Maths syllabus here:

So, to ensure that you are confident at every Maths topic and formula, you need to:

  1. Read through the syllabus
  2. Rate your confidence level for syllabus each dot-point out of 5
  3. Highlight the syllabus dot-points based on urgency
  4. Cross-check your notes to ensure that you included every formula

Now that you’ve identified your weak dot points, it’s time to target them. This leads us to our next point…


3. Target your weaknesses early

Whenever you come across an issue, you need to immediately target them! As we stated earlier, if you are struggling with one concept, it will affect your performance for other topics.

So, don’t be shy. You should:

  • Ask your school teachers or Matrix teacher or tutors for assistance
  • Seek help from peers who are confident in the topic
  • Read sample solutions from past papers or class examples
  • Review textbook explanations and sample examples
  • Teach your friends how to answer the question


3. Go over your previous exam papers

Too often, students receive their marked exam papers, look at their score and throw the paper away.

However, it is vital that you go through your previous exam papers and examine your responses… even the ones you got correct!

This is because sometimes you might not be sure why you earned or lost a mark in that particular area. So, this is a good opportunity to review your work and see what you need to do next time!

So, take a good read through your solutions and the sample solutions.

Attempt to redo challenging questions to practise and refine your skills. If you still don’t understand how to complete it after reading the sample solution, ask your teachers or peers for help!


5. Practise, practise, practise

Reading and memorising your formulas is one small step of the way to improve your Maths marks. The main thing you need to do is to practise, practise and practise.

You need to build your Maths muscles!

Consistent practise helps you master the skill, understand the formula and concepts, and learn how to apply it to different question types. Soon enough, the methods and formulae will come naturally to you.

So, here are some ways you can practise:

  • Complete your homework exercises every time!
  • Complete past papers open book and under timed conditions
  • Re-do questions that you got incorrect in your previous assessments/exams and homework
  • Re-do challenging questions from your class examples, past papers, or previous exams.


6. Ensure that you have organised notes (and review them consistently!)

It is crucial that you are writing Maths notes and are consistently updating it throughout the year.

You need to include:

  • Maths formulas
  • Maths rules
  • Important notes in pencil, brackets or in the margin. These include mnemonics, and tips.
  • Relevant diagrams and graphs
  • Process to solve challenging questions.



3. There is only 1 right method to solve a question

Although you may only learn one way to solve a problem, that doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to solve it!

Students are taught 1 method of completing a particular question type because it’s much easier to spot your mistakes and fix them.

However, there are actually many different ways you can approach different questions, and there are many benefits to knowing them.

Learning a variety of techniques is useful because you can pick the most efficient method that suits your need.

For example, to solve a double bracket algebraic question like \( (x – 2)(x + 12) \), you can either use the arc or the grid method.

Both ways are correct, and both ways will give you the right answer!

Furthermore, sometimes the question may ask you to show your working-out by using a specific method. If you don’t know how to solve a problem using that specific method, then you will lose marks.


So, how do I ensure that I am confident at using different methods?

Let’s see how you can learn different Maths methods:


1. Take notes of all the new methods you learn in class

You might already know how to solve a specific Maths problem. However, this is not an excuse to zone out in class and ignore your teacher when they are teaching a different method to solve the problem.

Take note of this process and actively attempt to understand the new method.

When you learn multiple methods of solving a specific Maths problem, the logic behind the concept becomes much more explicit. So, you will develop a stronger understanding of the process of solving the specific Maths concept.

Furthermore, you might find the new method much more efficient and easier.

So, you need to:

  • Write down the new method/technique/formula
  • Show how the method/technique/formula is used in an example
  • Jot down any important notes or tips to remember or use the method.


2. Continue to practise a variety of methods

It’s important that you know how to use different methods to solve a specific question-type, even if you prefer one over the other.

This is because some methods are more suitable for different questions, and some questions may even require you to use a specific method.

So, after you learn the new method:

  • Attempt to complete a good amount of practice questions using the new method (eg. homework questions, past papers, class sample questions…)
  • Determine the method you prefer
  • Continue to practise your least preferred method every once in a while (i.e. ideally every week or fortnight)
  • Revise over ALL the different methods consistently

This will help you refine your skills for all techniques and methods.




4. You need to get the correct answer every time

One of the biggest misconceptions with completing Maths questions is that you need to get the correct answer every single time.

However, you are awarded more marks for your work process than your final answer!

Think about it, your final answer is worth 1 mark, whereas your work process can be worth up to 5 marks!

This is because teachers want to see that you understand how to solve the problem, not whether or not you can get the answer correctly.

This means that even if you make a silly mistake and get the final answer incorrect, you can still get most of your marks if you correctly demonstrate each step of the process.


So, how do I show my understanding of the process?

Let’s take a look at a few tips that you need to do to achieve the most possible marks for a question


1. Show your full working process

Showing your working process is important for a number of reasons:

  • It demonstrates that you understand the process
  • You can easily identify your mistakes and fix them
  • You are awarded more marks for your work process than your answer
  • It helps you gather your thoughts and work through them in a logical way.


So, how do you show your work in Maths:

  • Write down every step of your working process
    • Even if you completed a step in your head, you still need to write it down on paper
  • Always write your proofs and reasoning (if the question is a proof question)
    • eg. “If \( x=-7 \) , then \( m=10 \) . Therefore, \( x + m = 3 \)” or
    • eg. “(Angles opposite to equal sides are equal)”
  •  Write down the calculator answer before you round it up or down (if the question asks for a rounded answer)
    • eg. \( = 1.333333333333 \ \text{(calculator)} \)
      \( = 1.3 \ \text{(1 dp)} \)
  • Draw all necessary diagrams clearly if it is crucial to solving the question (including compass directions, shapes, numberline etc)
    • Use a ruler, and draw in pencil
  • Always write your work vertically down and start a new line for every step
  • Box/underline your final answer so that it is clear
  • Don’t scribble or rub out incorrect working. Simply cross a neat line through it.
    • Sometimes, the crossed out working is correct. So, instead of writing over it, you can box it again and say ‘correct’.
  • If you are adding a new variable, you must say “Let __ be __” 
    • eg. “Let \( y \) be \( m^{2} \)“
  • Always write down your units!
    • eg. cm, m, ml, dogs, shoes etc


2. Complete as much of the question as you possibly can

When you come across a Maths question and you can’t map out the process in your head, you shoudn’t simply skip it.

Instead, try to do as much of it as you can!

This way, you are still able to pick up some marks in your working process, and you might even reach the final answer!

So, how do you do this:

  • Flag the question to return to it at the end of your exam
  • Just start the process and write everything down. It might lead you in the right direction (even if you don’t reach an answer)
  • If you know how to complete a specific part of the question and not the other, just skip to that step and write down your work

Just remember, don’t spend too long on a question if you feel like you are going nowhere. The aim of this tip is for you to attempt the question and get any possible additional mark, not to waste 30 minutes trying to answer the question.




5. Memorising the formulas is enough to do well

Many students fall into the trap of thinking that studying for Maths means memorising formulas, theorems and rules.

However, simply memorising Maths is not enough to do well.

Maths is a very practical subject. It requires you to understand different concepts and know how to apply them correctly.

So your aim is to understand the formulas and continually practise them, instead of simply memorising formulas. When you understand something, it is committed to your brain for longer than simply rote learning.


So, how do I improve my understanding of Maths concepts?

Memorising formulas is an important step in studying for Maths. However, it is not the only step.

So, here are some other things you should be doing instead.


1. Break down the process

This is the working out process that you would usually write in exams:

\( x + 5 = 7 \)
\( x = 2 \)

This is correct and will give you full marks. However, it is doesn’t show you how you reached the final answer.

So, when you are learning a new method or concept, you need to break down the process and understand the ‘in-between steps’.

Attempt to write these ‘in-between’ steps when you are learning a method or concept for the first time, so it is ingrained in your mind.

In this case, it is:

\( x + 5 = 7 \)
\( x + 5 (- 5) = 7 (- 5) \)
\( x = 2 \)

This middle step subtracts 5 from both sides of the equation to make \( x = 0 \). This is how you get the answer \( x = 2 \).

Notice how useful that middle step is in helping you build a stronger understanding of this Maths process? That’s why it’s crucial that you are breaking down every step of the process – even the ‘in-between’ steps – when you are first learning a Maths concept.


2. Understand the core concepts first

When you are advancing to more complex concepts and methods, it is crucial that you understand the foundations of the concept first.

For example, to complete trigonometry questions, you need to know your algebra. AND, to complete some algebra questions, you need to know your quadratic formula.

As you see, Maths concepts are all inter-related. So, it is crucial that you don’t neglect your core concepts.

Therefore, how do you ensure that you understand your concepts:

  • Break down the advanced concepts into simpler concepts
  • Recognise the connections between different concepts
  • Don’t move on to the next [more advanced] concept if you haven’t grasped the cores
  • Continue to practise your cores
  • Ask for help if you are still struggling



6. You need to work on Maths 24/7 to improve

Another HSC Maths Myth is that you need to work 24/7 on Maths to improve. However, this is not the case.

You need to study smart, not study hard.

Always remember, the HSC isn’t solely based on your Maths marks. It is a combination of all of your subjects.

So, this is why it’s important that you are studying ‘smart’ because you don’t want to waste all of your time and efforts on one subject.

Past papers are so useful, but they take forever to finish… especially if you’re on a crunch for time. But there are other methods you can follow to be more efficient in your study.


So, how do I complete past papers effectively?

You should aim to complete one Maths past paper every week or fortnight. This will ensure that you are continually refining your skills and reviewing all your Maths topics.

During the month before your exam period, you should begin to work on more Maths past papers.

There are 3 ways you can complete your Maths paper. All 3 have their own benefits. So, attempt to do all 3 if possible.


1. Complete past papers open book

Doing past papers open book take the longest amount of time.

However, it is very useful as it allows you to learn how to properly answer all questions with the help of your notes, and without the stress of time.

It is your opportunity to fine tune and develop your Maths skills.

So, how do you complete an open book past paper?

  • Attempt ALL questions
  • No time limit and other exam restrictions (However, you should still keep distractions to a minimum and find a work-friendly environment)
  • Refer to your notes if you forget a formula or need additional help with a question (Note: this is a last resort! Try to memorise formulas to prepare yourself for your exams)
  • If you are struggling with a challenging question, you can refer to the solutions to help you solve it
  • Seek help from teachers and friends if you still don’t understand a question

After you’ve completed a good amount of open book past papers, you can focus on the challenging questions (See 3. below)


2. Complete past papers under exam conditions

Doing past papers under exam conditions might seem a little stressful, but it is a sure way of ensuring that you are only spending a maximum of 2-3 hours on a paper.

It is also very useful at helping you develop your exam taking skills, manage your exam stress and identify your weaknesses.

So, how do we complete past papers under exam conditions?

  • Timed conditions
    • 2 hours for Maths Std and Maths Ext 1
    • 3 hours for Maths Adv and Ext 2)
  • Closed book (This means that you cannot have your notes or answers handy. However you can use the reference sheet provided by NESA – Advanced Reference Sheet and Standard Reference Sheet)
  • 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 a 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!



3. Focus on challenging questions

If you’ve completed a good amount of past papers and are very confident in doing the ‘easier’ questions, then you should only focus on the challenging ones.

This ensures that you are not wasting too much time going over questions that you’re already confident in doing.

So, how do we focus on challenging questions?

  • Go through your past papers and identify your most common mistakes and your not-so-confident topics
  • Scan through past papers and solve all the challenging and ‘mildly challenging’ questions
  • Work through questions that you answered incorrectly from past papers
  • Go through challenging class and/or textbook examples


Note: We went through some useful tips to improve Maths in Myth #2: ‘You’re either naturally good or bad at Maths’. It is crucial that you apply tips from both Myths to improve your Maths marks.

Another note: If you want to learn how to allocate appropriate time for all of your subjects based on your confidence levels, take a read of out Get HSC Ready in 28 Days Guide.




7. Maths is not a prerequisite for University

That’s right. Previously, Maths was not a prerequisite for most University entries.

However, Universities are starting to introduce Maths as a pre-requisite and/or recommended subject for University entries.

This means that you may have to complete a specific Maths course and/or achieve a specific Maths grade to enter your desired course.

So, before you select your subjects for Year 11, make sure you do some research about your desired course and uni.

Different Universities will have different requirements.

But don’t worry. Here is a list of courses that require Maths as a prerequisite or assumed knowledge:

If your desired university doesn’t have a list of degrees with Maths prerequisites, you should search for the Course Handbook. It will identify whether or not Maths is a prerequisite for a particular corse.




We’ve debunked the myths for you. Now, it’s time to ace Maths Standard 2!

Matrix is now offering Maths Standard classes! Our HSC expert teachers will guide you step-by-step through our comprehensive and insightful resources and help you achieve your best Maths marks. Learn more about Maths Standard classes now. 

Learn to solve any Maths question!

Expert teachers, weekly quizzes, one-to-one help! Ace your next Maths Std 2 assessment with Matrix+ Online.

Written by Matrix Maths Team

The Matrix Maths Team are tutors and teachers with a passion for Mathematics and a dedication to seeing Matrix Students achieving their academic goals.


© 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.

Get free study tips and resources delivered to your inbox.

Join 75,893 students who already have a head start.

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies. Read our cookies statement.

OK, I understand