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Cecilia’s Hacks: Ace HSC Chemistry by Targeting Your Weak Spots

Are you still unconfident in some HSC topics? Are you unsure of how to tackle them? Well, you came to the right place!

Cecilia shares her best hacks to ace HSC chemistry by targeting your weak spots! And don’t worry if Chemistry ain’t your thing, these tips are applicable to any subject!


Me, Myself and I:


Cecilia Chenh



St George Girls High School


University Course Goal

UNSW Medicine or Psychology



Over 99


My HSC Subjects:

  • Maths Extension 1
  • Maths Extension 2
  • English Advanced
  • Chemistry
  • Physics


My best performing subjects were Maths and Chemistry

I performed the best in Maths because…..

It was so methodical and intuitive.

I didn’t particularly enjoy rote-learning, so, the focus on application and repetition made Maths enjoyable for me.


I also performed well in Chemistry…

Because of my interest in the subject.


My worst performing subject was English

I enjoyed English the least because I was, unfortunately, guilty of procrastinating.

It always took me so long to get started on my essay writing. This meant that I generally resorted to memorising essays for exams after writing several drafts.


My Chemistry Study Solution for Acing the HSC Trials

During Year 11, Chemistry was one of my better subjects (ranked 5th in my grade). However, in the first assessment in Year 12, my rank dropped to 28th.


I realised that, I didn’t understand some of the assessed content in enough depth.

Therefore, I could not answer the questions with enough detail to gain the marks.

My biggest study mistake…

Was being fixated on making notes and familiarising myself with the content, rather than practising how to answer questions.

My biggest exam mistake…

was not seeing the additional page at the back of the booklet until the exam was over. This left me devastated but also determined to recover my rank.


To help you avoid the mistakes that I made, here are my 4 steps for targeting your weak spots to ace your subjects!


1. Practice exam-style questions

From this experience, I knew that in order to prepare for trials, I needed to practise answering questions and understand all the content that was being assessed.

Attending the Matrix Trial Prep Course for Chemistry helped me so much in this regard. It was heavily focused on writing exam-style responses.

Because there were no past papers at the time, I used the exam-style questions that were given to me in the Trial Prep Course.

I practised writing answers for each category of questions and checked them against the sample answers until I was completely confident in each of them.


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2. Re-write notes on sections that you are not confident about

I typed my notes throughout the year.

So, when it came to studying for Trials, I only hand wrote my notes for the sections that I was unfamiliar with or still needed to memorise.

success-secrets-cecilia-chenh-ace-hsc-chemistry-by-targeting-your-weak-spots-revising-notes (1)



3. Use sticky notes

For small pieces of information that I needed to remember, I wrote these on sticky notes and stuck them on the wall beside my bed.

This way I can see it before I sleep and once I wake up.

These notes included things like solubility rules, colours of cations and anions and organic chemistry reactions and their reaction conditions.

success-secrets-cecilia-chenh-ace-hsc-chemistry-by-targeting-your-weak-spots-sticky-notes (1)

My bedside wall kept me prepped



4. Colour code different topics based on your level of confidence

Also, I compiled a list of all the topics that were in my school’s trial and colour-coded each point according to my level of confidence in answering those types of question.

Once I was confident in them, I ticked them off my list

This ensured that I didn’t forget to study for any section that I was being assessed on.

success-secrets-cecilia-chenh-ace-hsc-chemistry-by-targeting-your-weak-spots-colour-code-dotpoints (1)


As a result of using these processes, I got a mark of 94/100 and came first in my school’s trial exam.

Overall, I ended up being 5th out of 73.


How I unwind and cope with stress

1. Exercise

To cope with stress, I ensured that I was keeping up with exercise throughout the year.

I tried to play tennis for at least 2 hours every week and throughout the HSC.

Also, I got into a routine where I went for half-hour walks before I began studying. These walks were especially valuable for English.

I would record my arguments for English as I studied. the, on my walks, I would listen to these recordings so I felt like I was “studying” for half the time.

For the other half, I listened to music to unwind for the other half.


2. Meditate

Whenever I was particularly stressed, I would meditate to take my mind away from studying.

This helped me feel less overwhelmed.


3. Talk!

Having a good support network – whether it be friends, family or teacher – helped me a lot… particularly before exams.

Being able to talk to others about my stresses helped me gain perspective and take my mind off the stress.


My regrets

1. Leaving practice questions until the last minute

I regret leaving practice questions for Chemistry and Physics until the 1-2 weeks before exams.

While I was still able to answer questions effectively and retain information, it was more stressful than necessary.

Instead, I should have done practice questions throughout the year, instead of perfecting my notes.


2. Dropping economics

I also regret dropping Economics. At the beginning of Year 12, I had too many units. So, I had to choose between dropping Physics or Economics.

In Year 11, I wasn’t happy with my teacher and my interest in the subject dwindled throughout the year. So, I decided to keep Physics.

However, in hindsight, I was probably better at Economics and may have enjoyed it more.

Having finished the HSC, I feel like I would have appreciated having knowledge of the financial side of the world. This is something that traditional science subjects do not give you.

For those who are thinking about dropping a subject…

Just select the subject you enjoy more and go with your gut.

If you enjoy the subject, you’re going to be more motivated to study for it.



My Advice to Future Students

1. Keep doing the things you love

These are the things that will make Year 12 enjoyable and keep you sane.

Hobbies like photography, dancing and playing instruments will prevent you from burning out and losing motivation to study.


2. Play to your strengths

I am an auditory learner, so recording my essays and listening to them when I went out for walks was very effective for me.

It was much easier for me to remember my arguments and main pieces of analysis this way.


3. Pay attention during class

If you understand the content in class (or even read the content ahead), you only need to focus on remembering the content and practising questions.

This helps minimise the amount of work you need to do outside of class.


4. Don’t stop participating in extracurricular activities

Don’t stop participating in extracurricular activities for the sole reason that “it’s Year 12 and I need more time to study”.

If this is the only reason you’re giving up an opportunity or activity, you’re going to regret it later.


5. Don’t compromise sleep

Most importantly, do not compromise your sleep for your studies!! I cannot stress this enough.

I know it’s hard for most of us to get 8-10 hours as recommended during Year 12 but at least six is an absolute must.

That way, you’re re-energised and focused for the day ahead.



Written by Guest Author

We have regular contributions to our blog from our Tutor Team and high performing Matrix Students. Come back regularly for these guest posts to learn their study hacks and insights!


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