Matrix Blog

Success Secrets

Effective Trial Exam Study Tips

Here are our top tips on how to plan out your study schedule, keep yourself focused, and make the most of your study time.

For Year 12 students, the July school holidays will be devoted to preparation for the HSC Trial exams. However, the Trial exam study period doesn’t have to be super-stressful. We’ve compiled some subject-specific tips from our Matrix Maths, English and Science experts to help make your holiday studying more effective.    

Make a Study Plan You’ll (Mostly) Stick To

The best study plan not only fits in adequate preparation time for the topics and skills needed for each subject’s exam, but is also realistic. Expect that sometimes you will need to take a break from studying. To avoid getting too far off your schedule when you need a break, schedule regular breaks into your study plan. That way, you won’t find yourself getting overwhelmed when you see that you’ve scheduled yourself into a ten-hour straight stretch of studying.

Completing a practice paper or reviewing a summary always takes more time than you would expect. One suggestion for an effective holiday study plan is to schedule in regular ‘catch-up sessions’ as well as subject-specific study blocks. These catch-up sessions you should leave blank in your schedule, for when you find that you need to spend more time than you expected reviewing a difficult topic. By working some flexibility into your study plan, you will feel less stressed if you find that you haven’t completed all the preparation you wanted in a particular scheduled session. Instead, you can complete that extra preparation during one of your ‘catch-up’ slots.

Complete practice exams (but be smart with how you use them)Be sure to display your study plan somewhere your family members can see it. If those in your household know when not to disturb you, you will be able to focus on getting your study done without any external distractions.

It’s the most commonly-given piece of HSC advice, but practice exams really are the best preparation for your Trial exams, regardless of the subject for which you are preparing.

That being said, be smart with how you use them. Don’t attempt a practice exam or question without thoroughly reviewing your notes for that topic. Otherwise, you won’t gain the full benefit of completing the practice paper.

Whilst in an ideal world, everyone would have unlimited time to complete all practice exams available, students often only have a few weeks of holidays to study for their HSC Trial. You can find seemingly endless practice questions online, particularly for subjects like English Advanced, and it’s important to recognise that you only have a limited time in which to do them. You may need to be selective about which practice questions you complete fully to time, and those for which you merely plan an answer. If you don’t have time to complete under timed conditions all the practice questions you would like, prioritise answers to the practice papers you are the most unsure about.

Consider Re-writing

Studies have shown that rewriting study notes can drastically improve information retention. Rather than spending hours highlighting or reading through notes, consider writing sections of your notes out again from memory to test how well you have really absorbed the material. Rewriting is also valuable in that it is good practice for what you will ultimately need to do in the exam. Practising writing succinctly and clearly can be of great help when it comes to answering questions to time in your Trial exams.

The HSC is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

In order to study efficiently, it is important to keep yourself as focused as possible. Keeping up healthy and sustainable sleeping, eating and study routines will play a large role in how well you focus and retain information. While you might plan to survive on no sleep during the lead-up to your Trial exams, such a strategy could ultimately backfire. Ensuring you get at least eight hours of sleep a night, are eating regularly and healthily, and fitting in some time for a little exercise, will help make your schedule feel bearable, and will also make you more focused during that time you do devote to study.

Setting aside some time to see friends, even if it’s just for a quick coffee or to go over some study material together, will help you maintain a sense of balance in what can sometimes seem a very bleak few weeks, and leave you rejuvenated when it comes time to focus on study.

Subject-specific Tips

Top English tip: Pretend you are in exam reading time

There can be an almost endless number of English practice paper questions online, so sometimes it can be difficult to work out which ones to complete to time. We would suggest pretending as if you’re in the planning stage of an exam and create a short scaffold in five minutes for as many of the practice questions as possible. Make sure you know your notes well, and don’t glance at them during the answer planning stage. If you’re still a bit unsure of how you would answer the question, consider writing a practice introduction to that essay question, or if need be, completing it fully to time.

Top Maths tip: It’s not only about formulas

If you are walking into a Maths HSC or Trial exam still focused on learning formulas, you are not prepared for the exam. In order to do well in any Maths exam, whatever the difficulty level, you need to understand the processes needed to answer specific types of questions. Formulas are of course important for a great mark, but it’s even more crucial to review and understand the concepts and processes behind those formulas.

Top Science tip: Make handwritten summaries

A great way to revise Science content is to make handwritten summaries.  When you copy by hand, you write slower than you would typing, so you spend more time thinking about each thing you are writing down and absorb more information.

As an exercise in brevity, try restricting the length of your handwritten topic summaries to 1 page each. This forces you to think about what the most important information is, and it can be helpful in focusing your revision on the most important material. Once you have reviewed your handwritten summaries, do as many practice questions as possible to test your knowledge, and adapt your summaries accordingly.


Want more help acing your Trials? Read on.

Written by Matrix Education

Matrix is Sydney's No.1 High School Tuition provider. Come read our blog regularly for study hacks, subject breakdowns, and all the other academic insights you need.


© 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