Matrix Blog

English 11-12

How to Ace HSC English Paper 2 in 2 Days | Your Step-By-Step Plan

In this post, we'll give you a step-by-step guide to HSC English Paper 2 so you can make the most of the remaining time and maximise your marks.

Paper 2 is approaching. So, it is crucial you make the most of the hours left to maximise your marks. But do you know what you need to be doing, now? Well, you’re in luck, we’re going to show you how to ace HSC English Paper 2 in 2 days!

The final stretch

Paper 2 is two hours long with five minutes of reading time and has three sections. Each section is different and memorising an essay isn’t going to be enough to ace the exam.

It is crucial you approach studying methodologically so you are relaxed on the day of the exam and can do your best.

Remember, this is your last English Advanced exam! Give it your best and let all the hard work from the past year pay off!

In this guide, we’ll tell you:


How do I study efficiently in such a short period of time?



This is our seven-step guide to acing paper:

Step 1: Do a past paper. Mark it.
Step 2: Make a detailed list of things to do. Make a plan.
Step 3: Work on the module that you know you can improve easily.
Step 4: Work on the module you struggle with the most.
Step 5: Choose the module which you are most confident with and revise.
Step 6: Do practice papers!
Step 7: Revise the three-page guide you have developed.


Step 1: Do a past paper. Mark it.

First, you’ll need a paper.

If you’re looking for questions to make your own practice paper, you’ll find these handy:

The first step in studying efficiently is doing a paper. However, there is a trick!

Paper 2 is two hours long but when you do a past paper you want to give yourself less than 2 hours. Why?

When you are doing the paper at home, you are less stressed and are in the comfort of your own home.

40 minutes at home will feel like an hour whilst 40 minutes in the exam will feel like not enough time to write everything down.

Therefore, when you do the first paper you should spend 35 minutes on each section and not provide yourself with separate reading time. Working to this timeline will allow you to see if you are able to answer thre questions in a restricted time frame.

Do this paper with a time limit, free of notes, and technology. After you have done the paper take a 10-minute break to freshen up and clear your mind.

Now, mark your paper.

Whilst marking, be critical of your answers and be strict. This is important. Marking the paper before you start studying will give you an accurate analysis of what you know and don’t know.

So, mark honestly!

Paper 2 is around the corner and you must identify your strengths and weaknesses.


Case Study: Anna

Let’s look at the example of a student who is studying for Paper 2. We will call her Anna.

Anna has completed the first paper and marked it. What she has learned from this is:

  1. She is able to finish Module A within 35 minutes. However, she occasionally forgets some quotes which affects the flow of how she writes and damages the readability of her essay.
  2. Her Module B response is incomplete! She still has to write a conclusion and half of the last paragraph. She struggled with finishing it because she kept forgetting key details and was not confident with her preparation for this module.
  3. Although she finished the Craft of Writing question within the time, she is a bit worried about how she will perform in this module. She is unsure what to expect since she can’t memorise anything and feels anxious about her preparation.
  4. Overall, she did okay and feels she can score a Band 5. However, she needs to get a Band 6 for her university course choice and knows she needs to study more to do this.


Step 2: Make a detailed list of things to do. Make a plan.

Now that you have finished and marked your paper- it is time to make a plan and a list of things to do. Having a plan and a list of things you can tick off is a great way to measure if you are staying on top of everything.

The key things you need to include in your list of things are:

  • Time dedicated to doing past papers
  • Practice answering different types of questions
  • Making one-page summary guides
  • Going over the texts

Case Study: Anna

Let’s look at Anna’s list of things as an example of what you need to do and how you should organise your tasks.

High Priority Tasks:

  1. Organise Module B quotations: have dot pointed analysis for the quotes. Make a table.
  2. Memorise the table of quotes, techniques, effects for Module B.
  3. Do practice questions for Module B within 35 minutes- work on improving speed whilst answering the question.
  4. Make a one page summary for each module. Have only dot points and flow charts (trigger words to read before going to bed and upon waking up)
  5. Read different types of questions for each module and plan out answers for different questions.

Mid Priority Tasks:

  1. Answer different questions for Module A and Craft of Writing within a given time frame.
  2. Revise Module A quotes.
  3. Do practice papers.

Low Priority Tasks:

  1. Go over class notes for each Module.
  2. Read essays from other students.


Create a plan based on your priority list with adequate breaks in between. Ideally, you should be spending 12 hours a day studying leading up to your exam, 8 hours sleeping and 4 hours should be dedicated to relaxing.

Do not study constantly for 12 hours or have a 4-hour long break! This is not effective and will reduce your productivity. Our brains work best when we break up activities in manageable chunks and give it time to reset.


Case Study: Anna

Here’s day 1 of Anna’s plan:

Table: Anna’s Day 1 Plan
TimeWhat to doTasklist  (an example)
7:00 amWake up
  • Shower
  • Breakfast
  • Meditate
8:00 amStudy slot 1
  • Module which is ranked number 2 in difficulty tasks
10:00 amRelax
  • Have a snack
  • Take a short walk
10:30 amStudy slot 2
  • Module which is ranked number 1 in difficulty in tasks
12:30 pmLunch
  • Eat a healthy lunch
1:00 pmStudy slot 3
  • Spend 1 hour finishing up studying for module that is the most difficult
  • Spend the remaining time studying for the module you find the easiest
3:00 pmRelax
  • Have a power nap
  • Have a quick snack
3:30 pmStudy slot 3
  • Practice paper
5:30 pmRelax
  • Have afternoon tea
6:00 pmStudy slot 4
  • Practice questions
7:30 pmDinner
  • Have dinner
  • Watch one episode of a t.v show
8:30 pmStudy slot 4
  • Practice paper
10:30 pmRevise!
  • Go over the quick 3-page note summary
11:00 pmSleep!
  • Go to bed!

The second day of your study should follow the same structure however all the time slots should be dedicated to doing practice papers, marking them, and revising what you struggled with.

yawning cat that has just woken up

Step 3: Work on the module that you know you can improve easily.

You have woken up; fresh and bright-eyed, ready to tackle studying.

In the first slot of studying you should focus on the module where you are confident to some extent but need more work (In order of difficulty it would be ranked 2nd). This is the module where you know you can boost up your marks easily.

Working on this module first will allow you to boost confidence whilst making a large dent in your studying.

Thus, your first study slot should be dedicated to tasks in relation to this module.

When we see big improvements in our studying, it motivates and provides us with energy to continue working.


Case study: Anna

If we go back to Anna, her first study slot would be dedicated to tasks related to Craft of Writing.

She would work on the Craft of Writing until she is confident it is up to par with her Module A skills.

However, she would not spend more than 1.5 study slots on this module. This is to ensure she has enough time to work on Module B which is what she struggles with most, revise Module A, and do past papers.


Step 4: Work on the module you struggle with the most.

Now that you have gone over the module which you ranked 2, it is time to work on the module which you ranked 1 in difficulty. Improving the first module you worked on would have boosted your confidence in your ability and provided you with motivation to keep pushing through.

To study for this module, go over what you know first and then slowly work on building your skills. Go over practising questions, memorising quotes, and summarising your notes into a quick one-page guide.

Ideally, you should spend a maximum of two of your study slots on this module. This will provide you with a considerable amount of time to better your skills and increase your confidence in this module.

Case study: Anna

The second module Anna would work on is Module B:

  • She would dedicate 30 minutes to make a summary of the module
  • 30 minutes on going over quotes and memorising them,
  • And the rest of her study time doing a large number of questions in restricted time frames.

This will help her build up confidence, get better at answering questions and finishing them in the given time. Once she is confident with this, she would move onto Module A.


Step 5: Choose the module which you are most confident with and revise.

It’s time to go over the last module!

This is the module that you are the most confident with. Although you are confident with this module, it is important to spend a bit of time revising it so you can better your skills and ensure you don’t forget anything!

Spend half of a study slot going over this module. In that time spend:

  • 30 minutes making a summary which will help you revise the key information
  • 30 minutes making answer plans for different types of questions.

This will help you improve your ability to answer questions and identify what details you need for different types of questions.

Case study: Anna

Anna would work on Module A last.

She would spend 30 minutes making a one-page summary which will help trigger her thinking.

For, the rest of the time she’d make answer plans for a wide range of questions to ensure she knows how to approach questions and not just write a generic response.


Step 6: Do practice papers and questions!

You have spent a large chunk of your day working on modules and practising questions for each module one at a time. Now, it is time to do practice papers!

Spend the rest of your day and remaining days before your exam doing as many practice papers and questions as possible in restricted time frames.

Practice different types of questions, mark your answers, and go over your notes for parts where you forgot what to write.

Keep repeating this step in conjunction with the final step for the remaining days. Remember the day before your exam, you will only have half of the day to study. You do not want to spend that time learning new content, you want to revise key details, and do as much practice as possible.


Step 7: Revise the three-page guide you have developed.

After revising each module one by one, you should have developed a short three-page summary guide that you can refer to.

For all the days preceding your exam, spend a maximum of 45 minutes revising this guide so you can freshen the quotes in your head and trigger your memory!

This guide will be your cheat sheet which you can read over on the morning of the paper to remind yourself of key points. It shouldn’t be a sheet that outlines a generic essay (this will only reduce your marks as you won’t answer the question).

picture of a clock

A few last-minute tips!

By following the previous steps, you should be feeling relaxed and ready for your exam!

Here are some final tips to follow on the day of paper 2.

Before the exam:

  1. Get 8 full hours of sleep
  2. Have a healthy and fulfilling breakfast
  3. Be relaxed and avoid technology
  4. Clear your mind and believe in your ability
  5. Plan for any delays so you arrive for the exam on time
  6. Avoid looking at notes an hour and a half before the exam starts.


Whilst in the exam:

  1. ANSWER the question. Many students write their generic essays down instead of answering the question. Even though your generic essay may be amazing, if it doesn’t answer the question you will not receive more than 15/20 for your response.
  2. Write efficiently and neatly. You want your marker to be able to read what is written so they can give you marks!
  3. Finish your response. It is extremely important that you have a cohesive response which is finished rather than a super long response that is not completed. An incomplete response reduces the cohesiveness of your writing.
  4. Edit your work! When we are writing, it is common to forget words and make mistakes. Having time to edit your work allows you to better your writing and ensure everything flows.


Finally, relax!

You have put in a lot of effort and worked extremely hard. It is time you relax, believe in your ability, and give it your best.

So remember: you got this! You have spent the past year preparing for these exams.

Walk into the exam confidently and having faith in your ability- this will allow you to have a clear headspace and approach the questions with a fresh perspective that is not clouded with stress.

You want to do your best and the best possible manner to do this is being calm and relaxed. This will allow you to maximise your time whilst in the exam and ensure your focus is devoted to the questions and nothing else.

Sleep well the night before your exam! Have a healthy breakfast (you don’t want to have your stomach rumble whilst doing the paper!)

Good luck 🙂 We know you will do great and you should believe that too!

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