Not doing as well as you would have liked in your Physics exam doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world – you can still get a Band 6 in HSC Physics!

Making mistakes is just how we learn things, and make better decisions.

So, mistakes should not be your enemy!

Mistakes are a learning process which allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses next time ’round.

So, don’t be afraid! It’s time to learn from your mistakes so you can get that Band 6 in HSC Physics!

Goals posts and setting expectations

In football, there is a well-defined goal through which you must kick the ball. But consider this: you can’t always control where the other players on the field are, but you do have the sweet comfort of knowing exactly where the goals are.

Imagine how infuriating it would be if you were the goalie and the goals moved behind your back!

Moving the goalposts just means you’ll never have the satisfaction of actually achieving a goal and getting that Band 6 in HSC Physics!

Ok relax, where are you going with this?

This analogy is helpful because the goal on a football pitch has three important qualities: 

  • … it’s tangible
  • … it’s within sight
  • … and it’s fixed.

When you’re setting goals for yourself we want these same qualities, and most importantly we want the same respect and sanctity towards our goals that we have in football. Your goals should mean something to you!

Three qualities of a good goal

Quality #1: It’s fixed

Your goal should be fixed. One of the biggest demotivators when working through goals is shifting goalposts.

Let’s say you set a goal of doing 5 questions. If you finish the 5 questions, you might say I’m on a roll let’s make it 10 questions.

Even though you’ve done more, doing this is shooting yourself in the foot: if you don’t have the satisfaction of completion, you can feel robbed.

Action point: If you complete a goal, tick it off, and be proud! If you feel like doing more, make a new goal, but never shift the goalposts.

Quality #2: It’s tangible

Your goal should also be tangible.

  • It should be well-defined; and
  • You should have a way of knowing if the goal is complete.

It seems like a simple set of rules, but it is often overlooked.

Try not to set goals like “Learn the guitar” or even “get a Band 6 in HSC Physics”. This goal is not well defined, and there’s no way to tell when it’s complete.

A better thing to do would be to make smaller goals, with each one being fixed, well defined, and able to be audited. Your criteria should be as quantitative as possible, rather than qualitative.

Bad Goal Good Goal

Get a Band 6 in HSC Physics

  1. Revise at home for 20 mins after each Physics lesson.
  2. Ask my teacher anything that needs clarifying in the next lesson.
  3. Make study notes for a topic once it has been completed.
  4. Complete 1 practice paper per weekend.
  5. Mark the practice paper and take note of grade.
  6. See if there is an improvement in practice paper mark each week.
  7. Revise areas of weakness before next practice paper.

Quality #3: It’s within sight

Your goal should also be within sight – you should always be able to see the destination.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Promising yourself you’ll do 7 past papers a week, is not a great plan of attack. 7 days a week, that should be doable right?

No!

A past paper generally takes 3 hours, that means 7 papers will take 21 hours! If you don’t find yourself doing a lot of homework, simply writing down that you will, won’t make it happen.

One of your long terms goals may be a specific ATAR you’re aiming for. You can use a reverse ATAR Calculator to see where you need to be. Remember your aim should be within sight, it should require a bit of effort but not an overnight miracle.

Check out this article on how to use the Reverse ATAR calculator here!

When you’re just starting out, try and set the bar really low, so low that if you don’t complete the goal – you’re shocked. Maybe something like ‘do 5 multiple choice questions a day’. This will take 10 minutes tops! So you will definitely be able to find time.

You may think such a tiny goal is pointless but if you’re doing very little currently, 5 questions a day over just two weeks is 70 questions you otherwise wouldn’t have done!

Error investigation

What’s the point of wasting time on the wrong answers?

It is a scientific fact that understanding and retention is far superior for the students who are exposed to misconceptions. 

It’s important that you go through your tests after you’ve completed it and go over all the mistakes you’ve made with a fine toothed comb, that way you can ensure you’ll get a Band 6 in HSC Physics!

Learning from your own mistakes is far more effective than reading a good answer and trying to remember it.

Okay, that may be true, but how do I do it?

One of the best ways I’ve found to do that is to keep an error log.

The error log

The purpose of a keeping a logbook is to help give your study a direction. Remember we want tangible goals.

There are two primary areas we need to investigate:

Errors Explanation/Comments
  • What did you get wrong in the multiple choice?
  • What mistakes did you make in the short response?
  • Are the mistakes from a particular type of question e.g. relativity calculations?
  • Did you misread any questions?
  • Make a substitution error?
  • Use the wrong formula?
  • Did you cram the night before?
  • Is there a question you didn’t want to be asked?
  • Do you know what the marking criteria is?
  • Try and recall what you were thinking when you made a mistake – what was your thought process?
  • Can you see any trends?
  • How can you fix the problems identified?

Try to refrain from explaining everything away with ‘silly error’, that can be a cop out for a deeper problem.

It completely fails to address the source of the problem.

You’re only going to make the same mistakes again! Only when you start logging your errors in detail, are you able to realise your problem and therefore fix it.

Problem: I’m frequently misreading/mistyping numbers in calculations.

Proposed Solution:
  • Show formula, as well as substitution when writing answers on the exam paper, don’t just type numbers straight into my calculator.
  • Before typing number in calculator, read question again to make sure numbers are correct.
  • After typing, check calculator matches numbers on paper.
  • When checking through paper type all calculations back into calculator to double check.

Silly errors are infuriating, but do not underestimate them. They’re just as serious as not knowing content. I strongly suggest you keep a log of errors.

This is especially useful, when doing past papers by yourself. Don’t be lenient on yourself when marking your own paper because that’s certainly not how markers give you a Band 6 in HSC Physics.

Getting feedback from teachers

Feedback from your teachers is definitely the most important and useful feedback you can get.

They’re the ones who see your face all year at school, they’ve gotten to know you very well over a year, and crucially, they’re the ones that have been marking your answers.

One of the worst things you can do is to ask a really vague question.

This is especially the case if they’ve gotten out of the wrong side of the bed in the morning, or you’ve caught them before lunch, you’re probably not going to get very helpful feedback.

What should I ask?

Deciphering your teacher’s feedback is a skill; it will be developed over the year as you get to know your teacher and their handwriting.

It’s very important you understand exactly what you’re teacher is trying to tell you, that feedback is there to help you improve and get thay Band 6 in Physics – so if you don’t know what it says, ask!

Clarify doubts about any topics you’re unsure about. If you don’t have anything in particular, a good place to start is to go through an exam paper with your teacher and show them all the questions you got wrong.

There are so many questions you might have:
  • Why did I get this question wrong?
  • What things did I need to mention to get full marks here?
  • How should I structure my extended response essays?
  • How should I answer questions that are phrased like this?
  • Is this answer better, or this answer? Why?
  • Why is this a good answer, how do I do it again
  • How do I improve with the short response?
  • How do I improve with the extended response?
  • What are some things you think I should work on?
  • I don’t understand topic X, do you have time to explain it to me again?
  • I think I struggle with X, do you agree?

The questions you want to ask are likely not fixed, they are changing week by week.

Sometimes new questions pop up, or you figure out the answer to a question, so try and ask your teacher your question as soon as possible and regularly!

Putting feedback into action

Now you should have a lot of useful feedback, from both your teachers and your own error log which will help you work towards that Band 6 in HSC Physics.

Collate the weaknesses and suggestions for improvement and turn them into goals.

Figure out which improvements are quick fixes that you can take on board straight away.

For the longer term goals, schedule appointments with your teachers/coaches, to revaluate your progress. Perhaps they will have new suggestions for next time round!

Practice makes perfect!

The best way to improve is to practice, practice, practice!

To help you out with that, we’ve compiled a master list of practice papers (with answers) to help you get prepared!

Hopefully you’re now on your way to getting a Band 6 in HSC Physics!

Looking for extra help with HSC Physics?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC Physics coaches and mentors!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today!

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at info@artofsmart.com.au or check us out on Facebook!


Vamsi Srinivasan is looking to uncover the next hidden truth of the universe. He was so fascinated by the beauty of Physics and Mathematics during his HSC that he went on to study Physics at University. He is now in his second year of a dual degree in Physics/Computer Science. He loves physics and maths so much, he wanted to share his passion and has been an Art of Smart coach for the past 2 years. He’s helped coach students in physics as well as all ranges of HSC Maths from General to Extension 2. In his spare time you can find him watching Tennis or Formula 1 or perhaps listening to his favourite podcast ‘Hello Internet’.