Don’t know how to write effective study notes for Ancient History? Not sure where to find great sources to put in your essay? Never fear! The good (and handsome) folks at Art of Smart have listened to your outcries and compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about HSC Ancient History!


1. Is the Core Study more difficult than the Electives?

To a degree, yes. Most Ancient History students find the Core Study of Pompeii and Herculaneum to be the most difficult of the four modules they have to study in the HSC course, simply for the reason that it is one of the most content-heavy modules available. 

That being said, the actual difficulty depends on your own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re skilled at memorising facts and sources, then you might just find the Core module particularly easy. If, on the other hand, you’re the type of person who’s great at synthesising information and concepts to make informed judgments and evaluations, you might find the Personality and Period modules rather effortless and the Core module quite difficult.

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According to the Syllabus, 120 classroom hours are dedicated to HSC Ancient History. The Core Study and each Elective is given 25% of the course time. Essentially, they’re all supposed to be the same, content-wise – but we know it’s not!

2. How do I write study notes for Ancient History?

We’ve got an article that tackles this very question in detail!

To learn about how to write kickass study notes for Ancient History, click here!

But why design notes specifically for Ancient History?

  • It’ll help you retain content.
  • You’ll have everything in one place.
  • When it comes to doing practice exams, you’ll have your sources and evidence right there when you slay study time with the Rule of 3.


3. How many sources do I need in my essay?

It always depends, but the general rule of thumb is 3+ sources per paragraph OR one source for every point you make.

The reason for this is, much like in English, the way you get your marks in Ancient History is by backing up your argument with evidence.

But it’s not just about name-dropping, it’s about integrating sources as backup to your argument. If you’re not sure how to do this, here’s how to integrate sources into your response, and in doing so, how to get a Band 6 in your extended response.

In this case, the ‘evidence’ that gets you a Band 6 are archaeological and historical sources, so make sure that every time you mention a piece of important information, you back it up with a great source!

4. Where can I find good sources?

There are loads of places to find great sources, including:

  • Textbooks
  • Your teacher or past Year 12 Ancient History students
  • Articles found on Google Scholar
  • Ancient texts like Tacitus’ Annals and Herodotus’ Histories
  • Articles on our website! Like this one for Pompeii and Herculaneum

That being said, if you want to learn how to make the most out of most search engines,  you need to learn how to Google effectively using search terms!

Depending on what school you’re at, you can also sign up to University libraries for a small fee where you can get Uni student card, and access to online scholarly journals like JSTOR. This is helpful if you want to go above and beyond what’s taught in the classroom – ideal for a Band 6!

5. What do I do if I’ve got TOO MANY sources? I’m overwhelmed!


This might seem ridiculous at first, but in a subject as massive as Ancient History, it’s actually a real issue that many students face.

When I was in school, I got bombarded with worksheets, handouts, textbooks, online sources, articles etc. until I had so much information that I didn’t know what to do with it!

If you ever find yourself in that situation, the first thing you need to do is isolate the most important and useful sources that you can find and use them to compile a list for each of the four modules (Core, Society, Personality, Period). If you have enough sources then, great! If not, keep going through your cache until you find enough to make you feel comfortable.

In general, I suggest keeping 2-4 sources per dot point (unless they’re huge ones like ‘legacy’ under Personality) and creating a list that allocates each source to each dot point.

6. Okay, great! I’ve got sources. But how do I use them in the actual exam?

We’ve got a great article about this!

To find out how to integrate your sources to create Band 6 responses, click here!

7. What do I do if I’m falling behind?

Falling behind is a serious issue and one that happens to a lot of students, especially those who study a subject as content-heavy as Ancient History.

One of the most important things to do when you begin to fall behind is to dedicate more time to the subject with which you’re struggling. If you usually study two hours per week for Ancient History, bump it up to four – but make it productive!

Apart from that, here are a few other ways to help prevent falling too far behind:

  • Ask your teacher loads of questions when you’re unsure of what to do. Don’t be afraid – it’s their job!
  • Write effective study notes! If you don’t know how – look at the question above.
  • Try to engage with the study! Watch documentaries online (BBC does great Ancient History videos), read the actual ancient texts, go on online forums to see if other people have had similar issues.
  • Join our Facebook Discussion Group to get guidance from your fellow students and HSC coaches.
  • Write your own and do practice questions to figure out what exactly you don’t understand.
  • Get specialized tutoring in the subject from one of the excellent tutors at Art of Smart!

8. Which unit should I spend the most time on? (Core, Personality, Society, Period)

This one varies widely among students because of the variety in the modules that they pick, but in general I’d recommend splitting your time equally among the modules with a slight emphasis on the Core Study. 

As mentioned above, students usually find the Core Study of Pompeii and Herculaneum to be the most difficult and time-consuming module in the Ancient History course, so if you’re the type of student who struggles with rote-learning facts and sources, it would be a good idea to place a small emphasis on the Core Study.

The most important reason as to why I suggest an (almost) equal divide is because each module in the actual HSC exam is weighted evenly! So don’t focus too much on one area, neglecting the other, unless you feel like your knowledge of the area you’re neglecting is already rock-solid.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. It’s generally a good idea to spend more time leading up to the HSC revising the modules you learned earliest, because you’ve most likely forgotten a lot about those.

If you want to know how we make the most of our study, take a look at our study plans!

9. How do I manage my time in the exam?

The general rule for time management in the Ancient History exam is to split your time evenly amongst the four areas of the exam: Core, Society, Personality, Period. This leaves you with 45 minutes per module, which is usually enough time to answer all the questions in a solid amount of detail.

How you manage your time during each individual module will depend on your own strengths and weaknesses.

If you usually struggle with short answer questions but are great with essays, then try finishing your essay first and leaving yourself with enough time to think out the short answers in a lot of detail.

If, on the other hand, you’re terrible with essay writing but excellent at answering short answer questions, then tackle the short answers first and leave the most amount of time for the essay.

Never leave figuring out how to use your time in exams to the last moment – practice questions are the best way to do it!

Practice starts with studying, and there are two insanely simple ways that students who gained 99+ ATAR avoided silly mistakes and managed their time in exams. Find out how they did it with this article here!

10. How do I write answers to extended response questions?

You’re in luck, we’ve written a whole article on that very same question!

Click here!


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When he’s not devouring every book, film and television show he can get his hands on, Jack Theodoulou studies a double degree of Education/Arts majoring in English at the University of Sydney. Previously an instructor of classical guitar, Jack began coaching at Art of Smart in 2015. In his spare time, Jack often finds himself entangled in a love-hate relationship with creative writing and an occasional obsession with video games.



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