Thinking about taking HSC Modern History for Year 11 and 12?

You may have heard myths, reviews from other students, or be daunted by the thought of remembering all the heavy content. Perhaps you’re not even certain sure what the Modern History HSC exam will look like.

But don’t despair!

Here are the top 5 FAQs for HSC Modern History – answered!

Q1: Should I take HSC Modern History?

If you are passionate about history, learning about the world, and current affairs, then HSC Modern History is definitely for you!

HSC Modern History builds on skills and themes introduced in Year 10 history, except now, it explores the history and processes of change in other countries, rather than focusing on Australia. 

So, if you enjoyed Year 10 history, you will most likely enjoy HSC Modern History! 

Studying HSC Modern History will offer you deeper insights on how people and events in the past have helped to shape today’s modern world.

As a bonus, if you are looking into studying arts, history or law at university, studying HSC Modern History will get you ready for this venture!

Q2: What is scaling like for HSC Modern History and will it matter?

This is one of the top questions students have about taking HSC Modern History as scaling is the first thing many students think about when picking subjects for the HSC! 

But you are in here for a surprise… Modern History is actually the 3rd highest scaling HSIE subject (after Economics and History Extension of course!).

hsc modern history

However, you should not be basing your subject decisions on scaling alone. In fact, scaling should be the last thing to consider when choosing your subjects.

If you are interested in HSC Modern History and think you will enjoy learning about it, then choose it as a Year 11 and 12 subject!

For more information about how to choose your subjects for the HSC, check out this article here!

Q3: What will I be asked during the HSC Modern History exam?

The Modern History HSC Course is comprised of four sections which are designed to “provide students with opportunities to apply their understanding of sources and relevant historiographical issues in the investigation of the modern world.”

All four of these sections will be examined in the HSC exam.

hsc modern history

Part 1: Core Study: Power and Authority in the Modern World 1919-1946

In this section, you will learn about the nature of power and authority between 19199 and 1946, through the study of dictatorships which emerged in the aftermath of WWI, with a primary focus on the Nazi Regime in Germany.

This section is examined through a set of source-based short-answer questions worth a total of 25 marks.

The NESA sample paper suggests there will be 3-4 questions, with at least one question worth 10-15 marks.

In this section, you will be required to analyse and interpret sources, and apply your own knowledge in order to answer the questions.

Check out our guide on the HSC Modern History Core Study here!

Part 2: National Study

This topic is an in-depth study of a period of change in a particular nation.

In the HSC exam, you will be required to write an essay worth up to 25 marks. You are provided with two questions and choose one to answer.

Your essay should present a well-supported argument about the national study, in clear response to the question you answer.

Part 3: Study of Peace and Conflict

In this section, students learn about the key features of a modern, international conflict, including its outbreak, key stages of development and significant involved individuals/groups.

This is assessed in the same way as the National Study, with a 25 mark essay in response to one of two provided questions.

Part 4: Change in the Modern World

This section focuses on the social, political and cultural changes that took place during a particular historical period, and how these impacted the development of the modern world.

In the HSC Exam, you will be asked a series of short answer questions based on topic you studied in class.

There will be 3 or 4 questions in the section, one of which is worth between 10 and 15, with a total of 25 marks available.

Check out this article on the Change in the Modern World module and how to ace it, here!

Q4: How should I study for HSC Modern History?

The HSC history subjects are renowned for being content heavy subjects, with a lot of information, sources and arguments to remember.

However, this doesn’t mean that Modern History is impossible to study for!

Due to the heavy content, it is important to consistently work on study notes which cover all the syllabus dot points.

Creating a set of notes as you cover information in class is the most efficient way to prevent to prepare for the HSC.

Check out this guide on how to write a Band 6 set of HSC Modern History Notes here!

This allows you to regularly review your notes and avoid last minute cramming. It is difficult to cram effectively for this subject because there is a lot to remember in order to do well in the essays.

By having detailed, up to date notes, you can build up your memory retention throughout the year, and then spend your time before assessments practising responses, rather than trying to hastily the remember information you have learnt in class.

It is important to remember to practice answering exam style questions to prepare for in class assessments and the HSC exam.

Practising source analysis and source-based questions will help you prepare for Section One of the Exam. To ace the other sections, try to practice forming arguments in response to a variety of questions.

Writing practice essays or essay scaffolds, and short answer responses is the best way to improve on the skills which will help you ace your HSC Exam. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

Here’s a kickass guide to writing a 10/10 HSC Modern History Source Analysis – click here!

There are also a variety of other study methods and tricks that you may like to use to help you remember historical details and important information.

For example, to remember the crucial dates and significant events, you may like to create a timeline for each topic.

This way you will be able to memorise them more effectively.

Condensing your study notes into a set of flashcards is another effective way to improve your information recall, and identify the significance of individuals and events, or even the definitions of key terms.

For a guide on how to memorise everything effectively for HSC Modern History, check out this handy guide!

Q5: How can I do well in HSC Modern History?

Check out our top tips for success in HSC Modern History:
  • Regular revision and review of study notes will get you out of the trap of cramming everything last minute

  • Good understanding of the events and personality is required for writing a solid essay. Every essay usually asks for argument about a particular aspect of the syllabus content. Therefore, you must first have your own perspectives on the topics before you start writing practice essays

  • Just like writing English, your whole essay needs to be sustained and you should back up your historical claims and arguments with supporting evidence through primary and secondary sources

  • Have strong essay short answer writing skills, derived from consistent practice.

And so, that rounds up our HSC Modern History frequently asked questions – hopefully we’ve cleared a few things up for you!

Looking for extra help with HSC Modern History?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC Modern History 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!


Yifan Shen completed his HSC in 2014 and is currently studying the Bachelor Of Economics/Advanced Mathematics at UNSW. Apart from nutting out equations and helping out students with their academic pursuit, you will find him either reading thriller novels or introducing a range of new people to the intricate and mysterious world of mathematics as the marketing representative of UNSW MathSoc. When he is drained from all of these work, you will also see him hiking, planking and water bending in his recovery mode.