Coming into HSC Modern History you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘write your own notes’ a thousand times.

The problem is that often students don’t know how to write them properly or what to include in order to use them for effective study.

If you’re unsure how HSC Modern History notes differ to English, or even Ancient, look no further because we’ve got your ‘How to Write HSC Modern History notes’ questions covered below.

Step 1: Know what you need to know
Step 2: Write notes in advance
Step 3: Write your notes using the syllabus
Step 4: Revise after class
Step 5: Add sources
Step 6: Cut down your notes

Step 1: Know what you need to know

At the beginning of the year or as soon as possible, ask your teacher what topics you will be covering for each section.

This is helpful as it allows you to think of writing notes in the long term and also sets you up so there are no surprises further along in the year.

Once you have your topics, download the syllabus and in a separate .pdf file put only the syllabus points that you are doing. If you prefer physical copies, print this out and keep it handy for each week.

Each week, update your syllabus points after every modern lesson by writing the date you completed each dot point on your pdf/paper file or highlighting them off your list.

This is useful for keeping up with notes and also will help show what work you need to catch up on if you miss a lesson.

Once you finish that dot point rate how confident with the content you are – with 1 being not at all, and 5 being very!

This will help you with knowing how much detail to put into the notes and study before an exam.

HSC modern history study notes

Step 2: Write notes in advance

A great tip lots of top scoring HSC Modern History students do is to write your notes the week before you learn it in class.

This method is what you will do at university — it means that you learn everything before the lesson so that class time is used to consolidate that knowledge rather than try remember new concepts and techniques.

This helps to reduce stress because if you don’t understand something in your earlier study you can ask your teacher for clarification and nip it in the bud well before exam time.

If you are working a week in advance, get your information from your textbooks and read through the information for the syllabus point ahead of the one you are currently doing.

Then, when you’re in class, you can add to your notes!

Step 3: Write your notes using the syllabus

This step should be done a week in advance.

Ideally you should read your textbook/ information the teacher provides for the dot point you will be working on in the following week.

Pro tip: Most teachers follow the syllabus so it’s fairly easy to guesstimate what you will be learning — if unsure just ask.

In a word document/notebook type the syllabus dot point you will be writing notes for.

This means you should write your notes grouped against syllabus dot points.

As this is your first attempt you should be putting in as much detail as possible. Don’t be afraid to include the silly things if you don’t know them off by heart yet (e.g. WWI began in August 1914ish?)

Include any and all info you think may be relevant to the dot point.

Things to include in this first draft of notes:
  • Images that help you remember information or show an event
  • timeline — This is great if you get confused about the order of events
  • Infographs & mindmaps — These are great if you are a visual learner

Step 4: Revise after class

After you have finished that dot point in class go back over the notes you had previously written and add in any other important points you missed earlier.

You may notice your teacher emphasising certain points more than others, those are the bits of information you must include.

At this point your notes should have all relevant historical information included; now it’s just a matter of adding historians.

Step 5: Add sources

The aim of this step is to choose at least three historians that could be used to support each dot point in an exam.

Pro tip: For Section 1, this is not as important as it is a source-based study and does not require as much historiography rather focus on revising important sources that could be used to support and argument.

Make sure your historians are italicised/bolded and/or in another colour so they stand out. This will help you when you read back on notes, as you will be able to see what historians you are using for each argument.

When choosing historians you should be using the most well known historians on each topic.

Step 6: Cut down your notes

About 4-6 weeks before your HSC Modern History exam you should start to cut down your notes.

By this we mean removing any facts that you either know or are not important enough to remember.

For example, at this stage you should be cutting out things like ‘WWI started in August 1918′, which will become common knowledge, but could leave information like ‘ The Battle of the Somme began on 1st July, 1916’.

This means that with 3 weeks till your exam your notes will be concise, dense with historical information and easy to revise.

And that’s it!

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!


Milana Gusavac thought she had seen the end of HSC until she realised that others out there needed help surviving year 12 just like she had. Now she’s a member of the Art of Smart team while perusing her studies at the University of Sydney, studying a Bachelor of Psychology. When not learning or helping other’s Milana can be found with her nose in a book or marathoning TV shows.