The Anatomy of the HSC Physics Exam

There are three traditional “parts” to the HSC Physics Exam. We have the multiple choice, the core, and finally your option topic. Within the core and the option, we have ‘subsections’. For example, inside the core you will always find short response questions, a graphing exercise or an annotated diagram, and finally an extended response question. The option topic is similar, a short response, drawing, and finally an extended response.

So our sections are as follows:

  • Multiple Choice
  • Short Response (Core)
  • Extended Response (Core)
  • Drawing or Graph (Core)
  • Short Response (Option)
  • Extended Response (Option)
  • Drawing or Graph (Option)

Pros and Cons of the HSC Physics Exam

Identifying the Pros and Cons of Each Section

The Multiple Choice:

This style of question is testing straight fact recollection. One of the options will be objectively true, while the others are all objectively false! This is why it’s sometimes called the objective response section.

  • Pros: If you know your facts, you’ll blitz this section in no time.
  • Cons: Since you have the options in front of you, it’s hard to give up and move on. So one can tend to waste a lot of time on the multiple choice without even realising it!
The Short Response:

This style of question once again is testing straight fact recollection, the only difference being you dont have an option to choose from, you actually have to remember the fact yourself!

  • Pros: Usually quick, just need to write down the fact they’re looking for.
  • Cons: Incredibly diverse, questions can come from the entire course, and will usually jump back and forth in the syllabus arbitrarily. The HSC Physics paper is not ordered by module!
The Extended Response:

The extended response style questions are more substantial. They’re asking for your considered opinion, you’ll need to pull together information from multiple places, and make a judgement.

  • Pros: If you’ve read our mastering the syllabus article, and know the links between the various syllabus dot points, you shouldn’t find this too bad! We also have some articles on what the HSC markers are looking for in these questions (click here), as well as articles on how to write the perfect response (click here)
  • Cons: If you don’t have the links cemented in your mind, synthesising a good response can be daunting
The Drawing or Graph:

Finally we have questions requesting a drawing from you, or a graph. This type of question is potentially most hazardous. The drawing question is usually not a direct quoting of the syllabus it requires you to extrapolate your knowledge to a case you haven’t covered specifically in class, and make a decision as to what might happen.

  • Pros: Drawing in the middle of the exam can be a bit relaxing, if you have an understanding of HSC Physics, you shouldn’t find this challenging.
  • Cons: Requires some thinking, this style of question cannot be defeated by ROTE

Identifying your Personal Weak Points before the HSC Physics Exam

If you’re completely screwed and haven’t really memorised enough content, then I’ll be honest, the order you do the paper probably wont make a difference. The best thing you can do is study, and then study some more! However if your weaknesses are very specific, then there is some advice I can offer you!

I Found the First Few Topics Easy, but Then It Just Got Harder and Harder…

Let’s say you were on track at the start of the year, and then feel you fell off the wagon as the year progressed. Then your decision is probably the easiest! Just do the paper in the traditional order. The multiple choice will give you a quick refresher of some of the content in the core. The core will comprise of the topics you studied at the beginning of the year, and you’ll leave the option until the very end. Perfect.

If you feel the content got harder as the year went on, go for the traditional order

I Get Super Stressed in the Exam

If you find yourself losing your cool in the exam, the best thing you can do is tailor the exam for you! The HSC Physics Exam is probably one of the most stressful exams you’ll do so it’s important you have a plan! In the reading time, identify all the questions you’re confident with, and do those first! If you like the extended response question, don’t leave it just do it straight away! This way you’ll have completed all the easy questions. If we leave the difficult questions until the very end, they wont affect us. The worst thing you can do is start off with a question you’re not happy with and let that stress propagate through the exam. I found the grpahing questions were great for relieving my stress.

If you feel stressed, Identify your strengths and weakness based on the pros and cons of each section. Tackle the paper from your strongest areas to your weakest.

I Run Short of Time

If you’re the type of person who’s running short of time in the exam, it’s probably in the longer response and drawings. Begin your paper with the short response, yes that includes the core and option! Once you’ve completed all the short response, smash through as many of the long responses as you can, if you feel yourself stalling, just highlight the question and move on! Once you’re done with the extended response, you’ll begin the graphs and drawings. Just keep working on the extended responses and drawings until you’re done or you have half an hour to spare. As soon as you’re in the last half hour, it’s time to stop and tackle the multiple choice. This is probably your best bet for finishing on time.

If you run short of time, the best order for you is: Short response -> Extended Response -> Drawing -> Multiple Choice

Good Luck!

Hopefully these tips will help you decide the best way to tackle that all important final HSC Physics Exam! We have heaps more HSC Physics content to help you get that band 6!

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Vamsi Srinivasan is looking to uncover the next hidden truth of the universe. He was fascinated by the beauty of Physics and Mathematics during his HSC. Now, he’s in his third year of a dual degree in Physics/Computer Science. Vamsi wanted to share his passion for Maths and Physics and has been an Art of Smart coach for the past 3 years. He coaches 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 listening to his favourite podcast ‘Hello Internet’.