Bombed out in your HSC Chemistry exam and looking to improve your HSC Chemistry marks?

You’re not alone!

Chemistry involves a lot of complex concepts which can be incredibly hard to understand.

This means that of people don’t perform up to the standard they do in other subjects and can feel like they’re floundering under bad marks.

While this may indeed be the case, don’t let it get you down. You’re certainly not the only one feeling that way, and there’s plenty you can do about it!

So, let us walk you through how to improve your HSC Chemistry marks in 4 simple steps!

Step 1: Put Yourself First

Step 2: Be Active in Your Learning

Step 3: Work as a Team

Step 4: Practice, Practice, Practice

Step 1: Put Yourself First

Exams can be really emotional and stressful, and it can really tax you if feel like your performance is sub par.

Whatever you’re feeling right now, be it angry, frustrated or upset, it’s absolutely okay to feel that way.

Let it all out now while you’re still in a safe place – otherwise you’ll just end up emotionally unstable going into your HSC.

There’s no telling what that could do both to your performance and your health.

So get yourself back together again – scream at a wall, sleep for 28 hours straight, eat two family-sized blocks of chocolate by yourself in one sitting.

Whatever it is that’s going to get your mood up, do it now.

With that said, how do you take action once you’re in a place to do so? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

Step 2: Be Active in Your Learning

Chemistry involves a lot of what we call sense making, or the process of making connections between old information and new information, more so than almost any other subject.

This means you really need to take the helm for yourself.

When you don’t understand a concept, rather than just running to your teacher or coach, take a while to research it on your own.

Try a couple of practice questions, and reflect on your performance. Mark it, then give yourself this rating:
  • Silly mistake (SM)
  • Did not know answer (DNK)
  • Misunderstood question (MQ)
  • Incorrect knowledge (IK)

This way, you know how and why you got a question incorrect. If you are getting less than 70%, you may want to do some more revision. Identify your weak and strong points once more, and do practice questions on them.

Remember, getting stuff wrong now (instead of in the final exam) is a god-send – it tells you some of the most game-changing important learning is about to happen!

Teach yourself first

When you feel like you can’t do any more by yourself, of course, it’s natural to look for help.

But make sure that there’s really nothing else you can do before you go asking for someone to drop answers into your lap.

You’ll be all alone in the exam, so you need to be able to think on your feet without being prompted.

Remember to be patient

Your coach/teacher may not just give you the answers, and that can be frustrating, because that’s how you we’ve been taught up until now.

But again, you need to understand (deeply), and that’s not something you achieve by parroting words somebody else wrote for you.

When you understand something truly, it’s almost impossible for it to fall out of your memory. Chase after that durable learning.!

Teachers may instead drop hints, or ask you to explain the concept in your own words, to force you to come to your own understanding.

They know that giving you little pushes towards your own self-discovery of answers will make your learning way more easy to remember in the exam under stress.

That’s way better than trying to remember what somebody else said!

Step 3: Work as a Team

Remember that your performance in the HSC is directly linked to how your entire year group performs

Check out how it works here!

What this means is that group study is twice as valuable.

Not only does it increase your performance individually, but also the performance of others in your cohort, which then doubles back on you and increases your marks again.

It’s like setting up a positive feedback loop for your own ATAR. Winning move.

It’s also a very effective learning method!

Think about it – if you try to teach the concepts to peers, you’ll learn them very thoroughly yourself. 

We don’t have the best understanding of memory from a scientific perspective, but we do know this:

We remember 10% of what we read, 30% of what we see and hear, 50% of what we write, 70% of what we read and write, but 90% of what we teach.

You engage whole new sectors of your brain when you’re forced to teach someone else what you know!

If you’re scared that you’ll just end up wasting time if you study in a group, check out our Maths group study guide! 

Obviously, you’ll have to make some little fixes but it’s a good place to start! Assume you can learn something new from literally everyone.

As Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you haven’t understood it well enough”.

Another famous scientist (Richard Feynman) went one step further (The Feynman Technique) by suggesting that you’ll really know if you understand something or not by finding someone new to the field (possibly a much younger person) and explaining the concept to them in simple language without being wordy or using any jargon or parroting the textbook or someone else’s explanation.

Step 4: Practice, Practice, Practice

But here’s the catch – you’re not just practicing your content, you’re also practicing your answer style. 

It’s quite possible to gain free marks in Chemistry by structuring your answers well and using the right language. 

This is something I didn’t do enough of in my day, and I paid for it.

In fact, Chemistry was actually the worst mark I received in my HSC, but that didn’t stop me from majoring in it!

Remember that the HSC is a the first step of the rest of  your academic life, not the last one!

Practice then seek feedback

The only way for you to refine your answer technique is to practice and then seek feedback!

You can try critiquing your own answers against the marking criteria, but you’ll always understand the way you naturally organise information someone else, like your marker, may not.

So, mark your answer own answer first, by all means! Then make sure to give it a friend to mark and later, a teacher.

There’s no such thing as too much criticism!

You are always your own top priority.

Your health comes before marks. 

There is always another way you can get into your dream uni course, or even circumvent uni entirely and enter your field of choice through vocational training.

At the end of the day, being healthy and happy will get you so much further than receiving a single piece of paper in the mail with a high number on it. 

If you need help not just academically, but personally, seek it out. Talk to your parents or friends or coach or teachers or dog or even your wall!

If it gets really bad, maybe talk to someone at Lifeline Australia (13 11 14) or Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation, or another appropriate professional.

Exams are a stressful period, particularly with the HSC feeling like the summation of 13 very long and very formative years of your life.

But keep it all in perspective – even if it feels like your world is ending right now, that only means your world has to start again fresh afterwards.

Sometimes you’ve just got to bounce off something difficult to be heading upwards again!

And that wraps up how to bounce back and improve your HSC Chemistry marks! Good luck!

Looking for some extra help with HSC Chemistry?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC Chemistry 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!


Matt Saunders is a huge nerd who first got into writing through fanfiction. He’d known science was the path for him since a young age, and after discovering a particular love of bad chemistry jokes (and chemistry too), he’s gone onto to study Forensic Chemistry at UTS. His HSC in 2014 was defined in equal parts by schoolwork and stagecraft, which left him, weirdly enough, with a love of Maths strong enough to inspire him to tutor any level, along with 7-10 Science and HSC Chemistry.