I’d been memorising my essays for HSC English and it had been working well for me.

But should I memorise them for HSC Modern History as well?

There was sooo much content and it was harder to predict the questions though… but it was working for English.

This is one the the biggest debates during HSC – Should you memorise your essays, and for which subjects?

The first thing you should know is there is no right answer as each person learns differently. However some options have more merit for particular learning types than others.

Are you memorising essays for HSC Modern History? Here 3 different options and alternatives for memorising essays for HSC Modern History!

Option 1: Memorising Essays for HSC Modern History

Memorising essays involves pre-preparing a response to a particular questions and being able to rewrite it almost word for word during an exam.

“Many teachers did not recommend having prepared essays, however in my experience I have found that this approach has been very successful. The key factor is that you need to actually tailor your prepared essay to the essay question on the day.” – Madeline, 97.55 ATAR

Many students have successfully used this technique to get the marks they want but as displayed in the above quote when using pre-prepared responses you need to be able to adapt them to any questions you are give.

The Pro’s of Memorising Essays for HSC Modern History

  • Saves time: Great for people who get ‘mind blanks’ during exams and waste lots of time thinking of what to write.
  • Always prepared: No matter what the question you always have a prepared response.
  • Reduces stress: Reduces stress and increases confidence because you already know what you are going to write in the exam.
  • Helps time management: Knowing exactly how much time it’s going to take you to write a response.
  • Reduces editing time: Great for people who are weak on essay structure as they don’t have to ‘edit’ their structure during an exam.

“Memorising essays for history is the worst way to study as questions are quite varied.” – Lucia, 90.00 ATAR

The Con’s of Memorising Essays for HSC Modern History

  • Need to adapt: Might not have prepared essay ready for the question they ask (or you have difficultly adapting your prepared essay to the question).
  • Accidental gaps: If you forget a part of the essay (even a sentence or two) it can really reduce the strength and power of your argument.
  • Memory game: Unless you have a photographic memory it’s going to take a while to remember your essay almost word for word.
  • Time management: Underestimating the time you need to write a pre-planned essay in an exam.
  • Needs time: You can’t memorise an essay the night before an exam – it needs to be prepared well in advance.

Option 2 : Memorising Notes for HSC Modern History

With this technique you learn all the information against your syllabus notes and then apply them during an exam.  Often students who adopt this approach don’t have any type of plan for writing an essay during the exam.

The Pro’s of Memorising Notes 

  • Content queen: You can answer any question BOSTES throws at you and can easily adapt the information you know to the question. 
  • Variety of choice: Can choose the best facts and information for the question rather than attempting to mould a prewritten response to the question. 
  • Uses your strengths: You can choose which essay to answer based on your confidence responding rather than choosing an option simply because you have a prepared response. 
  • Memory recall: Good for people who struggle with memorising text (and essays).

The Con’s of Memorising Notes

“History exams are primarily essay-based, so preparing practice essays and refining writing technique is key for achieving the best marks” – Kyle, 94.4 ATAR

  • Mental blanks: If you struggle with ‘mind banks’ it’s easy to forget important information and/or not know how to answer the question.
  • Time management: Time management students can easily go over 40 minutes and not including all the information. 
  • Forgetting to reference: Can forget to include evidence and historiography in your essays.

Option 3: Memorising Essay Scaffolds – Happy Medium?

“In Modern History and History Extension, I would recommend writing a series of well researched essay plans to all necessary parts of the syllabus. I would recommend learning these by adapting them and writing scaffolds out under time pressure to a wide variety of questions, without referring the notes or the original plan for maximum retention.” – Nicola, 98.75 ATAR

This technique was my personal preference when it came to essay writing during HSC exams for any subject.

It involves creating an essay plan for each dot point which includes important facts and quotes you can use in a response. The benefit of this technique is that you are able to prepare what you would write for every syllabus dot point.

Click the images below for a larger image!


The Pro’s of Memorising Essay Scaffolds 

  • Prepared: Allows you to have a response for every single question BOSTES can throw at you.
  • Armed and ready: Takes shock factor out of essays because you are prepared for all the possibilities.
  • Quick and easy: Scaffolds are quick and easy to make  (each plan should take 5 – 15 mins depending on detail).
  • Abstract thinking: Gets you thinking about unique ways to answer common Modern History questions.

“My best technique was doing timed essay scaffolds” – Vicki, 98.7 ATAR

So should you memorise your HSC Modern History essays? Figure it out below!


How will you be going into your HSC Modern History test? Will you memorise:

  • your essay?
  • your notes? Or…
  • your scaffold?

Let us know in the comments!

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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 others Milana can be found with her nose in a book or marathoning TV shows.



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