The worst thing you can experience when sitting the HSC Legal Studies exam, or any exam for that matter, is running out of time. Students who thrive in exams know how to portion their time so that they don’t run out of time. They know what works for them, and they stick to it. So, a few days before sitting the HSC Legal Studies exam, it is definitely worth considering the order in which you will attack the exam. In other words, what will you do first, middle and last to make sure your exam experience is not as traumatic as it can be?

Some of the most common approaches include:

  • Chronologically
  • Back to front – essays first, followed by multiple choice and short answers
  • Start with your strongest section
  • Start with your weakest section

And with any such decision, there are always pros and cons to keep in mind.

Approach 1: Chronologically

Doing the paper chronologically means doing it in order: multiple choice, Human Rights short answers, Crime essay, option 1 essay, option 2 essay.


  • This is how the HSC Legal Studies paper was designed to be answered
  • You can fully guarantee that you have completed your Core section (Crime and Human Rights). This section is generally the easiest section to gain as many marks as you can


  • There is a possibility that you might run out of time for your second 25-marker response

Take this approach if… you are as confident in your essay writing as you are on your ability to be spot-on with your Crime and Human Rights multiple choice and short answers.

Action point: Devise a schedule as to when you will complete each section and make sure it is strictly adhered to. That way, when you reach your second 25-marker response, you will not run out of time. An example of a schedule for a HSC Legal Studies exam can be:

  • Reading time: 8:55am – 9:00am | Exam: 9:00am – 12:00pm
  • 9:00am – 9:15am – Crime and Human Rights multiple choice (20 marks)
  • 9:15am – 9:45am – Human Rights short answers (15 marks)
  • 9:45am – 10:25am – Crime essay (15 marks)
  • 10:25am – 11:10am – Option 1 essay (25 marks)
  • 11:10am – 11:55am – Option 2 essay (25 marks)
  • 11:55am – 12:00pm – check you have answered every multiple choice question and skim read through responses
  • 12:00pm – done!

Approach 2: Back to Front

This would mean starting the HSC Legal Studies paper with the 25-marker essays and finishing up with the multiple choice section.


  • You can guarantee you have completed the 2 big 25-marker essays
  • Your substantiation and LCMs (Legislation, Cases and Media) are still fresh in your head


  • You might run out of time for the multiple choice section, the easiest section in the exam to maximise your marks

Take this approach if… you are positive that you can do the multiple choice section in a short amount of time, while also remaining accurate.

Action point: Bulletproof your multiple choice section, so that it is fast and accurate. I have expanded on this in another useful article on how to study the night before your HSC Legal Studies exam.

Approach 3: Strongest to Weakest

A lot of HSC Legal Studies Band 6 students and state rankers actually prefer to start off with their strongest section, or answer the questions that they feel most comfortable answering.


  • You will start off the HSC Legal Studies exam feeling confident, with the mindset that I can do this!
  • You can finish your strongest section in a short amount of time, leaving you more time at the end to work on your weaker sections


  • You might spend too much time on your strong points, that you divert too much time into making sure it is a response worthy of attaining full marks
  • Therefore, once you reach your weaker sections, you might run out of time

Take this approach if… you are able to finish your strongest section shorter than the time recommended (e.g. if you spend 15 minutes instead of 25 minutes in the Human Rights short answer section)

Action point: Be very strict in sticking to your schedule to ensure you don’t run out of time. This is extremely important, especially if you plan on leaving your weakest section until the end. Remember, it’s better to consistently get 21/25, as opposed to one 10/25 and a 25/25.

Approach 4: Weakest to Strongest

Some people like to dive straight into the areas that they personally struggle with. They do this to get it over with, leaving lots of time at the end to do everything else at a more comfortable pace.


  • You are able to focus on your weaker sections and therefore boost up your marks in those areas


  • You might start off the HSC Legal Studies exam not feeling as confident
  • There is a possibility that you spend too much time on

Take this approach if… you want more time to work on your weakest section and you know for sure that you can still manage to finish your strongest section

Action point: Do lots of practice in your weakest section, whether it be the essays, short answers or multiple choice questions. The more practice you do, the better you will get at it and the less time you may need to spend on it

If nothing works: All 4 Topics of HSC Legal Studies at Once

This means having your question booklet at the top of the table, all 3 writing booklets to your right, while also casually having your multiple choice questions on your left. And yes, doing them all at the same time.

In fact, I adopted this method not only for HSC Legal Studies, but also for English Advanced and Extension, Modern History AND History Extension. Some people have called me crazy for doing this, and I probably am. This is the riskiest approach to take, and it’s not hard to see why. But over the course of the year, I have discovered that none of the previous approaches have worked particularly well for me. With this approach, it was not uncommon for me to have at least 5 minutes spare time at the end to go over my work and edit my responses! This was the best and most suitable way I tackled the HSC Legal Studies exam.

So, with that being said, the bottom line is this: Similar to study techniques, how you choose to tackle the HSC Legal Studies exam is all very subjective. This will involve some trial and error but there is no right or wrong way. It’s all about experimenting before the exam to find a method that suits YOU best.

Good luck!

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Frances Tso recently graduated from Sydney Girls High School in 2016 and is known among her friends as the crazy dog lady without a dog. With an avid interest in the dynamics of global change, she decided her HSC major work was not enough to quench her thirst as to how regional interactions impact political and cultural relationships. So, she has decided to study International Studies at UNSW, majoring in International Relations. In her spare time, Frances is either teaching violin, re-watching episodes of Friends for the twentieth time, or perfecting the art on how to be a dog aficionado.