Exam Technique

1    In-exam hints



There are many sources of information on how best to approach exams, but this section examines hints that are specific to the HSC Chemistry exam.


Read the question first


It seems like a logical enough statement, but it’s surprisingly common for a student to entirely miss the point of a question. With criteria-based marking, this can have devastating effects on a student’s mark as they go off entirely on a tangent. Studying the dotpoints above doesn’t mean anything if you can’t adapt your response to suit the question, removing irrelevant parts while including others that are.


Pick out key verbs


As stated in the verb guide, target the verbs in the question. They will give your response structure and direction, providing a concise response which answers the question and filtering off any other unnecessary material else you may be tempted to add.


Double check answers


This is a simple enough point, but the trick lies in how you double check. Don’t just read your answer and be done with it. Forget what you’ve written, read the question, and then ask yourself what points you need to have covered. Only now should you go through your answer and check that you’ve answered all these points. Doing so provides a fresh perspective on an answer and can often help make a great answer even better.


Add equations where appropriate


Equations, equations, equations. These will support your answer and save you a great deal of explanation as the equation itself is evidence of the point you are trying to make. As such, take the time to learn how to write and balance an equation.


Use the lines as a guide as to how much to write


You will often feel that you have not been given enough space to write a suitable answer, but what you must understand is that you have been given exactly enough space to do so. If you repeatedly go over the lines, practice writing concisely. You are not only more likely to get higher marks, but you’ll save valuable time which you can use for answering other questions.


Draw diagrams in pencil


Drawing a diagram in pen only to realise you drew something incorrectly is the most frustrating and unnecessary mistake. Draw in pencil! This provides a diagram that is easier to distinguish from writing around it while providing something a lot easier to change should you feel the need to.



When discussing equilibrium, phrase your response carefully


Too often will a phrase such as equilibrium shifts to the right’ present the opportunity for much confusion in equilibria questions particularly questions relating to Le Chatelier’s principle.

Instead, state that the forward reaction is favoured as a result of a change in the system, and that due to Le Chatelier’s principle, equilibrium will attempt to shift backwards in an attempt to correct the situation. By the very nature of dynamic equilibrium, the reaction literally goes both ways. Specify exactly what is happening and you will save yourself from losing marks that you might very well have deserved.