Study Tips

Your high school years can be some of the most important years of your life. It is important that every student makes the most of every opportunity they get during these years to ensure they finish their school years successfully. The following page will outline the basic steps students should undertake during their studies both at home and at school, as well as tips on exam preparation and techniques. For any questions, tips or advice from other current students, please visit our Community Forum.



At Home
At School
Exam Preparation

STUDYING (in general)

Start NOW!!!
Here’s 6 steps to get you started…
1. Decide that time-management is important – it enables you to satisfy, efficiently and effectively your needs and wants.
2. Evaluate your study needs – requirements for each subject in terms of assignments, difficult of subject, etc….
3. What are you doing now – analyse your current time usage, where does your time go?
4. Plan a new timetable. What is the purpose of a timetable? EFFICIENCY, ORGANISATION, CONCENTATION.
5. Revise that timetable – after 1 to 2 weeks.
6. Set us a special pre-exam timetable.

Find a good place to study. This means a desk with nothing on it except what you need for the task you are going to work on. Move everything out of the way. You want to concentrate on one thing: STUDYING. Have a regular time and place for studying. Make sure you have the following:

  • Solid flat surface you can write on. – Clear everything off your desk except what you are working on
  • Good lighting – Not too bright, not too dim
  • Chair – A regular chair that is comfortable. Avoid strain and fatigue
  • Books – Have all necessary text books and reference books
  • Supplies – Pens, ruler, calculator, etc…
  • Clock – Helps you manage time, or timing yourself doing past papers
  • Eliminate all distractions – Classical music played softly may help
  • Computer – If needed

  • The last few months of Year 12 are crucial and experts recommend changes in study methods and patterns to ensure the maximum amount of information is absorbed during that period.
  • Students must capitalise on the study methods they have found most effective as well as looking at different approaches to prevent boredom.
  • Students need to develop their own individualised study programs. Copying other students’ routines may not best suit your needs.
  • In the case of studying texts, stand up and read aloud – this will help you visualise what is happening.
  • One senior lecturer stated that preventing boredom in the final weeks is vital. It is suggested that you should review what you know rather than try to cram in more information.
  • Be proud of your achievements. Knowing that you have mastered a difficult concept should give you something to draw pride, strength and confidence from.
1. LISTEN ACTIVELY in class, using four steps – TILE (tune-in, investigate, listen, estimate).
2. Make active NOTES, in your own words, in class, highlighting points by using headings, sub-headings, underlining and diagrams (avoid sentences).
3. Re-read your notes as soon as possible and make a SUMMARY on the back of the page.
4. A SUMMARY must be brief and must act as a key to recalling other material.
5. Make a further brief OUTLINE of the summary, listing only key headings.
6. REVISE the material several times, well in advance of exam time.
8. When REVISION, use active methods – questioning: looking at how the topic is organised; pretending to explain it to someone else; imagining the exam questions you might get; etc…
9. PERSONALISE the material (give it your frame of reference and your associations).
10. Use memory tools for complex lists, such as:

  • Acrostics (eg – Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit)
  • Acronyms (eg – ROYGBIV (colours of rainbow))
  • Tree Diagrams
  • Visual Associations and Humour
  • First Letters of List of Points
11. When READING (notes from textbook) read with a purpose.
12. Have your notes in clearly labelled folders in a quiet, well-lit, comfortable, tidy and friendly area
13. Practice a RELAXATION technique daily and start revision sessions with it.
14. Be aware of NEGATIVE thoughts. Allow the thought to finish. Then repeat a positive statement to yourself. If a negative thought persists, then use your positive statement as a daily GOAL or AFFIRMATION.
15. Five weeks before EXAMS are due, make a new revision timetable, allocating times to cover various topics and subjects.
16. Now REVISE by using tour notes, summaries and outlines together.
17. Avoid last minute CRAMMING as much as possible. Keep your sleep, relaxation and recision in balance.
18. ANTICIPATE the EXAM PAPER format (using past papers)
19. IN THE EXAM, read actively (underline key words; allocate time to various parts of the paper; write rough point outlines of essay answers)
20. When writing ESSAYS, have a clear INTRODUCTION, BODY and CONCLUSION. State how you will answer the question and what points you intend to make. (Don’t just tell a story or list your information without regular reference to the question.) Use your information to SUPPORT your points.
21. Keep and use your sense of humour.

With a timetable or schedule, you will be able to keep track of work that needs to be done. You may order the tasks which have more priority over others and it will help you keep focus on what you have to be doing. It is important you keep track of every single task you have.
You may have a very open timetable, which just states the task given and the due date, or you may have a very specific timetable which is very detailed and tell you exactly what needs to be done on what day during a certain time period.
With a timetable you will be able to manage time effectively, allowing you to have more freedom while achieving your tasks.
Example of an Open timetable:

Work to be done
Subject Assignment Due Date DONE
English Change Essay 6 April
IPT Multimedia Assignment 4 June

STUDYING (at school)

Listening can sometimes be the hardest skill of all to learn and to refine. Think about it. When your teacher is bawling you out for something, how often do you actually listen? Most of the time your brain has gone off duty while your mouth is saying ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know’. How often, when you’re bored in class, have you drifted off into a daydream, only to come back to consciousness and realise that you haven’t heard a thing? Listen consciously, actively, to everything that’s said to you. Even though you won’t like some of it, you will remember it. Try listening for ten minutes to a conversation on the bus, or perhaps between your parents. Then sit down and write down the major points of the conversation. This will begin to fine tune your listening skills so that even boring material delivered in class is recalled easily.

  • Make it a habit
  • Concentrate on what the topic going on in class is. No daydreaming
  • You can not listen if you are talking
  • Review what the main points covered in the last class were
  • During class, relate what you have already learned to the syllabus
  • Take notes on the main points
  • After class, review your notes and think about what was covered in class
  • Re-write your notes
  • Highlight, underline important ideas and vocabulary
  • If you have a choice, try to sit near the front of the class, you can usually listen better if you are in the front
  • Good listening mean you are paying attention
  • Listen carefully to what the teacher says about an assignment and write it down in your assignment notebook right away
Especially when we’re young, we think we’ll remember information just by listening. This may be true to a certain extent, but it won’t earn you the highest HSC score you deserve. In class, while you’re reading, while you’re studying, take notes constantly. This doesn’t mean writing down everything you hear or read. It means taking down the most important points in your own words. At the end of the day, read through your notes and revise them. Mark key points wind important facts with a highlighter. File the notes in organised folders.

  • use loose-leaf pages
  • spread your notes out – don’t skimp on paper
  • write on one side only
  • put a new point on each line
  • notes come from asking questions – ask questions for points in the syllabus that you don’t understand
  • indent points relating to main points
  • keep notes brief – phrases rather than sentences
  • use abbreviations

STUDYING (at home)

  • Think about what aspect of your memory you hope to advance. If you just want to recall somebody’s name or always forget to turn off the stove, don’t bother with mnemonic techniques. These teach you elaborate methods of memorising mind-bogglingly long lists that you will never use again. Use pen and paper!
  • If you’re not listening, you won’t remember it later. Your state of mind, level of alertness and, to a minor expert, you age affect your memory. Being stressed, tired, unhealthy and distracted means you concentrate less, as does chronic pain, depression and altered hormone levels.
  • To remember a piece of information, you need to “mark it” by thinking about it differently before you toss it into the filing cabinet of our mind. For example, to remember the number “08301974”, you might think of it as a story that starts at “08:30am in the year 1974”.
  • To remember somebody’s name, listen to what it is rather than getting distracted by the way he combs his hair over his bald patch. Ask him to say his name again, spell it of clarify its pronunciation. Refer to his name in conversation. The more times you hear or repeat his name, the more likely you are to remember. Get a visual link between the name and the face.
  • A good night’s rest will do wonders for your concentration span.
  • It is easier to recall information when you are in the same state you learnt the information in. If you find out a fact when you are drinking tea at home, you will remember better doing the same thing.


All year round >> Six weeks before the exam >> Two weeks before >> Just before >> In the exam room
All Year Round

  • Revise well and test yourself as you go
  • Precise revision timetable
  • Work through past exam papers or questions in exam conditions
  • Keep physically fit. Eat and sleep regularly. Take daily exercise. Learn how to relax. Cook.
  • Anticipate the format of different exams
  • Learn material differently for different subjects and for different exam styles (short-answer, essay, multiple-choice, etc…)
  • Practice timing yourself in exams

Six Weeks Before The Exam

  • A new revision timetable, aimed at covering all topics in the time
  • Look for gaps in knowledge
  • Test yourself on topic summaries
  • Concentrate on:
    • vocabulary, technical terms, definitions
    • summaries of points
    • formulae, rules, diagrams, charts, maps
    • ability to understand relationships
  • Time yourself in writing essay-type answers
  • Lengthen the revision periods slightly

Two Weeks Before

  • Nervousness is common. Use a relaxation strategy to overcome it
  • Devise another timetable, based on the order and spacing of your exams
  • Recite and test (don’t just read). Use your summaries actively, especially your “summaries of summaries”
  • Minimum of cramming because of prior preparation

  • Don’t listen to your friends – steer clear of people who will stress you out and undermine your confidence before and after the exams.
  • Don’t hang around after the exam, ring your friends later – after you’ve had a swim or a jog.
  • Flip through and read the paper. Start with the easiest question and do it first as a confidence booster.
  • If you get a question that completely stumps you, get a piece of paper and write down any words that pop into your head which relate to the subject – one word may lead to another which could jog the memory.
  • If you are still stuck, move on and come back to the question after finishing everything else.
  • Do relaxation exercises before, during and after the exam. Be still, notice what you can hear and what you can smell, but let nothing disturb you. Notice your breathing and draw in fresh air to give your system more oxygen.
  • As you deepen your breathing you will become calm.


  • “Succeed In Exams, Triumph In Tests” by Jean Robb and Hilary Letts (Hodder Headline Australia)
  • Sunday Life from The Sunday Telegraph, April 2
  • “Focus on HSC: parents and student lecture” by EdAssist, University of Sydney
  • “Excel HSC Survival Guide” 2001 Edition