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Advice for HSC science examinations

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Advice for students sitting for HSC science examinations

What will be examined in science examinations?

All objectives and outcomes, including the Prescribed Focus Areas, are integral to the Stage 6 science courses, and are examinable. In addition, the skills content in Module 9.1 is mandatory and examinable in both the core and option questions.

Sitting for the examination

Before the examination

As well as bringing black pens to write responses, remember to bring pencils, a ruler and a NESA-approved calculator to the examination.

Answering questions that require calculations

  • In the case of Physics and Chemistry examinations, make sure you use the periodic table and data sheets provided to assist you with calculations.
  • Set out all working for numerical questions, as marks are awarded for working, as well as for the final answer. Show substitutions into relevant formulae where appropriate.
  • Don’t round off during calculations – use the calculator memory and then present your final answer to the correct number of significant figures. 
  • Include units in every calculation.
  • Check that your answer in a calculation makes sense, eg a pH value of 995 does not make sense.

Answering questions that require drawing or graphing

  • Draw diagrams using a pencil and a ruler. Make sure you label them clearly.
  • When drawing graphs, make sure you label axes clearly, including units if appropriate.
  • Where asked to interpolate or extrapolate from a graph, make sure you show the working on the drawn graph.

If appropriate, draw a diagram or table to support your answer – sometimes it may be the clearest way to express your answer.

Answering questions about first-hand investigations

Knowledge of and experience in carrying out first-hand investigations is an important part of every science course. You should learn to:

  • write an appropriate hypothesis separate to the aim
  • identify the equipment and/or any reagents used
  • identify those variables that need to be controlled in an investigation
  • justify the procedure used in a first-hand investigation by making a clear link between the expected results and actions
  • outline a risk assessment that is appropriate to the investigation
  • provide a specific safety measure that relates to the particular first-hand investigation rather than generalised safety measures
  • differentiate between reliability and validity in a scientific investigation. 

It is common to be asked questions about first-hand investigations.

Answering option questions

  • Only attempt one option question in Section II and do not answer parts from different options.
  • You are strongly advised to answer the option you have studied in class. Students who choose to answer questions in an option they have not studied are disadvantaged because such responses lack breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding.
  • Each option question is divided into a number of parts. Each part of the question should be clearly labelled in the answer booklet. 
  • If you are given a personalised Section II writing booklet, be sure to indicate which option you are answering on the front page.

Other things to remember

  • Where appropriate, you should include balanced chemical equations.
  • Where questions require a longer response, take time to analyse the question and plan your response. 
  • Make sure that you address all aspects of a question, particularly those that link several concepts across the syllabus.