‘How to study HSC Physics’ is a comprehensive guide that educates high school students the right way of studying HSC Physics. By implementing the right learning process for Physics, you are more likely to enjoy the course and feel more confident at school.
Having taught thousands of students over the last 20 years, I have noticed the following common problems amongst students who struggle in Physics:
Can you imagine baking a cake for the first time without a recipe? The recipe (or process) describes what, when and how you have to do things to create a cake.
If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, then you don’t really know what you’re doing.
As you are studying Year 12 Physics for the first time, it would be smart to have a process in place before you begin.
The process that has helped most of our students get Band 6 in HSC Physics is outlined below:
|0. Read the syllabus||Understand the course requirements for Band 6 performance.|
|1. Learn Theory||Gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of key Physics concepts.|
|2. Practice Questions (Quizzes)||Evaluate the clarity and depth of your understanding of key Physics concepts.|
|3. Simulate Exam||Gain exposure to exam style questions early and test your exam readiness|
The process is illustrated in the flowchart below.
By reading the HSC Physics syllabus, you become familiar with the requirements in the Physics course. As a result you develop actionable insights on what and where to allocate your time and efforts for maximum results.
Unfortunately, the syllabus is a huge document with many sections and students often find it difficult to navigate to the relevant parts of the document. However you must invest the time to read and become familiar with the Physics syllabus.
Being familiar with the above aspects of the physics syllabus gives you important insights on what and where you need to focus your efforts to maximise your results.
The must-read sections of the HSC Physics syllabus is listed below:
Students who attained Band 6 in Physics have been able to demonstrate an extensive knowledge and understanding of key Physics concepts.
You can find the entire NSW Physics Stage 6 Syllabus here.
The second step of the process is the most important part of the learning process. The objective is to gain a thorough knowledge and understanding of all the key Physics concepts outlined in the NSW Stage 6 Physics Syllabus document.
To gain a thorough knowledge and understanding of key concepts, we suggest that you make notes of key concepts for each topic using tools such as tables, flowcharts and mind-maps.
Using tables, flowchart and mind–maps are recommended over conventional note making approach for two main reasons:
Tables are useful for comparing two or more things. A table comparing two different types of orbits are shown below:
|Type||Low Earth Orbit||Geostationary Earth Orbit|
|Altitude||160-1000 km||35800 km|
|Radius of orbit||6531-7371 km||42300 km|
|Orbital Speed||7368 – 7828 m/s||3076 m/s|
|Period||87 – 105 minutes||24 hours|
|Time in light of sight||15 minutes||24 hours|
The effective use of flowcharts was utilised by a Matrix Education student. Below is an image of a wall in his room. He got a band 6 in Physics!
Two examples of the use of flowcharts are shown below.
1. The flowchart below classifies circular motion (Topic from Module 5: Advanced Mechanics)
2. The flowchart explains the relationship between change in magnetic flux and emf (Topic from Module 6 Electromagnetism).
According to the Performance Band 6 Description, students must demonstrate extensive knowledge and understanding of key concepts. It’s not possible to gain extensive knowledge and understanding by simply making notes of your understanding. To elevate your depth of understanding, you’ll need to do practice questions to identify your knowledge gaps.
The third step of the process involves doing practice questions. The objective is to evaluate the clarity and depth of your understanding by
Here is an example of how to apply a flowchart to solve a question.
A circular coil of wire is squashed as shown in the diagram below. Explain why a current is induced in the circular coil of wire as it is squashed.
To answer this question, we can use the flowchart shown below.
Can you see how the flowchart helps you write a logical, sequential and scientific? A lot of students lose marks for writing a scientific response that is illogical, irrelevant and ambiguous.
If I had 10 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend 8 hours sharpening my axe.
My students have always found that flowcharts helped them organise their thoughts and plan their responses more efficiently. To learn more about how to use flowcharts to ace your Physics, read James Drielsma’s blog article on the Matrix Education website.
When you do practice questions, you’ll come across questions you struggle with and realise knowledge or skills gap. These must be addressed by revising your theory again.
We recommend students to
Students who topped the state for HSC Physics had a coding system where they highlighted all the questions they got wrong in the textbook or past papers.
For students who are doing practice questions regularly (once a week at least), it’s important to track your performance in these practice quizzes in the form of:
You can use Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets (spreadsheet) to plot your quiz results and track your performance. Once you have done 5 – 6 quizzes, you’ll see a pattern which can provide actionable insights and help you focus on what matters most.
On Learnable, Quiz Dashboard provides a breakdown of your quiz performance by chapter and questions and helps you assess your performance relative to peers. Below is a screenshot of one of our students’ quiz results:
Physics practical investigations are an important part of your Year 11 & 12 Physics course. They are compulsory and weigh at least 60% of your overall school assessment mark.
Physics practical investigations involve:
To ace your Physics practical investigations, you’ll need to acquire the essential practical skills outlined below:
For a more detailed explanation of the essential scientific skills, read the Matrix blog ‘The Beginner’s guide to Physics Practical Skills‘.
A list of Physics practical investigations from Year 12 Physics Syllabus is tabulated below. (Note: Module 1-4 is Year 11)
|Year 12 Physics Module||Topics and their Practical Investigations|
|5. Advanced Mechanics||Projectile Motion|
|6. Electromagnetism||The Motor Effect|
Applications of the Motor Effect
|7. The Nature of Light||Electromagnetic Spectrum|
Light: Wave Model
For help on planning and conducting Physics practical investigations, read this guide.
The final step of the process involves simulating exam conditions. The objective here is to gain exposure to exam style questions early and test your exam readiness by
It’s important that you get an early exposure to exam style question and thereby become familiar with the format and style of questions that you’ll be asked in the real exam. You’ll find that these questions differ significantly from your school textbook questions.
Once you have completed making notes and have done practice questions for each topic, you should sit an exam using the following rules:
Most of our students attempt a mini exam once every week. Below is a sample schedule of a Band 6 student:
Peter Drucker, a famous management thought leader, once said,
You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
What he means is that you cannot know whether you are achieving success until success is defined, measured and tracked. Most students don’t measure and track their progress mostly because they don’t know how to.
One way to measure and track your progress is to use a table like the one shown below:
|Topic||Exam Score||Time taken|
(Allowed Time: 45 minutes)
By recording and tracking your exam scores, you can gain actionable insights about your performance in terms of accuracy and speed.
With these actionable insights, anyone can make the right adjustments daily to improve their results.
Remember that “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out” – Robert Collier.
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