How to succeed in history, business and legal studies

Have a system for taking notes in history.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Top achiever Madeleine Sloane felt confident walking into her modern history exam thanks to lots of practice in developing essay plans.

To help hone her study on what’s important, Madeleine created a range of essay plans based on her class notes and readings.

This filled her with confidence ahead of the exam; she felt she could tackle a wide range of questions.

“The essay plan would have a thesis statement and paragraph outlines. I’d also throw in topic sentences and some statistics and facts,” she explains.

Madeleine Sloane

The essay plans were not pre-prepared responses. Rather, they helped Madeleine to become more efficient at planning and writing essays under timed conditions.

She put these skills to the test by completing a number of practice exams.

“Try and aim for at least one timed practice task before the exam, even if you have to split it up into sections, because time management can be tricky,” she says.

Room for improvement

A self-proclaimed procrastinator, Madeleine says she could have been more efficient in her note-taking.

She encourages HSC students to spend time developing a system for taking notes to help condense the content and pinpoint key concepts.

“Break things up into smaller, more manageable steps,” she adds.

Problem solved

Challenge: Struggling with source analysis.

How I tackled it: It’s worth practising interpreting the elements of a source and focusing on its place in history. I did a lot of practice questions. Even if I struggled to write out a full response to each one, I would at least look at the source and make a plan for what I would write in an exam, which I found extremely helpful.

Top tips from HSIE teachers

Business Studies

Nin Eath

Nin Eath, St Johns Park High School

Member of NSW Government Best in Class unit

RIPS: It’s all connected

Strong responses demonstrate the interrelatedness of role, influences, processes and strategies (RIPS).

Think of it this way:

  • The role is how the business function is expected to run effectively.
  • Influences are what can inhibit or help the role.
  • Processes are how the role actually functions.
  • Strategies are what the business uses to achieve the role.

Reading, watching and listening to credible media sources can help you with critical analysis on how business deals with change (eg the influence of the pandemic on airlines and their strategic responses to keep afloat). It can also help you with business terminology and provide contemporary business examples that you can include in your responses.

Business report

Section 3 provides a hypothetical business situation on which you write a business report. Think about the business’s legal structure, the industry it operates within, its prime function and the challenges or success it is experiencing. You don’t need to include any other business case study examples.

Extended response

Section 4 focuses on the two topics that weren’t assessed in the business report in Section 3. For example, if the business report is drawn from the Human Resources and Marketing topics, then the extended response will focus on the Finance or Operations topics.

You can use hypothetical and/or real business case studies in your extended response. Be realistic with your own hypothetical case study. For example, “Hungry Macs saves $1 billion in costs by switching its suppliers for tomato sauce” is a stretch of the imagination.

Try mnemonics

Mnemonics can help you remember concepts. They can be songs, rhymes, acronyms or phrases. Here’s an example: “PLEGS”

P = profitability

L = liquidity

E = efficiency

G = growth

S = solvency

Read credible sources to succeed in business studies.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Legal Studies

Rachel Taylor, Carlingford High School

Head Teacher, Wellbeing

Be ready for anything

  • Read past exam papers. This will make you familiar with the types of questions that may be asked, and the layout of the exam.
  • Practise writing responses and submit them to your teacher. This will help you refine the quality of your written responses.
  • Construct your own multiple-choice questions. Make sure you have one correct answer, and that all four answer options are plausible.
  • Create a toolbox of contemporary examples. Your answers will benefit from contemporary supporting examples, such as legislation, cases, media, international instruments and reports.

Rachel Taylor

Option responses: step-by-step

  • Make a plan. Plans help structure your answers and give you a checklist of items to reference in your response. Don’t cross out your plan when you’ve finished as it forms part of your answer.
  • Form a judgment. Don’t just write about the respective legal or non-legal response with a broad statement about how effective it is at the end. Answers that have a judgment threaded throughout are generally clearer and stronger.
  • Support your judgment with examples. Draw from legislation, cases, international instruments, media and reports.
  • Check your language. Avoid using absolutes such as “the law is effective”.

Aarti Nand, Canterbury Girls High School

HSIE faculty

Avoid these mistakes

  • General statements or summaries. Make and support judgments with references to relevant and contemporary examples.
  • Poorly structured responses. Write in a well-structured format. Also ensure you are using relevant legal terminology to help support a logical, cohesive response.
  • Integrate relevant examples, such as case law, media, international instruments, documents, and legislation, into extended responses to support your argument.

Aarti Nand.

Top-scoring exam answers in 2020: Business Studies

Exam question:

Distinguish between voluntary and involuntary separation.

Student answer:

Voluntary separation is when an employee leaves a business and job on their own terms. Involuntary separation is when the employee is asked or told to leave his or her job by their employer.

Examples of voluntary separation include retirement or quitting.

Examples of involuntary separation include retrenchment, redundancy or being dismissed. These are examples of when a job is either no longer available, or an employee’s behaviour has forced their employer to dismiss them.

Marker comments:

This response demonstrates a clear understanding of the difference between voluntary and involuntary separation by providing characteristics and examples of each type (eg retirement, retrenchment, dismissal).

Legal Studies

Exam question:

Explain the role of intergovernmental organisations in enforcing human rights. Use an example to support your answer.

Student answer:

Intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) are critical to enforcing human rights effectively. IGOs are organisations that have multiple member nations (eg United Nations). The main role of IGOs is to improve international cooperation on human rights issues.

Given the United Nations has nearly 200 member states, it is able to ensure any treaties are effective in enforcing human rights; greater government co-operation and universality of laws eliminates jurisdictional issues.

IGOs are also important in training countries to respond to human rights issues. INTERPOL, the international police organisation with 188 member states, shows national police forces how to enforce human rights effectively by providing them with the resources and training they need.

IGOs are therefore crucial to enforcing human rights because they encourage universal legislation and train countries to enforce these laws effectively.

Marker comments:

This response demonstrates an understanding of the role of intergovernmental organisations with clear links to two examples (the United Nations and INTERPOL). There is a clear understanding of the role of the United Nations and the ways in which it enforces human rights through global co-operation. The response is then enhanced with links to interpol and how this organisation also enforces human rights, specifically looking at the effective use of training and resourcing to ensure breaches of rights are dealt with.

Exam workbooks, which include more examples from top-scoring students, are available from the NESA Shop.

Multiple choice quiz: Economics

1. Which of the following identifies two economic objectives of monetary policy?

A. price stability and full employment

B. economic growth and external stability

C. price stability and distribution of income

D. economic growth and environmental sustainability

2. Which international organisation is responsible for maintaining financial stability in global financial markets?

A. World Bank

B. World Trade Organisation

C. International Monetary Fund

D. Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation

3. Which of the following is most likely to be a feature of a decentralised wage determination system?

A. increased income equality

B. wage increases are linked to inflation

C. government policy determines wage outcomes

D. employment contracts can vary from one workplace to another

4. A developing economy is most likely to be characterised by:

A. low productivity and low population growth

B. low employment and low infant mortality rate

C. inadequate access to education and underprovision of public goods

D. inadequate access to healthcare and GDP dominated by the provision of services

5. A country imposes a quota on wheat imports. Assume that it does not allow any imports of wheat beyond the quota. Which of the following is most likely to occur if this country decides to reduce this quota on wheat imports?

A. increased wheat prices within the country

B. increased export revenue for foreign wheat exporters

C. decreased income for wheat producers within the country

D. decreased government revenue from the change in the volume of imports

For quiz answers, click here.

Check out other multiple choice questions from past HSC exam papers.

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