Hacks for Extension 1 Maths

Ext 1 Maths can be daunting at first – an extra unit of maths jam packed with all sorts of confusing and complex content. This initial impression often scares us. We may feel overwhelmed by the content we receive in class and feel as if we can’t keep up. But trust me, as time passes we really do get used to it and it starts to make more sense! We begin to notice patterns and see how things are interrelated.


Whilst yes, Ext 1 is a massive jump from Year 7-10 maths, I do believe that it is very manageable. It is not only a challenging course but also a course for which if you are studying, will greatly assist your studies in Advanced Maths. It teaches us new ways of thinking, new methods of problem solving as well as provides us with an overall greater depth of understanding. 


Having completed the Ext 1 course last year and achieving a HSC mark of 97, here are some of my own hacks that helped me perform well in this subject:


  1. Summarise Content 


Whilst it may seem daunting at first and seem like heaps of content, it really isn’t! Being only a 1 unit subject, there are significantly fewer dot points for ext 1 than advanced. This makes summaries much easier to write. Grab a notebook or piece of loose leaf paper and when you finish each topic, create a 2-3 page summary of the topic (make sure to include some challenging example questions!). If you are able to keep on top of this for each topic then by the time your final HSC exams come you will have some very handy, succinct notes to help you study. Make sure you also read the syllabus outline and ensure that your 2-3 page summaries cover ALL the dot points. These summaries will also be of great help when practicing harder questions where you often have to synthesise knowledge from multiple topics.


  1. Do hard questions 


Just sticking solely to textbook exercises in Ext 1 won’t cut it. Whilst yes, these exercises are good for grasping an initial understanding of a concept, we definitely should not be relying on these. Instead, try to do a few past HSC questions or do the questions in a challenge exercise as these place greater stimulation onto our minds. These hard questions are amazing practice for the HSC, which will definitely contain some tricky questions – often there will be a few that require us to synthesis knowledge from multiple topics to formulate an answer. And so, if we are just completing basic exercises from a textbook and not extending our practice into harder questions we may find it tricky to answer these hard questions in the actual HSC (note that these are the questions that can separate students between E3 and E4!)


  1. Time Yourself


A big struggle with Ext 1 and essentially any HSC maths course is timing! For the Ext 1 exam, completing 70 marks in two hours is tough especially with all the hard questions at the end which tend to take a long time to figure out! To combat this issue, time yourself doing questions and try to pick up the pace with easier questions at the beginning. In doing so, you will save heaps of time for the last few questions. In addition, during the 10 minutes of reading time, turn straight to the last few questions. Read over these questions in detail to make sure you have a general understanding of them. Think about these questions throughout the paper! If you have enough time before reading time ends then skim through the rest of the short answer questions. Make sure to leave multiple choice last for reading time and don’t worry if you read them as these questions are often easier (by subbing the 4 options into the question, you can often easily find the answer – sometimes they can even be solved by inspection so don’t waste your time reading through them all in the 10 mins of reading time!)


  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help


This is probably the most important thing to do! If you are ever unsure about a question, make sure you ask your teacher, peers, or tutors! They will be able to show you the correct working to get the answer or they may even be able to show you a simpler method of working out the answer. No matter if you have only 1 question or a whole list, if you are stuck make sure you ask for help! Don’t feel embarrassed about asking for help, I cannot stress this enough. 




Always keep in mind that Year 11 content is assumed knowledge for your HSC exam and sometimes you can get a question in the HSC that purely comes from Year 11 work. Don’t throw out your Year 11 notes but instead keep them for your own reference and make sure to review them every once in a while so that you don’t forget (especially some of the harder topics such as perms and coms, which was synthesised into one of the last questions in the 2020 Ext 1 Maths Exam).


In essence, Ext 1 Maths is a challenging subject but by utilising these hacks as well finding you own study methods, you will be able to achieve great results!


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