Worked Solutions to the 2020 HSC Mathematics Standard 2 Exam

Each year, as soon as the paper is officially published, I work through the solutions to the latest HSC exam while we wait for the official solutions to be published. You can find my complete handwritten solutions to all questions on the 2020 HSC Mathematics Standard 2 Exam here:

Any corrections made to the answers will be posted here. If you find what you think may be an error, please let me know!

Very soon we will upload videos of detailed explanations for all questions on this latest test. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified when they are published, or check back here!

2020 students – congrats to you for getting through this difficult year and sticking with your maths course!


My thoughts on this exam:

This is not the first exam for Standard 2 on the new syllabus, however it is the first exam where all levels of HSC Maths are on the new syllabus. As such, it is the first exam with questions involving common content (and hence some of the same questions as) Mathematics Advanced. I’m also aware that there’s a bit of controversy over the common content questions and the difficulty of the exam, so I was very curious to see this exam myself!

The way some people made it sound, I thought that maybe NESA had included some questions that were purely advanced questions that Standard students could not answer. I was glad to see that all questions were covering content from the Standard syllabus, and there were no questions that required algebraic solutions to simultaneous equations, calculus, or anything that only Advanced students learn.

As I worked through this exam, however, I could see why the majority of students thought it was too difficult. While it is true that Standard students technically should have learned the content for all questions on this exam, many of the questions were at a very difficult level for the content. It kind of felt like almost everything was a band 5 or 6 question. If you’re good enough at maths to do well this test, you might as well do Advanced. I know that in a way that was part of the reason that they’ve put common questions between Standard and Advanced and put them on a common scale, but it feels like it’s almost pointless in having Standard maths if it’s this difficult, and it feels a bit unfair to Standard students.

I can see why there were many questions on this exam that students might feel were beyond Standard. This is because while they’d probably been practicing on the questions in their textbooks, workbooks, worksheets, and past papers at the advice of their teachers, many of these questions would not have been anything like what they had practiced. These questions required a deep level of understanding and proficiency with the formulas, techniques, and strategies that most students just don’t get. Even in a normal school year, students aren’t always well prepared for these kinds of questions, partly because there seems to barely be enough time to learn the basics of each topic, partly because of the pedagogy in many math classrooms.

Yet I know these students have worked hard to get to the end of their HSC course and are doing their best, yet they may barely be able to answer many of the questions on this year’s test. That’s not fair to them, especially since they had less class time and instruction this year due to COVID, and many even had to try to teach themselves entire chapters of their textbooks. There were a handful of questions where students with a satisfactory understanding of the syllabus had a chance to show what they know and could do, and everything else was just really hard. I know that the test is scaled and everyone was “equally disadvantaged,” but I feel really bad for the students who had to encounter such a difficult test. Mainly because I know how this can increase their stress levels and slash their self-confidence unnecessarily.

With all that being said, my general comments on this test are that it was definitely on the difficult side. There were a couple of questions I thought were creative in the way that they pulled together different parts of the syllabus, such as Question 23. I found the networks questions and many of the financial maths questions frustrating (more than usual, anyway). Most questions required a high proficiency with creating and/or solving equations, and a very good understanding of the concepts in the syllabus. If this is how the tests are going to be on the new syllabus, I think students may need to seriously reconsider Standard 2 if they aren’t strong with algebra and advanced equations.

So that’s my opinion! I welcome any comments you might have regarding your thoughts or experience with this exam. Feel free to drop a comment below or contact me via email.

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