Answering HSC PDHPE exam questions – SEAL

Answering HSC PDHPE exam questions – SEAL

It can be very difficult answering HSC PDHPE exam questions. There are a number of techniques that can be used, and this article focuses on just one method to structure your answer to HSC PDHPE exam questions that are worth 4-12 marks. In particular, this article will focus on the structure I recommend you use for each paragraph you write.

The four (4) structural steps in answering HSC PDHPE exam questions follow the SEAL acronym and include a clear Statement (usually with key syllabus terms) of what you are about to expand upon. You then Expand, extrapolate or explain what you know about your clear statement used to introduce the paragraph. the next step is to Apply your knowledge, by including a specific relevant example before Linking the paragraph back to the question and/or the next paragraph. This creates a paragraph that is easy to follow, highlights the information you know and shows your ability to apply it to scenarios. For questions with worth higher marks, it is helpful to create a separate paragraph for each point you make.


When answering HSC PDHPE exam questions a clear statement at the beginning of a paragraph tells the reader what you are going to talk about. This will normally include key syllabus terms to that identify the relevant information from the syllabus that you are going to use to answer the question. I don’t recommend rewording syllabus terms or simply rewording the question.

Eg) Aerobic training is one of the types of training used to improve performance.


The next thing you want to do in your paragraph while answering HSC PDHPE exam questions is expanding upon your statement. This is where you include information you know about the syllabus content. This section of your paragraph is the bit that will be shorter in low mark questions (identify, describe) and longer in high mark questions (critically analyse/evaluate). So, for a four (4) mark question you are not looking to write everything you know, but the key important information. For a 12 mark question, you might include specific details and provide lots of content (but try not to write so much you run out of time). In this section, you might include specific details, like Fartlek and what it is along with aerobic interval training and what that is. How much detail should match the mark allocation, and if warranted 9fro example for a 12 mark question) you could put each dash point in a separate paragraph. You are looking to show what you have learnt about the syllabus content identified in your opening statement.

Eg) Aerobic training focuses on developing the cardiovascular and muscular systems in order to improve oxygen uptake and aerobic performance. Aerobic training could involve Fartlek, continuous or long interval training methods.


The next step is to apply the information you have provided about your syllabus key term to the HSC PDHPE exam question. The application involves providing relevant and specific examples. If you know real examples that use real people then this is good, but you don’t have to, you can make the example up, as long as it is relevant and applies the information.  When providing an example, don’t just quote the ones in the syllabus, you will notice I used the different training methods as the content for the expansion. Make your example specific and detailed so that it is very clear you know what you are talking about. Introducing your example by explicitly saying it is an example helps the make your examples clear and easy to identify.

Eg) An example of aerobic training is a continuous 3 hr bike ride to prepare for the Tour De France, or a 4-hour Fartlek cross country run (up and down hills and on the flat to vary intensity randomly) to prepare for a marathon.


The final thing to do in answering HSC PDHPE exam questions is to link your content and example to the question. This is the key step that many students miss. They provide all the information and even use examples but don’t actually answer the question. At the end of each paragraph or at least at the end of your answer, you should link your content to what the question is asking you to do.

If my HSC PDHPE exam question asked “how does aerobic training improve performance” my final linking statement would be something similar to the example below.

Eg) Aerobic training increases red blood cells, improves cardiac output, and causes an increase in mitochondria in type 1 muscle fibres, which together help improve oxygen uptake allowing aerobic performance to improve by increasing aerobic capacity, delaying fatigue and speeding up recovery.

For the larger mark questions, I highly recommend that you also plan out your response using a mind map or something similar to help ensure your answers are logical and cohesive.

By |2017-11-29T12:31:36+10:00November 27th, 2017|Articles, example, HSC PDHPE, Study Tips, writing|Comments Off on Answering HSC PDHPE exam questions – SEAL

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Founder of and TeachersPD, Host of the Effective Teaching podcast and Co-host of The Education Station podcast Education Consultant, Deputy Principal at SEDA College, Google for Education Trainer and Innovator, Former ACHPER NSW Board Member, Presenter for EdTech Team, ACHPER and the PDHPE Teachers Association. B App Sc (Ex & Sp Sc), Dip Ed