Studying for VCE exams

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How do you study for you upcoming VCE exams? Hmmmm the thought on every student’s mind! VCE is a very competitive time for students – the reality is that you will be ranked according to your performance. This may/may not be a fair system but in this article we will be discussing ways in which you can study for your VCE exams, and hopefully become better than your competition!

1. Go through your past SACs/tests

Chances are, that you have a lot of VCE resources from you teacher. All the tests and worksheets you received this year were not meant to be do to avoid detention **gasp** – they were the best resources that your teacher could find on the topic.VCE teachers are knowledgeable about the VCAA guidelines and they know what questions are important to understand before you approach your VCE exams. This is why you should make an effort to repeat the worksheets and tests you were given throughout the year.

2. Omit long summary notes

From personal experience, writing out lengthy notes on the topics is a very limited way to learn topics. Not only does this form of strategy take time – but it is also ineffective in applying knowledge. VCE exams are not only about reciting facts and understanding theory – a large part of VCE exams are about the application of this information to different situations.

Generally the VCE exams are constructed for students to really expand their level of thinking and to take their knowledge and link it to different situations. For example in VCE Biology students learn about photosynthesis. Even if the student knows a lot of information about this topic, VCAA may construct the question by giving you information about a special type of coral and its “photosynthesis behaviour”. It may be different/completely new situation, the best VCE students are those that know how to integrate their knowledge into unknown situations.

This is why summery notes will not be too useful. The link between application of context is never developed and therefore in the exam the mind panics and can completely shut down.

3. Do VCE practice exams;

There are several fantastic resources available to efficiently prepare for the VCE exams. These include external VCE companies such as NEAP, Lisachem, STAV, MAV and our very own Academy Plus materials.

VCE practise exams are great to begin to develop your exam strategy. Throughout the school year – every student was learning the theory within the subject. The next step of the journey is to ensure that as a student you are able to communicate your knowledge to the examiner in an appropriate way. Through doing VCE exams, your skills of developing proper exam strategies will strengthen.

4. Put yourself into the shoes of the VCE examiner

The VCE examiner marking your paper doesn’t know much about you. In fact all the see is your student number!

(i) First impressions count!

Is your writing reasonably neat and tidy? Are your calculations set up correctly?

Would you appreciate the same quality of presentation given to you, to mark? Remember that the examiner cannot read your mind – they generally do not possess crystal balls to predict what you meant and they certainly do not know what type of student you are (unlike your teacher). Therefore it is important to keep your writing legible! Also a good idea is to highlight your answer and to use numbers so that the VCE examiner can follow your logic.

(ii) Answer the question!

Many students do not answer the questions in their VCE exams. A common problem is “beating around the bush”?. For example take the simple question “what is your favourite colour?” A proper answer would be – green (or whatever your colour is) .. normally you would not say “my favourite colour is not pink because pink is too girly”. Obviously this does not answer the question! In this case it is simple to observe, however when there is theory involved it may be difficult to realise that you are not answering the question. Eventually if the VCE examiner cannot understand your answer then the marks for that question are not going to be high!

(iii) Be sure to keep units and show workings

Maths and science subjects require VCE students to set out their work in a neat and logical flow. Calculations should always be shown for questions worth more than 1 mark. If is important that you have units in your workings. Remember that VCE is a competition – you must go that extra mile to ensure a better ATAR!

(iv) Impress the VCE examiner

Isn’t it strange that a person you have never met will be so involved in your VCE experience? Well you can always work on impressing them. In a VCE exam you have only 1.5 up to 3 hours of communicating to the VCAA examiner everything you have learned throughout the year. Obviously you will not be able to communicate your entire bank of knowledge – but with the proper set up of you answer, and the correct keyword/phases you will be able to show the examiner that you know the topics thoroughly.

(v) Do VCAA papers last from later year to recent.

Since VCE papers written by VCAA are so important – it is advised that you leave them for last. To write up the current paper, VCAA analyses the topics that were not understood well. They introduce this concept again so that a selection between students can be made. Pay close attention to the VCE questions that were answered poorly – because these concepts are most likely to present themselves in your exam. Also read the comments within the assessor’s report – even if you get the question correct. This ensures that you do not miss out on valuable information!

(vi) It is all in the timing!

Let’s face it – you can know it all, but if you do not have your timing right it is a serious disadvantage. To improve timing it is important to practice VCE exam papers. To ensure that you do not run out of time – translate the mark into a minute value (this is a general rule). Another idea is to leave long complicated answers to last – although it is tempting to start from the beginning of the paper, and finish at the end, we recommend that you do questions that are straight forward. This ensures that even if you run out of time, there will be not “easy marks” lost!