Olivia says it doesn’t matter how you do your practice exams, as long as you do them and learn from them.
Key exam dates:
October 28 – Biology
October 31 – Psychology
November 8 – Chemistry
November 9 – Physics
November 10 – Environmental science
Voulgaris’ biology tips:
- Biology is content heavy, but a lot of questions come up again and again.
- If you look through exam papers you can sometimes see a pattern.
- Think outside the box. Sometimes you may get two marks easily off a three-mark question. Think of a creative solution or think abstractly to develop the last answer.
- Use your reading time in the biology exam strategically. Read the short answer question first, then start going through the multiple choice in your head.
- Find someone you can bounce ideas off – a teacher, friend, parent or study buddy.
When Ben Ostermeyer, 18, was studying for his 2021 VCE exams, he was in and out of lockdown. It meant a lot of his study groups were online.
Ostermeyer, a former student of Whitefriars College in Donvale, scored a 50 in psychology and earned himself a premier’s award in the subject. He’s now studying speech pathology at the Australian Catholic University.
He leaned on his teachers, his friends and his mother to drill content before doing practice exams.
“I got other people involved. I studied with my mates and my mum and went through the content togther,” he says.
He did about 10 practice exams altogether, the first few of which he did open-book style to identify areas he needed to focus more on, before progressing to closed-book exams.
Although he didn’t use a timetable to study, Ostermeyer did make sure he did all his practice exams at the same time they were scheduled: 10am.
The psychology exam includes multiple choice, short-answer questions and an extended-answer question. He says it was good to experiment with completing the different sections at different paces.
“In the exam, I found I spent more time on the multiple choice. In my practice exams I was flying through the multiple choice. I would recommend trying to do them at different paces,” he says.
He also recommends spending time studying research methods – hypotheses, independent variables and experiments.
“Just get in there, have a crack at it. I was little bit nervous. I was pretty confident going in because I put in a lot of work, so I knew that would put me in good stead.”
Both students advise getting a good night’s sleep before the exam and taking time to relax, whether that’s by listening to music, doing puzzles or exercising.
Voulgaris says to remember that there are many pathways into your future career. “I’m at uni now. It’s a completely different landscape. No one cares what my ATAR was,” she says.
“I’m doing bio-med. You can do the same path through science. There are always options. You aren’t looking at it as a score that evaluates yourself. It’s just another tool to get where you need to go.”
Tips from assessors from previous science exams:
- Show sufficient working. Assessors say students should imagine what they would write if they were explaining their thinking to a teacher or peer.
- Don’t round too much during calculations. Students should carry as many decimal places as is reasonable and only round at the end.
- Don’t copy text directly from reference sheets. Assessors say it’s obvious when the response has no relation to the question.
- For calculation questions worth more than three marks, plan the layout of your work.
- Understand key terms from the study design and be able to apply them.
- Include clear detail and be able to show key science skills.
- Use the study design to prepare for the exam. In last year’s exam, a number of questions directly related to the study design.
- Be familiar with and use the key knowledge and skills in the study design.
- Read the question carefully. If it asks to calculate a number, make sure it’s in the units specified in the stem.
- Make sure all key aspects of a question are addressed in your answer, especially in descriptive responses.
- Respond to every multiple-choice question, even if you don’t know it.
- Write within the marked boundaries of the exam paper and highlight if your response is continued on an extra space.
- Make sure you answer the question asked.
- Make sure you don’t misspell words that could alter the meaning of what you are saying, ie: “semantic” instead of “somatic”.
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