Here, I will list some general tips that are applicable to the majority of your VCE subjects (with the exception of ones without written exams).
Be an incremental theorist rather than an entity theorist – social psychologist and professor at Stanford University Dr Carol Dweck noted two types of views regarding intelligence or ability. The approach that a person takes is particularly evident in how they deal with failure. The entity theorist thinks of their intelligence as being ‘fixed’, e.g. “I did well in this test because I am smart at mathematics.” The incremental theorist believes that with hard work, difficult material can be comprehended in a step-by-step fashion; they are more likely to say something like, “I did well in this test because I tried hard.” In essence, the entity theorist is the perfectionist who believes ‘mistakes are bad’, while the incremental theorist believes ‘every mistake is a learning opportunity’ and ‘mistakes open new doors’. Dweck argues that the incremental theorist is likely to lead a less stressful and overall more successful life. Of course, this strategy applies not only to study, but in virtually all areas of life.
Being consistent – have a timetable allocated to each school night. Plan when to have dinner, how long to study and how long to spend time on your hobbies or other interests. I tried to keep a strategy of consistency throughout the year; this means I generally worked just as hard at the start of year as I was at mid-year and at the end of the year. Having such a strategy reduces stress as you know what you are supposed to be doing at any time and you know when to give yourself a break.
Tutors – it is my opinion that you do not need a tutor unless you absolutely must obtain direct entry into Medicine or you are really struggling with a subject. If you are in the middle of these two extremes, I do not think a tutor is necessary. I follow my own advice and I have not had any tutoring since Year 7 (with the exception of my parents helping me with my Chinese). However, with this being said, you must ask your class teachers if you do not understand something. Do not feel shy or embarrassed because any question is a good question.
Exam Revision Tips
Bringing water – bring water into the exam hall, water refreshes your mind.
Sample exams – it is easy to forget that VCAA releases sample exams at the start of every new study design. Check out the sample questions on the VCAA website. Note, however, that they do not have solutions, so you will have to acquire them from a reputable source.
Read the opening introduction in assessment reports – VCAA Assessment Reports always have an opening paragraph at the start, detailing common mistakes in exams. I suggest you utilise a highlighter and mark out the mistakes that you might possibly make.
The Age VCE Guides – The Age newspaper releases revision guides for a variety of subjects which can be good reminders of certain concepts.
The following tip applies more to Commerce, Science and Mathematics subjects: When you are not doing a practice exam under timed conditions, which you should do at least 3 or 4 times in preparation for each VCE exam, I highly recommend employing the ‘one question, one answer’ strategy. In basic terms, you should check your answer immediately after you do a question rather than doing a whole exam and then checking the whole exam. So, after you finish question 1 of a practice exam, look up the answer for question 1 and correct your question if there are any mistakes, then start on question 2, etc. This will alert you to the finer details in the answers and will generally help you remember concepts better. If you do an exam the whole way through without checking the answers, it is easy to miss something when you are crosschecking with the answers booklet.
It is good to acknowledge mistakes that have been made and I have tried to do so in many of the guides on this website to specific subjects. Perhaps not doing Physics 1/2 was my biggest mistake. If I had given Physics 1/2 a try, I would likely have continued on to Physics 3/4 and it would have tied in very well with Specialist Mathematics, which I was also doing. I regret not doing Physics, especially since I have an interest in astronomy and cosmology, and my school’s average score in Physics was really high too. Next time I should think twice before dropping a main science subject.