Today, in the PE blog, I’m letting you guys in on my best tips for doing practice exams at home! YAY!!
I remember in Year 12 that when the time comes to start doing practice exams it’s both very exciting and a bit nerve wracking. It feels like you’re finally getting to the pointy end of the year, but it’s also absolutely normal to feel like you’re not quite ready to do exams – everyone feels this way! At the time when you do your first full practice exam for PE or any other subject, you definitely don’t need to be feeling 100% ready or confident. Practice exams are not there to intimidate you or to give you a grade that you can’t do anything about, they are about practice. So, even if you’re feeling a little bit stressed, it is time now to put down the revision notes and turn your focus to the practice exam. Trust me, you can do it!
The very best thing about practice exams is that they give you an actual idea of what your exam is going to be like. In the process of doing practice exams, there always seems to be a moment when the actual exam, looming up ahead at the end of November, stops being quite as scary and becomes more manageable in your mind. This is a wonderful moment – treasure it, celebrate it!
As well as being a confidence booster and a bit of experience, practice exams are important because they let you fine tune all of your PE knowledge into a useful and useable form. Practice exams force you to apply the content you have been learning throughout the year, to different sporting situations, to different kinds of questions and in different scenarios. The best thing I got out of doing practice exams for PE was mastering how to express my answers - figuring out the right way to word an answer and the key terms and links that are necessary for different types of questions and for different task words. Nothing will prepare you better for sitting down and writing your PE exam than doing actual exams in preparation.
The other benefit of doing practice exams that you won’t get from other revision techniques is that they really show you, in no uncertain terms, what you know and what you don’t know. Understanding where the holes are in your PE knowledge means that you can specifically target those areas with some quick revision and make sure you’re good to go. When I was doing practice exams, I remember feeling disappointed when I got things wrong, but over the couple of months of preparation for the PE exam, I realized that it’s when you get things wrong that you actually learn something. So, my aim for my practice exams switched from not getting anything wrong, to not getting the same thing wrong twice.
When trying to get all your practice exams together, it can seem pretty overwhelming as there are a lot of them and it’s hard to tell which ones you should do first. From my experience, it’s best to save the most relevant VCAA exams until you feel pretty confident about your ability to give them your very best go. This is because the 2018 and 2019 VCAA PE exams are your best indication of what your PE exam will look like, so it is best to do these properly and use them as a measure of your progress. Obviously, throughout the year you will have seen and maybe attempted a few questions from these exams, that’s okay, it’s still worthwhile to do the exam in full to get a feel for the type of questions, the length of the exam and the mark allocation.
I would definitely recommend that you do VCAA exams from past study designs as well. It will be quite clear which questions don’t apply to you, or you can ask your teacher to indicate which questions you don’t need to do. Practicing answering questions that VCAA has written is only going to make you better prepared!
There are plenty of other companies that produce practice exams, your teachers may have given you a stack. All of these are worth doing. I found that sometimes other companies will word exam questions in a way that is quite different from anything I had encountered in my SACs or other practice exams, so having a go at these was a good way of thinking about the content in a new light. When doing practice exams, it is really important to do the questions that are unfamiliar to you, or that you think look challenging or a bit weird. Every time you do a question that you haven’t done before and you figure out how to approach it and answer it, that is a new type of question that you know how to ace if it comes up on your exam!
Okay. Now, when you actually sit down and do the practice exams, this is what I found works best.
1. No notes
Doing practice exams with notes won’t give you an accurate representation of what you know and don’t know. Do them without notes. Attempt everything. Fill in the gaps later.
Underline or highlight key words or pieces of information in the question, such as ‘use data’. This will help you to make sure that you are addressing the question. Also underline any key points in your answer, for example, in an interplay question, you might underline each energy system as you talk about it.
Do as many of the practice exams as you can under timed conditions. The PE exam is only 2 hours long, it’s much quicker to sit down for two hours and smash out a practice exam than to let it drag on throughout the week. This will also get you in the habit of writing quickly – in PE you have about a mark a minute.
To stay organized while doing your practice exams, I recommend having a checklist. Find your most productive time of the day to do the exam, maybe try doing some at the time of your exam (afternoon session for PE), and have fun! Next week, I’ll take you through how to mark your practice exams.
Have a question?
In the final weeks before exams Jo will be hosting 2 Live Q&A sessions to help everyone get fully prepared for exams. If you have a question on how to best get prepared, have been stuck on an exam question or want to clarify an area of content send it through here, and Jo might answer it live!