Week starting 12 October

Welcome back to the Connect Psychology 3&4 Blog! It’s been great meeting so many of you during all of the revision lectures! I hope you’ve all starting to feel a bit more confident and ready for your exams.

Today we’re going to be covering how to answer VCAA questions! I’ll again emphasise the importance and value of doing VCAA questions. These questions are the best indication of the kinds of questions you’ll get in the actual exam, so I made sure I did HEAPS of them during exam revision.

However, there is definitely an art to answering VCAA questions, and obtaining full marks.

Hopefully these tips will help you all when it comes to approaching VCAA questions in the next few weeks.

1. Use the examiner’s reports

As I’ve said before, I found using the VCAA examiner’s reports SUPER useful.

Specifically, VCAA examination reports showed me:

  • A break-down of the marks

  • Keys words and phrases to include

  • How well the State did on the question

  • What wasn’t sufficient or expected


Again, these examiner reports can be accessed at the following link: https:// www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/assessment/vce-assessment/past-examinations/Pages/ psychology.aspx

2. Marking allocation

When I attempted a VCAA question or planned a response, I always paid attention to the marking allocation. This helped to guide: how long to spend on each question, how many words to write and the depth of information to include.

Generally speaking, I came up with a way to approach questions worth different marks.


  • 1-2 marks = just list, state or define the key term

  • 3+ marks = MUST define key terms in question, and elaborate/explain.

  • 5+ marks = Give a step-by-step process or long explanation

  • 10 marks = Plan out the response!

This was only a general guide. I’d always take note of how the VCAA Examination Report had broken down the question and what each mark was dedicated towards.

3. Writing SIMPLY

I always kept in mind that the Psychology exam is NOT an English Exam. I always reminded myself that VCAA Assessors are not fussed about flowery language.

From speaking with VCAA Assessors, I knew that they mark about 50 of the same question at once, so they’re looking for key terms and phrases. I also didn’t want my VCAA assessor to get lost or confused in my answer.

So that’s why I always focused on writing clear and concise answers, which proved to be extremely effective.

4. Command terms

I found it super useful to understand what kinds of ‘command terms’ appear in Psychology questions. This helped me to feel confident that I was answering the question properly. Some examples:

- Define = give precise/textbook meaning - Describe/outline/explain = give detailed summary (e.g. relate to key concepts & scenario) - State = list - Compare & contrast = similarities & differences - Distinguish = provide clear differences - Evaluate = strengths & limitations

5. How to compare and contrast

A specific command term that I like to dissect with students is comparing and contrasting. Personally, I found these very difficult and saw a lot of other students lose marks on them.

• It means provide differences AND similarities - I always knew at least 2 of each, just to cover all bases • For similarities - Think big! - I always tried to think very broadly for similarities, as I’d often get it wrong if I was too specific. • For comparisons - Directly compare (i.e. find opposites) - Include a comparison word (e.g.……..whereas………) • Again, I’d always write as simply as possible!

6. Relating to the scenario

A common mistake I made was forgetting to relate to the scenario in VCAA questions.

Unfortunately for me, I often lost marks for forgetting this. So my rule of thumb was ALWAYS relate to the scenario, regardless of the question.

Ways I related to the scenario:

• Including the person’s name • Referring to the part of body, sensation, behaviour, action etc mentioned in the scenario (for content questions) • Referring to the study design, methods etc (in research methods questions) • If the scenario didn’t include much info, I’d make up some examples

7. Creating formulas and templates

When it came to answering questions, I loved making formulas and templates. This not only helped me feel more confident in answering questions, but gave me a solid structure that I could easily remember.

Some examples (which you might have seen throughout my lectures): Outlining an extraneous variable

Interaction of brain regions:

Describing the spinal reflex:

8. Writing answers in the exam

Some general tips for writing answers in the exam:

• Always write in full sentences

- I was always told that VCAA assessors are NOT fans of writing in dot-points,

tables, diagrams, flowcharts etc.

- Instead, I was always advised to write in full sentences

- I did sometimes use Step 1., 2., 3., etc., but I’d always write in complete


• Write in pen

- As the papers are scanned to the assessors, I always used pen

- This allowed my responses to show up clearly on scans

- It also avoided the risk of my answer rubbing out or fading

- I did use a pencil to plan, fill in multiple choice questions or write extra notes that I wanted to erase

• Extra writing space

- Because the papers are scanned, I was also careful not to squish my answers at the bottom of the page

- If I did this, my answers tended to become too small and illegible

- Instead, I'd write in the extra writing space provided!

- The way I did this was:

I hope you guys find these tips helpful and you implement these when you’re tackling VCAA questions. In the next blogs, we’ll be covering each section of the exam in detail (i.e. multiple choice, short answer and extended response).

See you then!

Have a question?

In the final weeks before exams Ashleigh 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 Ashleigh might answer it live!

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