Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Hello everyone! Welcome back to another blog! With exams around the corner, let's run through some exam tips.
How to predict what types of questions will come up on the exam
Okay, okay, this title may have had a hint of clickbait, but I promise to shed some light on how you can best prepare for what is to come on the exam! When I was in year 12 a lot of the discussion my friends and I had when completing practice exams revolved around deciphering what content was likely to appear on the exam vs what content was “surely not” going to be on the exam. Such discussion commonly came up when we encountered a really hard question on a practice exam which we collectively agreed was not likely going to be on the exam. As I moved into more of my individual revision, this discussion became something I actively tried to figure out. VCAA makes exams every year so I figured that there must be some trends in the types of questions that they produce. Going through past exams, I discovered that this was exactly the case… well sort of!
In using the same study design for multiple years, VCAA is only able to test students on certain material. This year there have been further amendments made to the study design to counter for the disruption to learning; this is something you should make yourself familiar with if you haven’t already. Regardless, the learning objectives that VCAA have set have not changed over time, so it is likely that similar questions are going to appear on future exams. By similar questions I don’t mean that VCAA are going to reuse the same questions with different numbers, but rather VCAA is likely to test similar concepts in similar ways. For example, VCAA has utilised the idea of muons in many of their special relativity questions. Despite changing the example from muons, to particles and setting these questions up in different ways the underlying principles of time dilation and length contraction are tested through this type of question. This is the case for many other topics as well, and therefore is something I highly recommend that you take note of.
Such note taking does not have to be extensive at all. I created a simple spreadsheet recording the way in which questions were presented by VCAA. I had a column for the topic and a column for the type of question that was given. This task should not take you long at all (a couple of minutes at the maximum) as at the end of the day it is not too important; hopefully, you will be able to answer any question that is thrown at you! In saying this, it is great to get an idea of how questions might be presented to you, as you can then go and find similar questions to complete for revision. This will allow you to target your revision directly towards the style of questions that are likely to come on VCAA exams. I want to stress that I would only do this for VCAA exams. At the end of the day VCAA is producing the exam, thus our interest is only really in how they present questions.
Moreover, extending from last week’s idea of exam techniques, I think now is a good time to start settling on a particular order of questions. By now, you may know what topics you prefer and can complete quickly and as such I would suggest that you get into the habit of doing questions from those topics first when you do practice exams. As I alluded to last week, there is nothing better than starting with an easy question and by practicing this you are basically predicting the route that you will take in completing the final exam!
This week’s basis of discussion has been very specific, and I have done this for a particular reason. By now we have gone through a lot of exam tips and tricks and discussed in depth how to go about your revision and I designed this content to try and help you take your performance to the next level! As such, these are not the most vital aspects to revision, and I would recommend trialling these methods only once you are feeling comfortable with your practice exams and questions. These are not essential and just added bonuses that will hopefully give you a little boost come exam day!
How can I get the most out of my Physics exams?
Throughout my time as both a student and a teacher, I have seen many instances of practice exams not being done effectively. Completing practice exams is a terrific form of revision as it is the best way to simulate the actual exam; however, there are some key aspects that I believe are overlooked when students complete practice exams and I thought I would try and break them down today! Coming into your final revision, I assume that you do not want to be reading a whole bunch of text, so I’ll break things down with some simple dot points!
Type of Practice Exam
Many students ask me which company makes the best exams. Whilst this is a valid question, I think the following points are the most important to consider:
VCAA will be producing your exam, so VCAA exams and questions should be prioritised
Doing VCAA questions over company exams is beneficial as again VCAA questions will be the most similar to the questions that you get on the exam
For variety mix in questions from various companies
Try complete harder questions than you are likely going to see on the exam. Doing questions that are easier is a waste of time!
By now I think that you should be timing the practice exams that you are completing. The reasons for this are as follows:
Timing simulates exam conditions
Time pressure will always be a factor in the exam
Identifying how much faster you need to work can be done through timing
Timing allows for exam technique to be developed
Timing gives you a sense of how long the exam will feel
Timing means that you can sit down and smash out a practice exam in a structured manner
I hope the list above convinces you to time your practice exams! Hopefully, it also gave an indication of some of the things you can look out for when completing a timed practice exam (e.g. establishing your exam technique).
Correcting practice exams is more important than doing the exam itself. This may sound a bit silly; however, corrections are super important for the following reasons:
Identifying mistakes allows you to identify areas of weakness
Examining mistakes exposes you to alternative answers that you may have not thought of
Corrections can increase your understanding of a question or topic. For example, the suggested solutions may include points that you thought you didn’t need to include
Analysis of your mistakes forces you to revise content. You are knocking off two birds with one stone as you are not only correcting your mistakes but also revising different topics
Corrections allow you to improve as you go. The key is to ensure you are not making the same mistake twice!
It is very easy to get sucked into simply doing practice exams for the sake of it and I know that sometimes people prioritise quantity over quality. In my opinion, you should aim for the complete opposite, quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter how many practice exams you do, if you do not correct and understand the mistakes you have made you will not improve your exam performance!
All in all, practice exams are a great source of revision for the final exam. They allow for exam simulation and if done right (with the tips I have mentioned above) they will help boost your performance significantly!
What mindset should I have for Physics this week?
This week I think a good mindset and attitude to take upon is one of enthusiasm. Being enthusiastic about what is to come will keep you in good stead whilst completing revision and will put you in a great position going forward.
Have a question?
In the final weeks before exams Ashane 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 Ashane might answer it live!