Week starting 19 October

Welcome back to the Connect Psychology 3&4 Blog!

Last week we covered answering VCAA questions in general, but today we’ll be discussing how to approach each section!

Having completed a lot of Psychology Exams myself, and also marking a lot of students’ Trial Exam papers, I’ve noted some common mistakes made in each section. I hope some of these tips will help you all to improve your approaches!

1. Multiple choice

Worth: 50 marks

Where students do well:

✓Answering all the questions

✓ Receiving high marks overall; VCAA includes quite a few that are nice and easy, as long as you read them properly

Where students struggle:

✗ Not reading the question or options properly

✗ Failing annotate/highlight key difference between answers

✗ Timing: students sometimes rush the multis or spend too long on each question (I

tended to spend too much time on the multis)

When in doubt:

  • Use a process of elimination

  • Generally, the correct answer has another answer that looks very similar: I would pick between one of these when I was totally unsure

Other tips:

  • Don’t forget to fill out your sheet: do it as you go (or else it’s -50 marks)

  • Don’t leave any questions blank: you have a 25% of getting it right so just guess!

  • Use phrasing and content from the multiple choice (only from the correct answer!) to help you in other sections of the exam

2. Short answer

Worth: 60 marks

Where students do well:

✓ Explaining concepts and examples

✓ Providing step by step processes (e.g. observational learning)

✓ Listing key elements of models (e.g. UCS/NS, alarm/resistance/exhaustion etc.)

Where students struggle:

✗ Diving straight into an explanation, but forgetting to define the concept first

✗ Forgetting to state key terminology (e.g. describing a memory bias without explicitly

naming it)

✗ Not giving specific examples (i.e. just giving a general examples, rather than referring

to specific details in the scenario)

✗ Mixing up similar phrases (e.g. conditioned stimulus and conditioned response)

✗ Contradicting themselves (meaning you can’t receive the mark at all)

When in doubt:

  • Use a “define-explain-relate” structure

  • Relate specifically to the scenario, even if you don’t think there’s marks for it - Use a set structure (e.g. ‘before, during, after’ for classical conditioning)

Tips based on the marks:

  • 1-2 marks = just list terminology or define key terms if appropriate - 3+ marks = Should ALWAYS try to define key terms in question

  • 5+ marks = plan it out!

3. Extended response

Worth: 10 marks

Where students do well:

✓ Including key terminology

✓ Relating to scenario/example given

✓Trying to mention all the information in prompt

Where students struggle:

✗ Forgetting the discuss one of the dot-points in the question (meaning you can’t get

more than 5 /10)

✗ Missing key content that relates to the scenario

✗ Not expanding or giving depth to their answers

✗ Isolating their responses just to the prompts: not providing extra, unique information

to show off

When in doubt:

  • Make sure you cover all the points (even if you’re not 100% sure, as not mentioning one could cost you 5 marks)

  • PLAN OUT your response!

  • Write down as much as you can think of; NEVER leave it blank or only write 2 sentences.

  • Use content from the Multiple Choice and Short Answer to help you


  • The 10 marker is marked holistically (i.e. on the depth of answer), hence you need to work on creating an IMPRESSIVE answer

  • Awarded marks based on:

  • The extent to which responses are clearly expressed and well organised - Prioritising the most relevant concepts, theories and evidence

  • Providing clear and relevant examples

  • Making insightful links between relevant areas of knowledge.

  • Writing more does NOT necessarily lead to students achieving more marks - it is possible to achieve full marks by writing within the space provided for the response

Other tips:

  • Think CRITICALLY (i.e. define, reason, evaluate, analyse etc.); i.e. don’t just give definitions; think deeper and provide insightful points

  • Organisation: use subheadings and paragraphs to organise ideas

I really hope you all find these tips useful and can apply them when completing practise exams. Also, take note of why you’re losing marks in practise exams and how you could improve in each section!

In the next blog we’ll be covering the timing of each of these sections, and the order to do them in during the actual VCAA exam.

See you guys 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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