Week starting 2 November

Welcome back to the Connect Psychology 3&4 Blog!

We’re on the final home stretch, everyone! With the Psychology exam fast approaching, today we’re going to cover some final strategies for your revision.

The following tips are strategies that I implemented in the final weeks of revision and also some helpful tips that I’ve picked up throughout my year of lecturing and tutoring VCE Psychology.

1. Focus on your weaknesses

I found that, during VCE, one of the easiest traps to fall into is: constantly practising the things you know really well. While doing questions that you find easy can be a great confidence booster, I personally began to realise it wasn’t the most effective revision strategy.

Once I had mastered a concept or question, it was time to move on. Rather than spending time practising things I already knew, I spent my final weeks of revision identifying

the things that I struggled with. My goal: find the hardest and most challenging questions


Even though it was a blow to my confidence and sometimes left me deflated, it was one of the best things I could have done and a large reason why I did so well in the exam. I

made sure that I was prepared for almost anything that could be thrown at me.

2. Finding good questions

How do you find these good and challenging questions, particularly of content that you’re struggling with?

I found that sifting through old VCAA exams was the best way to find difficult and realistic questions. I also knew that the VCAA answers would be reliable and show me the best way to approach such difficult questions.

On the VCAA website, the exams go back to 2002! You definitely don’t need to go through all of them, but I personally would ‘Search’ key words (i.e. Command-F) to find the questions I wanted.

E.g. I really struggled with understanding the Loftus’ theory and memory reconstruction, so I searched up “Loftus” and found this practise question in VCAA 2014.

3. Mark yourself harshly

I also found it extremely effective to be super harsh when marking my own practise exams/questions.

Even if I got full marks for an answer, I also looked for ways to improve it.

I would note better ways of defining and explaining a concept, as well as other tweaks that could be made.

4. Difficult Areas of Study (AOS)

Everyone is different in terms of the content they find most difficult to understand. It is SO important that you consider YOUR personal weaknesses and what you need to work on.

If you’re struggling to determine your most difficult Areas of Study, these are the dot points that students commonly find difficult:

Nervous system

  • the effects of chronic changes to the functioning of the nervous system due to interference to neurotransmitter function, as illustrated by the role of dopamine in Parkinson’s disease.

  • models of stress as a biological process, with reference to Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome of alarm reaction (shock/counter shock), resistance and exhaustion, including the ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response and the role of cortisol

  • models of stress as a psychological process, with reference to Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman’s Transactional Model of Stress and Coping (stages of primary and secondary appraisal)

Learning and memory

  • the role of neurotransmitters and neurohormones in the neural basis of memory and learning (including the role of glutamate in synaptic plasticity and the role of adrenaline in the consolidation of emotionally arousing experiences).

  • interactions between specific regions of the brain (cerebral cortex, hippocampus, amygdala and cerebellum) in the storage of long-term memories, including implicit and explicit memories.

  • the reconstruction of memories as evidence for the fallibility of memory, with reference to Loftus’ research into the effect of leading questions on eye-witness testimonies.

States of consciousness

  • the effects on consciousness (cognition, concentration and mood) of one night of full sleep deprivation as a comparison with effects of legal blood-alcohol concentrations.

  • theories of the purpose and function of sleep (REM and NREM) including restoration theory and evolutionary (circadian) theory.

Mental health

  • evidence-based interventions and their use for specific phobia with reference to: the use of short-acting anti-anxiety benzodiazepine agents (gamma-amino butyric acid [GABA] agonists) in the management of phobic anxiety

  • relaxation techniques including breathing retraining and exercise (biological); the use of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and systematic desensitisation as psychotherapeutic treatments of phobia (psychological); psychoeducation for families/supporters with reference to challenging unrealistic or anxious thoughts and not encouraging avoidance behaviours (social).

Consider whether you might need to focus on any of these areas!

5. Research methods

Another mistake that I nearly made was FORGETTING about Research Methods!

Although it definitely wasn’t an enjoyable Area of Study, I had to accept that it was super important to practise and understand.

I always believed that doing practise questions was the best way to practise Research Methods, as identifying elements (e.g. sampling method, experimental design, IV and DV etc) in a study was the most difficult.

Some particular areas that myself, and others students, have found super difficult are:

  • reliability and validity of data

  • minimisation of experimental bias and confounding and extraneous variablesmaking conclusions and generalisations

6. 10 mark responses

Finally, I also had to accept that as much as writing a 10 marker question SUCKED, I needed to practise them.

Sometimes I would just plan a 10 mark question, but that often wasn’t sufficient.

I really had to practise writing complete 10-mark responses in timed conditions. This helped me to understand what I could get done in the actual exam and what I needed to improve on to achieve a 10 out of 10.

I hope these suggestions and strategies help guide you all in these last weeks of revision.

Remember to always do what works for you, and continue to prioritise your mental and physical wellbeing!

Have a question?

In the final days 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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