• Diego

Week starting 21 September

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all doing well in your History studies (and the rest of your subjects, of course). Make sure you’re drinking water, getting some exercise in, and spending (virtual) time with your friends. VCE is a marathon, not a sprint!


This week’s topic is prioritising during VCE. For many of you, the coming weeks will feel like some of the most important you’ve ever experienced. I know I certainly felt that way last year, when I was in Year 12. It’s the final stretch before VCE exams, and every single moment counts – every day could be spent studying, every hour on a practice piece, and every minute on revision.


But just because you could doesn’t mean you should. In fact, in this case you definitely shouldn’t – your performance in VCE won’t be determined purely by how much you study. How you study is just as important as how much you study (if not more!). And similarly important is taking care of yourself in these coming weeks, with regard to both physical and mental wellbeing. Burnout and stress are both real dangers that you’ll want to avoid or at least minimise.


This week I’m going to reflect on my own VCE experience, and my mindset and priorities at the time. I’m going to look back at how I spent my time, emphasising what worked and what didn’t, or what I’d recommend and what I’d do differently. Time is precious in Year 12, and how you spend it will directly correlate to your performance. Choose wisely!


1. Prioritising subjects


One thing I did very early on in Year 12 was decide my subject priorities. What I mean by this is that I ranked my subjects from highest to lowest priority – from those in which I could see myself achieving the greatest results to those in which I expected to struggle. My aim was to maximise my scores, and the best way to do this was to spend my time where it would have the greatest effect. There was little point in studying intensely for Japanese when I knew I could spend that time in History instead and achieve a greater impact in my performance.


Some subjects I found vastly more enjoyable than others, which directly affected my rankings. For me personally, studying intensely for a subject I disliked was tortuous and ineffective. I knew that trying to force myself into it would be counterproductive, so instead I focused on the subjects I loved to maximise my overall performance. However, I was fortunate that my university course had no prerequisite scores in any subjects, and that I had completed a VCE English subject in Year 11. These are things you should consider in prioritising how you spend your time.


2. Studying smarter, not harder


Although I’m sure most of you have heard this phrase before, I would imagine fewer have successfully applied it. To study hard means to study more, but to study smart means to study well. The difference can be illustrated using a key study tool for VCE – practice exams.

In Year 12, I did dozens of practice exams. Across all my subjects, I would say I easily surpassed 50, although I knew people who’d reached the hundreds. I would do an exam, get it graded and receive feedback, only to rinse and repeat. This is an example of studying hard, effectively choosing quantity over quality. Working in this way meant that I covered a lot of breadth but missed some possible depth, because it was impossible for me to internalise all the feedback I was receiving. In the subjects that I studied like this, I ended up performing worse than I expected.


The subjects where I studied smart had one key difference – an exam tracker. I printed out a table where I could keep track of the exams I finished, the scores that I received, and the feedback I should focus on for my next attempt. This last part is crucially important – studying smart means targeting key areas to improve and build upon with each exam. So for example, if I received feedback that my topic sentences were weak, I made an active effort to improve them in the next exam. Lo and behold, in these subjects I performed better than I expected.


3. Spending time on yourself


Your own wellbeing needs to be a priority during VCE. Every year, too many students get burned out at the end of the marathon and stumble just before the finish line. The best way to prevent this is to take care of yourself.


Throughout Year 12 I maintained an active, healthy lifestyle. I exercised weekly, went on daily walks with my dog, and tried to eat healthy (with varying success). Frequent exercise was really important for me to relieve stress and feel good about myself, so I would definitely recommend it.


In addition to that, I spent time with my friends regularly (whether in person or online!) and allocated ‘me time’ every week. One key rule I had was that I would not do any study on Friday nights, leaving that afternoon and evening to watch my favourite show (RuPaul’s Drag Race, if you’re wondering) and stay up playing video games (DotA, mostly). It was important for me to maintain a life outside of VCE.


It’s particularly important to keep this up as the exam season approaches. I myself faltered a couple of weeks before my first exam, and let myself be consumed by VCE. By the time my last exam came around, there was no gas left in the tank. My advice to you is to treat yourself especially well during the exam season. The last thing you want is to burn out between your exams.

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