Hey everyone, for the last time this semester! I’m sure most of you will be feeling a lot of emotions at once by now. Stress, excitement, anxiety, anticipation. Exams are finally here, and with them the end of your VCE schooling. Trust in your abilities. Trust in your own preparation. You’ve got this, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise – including yourself!
This week’s topic is the exam day. We’ve spent a lot of time this semester talking about different strategies, text types, and tips for tackling History: Revolutions. Today is no different, because I’ll be giving you my advice for the day of the final exam based on when I went through it last year.
But before that, it’s worth remembering that VCE and its exams are not the be-all and end-all of your academic career. Of course you should all strive to do your best and put your very best feet forward, but you should also keep in mind that VCE feels a lot more overwhelming when you’re right in the middle of it. I haven’t thought about my VCE results more than once or twice in the past year, and I guarantee you that the second you exit the History exam room you will forget all of those dates and quotes.
If you leave the exam room and you feel like you underperformed, stay calm. There are always pathways to get where you want to go in life. You are much more than your study scores and your ATAR, and life only gets started after VCE. Enjoy it.
Finishing the Exam
The History: Revolutions exam is notoriously long. I’ve previously given you my personal advice on each of its components, but today I’m going to run you through how I tackled it last year in the exam room.
We begin with 15 minutes of reading time. The first thing I’d do is flip through the exam booklet and have a look at each of the questions I’ll be answering, just to start jogging my memory on those specific topics. I’ve gone into the exam room knowing which revolution I want to do for each section, but if you’ve prepared for either then you should decide within the first 5 minutes and stick to it. The remaining 10 minutes I’d spend on planning the essay – figuring out in my head which ideas I’d want to include in each paragraph and what evidence supports my contention. Any leftover time I would spend analysing the sources for the first source analysis question.
Then begins writing time. There is a strict hierarchy of the text types’ importance, in the sense that you should definitely aim to finish some but others can be cut short if you’re low on time. The essay is the most important. 20 marks and an unforgiving format where if you’re even a conclusion short, you’ll be losing quite a few marks. Then are the source analyses, another 20 marks each with a pretty set length that must be met to score well. Analysing and incorporating the sources properly can also be annoyingly time-consuming.
Last are the extended responses, 10 marks each. The reason these are last is that they can survive shortening more than any other text type. When I did my exam, I felt the pressures of time and decided not to include a conclusion sentence for either of my responses. This was fine, because the extended response has probably the most forgiving structure and requirements. Obviously you should aim to complete all text types in full, but if there’s any place you need to cut from, do it here.
I personally completed the exam in its printed order, because I was confident I could finish it in time. Despite that though, I kept to a strict time limit for each piece that I recommend you follow as well. 30 minutes for each source analysis, 15 for each extended response, and 30 plus any leftover time on the essay. It can be difficult to leave a response behind if you haven’t finished it, but you need to think critically about whether it’s worth spending the time there more than somewhere else.
The Day Before the Exam
I’d strongly advise against any heavy studying the day before the exam. At that point, I don’t know if there’s even any benefit to be gained or if you’re just increasing your stress levels. If you want to study for another subject I’d say go for it, if it’ll keep your mind occupied. If you want to watch Netflix the whole day then that’s fine too, if it’ll keep your mind occupied. Whatever you do, try your best not to fixate on the exam too much. It’s happening, you’re gonna ace it, and there’s nothing left to do but trust yourself.
The only study I’d recommend is content spot checks throughout the day. Check your cheat sheets and test yourself against problem areas. But I really can’t recommend writing any kind of response.
Make sure you sleep early. It will be difficult to fall asleep knowing your exam is the next day. Go to bed early, and avoid using screens close to bedtime. If there’s any day to follow that advice, it’s this one.
On the Day of the Exam
It’s up to you how you spend the morning of the exam, but in my experience it’ll feel like you’re just killing time.
I’d recommend going to school early and chatting with your classmates. You’re all in this together, and that can help you feel better.
Avoid discussing the exam or subject in too much depth, but you’re allowed to do final content checks here and there.
No matter what though, remind yourself that you prepared for this. That you’ve spent the past year becoming an expert on two revolutions, memorised countless bits of evidence, and practiced writing too many responses to count. You can do this.
And once it’s over, you’ll be the happiest person in the world.