Updated: Sep 9, 2021
Hey Accounting fam!
While I am not the most organized person in the world, I do believe that planning your time in these vital months leading up to your final exam is extremely important to succeeding in VCE. During this time, you do not have the structure of a regular school day to keep you on track, instead, you are accountable only to yourself.
This week’s hot tip: use a planner to track the time you spend studying.
As I said before, I’m not the world’s most organized person, in fact, I am a bit of a scatterbrain. But on the September holidays leading up to final exams, that completely changed for me. I became that person that planned every hour of every day, from 8:00AM to 9:00PM. I understand that might sound a little intense, especially if you are not an avid calendar user/planner during the year. But I really want to emphasize that planning your time does not mean that you are studying all the time. In fact, I think with a planner, you can plan to be more productive in your focus hours, allowing you to take more breaks and really enjoy your breaks as well!
I found that without a planner, I would often feel guilty for taking breaks and I would always feel like people around me were doing more work than me. When I started tracking my hours studying, it made me feel more in control. I could rest easy at night knowing that I had spent X hours studying and I no longer felt guilty for taking breaks to re-charge.
I created my planner in a simple Excel spreadsheet. It looked like this:
Each subject had it’s own colour (and because I’m me, I matched them to the colours of my folders that I used for each subject) and once I completed a task I would fill in the little cell next to it in green.
This brings me to my next point. There is a difference between people that use a planner and people that use a planner well. Notice the green lines next to each item in the planner? I would only make that cell green if I had completed the task. Some of them are actually red or empty – this means that I did not complete the task. It’s really important to ensure that you actually follow through with what you intend to do, otherwise the plan is pretty useless.
Also notice the type of work that I have in my planner. I have a combination of targeted revision work, study groups, practice exams and (possibly most importantly) time allocated to marking my practice exams. The best thing that I did in the holidays was taking the time to mark my practice exams carefully – because doing practice exams without learning from your mistakes is not the best use of time! In coming weeks, I will discuss some methods I used to track my mistakes and learn from them.
Additionally, I want to stress that you don’t need to spend all day studying. Don’t feel guilty for scheduling in breaks. As long as you work productively in the hours that you want to devote to study, you should really take your breaks as a time to relax and recharge. It’s really important to schedule in exercise (so we don’t all become potatoes by the end of the year) and fun activities (e.g. a zoom call with friends). I also want to note that this week of my planner was pretty study intense, but there were also days over the holidays that I blocked out as full rest days.
Why this is so important
I adopted a ‘growth mindset’ in VCE. This is the idea that your ability or what you can achieve is not fixed (‘fixed mindset’) but instead can increase with the amount of time and energy you invest in doing deliberate practice. It’s very easy to think that those people with 99 ATARs are just ‘gifted’ and don’t have to do any work, but this is not true. People that are successful in VCE invest hours and hours studying. Personally, I spent at least 6 hours every day on the holidays studying for exams. I want to take a minute to fill you with confidence and say that if you work hard, you will see results. But the opposite is true as well. If you slack off, if you watch Netflix instead of studying, you will not improve.
And as some evidence to support this claim, I can tell you that English was my worst subject years 7-11. I hated the subject, I never read any of the books (shh don’t tell my teachers!) and I was certain that it would be my worst subject. But during Year 12, I turned that around and spent hours and hours reading and writing. On the September holidays, every morning, I wrote an essay in one hour and in the span of 2 weeks, I saw a huge improvement. I ended up getting a 45 in English. If I hadn’t adopted that growth mindset, if I had just given up on English, I wouldn’t have achieved that and I wouldn’t have gotten the ATAR that I did. So, if you’re feeling demotivated, I want to tell you that you can really achieve anything as long as you care enough to knuckle down, put pen to paper and start working.
Good luck fam!