Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Welcome back to the Connect Psychology 3&4 Blog! Today’s focus is all about Practise Exams!
During your school holidays, and leading into Term 4, it is very likely that you’ve started facing your first Psychology Practise Exams! This can be a super daunting task, but hopefully some of these tips will help.
1. Practise makes perfect
I truly believed that the way I tackled Practise Exams played a huge role in my Psychology Study Score. As Psychology is a content-heavy subject, a lot of students tend to focus more on practising definitions, using flashcards and studying their notes.
While these are all useful strategies, I felt that Practise Exams and questions enabled me to properly learn and understand the content.
For example, Practise Exams:
• Test what you have actually remembered/retained
• Make you apply content to scenarios
• Challenge you to link different areas of study
• Put you under pressure
• Mimic the exam environment
2. Don’t rush into them!
When I was first given Psychology Practise Exams, I was mindful not to dive into them straight away.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I believed that laying the foundations and understanding the content was my first priority.
I felt that if I started an exam without knowing the content properly, I might have been extremely overwhelmed or wasted a proper practise opportunity.
3. Attempting your first exams
When I decided that I was ready to start Practise Exams, I tried not to be too hard on myself. I accepted that I may not be able to answer every single question or feel confident in every answer.
The way that I combatted this was:
Doing all the questions I could (without notes) in a blue pen
Doing the rest in a pink pen with my notes
This strategy allowed me to recognise what I didn’t know or understand well (anything in pink pen), which guided my revision.
4. Flag your mistakes
During exam time, I NEVER just did an exam and threw it away. Holding onto exams, going over them and recognising mistakes I made was extremely useful for me.
I kept all my Practise Exams in a folder, so I could constantly look through them and identify things I found tricky.
Some ways that I kept track of hard questions and mistakes:
• Using the pink pen for difficult questions
• Using tabs/flag/sticky notes to indicate pages with hard questions
• Creating a mistakes document to put hard questions in
Save the best until last
A lot of students ask me which practise exams they should do and in which order. My golden rule during VCE was always: save the best until last!
I did this because I didn’t want to do quality exam papers when I wasn’t ready.
For me, that meant saving the most relevant and newest VCAA papers until later in the revision period.
E.g. For 2020, the VCAA 2017, 2018 and 2019 exams are the most relevant to the study design and mimic the kind of exam you will receive.
These are available at: https://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/assessment/vce-assessment/past examinations/Pages/psychology.aspx.
When I was feeling more rusty at the beginning of revision period, I’d instead focus on External Exam Papers (e.g. NEAP, ACCESS, PSYCHED etc.) and other content questions I was given.
6. Utilise VCAA examination reports
For me, VCAA examination reports were my HOLY GRAIL. This is because these show the types of answers VCAA accepts, what isn’t sufficient and common mistakes that students make.
Rather than just glancing at the examination reports, I’d actively read everything that was discussed (VCAA often gives long, detailed explanations) and take lots of notes.
This gave me:
• Ideas of other ways to answer questions
• New definitions for content
• Better ways of explaining difficult concepts
• Key words to include
Whilst External Exam Papers are great practise, I was always careful not to rely too heavily on their answers. I would instead look at VCAA examination reports for similar questions, to see what VCAA accepts.
These are again available at: https://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/assessment/vce-assessment/ past-examinations/Pages/psychology.aspx.
7. Practise your timing
One large regret I have is that I wish I had done more timed practise exams!
This would have enabled me to:
• Practise the order I wanted to do the
• Experience the pressures of timed
• Mimic the exam conditions
I definitely recommend setting a timer and
seeing how you go! We’ll cover more on
exam timing and order in a future blog.
8. Do less, but do them effectively!
For Year 12s, who need to juggle multiple 3&4 subjects, I completely understand that you won’t have the time to do unlimited amounts of Psychology Exams.
I always recommend to students: rather do less, but do them EFFECTIVELY.
I found that doing one exam thoroughly (i.e. doing it in timed conditions, actively reading the Examination Report, adding questions to my mistakes document etc) was far more effective than doing a few in a rushed and improper manner.
I hope some of these tips will help you all tackle your first Practise Exams! In future weeks we will be covering more tips on: answering specific types of questions, exam order and timing, and handling exam pressure.
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!