Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Hey Bus Man Students!
Welcome back to this week’s blog.
I hope you are using your holidays very productively, but also taking some time to relax.
This week, I want to debunk a common myth that is “more practice exams = higher study score”. While this is true to an extent (it is really important to practice applying your knowledge to practice exam papers and it is a good get a lot of practice in), I have noticed that way too many Year 12 students are stressed about getting the count of practice exams up instead of actually focusing on learning from those practice exams.
The framework that I used to maximise what I learned from each practice exam
I applied this framework of doing targeted revision, applying what I learned to practice exams, correcting practice exams to expose any gaps in my knowledge and then filling these gaps with more targeted revision – and the cycle repeats.
1. Targeted Revision
Over the school holidays, the first thing that I did was go through the VCAA study design with two different colour highlighters. I would highlight, in yellow, anything that I was a little bit unsure of and may need to brush up on. I highlighted, in pink, any topics that I had totally forgotten and urgently needed to revise. Any content that I was confident with I would leave un-highlighted.
Then, I went back through my cue cards, notes and the text book, revising those areas that I highlighted in yellow or pink. This was really important because:
I didn’t have time to revise everything (my time was split across 5 subjects!). Leaving out those topics that I was already confident in saved me a ton of time.
Practice exams only tested a sample of my knowledge, they did not test absolutely everything in the study design. I could have completed 10 practice exams before coming across a question on the different reasons why a management style would be used.
Once I had done some deliberate revision of these topics I was feeling not so confident about, I moved to the next stage.
2. Applying knowledge to practice exams
In this stage, I would simply complete a practice exam. If I was running short of time, I would bullet point answers to questions on topics that I was confident with and I focused my energy on writing proper answers on topics that I was not so confident with.
I would only complete one practice paper at a time and then correct that paper before moving on. If you complete 10 papers and make the same mistakes in all 10 exams, then you haven’t really learned anything from doing all that practice – and I want to help you get the most out of all the time you spend studying!
3. Correct the practice exam and log any errors
In this stage, I would go through my practice exam comparing my responses to the provided answers. A few tips for effectively correcting your answers include:
Be harsh on yourself: there’s no point telling yourself how awesome you are, negative feedback if how you learn!
Be specific: writing something like “more detail” is not very helpful. Write in exactly the detail that you left out so you know how to turn your answer into a full mark response
Log your errors: think about why you made a mistake. Was it because you read the question wrong or did you not understand the content? I kept an Excel spreadsheet where I wrote down all the errors that I was making so that I could make a conscious effort to correct these mistakes in future attempts.
Once I had corrected the exam and made a list of the topics/skills that I needed to work on, that’s when I repeated the cycle again by doing some targeted revision to patch up those gaps in my knowledge!
Well how many practice exams do I do?
There is no set number of practice exams that will earn you a study score of X. All I can say is as long as you do enough so that you feel confident and have learned from each of the practice exams you have completed, you will be fine.
Also, remember the law of diminishing marginal returns. While doing the first 5 practice exams will significantly improve your score, going from the 20th to 21st practice exam is probably not going to have a substantial impact on your performance in the final exam.
Best of luck! Thanks for reading this week’s blog and I’ll see you soon J