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Exam Preparation Week 4

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Hello PE people, I hope your revision is going swimmingly!

After working through the bulk of the revision of the Unit 3 and 4 content over the last couple of weeks, today I wanted to talk about how you can continue your revision in smaller sections up until the day of the exam and how to start doing practice exams. While from now on your main focus will be practice exams, I think it’s important to continue revisiting key terms and key ideas as you are tackling some practice questions.

Throughout the lead up to the exam, I found it really beneficial to keep in mind the key terms and key definitions for PE. Being able to define or explain ideas such as Newton’s laws, impulse, momentum, pulmonary diffusion, a-v02 difference, LIP, active recovery, oxygen deficit, steady state and so on, is a real confidence booster for the exam. If you walk into the PE exam and a question asks you to define Newton’s first law, this should not be something that stresses you out or trips you up on the day. That kind of question is one you can prepare for right now.

Rather than memorising long definitions for the key terms, such as those mentioned above, I found it more useful to remember some key words that I could use to explain the terms.

For example, for oxygen deficit, I would remember that I needed to talk about a lag in the aerobic system, some key physiological functions (such as heartrate or cardiac output), and the increased contribution from the anaerobic energy systems (both ATP-PC and anaerobic glycolysis).

If you feel more comfortable memorising whole definitions, go for it, but if you think that you might struggle to remember whole sentences or explanations have a go at just remembering a few key points that you can link together.

In order to keep these terms fresh in my mind, I put all the important definitions or explanations onto cue cards. On one side of the cue card I would write the name of the term and then on the other side the definition. I found cue cards really useful because they were an easy way that I could go over key information every day and continue my revision leading up to the exam. The best thing about cue cards is that you can really test yourself and see if you can remember the information without looking at it, which is something you can’t so as easily with your notes.

If, however, you hate cue cards (because I know some people do) you can definitely still use your notes to do this kind of revision. If you cover the highlighted information on you notes and then try to remember the points that are important, or if you look at a heading or term and then cover the definition and try to recall it, it’s just as effective.

Another great way to keep these key terms in mind is to give your notes or cue cards to someone and have them test you. Often the person testing you will ask questions or ask you to explain what something you have said means and this adds depth to your knowledge.

Online resources such as Quizlet are also really useful in terms of helping you to remember key definitions or terms and can be used in addition to your notes/cue cards or instead of them.

The most important thing that I found when I was trying to continue my revision into Term 4 and then into the study break before exams was that it needs to be broken down into small chunks. During this time, my main focus was practice exams (which we will be talking about next week) and so any revision that I was doing in addition to that needed to not take hours or be really draining. Splitting your cue cards or notes up into sections that take about 15-20 minutes to go through is really useful as this means you can do a little bit of revision every day, maybe when you first wake up, maybe when you’re brushing your teeth, maybe right before you go to bed. Doing a little bit of study for everything every day or two also helps to balance all of your subjects and make sure that you’re not neglecting any.

Beyond remembering key terms and definitions, it’s important in PE to remember broader concepts and how they link together. For this, I found that making posters was the most effective way of continuing to revisit the PE content and think about it in different ways. I found that, for PE, I made 3 types of posters.

The first was a list poster. I made these posters for things like fitness components, training methods and principle, chronic adaptations, acute responses and energy system characteristics. These were nice to have up on the wall so that I could glance at them and see all the aspects of a topic. Just seeing all of the terms every day helps you to remember them.

The second type of poster that I made was a mind map. This was really useful for more complex topics like interplay, some biomechanical principles and fatigue. On these mind maps I included images or drawings and writing. I found that mind maps were the best way to revisit the relationship between topics and how the content works together, which helps to prepare you for extended response questions in the exam.

The last type of poster that I made was one that mapped out a response to a common exam question. I used these as a kind of scaffolding or skeleton that I could remember and then adapt to a question in the exam. I made posters like these for topics such as energy system interplay, chronic adaptations, LIP and some acute responses. These posters helped me to isolate the key points that I needed to hit in my answers.

The most important thing with posters is to put them in a place where you will actually look at them. You can laminate them and put them in the shower, you can put them on the wall opposite your bed or on the mirror in the bathroom where you brush your teeth. It doesn’t matter where they are- just make sure you’re looking at them!

Hopefully some of these tips will help you to continue revisiting the PE content as you shift your focus to the all-important practice exams!

Ok, so let's now talk about practice exams.

I remember in Year 12 that when the time comes to start doing practice exams it’s both very exciting and a bit nerve wracking. It feels like you’re finally getting to the pointy end of the year, but it’s also absolutely normal to feel like you’re not quite ready to do exams – everyone feels this way! At the time when you do your first full practice exam for PE or any other subject, you definitely don’t need to be feeling 100% ready or confident. Practice exams are not there to intimidate you or to give you a grade that you can’t do anything about, they are about practice. So, even if you’re feeling a little bit stressed, it is time now to put down the revision notes and turn your focus to the practice exam. Trust me, you can do it!

The very best thing about practice exams is that they give you an actual idea of what your exam is going to be like. In the process of doing practice exams, there always seems to be a moment when the actual exam, looming up ahead at the end of November, stops being quite as scary and becomes more manageable in your mind. This is a wonderful moment – treasure it, celebrate it!

As well as being a confidence booster and a bit of experience, practice exams are important because they let you fine tune all of your PE knowledge into a useful and useable form. Practice exams force you to apply the content you have been learning throughout the year, to different sporting situations, to different kinds of questions and in different scenarios. The best thing I got out of doing practice exams for PE was mastering how to express my answers - figuring out the right way to word an answer and the key terms and links that are necessary for different types of questions and for different task words. Nothing will prepare you better for sitting down and writing your PE exam than doing actual exams in preparation.

The other benefit of doing practice exams that you won’t get from other revision techniques is that they really show you, in no uncertain terms, what you know and what you don’t know. Understanding where the holes are in your PE knowledge means that you can specifically target those areas with some quick revision and make sure you’re good to go. When I was doing practice exams, I remember feeling disappointed when I got things wrong, but over the couple of months of preparation for the PE exam, I realized that it’s when you get things wrong that you actually learn something. So, my aim for my practice exams switched from not getting anything wrong, to not getting the same thing wrong twice.

When trying to get all your practice exams together, it can seem pretty overwhelming as there are a lot of them and it’s hard to tell which ones you should do first. From my experience, it’s best to save the most relevant VCAA exams until you feel pretty confident about your ability to give them your very best go. This is because the 2018 and 2019 VCAA PE exams are your best indication of what your PE exam will look like, so it is best to do these properly and use them as a measure of your progress. Obviously, throughout the year you will have seen and maybe attempted a few questions from these exams, that’s okay, it’s still worthwhile to do the exam in full to get a feel for the type of questions, the length of the exam and the mark allocation.

I would definitely recommend that you do VCAA exams from past study designs as well. It will be quite clear which questions don’t apply to you, or you can ask your teacher to indicate which questions you don’t need to do. Practicing answering questions that VCAA has written is only going to make you better prepared!

There are plenty of other companies that produce practice exams, your teachers may have given you a stack. All of these are worth doing. I found that sometimes other companies will word exam questions in a way that is quite different from anything I had encountered in my SACs or other practice exams, so having a go at these was a good way of thinking about the content in a new light. When doing practice exams, it is really important to do the questions that are unfamiliar to you, or that you think look challenging or a bit weird. Every time you do a question that you haven’t done before and you figure out how to approach it and answer it, that is a new type of question that you know how to ace if it comes up on your exam!

Okay. Now, when you actually sit down and do the practice exams, this is what I found works best.

1. No notes

Doing practice exams with notes won’t give you an accurate representation of what you know and don’t know. Do them without notes. Attempt everything. Fill in the gaps later.

2. Underline/highlight

Underline or highlight key words or pieces of information in the question, such as ‘use data’. This will help you to make sure that you are addressing the question. Also underline any key points in your answer, for example, in an interplay question, you might underline each energy system as you talk about it.

3. Timed

Do as many of the practice exams as you can under timed conditions. The PE exam is only 2 hours long, it’s much quicker to sit down for two hours and smash out a practice exam than to let it drag on throughout the week. This will also get you in the habit of writing quickly – in PE you have about a mark a minute.

To stay organized while doing your practice exams, I recommend having a checklist. Find your most productive time of the day to do the exam, maybe try doing some at the time of your exam (afternoon session for PE), and have fun! Next week, I’ll take you through how to mark your practice exams.

Have a question?

In the final weeks before exams Jo 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 Jo might answer it live!

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