top of page

Exam Preparation Week 4

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Welcome back to the Connect Psychology 3&4 Blog! Today we'll take a look at what to do know that holidays have finished, as well as looking at how to start tackling VCAA questions.

PART 1: Taking stock of what's left to do

1. What is left to do?

As the school holidays finished and Term 4 began, I first evaluated what I still had left to do.

For example, for Psychology, I made a list of:

  • Any content questions or holiday homework I had to finish/redo

  • Practise exams that I didn’t finish

  • Areas of content I still wasn’t confident with

I’d also outline what objectives I needed to set for Term 4. For example:

1. Finish the most recent VCAA exams (e.g. 2015-2019) 2. Go through all content notes 3. Find hard questions in the External Exam Papers (e.g. NEAP) 4. Content questions - given by teachers 5. Attempt textbook questions

2. Create a weekly timetable

Just as I suggested making a timetable during the holiday period, I did the same thing when I returned back to school. Only this time, I started planning some BROAD goals for each week.

These goals completely depend on how many 3&4’s you have, what your extra commitments are and how much time you have. As I was a Year 11, I set much larger goals than a Year 12 student would have had the time to for.


  • Week 1 - complete x3 external practise papers

  • Week 2 - complete x2 external practise paper + finish content questions • Week 3 - VCAA 2016 & 2015, as well as any difficult areas of content • Week 4 - VCAA 2017 and 2018, plus meeting with Psych teacher to cover hard content

  • Week 5 - VCAA 2019 + read the textbook

Note: I’d recommend leaving the best exams until later in the revision period, when you’re feeling your most confident.

3. Balancing other 3&4’s

If you’re a Year 12, and have around four or five 3&4 subjects, then balance will be key in your revision period.

When I was in Year 12, although I had already done Psychology, I also had to juggle lots of 3&4’s with content subjects.

Deciding which subjects would be in my top 4, and which subjects I need to work harder on, were all factors that I considered. However, I never discarded or gave up on a subject as I never knew what could happen to my scores.

Some tips for balancing your subjects:

  • Plan and create timetables

  • Outline what you need to get done for each

  • Be smart in your study and revision methods

  • Doing less practise exams, but doing then thoroughly

  • Focus on things you’re weak at, not your strengths

4. Make use of your teachers

During the final weeks of revision, I found my teachers to be a great resource when clarifying difficult content and going through difficult exam questions.

I’d book times in with my teachers (rather than just bombarding them), so that I’d have a designated time for just me and them.

I’d always make sure that I had:

  • A written list of questions

  • Flagged exam questions that I struggled with

  • Specific areas of content to go over

5. Handling the stress

I definitely found the final weeks of revision extremely stressful and overwhelming. If you ever feel the same, try out some of the things I did:

  • Remember to have rests and breaks, to avoid burnout

  • Find strategies that make you feel organised and in control

  • Get help and support from your teachers and friends

  • Don’t stay up all night; sleep is super important (remember the restorative theory of sleep)

  • Eat well and exercise

6. Practise, practise, practise

As discussed last blog, I found that practise questions and exams were the KEY to a good score in Psychology.

Whenever I had a free moment during exam time, or wasn’t sure what to do, I focused on practise questions.

PART 2- How to tackle VCAA questions

There is definitely an art to answering VCAA questions, and obtaining full marks.

Hopefully these tips will help you all when it comes to approaching VCAA questions in the next few weeks.

1. Use the examiner’s reports

As I’ve said before, I found using the VCAA examiner’s reports SUPER useful.

Specifically, VCAA examination reports showed me:

  • A break-down of the marks

  • Keys words and phrases to include

  • How well the State did on the question

  • What wasn’t sufficient or expected


Again, these examiner reports can be accessed at the following link: https:// psychology.aspx

2. Marking allocation

When I attempted a VCAA question or planned a response, I always paid attention to the marking allocation. This helped to guide: how long to spend on each question, how many words to write and the depth of information to include.

Generally speaking, I came up with a way to approach questions worth different marks.


  • 1-2 marks = just list, state or define the key term

  • 3+ marks = MUST define key terms in question, and elaborate/explain.

  • 5+ marks = Give a step-by-step process or long explanation

  • 10 marks = Plan out the response!

This was only a general guide. I’d always take note of how the VCAA Examination Report had broken down the question and what each mark was dedicated towards.

3. Writing SIMPLY

I always kept in mind that the Psychology exam is NOT an English Exam. I always reminded myself that VCAA Assessors are not fussed about flowery language.

From speaking with VCAA Assessors, I knew that they mark about 50 of the same question at once, so they’re looking for key terms and phrases. I also didn’t want my VCAA assessor to get lost or confused in my answer.

So that’s why I always focused on writing clear and concise answers, which proved to be extremely effective.

4. Command terms

I found it super useful to understand what kinds of ‘command terms’ appear in Psychology questions. This helped me to feel confident that I was answering the question properly. Some examples:

- Define = give precise/textbook meaning - Describe/outline/explain = give detailed summary (e.g. relate to key concepts & scenario) - State = list - Compare & contrast = similarities & differences - Distinguish = provide clear differences - Evaluate = strengths & limitations

5. How to compare and contrast

A specific command term that I like to dissect with students is comparing and contrasting. Personally, I found these very difficult and saw a lot of other students lose marks on them.

• It means provide differences AND similarities - I always knew at least 2 of each, just to cover all bases • For similarities - Think big! - I always tried to think very broadly for similarities, as I’d often get it wrong if I was too specific. • For comparisons - Directly compare (i.e. find opposites) - Include a comparison word (e.g.……..whereas………) • Again, I’d always write as simply as possible!

6. Relating to the scenario

A common mistake I made was forgetting to relate to the scenario in VCAA questions.

Unfortunately for me, I often lost marks for forgetting this. So my rule of thumb was ALWAYS relate to the scenario, regardless of the question.

Ways I related to the scenario:

• Including the person’s name • Referring to the part of body, sensation, behaviour, action etc mentioned in the scenario (for content questions) • Referring to the study design, methods etc (in research methods questions) • If the scenario didn’t include much info, I’d make up some examples

7. Creating formulas and templates

When it came to answering questions, I loved making formulas and templates. This not only helped me feel more confident in answering questions, but gave me a solid structure that I could easily remember.

Some examples (which you might have seen throughout my lectures): Outlining an extraneous variable

Interaction of brain regions:

Describing the spinal reflex:

8. Writing answers in the exam

Some general tips for writing answers in the exam:

• Always write in full sentences

- I was always told that VCAA assessors are NOT fans of writing in dot-points,

tables, diagrams, flowcharts etc.

- Instead, I was always advised to write in full sentences

- I did sometimes use Step 1., 2., 3., etc., but I’d always write in complete


• Write in pen

- As the papers are scanned to the assessors, I always used pen

- This allowed my responses to show up clearly on scans

- It also avoided the risk of my answer rubbing out or fading

- I did use a pencil to plan, fill in multiple choice questions or write extra notes that I wanted to erase

• Extra writing space

- Because the papers are scanned, I was also careful not to squish my answers at the bottom of the page

- If I did this, my answers tended to become too small and illegible

- Instead, I'd write in the extra writing space provided!

- The way I did this was:

I hope you guys find these tips helpful and you implement these when you’re tackling VCAA questions. In the next blogs, we’ll be covering each section of the exam in detail (i.e. multiple choice, short answer and extended response).

See you then!

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!

85 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page