Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Hi again! Welcome back to the PE blog! This week we are talking about something that I think is the MOST important part of revision and preparation for exams and something that students often ignore…marking your practice exams!!! Secondly, we'll have a look at how to know when you have done enough practice exams.
In my experience, marking your own practice exams is just as beneficial as actually doing the practice exam. This is where you learn how you should structure you answers, what key points you need to hit to get full marks for questions and how to build your answer from those key points. Marking practice exams shouldn’t be something you put off or have someone else do for you, it is something that takes time and that is worth putting your effort into.
While it is definitely useful to get your teacher or peers to have a look at some of your responses, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be looking over your own work and finding the areas that you can improve in. Often, when you mark your own practice exams, the points that you missed or questions that you didn’t quite ace really stick with you, whereas if others mark them it’s much easier just to focus on the actual number of marks you got. Here are my top tips for marking your own practice exams and making it a worthwhile study method!
First, I would always mark a practice exam the day after I wrote it. This way, I got to look at it with fresh eyes and read each answer that I wrote completely, without cutting corners or pretending that I remember what I meant or wrote. The reason I wouldn’t delay it any further than one day is because otherwise things seem to build up, and it becomes difficult to find the time to mark 3 or 4 practice exams, whereas if you just have 1 it is a quick and easy task. The other reason to not delay marking your practice exams for too long, is to get feedback as quickly as possible, so that you don’t keep making the same mistakes, and so you are still invested in what you wrote – you remember which areas you were worried about or which questions were more challenging, meaning you can target your attention during marking.
Second, when actually doing your practice exams, make sure you are writing your answers out fully. In full sentences. With the correct terminology. And spelling. It’s important that you get in the habit of writing you answers as you want to write them in the actual exam. Having complete answers also helps when marking your work, so that you can see if your expression needs any work or if you need to order your points differently.
Third, when marking practice exams, the most useful thing is to look at the mark allocation. Lots of answers will detail exactly where each mark in a three-mark question comes from. This information is golden to you as you work towards your exam. In PE questions seem to appear and reappear in similar formats, so learning what points are essential to get the marks in certain types of questions, such as chronic adaptations questions or LIP questions, is really valuable.
Fourth, beyond just looking at how the marks are distributed, I also found it helpful to look at how some of the answers were expressed in the example answer. Your answer does not have to be exactly the same as the example answer, as long as it hits the same key points. But it can be nice to pick up a way of wording something that you think works really well and is efficient and accurate. For example, when I was marking my practice exams, I kept missing the third mark in blood redistribution questions, until I found an answer that had the phrase ‘finite blood volume’ and fitted this into my answers. Don’t be afraid to steal some good terminology!
Fifth, it’s important to be realistic when marking your practice exams. Giving yourself marks that you’re not sure you earned is not actually being kind to yourself. If in doubt, don’t give yourself the mark and write down why you don’t think you quite got it or what you could change in your answer to make sure you get full marks. Remember that your examiners do not give half marks – so you shouldn’t either.
Sixth, go through your exam paper with a different coloured pen or highlighter when you are marking. Highlight the points that get you the marks for each question. Underline things that are important. Add in notes of any points you could have made or any alternative wording that you would like to have used.
My seventh (and final!!!) tip is to make a correction sheet. This is just a blank piece of paper that you have with you when you are marking your practice exams. On this sheet, I would write anything that I didn’t know that I learnt when marking my practice exams. These might be little things, like the finite blood capacity note, or larger areas, like fatigue in the anaerobic glycolysis system. Pop them on the sheet and then address them straight away by reviewing that area. The other thing that I would put on my tip sheet was any silly errors that I made – things I forgot to put in or just didn’t quite use correctly. By putting these on the sheet, I then knew if I was making the same mistakes more than once and could think about why that was and what I might be able to do to fix that. This sheet is important right up until your exam, use it wisely!
How often should you be doing practice exams? In my preparation for the PE exam, and just for VCE more broadly, I found that it was important to keep on top of all my subjects by doing something for each of them regularly. For me, I aimed to do 2-3 practice exams for each subject per week. This was not always what I achieved. Sometimes, when I was tired or stressed or overwhelmed, I gave myself a break and had a rest. This was really important for me to make sure that I was taking care of myself as well as my revision and to avoid feeling overworked or burnt out in the lead up to exams.
Especially during Term 4, when you’re back at school and trying to balance classes with revision, it can be really difficult to find the time and energy to do full practice exams. During these few weeks, I found that it was best to be kind to myself and just do parts of practice exams rather than full timed ones after school.
How do you know when you’ve done enough practice exams? This was a big concern of mine when I was preparing for the PE exam, and something that I think everyone worries about. How many practice exams should I be doing? How many are other people doing? Am I doing enough? In this week’s blog, I wanted to talk you through some of the things that I realised during my exam preparation which might be able to help you figure out how you’re going.
The most important thing to understand is that there is no magic number of practice exams that you should do or that everyone else is doing. Everyone is different, everyone works differently and has access to different resources and different advice. In my experience, I imagined a number of practice exams that I would like to do based on how many exams I had available. I’m sure you also have a vague number in your mind that you think would be a good number of practice exams to do before the actual exam- this number will be different for everyone. This number that you imagine can be useful in terms of giving you confidence and making you feel like you’ve achieved the level of readiness that you wanted to before your exam. However, this number is also not that important. During preparation for exams, things come up, things take longer than you expected them to, sometimes you don’t get all the work done that you had planned. It’s important to be okay with what you manage to do, with the amount of work you get done, you’re doing your best and it is good enough!
However, for me in my preparation, there was a moment that came in all of my subjects when I sensed that I was finished with doing practice exam after practice exam. This doesn’t mean that I stopped revising or attempting practice questions, just that I stepped back a little bit, took stock of what I had done and reflected on what I wanted to do going forward in my revision.
This sense of being ‘done’ with practice exams came for me when I opened a new practice exam and all of the questions looked familiar. The great thing about VCE and about PE more specifically, is that the same types of questions tend to come up in similar ways year after year. The content for PE can only be tested in a certain variety of ways, so it’s inevitable that, as you work through your pile of practice exams, you come across questions that are similar to ones you have done before. This doesn’t mean that every question on an exam is familiar to you, but that, when flipping through, you know how to answer nearly every question on the paper. This indicated to me that I had reached a point where I was comfortable with practice exams.
This moment wasn’t always a great revelation, sometimes it happened slowly. And usually it occurred quite late in my revision- one to two weeks before the exam.
So, where to from here? When you think that you have become comfortable and confident with practice exams there are a few things that you can do.
Obviously, you want to keep working through some practice exams, don’t stop altogether.
But, during this time, I also found that I liked to plan answers to exam questions that were familiar to me, just dot-pointing where each of the marks were coming from- and still checking my answers to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything!
I also sought out some really difficult questions by focusing on and attempting in full some questions towards the end of exam papers, which are generally more difficult. You can also look up VCE PE most difficult questions and have a go. Ask your teacher to find you some really challenging questions as well.
Another activity that I started to implement was writing some of my own questions. If there was an area I felt I wasn’t quite as confident in, I would write a question targeting that area- often using some data I found on the internet. Trying to answer your own question and figure out how many marks it is worth and where those marks come from is really challenging and can give you a useful insight into mark allocation.
I also did many, many multiple-choice questions whenever I had a spare 20 minutes or so, which was helpful in reminding me of some areas of content and also in preparing me to read and answer the multiple-choice section confidently. I actually found that in my final exam for PE there were multiple-choice questions that I had done before in checkpoints books and on edrolo.
Hopefully this advice gives you some idea of where your revision is heading and what you can plan to accomplish in the weeks leading up to your exam! Next week we’ll talk about how to approach the actual exam day! Take care.
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!