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Exam Preparation Week 6

Hello again! Welcome back to Maths Methods blog number 9! Today’s discussion is all about the Exam 1, some of my tactics to maximise the score and final exam day tips.

PART 1- Exam 1

Exam 1 Maths Methods will go for an hour with 15 minutes of reading time prior. You are not allowed any additional materials in the exam other than what’s given to you (your exam paper and the formula sheet). So you’d ask “What’s the significance of that?” The significance of you completing a paper without the calculator is the examiner will not be expecting complex calculations in your working out but they will be expecting accurate, logical and neat working out.

Let’s go through some steps that you could take to get yourself ready for the game!

1. Exam 1 Revision

Exam 1 is comprised of short answer questions and the best places to look for practice questions for Exam 1 are:

  • Text book

  • Checkpoints

  • Practice exams (past VCAA questions)

I would strongly recommend getting started first with your practice exams. Once you have gathered feedback about the specific topics you need to brush up on then you should go over the textbook and checkpoints to practice on questions.

The second question in “Exam 1 revision” is “how to best use practice exams to revise” and my one advice for you here is to figure out a system for each question type. Since Exam 1 asks for your accuracy and clarity, you should be showing clear and logical steps in your working out. How to better prepare for this than building a series of steps to follow in each question type?! Here’s an example:

Above is my working out for the VCAA 2008 Exam 1 question on the topic of converting from an exponential to a logarithmic equation. Highlighted in red are the steps I always follow in arriving at my solution.

You should be able to build your system by learning from these several sources:

  • Your teacher - They are always more than happy to mark your practice exam for you and their feedback on your working out will help in figuring out if your solutions were enough to earn you the most marks.

  • VCAA exam report - this is a great resource for when you are marking your own exam. It contains VCAA examiners’ comments on students’ performance in each question and a brief summary of what VCAA expects students to show in their answers.

2. On the day

You are given 15 minutes reading time for Exam 1 so please make the most out of it! Make sure you read through all your questions and briefly judge which one you’re comfortable with and which one you’d need a bit of time one. (Without picking up a pen), start thinking about how you’d like to approach the exam questions if you have some spare time.

There tends to be 2 types of questions in Exam 1 if you sort them according to level of comfort. There will be questions you’ve done several times before and you can quickly and carefully finish them off.

However there will definitely be curveballs which you have not seen before which might cause you half of a panic.

Advice number 1 - don’t panic. Try not to let those hands start shaking and your brain get cloudy but take a deep breath and focus instead.

Advice number 2 - Look for the hints! There will almost always be hints somewhere. The question stem can give you information to suggest what you should be doing to arrive at your answers. If there is a diagram, refer to the illustration to better understand what’s going on and what you need to do. If this is a part b of a question then look at part a and see if you could use the results from part a to start working in part b.

Advice number 3 - Think backwards. What is the one step before you can get to the answer? Now what’s the one step before that? Then before that? Can you see any link in these steps to the question stem?

That’s all for this week! Remember exam 1 is all about accuracy and a systematic working out. I hope these suggestions help you in your revision and performance in exam 1. I’ll see you next week!

PART 2- Final exam day tips

1. The day before

If you can, stop revising for your subject the afternoon before exam day. Instead of using the final hours to cram, take a nice walk in the park, do some exercise to get your juices flowing for the next day.

Sometimes your brain might feel empty the day before and it is absolutely okay to feel that way. The one sentence you need to tell yourself the day before is

“You’ve done good. You’ll do good.”

2. Get a good night sleep

You would want to be refreshed the morning of your exam day with a clear and focused mind ready to take up whatever challenge is ahead of you. The key to a good brain is a good sleep. Make sure you go to bed early and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep.

3. Breakfast is very important for morning exams

Eat a hearty breakfast! One that’s going to fuel your brain in the next 2-3 hours. I highly recommend a nice bowl of oats or some wholesome peanut butter on toast. If you’re not a fan, eat something you like because this can contribute to lifting your mood hence your confidence!

4. Light lunch for an afternoon exam

If your exam is in the afternoon, make sure to fuel yourself at lunch with something that’s not going to cost you an “afternoon slump”. This means you can opt for a light salad with lots of grains and greens but not a whole of sugar and carbohydrates.

5. The Superhero pose - the moments before G-hour

I took the last 30-45mins before the exam really seriously. I always had the habit of showing up to my exam venue early, making sure I have everything I needed and that I am in fact at the right place at the right time (Don’t laugh, it can happen).

When I was in high school and still now in university, I found exam related discussions to only cause anxiety and shake my confidence so I’ve always avoided them as best as I could. Instead, before the exam I intentionally put my body into “Superhero” pose. Now this might sound funny but it can psychologically put you in a much more confident mindset which is beneficial for the exam. It’s become an exam ritual for me for every single assessment. If you have your own ritual that you do before an exam I would strongly encourage you to use it.

6. Take a deep breath and go for it

Now you’re in the exam room, sitting nicely at your designated desk. Make sure everything you need is within your reach, your phone is turned off completely and placed in your pocket. The invigilator reads the exam regulations and hands out exam papers at the same time as checking your student ID and everything else.

“Your time starts now.”

“You’ve done good. You’ll do good.”

Go for it. You will do wonderfully.

All the very best,


Have a question?

In the final days before exams Helen 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 Helen might answer it live!

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