Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Now that we are deep into the revision period and the PE exam is looming much closer, I thought I would breakdown my top tips for how to approach the PE exam. I’ve got you covered with suggestions for everything from what to do the day before and the morning of your exam to how to work through your actual exam paper.
The couple of days before the exam are very important, but not for reasons you might think. During my VCE I had a few different experiences of preparation in the days leading up to my exams, from relaxing to studying right up until the last minute. From these experiences, I figured out what I think works best and, no surprises, it’s a happy medium. For me it was really important to focus in the few days leading up to my exams on making myself feel confident and calm. By the time you’re ready to walk into the exam you’ve done a lot of work (you’re doing the work right now), and so it’s good to give yourself a day or two to be proud of the study you’ve done and to feel as confident as you can about how your exam will go. In the couple of days before the PE exam, I did some specific questions or challenging questions that I had found, planned some answers to exams, flicked through the practice exams that I had already done and did some multiple-choice questions. Beyond that, I really tried to keep a positive mindset about the exam- the things that you think or say to yourself really do matter, some positive self-talk or encouragement, or at least avoiding negative self-talk like ‘I’m so stressed’ or ‘I’m not ready’, does more than you think for your mindset.
The day of the PE exam is always going to be nerve wracking. The PE exam is also in the afternoon, which gives you some extra time to be nervous which is always great! Having a game plan for the day of the exam really helped me to feel prepared- whatever you’re going to do on the day, make sure you have a schedule and aren’t just waiting around for the hours to pass. On the day of my PE exam, I had a good breakfast, went for a walk, cleaned my room, watched some TV, had a good lunch and then looked over my corrections sheet that I had been compiling throughout marking all of my practice exams. I also found it useful to do a short meditation before each of my VCE exams, I just downloaded smiling mind and I think it was the first 5-minute guided meditation – it’s free and it made me feel better!
Okay, so you’re all set on preparation. Now, what to bring to the exam. You definitely need multiple pens, maybe different sizes so that if your hand gets sore you can switch. You might need a ruler (in case you have to draw a LIP graph and your hand is shaky), and some highlighters. You definitely need a pencil, an eraser and a sharpener. This is important because you have to do the multiple-choice section in pencil and you can’t share erasers or sharpeners during the exam- don’t stress yourself out, bring your own and be prepared. Also bring a water bottle (clear) and anything else you might need.
When it comes to tackling the actual exam, people have their own preferences. I would definitely suggest that you go about doing your practice exams in the same order as you plan to do your actual exam. My advice would be to work through the exam front to back. This is because it means you get to start with multiple-choice, which is a nice way to ease into the exam (remember, you’re going to be nervous). There is also sometimes information in the multiple-choice questions that can be useful to you when answering some of the short answer questions.
During reading time, I would suggest that you flick through the entire exam, note how many pages there are, note where the bigger questions are (any graphs, tables, 5, 6, 7, 8-mark questions). There is no reason that you should be surprised by an 8-mark question half-way through your exam, prepare yourself by having a look during reading time. With the rest of your 15 minutes, I would suggest reading the multiple-choice questions and answers fully. When writing time starts, I recommend you read both the questions and answers fully again. This way you can avoid silly mistakes or mis-readings that happen when you’re nervous.
As you work through the exam, don’t forget to underline key ideas or terms that you are using. Don’t forget to use your PE terminology and definitions. If you need extra space for a question, clearly mark on your paper that your answer for a particular question is continued on the spare paper at the back of the exam. Remember that each question is marked individually, so don’t worry if you feel like you’re repeating yourself a little bit, answer every question as well as you can.
If you come across a challenging question, which is bound to happen, have a go, answer as much as you can, and then move on and come back to it if you have time once you have reached the end of the paper.
If you are running out of time in the exam, I would suggest that you dot point your answers to get as many marks as you can – this is something you can do in the last 5 minutes.
When you have 5 minutes left of the paper, I would suggest double checking that for any questions that say ‘use data’, in your answer you have, in fact, used data. Also check your multiple-choice answer sheet to make sure everything is lined up.
Finally, I thought I would share some of the notes that were on my corrections sheet (personal log of things learned in practice exams) for PE:
1. Don’t start heart rate graph at zero.
2. Use terminology.
3. Use definitions.
4. No symbols (e.g. arrows).
5. Comparison = what is similar and what is different.
6. Evaluation = strengths and weaknesses.
7. Read question carefully (are they asking for a cardiovascular adaptation or a muscular adaptation).
8. Refer to data.
9. Look at data, don’t assume.
10. Link answer back to question (sporting example).
11. Talk about both things if explaining why one thing is better than another (e.g. energy systems) (whereas questions).
12. State yes or no if the question asks you to.
13. Explain things fully unless the task work in the question is list.
My advice for after you’ve finished the exam is to never think about it again (at least not for a long time) and let yourself have a nice break, and maybe a milo.
Congratulations again for making it to the final exam! Good luck for the paper, and good luck for everything beyond that. Remember to be kind to yourself, to take care of yourself and those around you. Take a deep breath, give yourself a pat on the back, and go get it!!
Have a question?
In the final days 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!