Exam Preparation Week 6
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Welcome back to the Connect Psychology 3&4 Blog!
We’re on the final home stretch, everyone! With the Psychology exam fast approaching, today we’re going to cover some final strategies for your revision and for exam day.
PART 1- Final Revision Strategies
The following tips are strategies that I implemented in the final weeks of revision and also some helpful tips that I’ve picked up throughout my year of lecturing and tutoring VCE Psychology.
1. Focus on your weaknesses
I found that, during VCE, one of the easiest traps to fall into is: constantly practising the things you know really well. While doing questions that you find easy can be a great confidence booster, I personally began to realise it wasn’t the most effective revision strategy.
Once I had mastered a concept or question, it was time to move on. Rather than spending time practising things I already knew, I spent my final weeks of revision identifying the things that I struggled with. My goal: find the hardest and most challenging questions possible.
Even though it was a blow to my confidence and sometimes left me deflated, it was one of the best things I could have done and a large reason why I did so well in the exam. I
made sure that I was prepared for almost anything that could be thrown at me.
2. Finding good questions
How do you find these good and challenging questions, particularly of content that you’re struggling with?
I found that sifting through old VCAA exams was the best way to find difficult and realistic questions. I also knew that the VCAA answers would be reliable and show me the best way to approach such difficult questions.
On the VCAA website, the exams go back to 2002! You definitely don’t need to go through all of them, but I personally would ‘Search’ key words (i.e. Command-F) to find the questions I wanted.
E.g. I really struggled with understanding the Loftus’ theory and memory reconstruction, so I searched up “Loftus” and found this practise question in VCAA 2014.
3. Mark yourself harshly
I also found it extremely effective to be super harsh when marking my own practise exams/questions.
Even if I got full marks for an answer, I also looked for ways to improve it.
I would note better ways of defining and explaining a concept, as well as other tweaks that could be made.
4. Difficult Areas of Study (AOS)
Everyone is different in terms of the content they find most difficult to understand. It is SO important that you consider YOUR personal weaknesses and what you need to work on.
If you’re struggling to determine your most difficult Areas of Study, these are the dot points that students commonly find difficult:
the effects of chronic changes to the functioning of the nervous system due to interference to neurotransmitter function, as illustrated by the role of dopamine in Parkinson’s disease.
models of stress as a biological process, with reference to Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome of alarm reaction (shock/counter shock), resistance and exhaustion, including the ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response and the role of cortisol
models of stress as a psychological process, with reference to Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman’s Transactional Model of Stress and Coping (stages of primary and secondary appraisal)
Learning and memory
the role of neurotransmitters and neurohormones in the neural basis of memory and learning (including the role of glutamate in synaptic plasticity and the role of adrenaline in the consolidation of emotionally arousing experiences).
interactions between specific regions of the brain (cerebral cortex, hippocampus, amygdala and cerebellum) in the storage of long-term memories, including implicit and explicit memories.
the reconstruction of memories as evidence for the fallibility of memory, with reference to Loftus’ research into the effect of leading questions on eye-witness testimonies.
States of consciousness
the effects on consciousness (cognition, concentration and mood) of one night of full sleep deprivation as a comparison with effects of legal blood-alcohol concentrations.
theories of the purpose and function of sleep (REM and NREM) including restoration theory and evolutionary (circadian) theory.
evidence-based interventions and their use for specific phobia with reference to: the use of short-acting anti-anxiety benzodiazepine agents (gamma-amino butyric acid [GABA] agonists) in the management of phobic anxiety
relaxation techniques including breathing retraining and exercise (biological); the use of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and systematic desensitisation as psychotherapeutic treatments of phobia (psychological); psychoeducation for families/supporters with reference to challenging unrealistic or anxious thoughts and not encouraging avoidance behaviours (social).
Consider whether you might need to focus on any of these areas!
5. Research methods
Another mistake that I nearly made was FORGETTING about Research Methods!
Although it definitely wasn’t an enjoyable Area of Study, I had to accept that it was super important to practise and understand.
I always believed that doing practise questions was the best way to practise Research Methods, as identifying elements (e.g. sampling method, experimental design, IV and DV etc) in a study was the most difficult.
Some particular areas that myself, and others students, have found super difficult are:
reliability and validity of data
minimisation of experimental bias and confounding and extraneous variables • making conclusions and generalisations
6. 10 mark responses
Finally, I also had to accept that as much as writing a 10 marker question SUCKED, I needed to practise them.
Sometimes I would just plan a 10 mark question, but that often wasn’t sufficient.
I really had to practise writing complete 10-mark responses in timed conditions. This helped me to understand what I could get done in the actual exam and what I needed to improve on to achieve a 10 out of 10.
I hope these suggestions and strategies help guide you all in these last weeks of revision.
PART 2- Dealing with the big day!
I know this is a very stressful time for a lot of students, especially with the English Exam the day before. Here are some things that helped me to feel more confident and prepared in the last few days.
My main priority in the final days before the exam was to reflect on:
• past exam papers and examiner’s reports
• tricky questions
• difficult concepts in my notes
A big mistake a lot of students make is doing an exam paper and never looking at it again. Hopefully you all have some papers or have made a mistakes document, so that
you can reflect on things you struggled with. If you have lost or thrown out your past Psych exams, it’s not the end of the world! Take time to go through the dot-points in the study design, and determine which you are still struggling with. This applies for everyone too; make sure that you’re confident with everything mention in the dot-points, as VCAA could examine you on any of these.
This will help to guide your final revision and highlight the things you really need to cover before the exam.
2. Don’t overwhelm yourself
In the final week of revision, I was very careful not to overwhelm myself. I didn’t want to lose too much confidence or burn myself out before the exam. This is especially important if you’re in Year 12, as you’ll have a lot of VCE exams alongside Psychology.
Personally, I didn’t attempt any more practise exams or questions, I instead spend my time:
• Reflecting on the past exams/examiner’s reports
• Re-attempting questions I got wrong
• Clarifying difficult concepts with my teachers
• Reading the textbook (underrated resource, in my opinion)
While I didn’t attempt any more practise exams, I ensured that I had done the most important ones.
For you guys, I’d really recommend making sure that you’ve done VCAA 2017, 2018 and 2019. In my opinion, these are critical papers (because they are part of the current study design) and are the best reflection of what you’ll encounter on the day of your exam.
3. Revise your notes
Simply revising your notes can be a great way to cement and refresh your knowledge on any concepts you haven’t seen in a while.
However, I really stress the importance of ACTIVE revision to students. That is, sometimes just skimming your notes isn’t the most effective way to absorb content. Whenever I’d ‘skim’ my notes, I’d trick myself into thinking I knew a concept well. However, when I then had to answer a question on it, I couldn’t remember a single thing!
Some ways that I actively revised:
Annotating my notes (e.g. adding extra info, highlighting key words, adding sticky notes etc)
Reading them, then putting them away and repeating it to myself from memory
Applying an example to a concept or figuring out how I would structure an answer for that concept
Explaining concepts to friends and family members
Using flashcards to practise definitions
4. Read the textbook
As I mentioned a little bit earlier, the textbook is definitely an underrated resource in my opinion.
In the lead up to the exam, I loved reading the textbook and it helped me in so many ways, for example:
• Providing more detailed explanations of concepts
• Providing great examples
• Clarified any questions I had and reaffirmed definitions of key terms
I especially think that reading the textbook is a great way to gather extra information for the 10-mark question. It can provide unique and impressive ideas to include. For example, before my exam, I read a long section of the textbook all about shift workers and how sleep deprivation can lead to danger in workplaces. Next thing I knew, that was the topic for the 10-marker in my exam! Reading the textbook had given me so many great examples to use.
I used the Jacaranda textbook in Psychology 3&4, but any textbook is a great resource! I know that Edrolo is also super popular amongst students. Use whatever work for you!
5. Finalise your exam approach
In the final days, I also got my head in the game and finalised:
• The order I’d do the exam in • The time I’d spend on each section • All of my exam materials (i.e. a watch, pens, pencils etc)
I didn’t want to deal with the stress of doing this the night before or on the morning of the exam. This also helped me feel super prepared and ready.
6. Take time for yourself
I had to constantly remind myself that feeling rested and recharged was vital in order for me to handle the exam period. If I pushed myself too hard in the days before the Psych exam, I knew I’d feel burnt out and defeated, which definitely wouldn’t help me at all. So, I definitely took things easy and tried not to cause extra stress for myself. I also made sure I did things I enjoyed and stayed connected to my support networks.
So, that’s it guys! I can’t believe this is nearly the end!
I really hope these final tips will help you all and leave you feeling more confident and prepared in these final days.
Remember that nerves are completely normal, but it’s important to just believe in yourself and try your best. I know that might sound corny, but it’s literally the only thing you can do at this point. Try not to get hung up on scores, ATAR calculator and comparing yourself to your friends. I definitely did this too much, and it only caused me stress. Focus on yourself and giving it your best go!
I know you’ve all had an extremely challenging year; I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you all. I wish you all the best of luck, and really hope you can all enjoy the rest of the year (you truly deserve it).
I’ve loved meeting you all during our lectures; you’ve been a pleasure to teach and made my job so enjoyable!