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Exam Preparation Week 6

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Hey everyone! There’s only a couple more weeks to go before the biggest sense of freedom that you’ve ever experienced! You’re in the final stretch now. Take a second to breathe, but remember to keep pushing! You’ve been working so hard throughout the whole year, so you might as well finish it off with a last sprint. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

This week’s topics are pre-exam study and exam day. Hopefully, you’ve been consistently improving your skills and knowledge in the past few weeks, all in preparation for your final exams. But there is a very important balance to be maintained in the handful of days left over!

It simply won’t do to engage in super intensive, fundamental practice and revision if you can avoid it. This is no time to add that much more to your plate. It also won’t do to completely forget about VCE and take a well-deserved break. It’s what I did, and I thoroughly regretted it. I recommend you find a middle ground between the two, where you’re still studying and staying on top of your subjects but you’re also not getting anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. It’s pre-exam study, and it’s what today’s tips are about!

PART 1- Pre-exam study

Final Practice Pieces

Many of you will likely still be attempting practice responses or exams, getting feedback for them, and applying this feedback to your next attempt. If you are, good on you! Pat yourself on the back. If you aren’t, maybe consider doing one or two more before calling it quits for good. That way you have something to look forward to – the very last practice piece you do for a subject.

Obviously you’ll be doing different subjects’ practice pieces at different times since your exam timetable will be all over the place. But for each subject, regardless of the subject, I would recommend that you set on your calendar a date for the final exam or practice response that you attempt. And since History: Revolutions is traditionally one of the first exams on the timetable, this date should be coming up soon!

At a certain stage in the exam preparation process, you get to a point where you’ve done everything that you can in the time that you have. A point where you’ve been living and breathing your subject for weeks, and where the benefit of continuing to study does not outweigh the costs to your peace of mind. It’s time to transition slowly into the exam mindset. You have in you all of the information and skill that you need to answer the exam. Lean on all of the practice that you have been doing throughout the year and trust in your abilities.

Internalising Feedback

Another way of studying during this time that I would recommend is internalising your feedback. I’ve written about this topic in a previous blog post or two, but what I mean by this is making sure that you understand the feedback you’ve been given and that you demonstrate your ability to apply it.

I’m sure that most of you have accumulated quite the collection of practice pieces throughout the year, whether it be SACs, practice exams, or just individual responses. And I’m certain that some or most of these will have been marked, with specific feedback for you to act upon. Having done VCE, I’m also sure that way too many of you have maybe read over this feedback once and done nothing else!

Revisiting all of these practice responses is a great way to come face-to-face with elements of your writing and content knowledge that you need to improve on. Rather than attempting a whole new exam, carefully read your teachers’ comments on your latest SAC and make sure that you can confidently say you’ve improved in the specific areas listed. If you haven’t, then now you know what you need to do!

To improve your writing or at least to demonstrate to yourself that you have improved, try rewriting the response in question but this time applying the specific feedback you were given. It doesn’t even have to be a complete section – you can just rewrite certain parts of a response or even a few sentences here and there. Just something to solidify your application of feedback.

Covering all Content Knowledge

My last bit of advice for this week is for you to begin the transition into content revision. In the days leading up to the History exam, content revision was the only thing I did, and I did it frequently. You’d catch me on the bus to school testing myself on my cheat sheets. You’d see me in the Year 12 common room annotating my notes. You’d hear me talking to myself, reciting quotes, dates, and events.

In particular, I was targeting two things: my weak points and obscure areas of the study design. You may remember from one of my earlier blogs that I strongly recommended the use of a topic checklist. I strongly strongly recommend one now. Consisting of every single possible examinable topic, a topic checklist will allow you to make sure all of your bases are covered going into the exam week.

Taking Russia AoS 1 for example, I would have ranked very highly my understanding of key figures such as Lenin, Nicholas, and Kerensky. I would have felt the same about major events, like Bloody Sunday and the February Revolution. But ideologies? Like Liberal Reformism and Revolutionary Populism? What about groups of people, like peasants’ uprisings and soldier and sailor mutinies?

Now is a great time to cover all of those bases, and spot check your knowledge of these more obscure parts of the course. You never know when you will get a question you haven’t seen before.

PART 2- Exam Day!

We’ve spent a lot of time this semester talking about different strategies, text types, and tips for tackling History: Revolutions. Today is no different, because I’ll be giving you my advice for the day of the final exam based on when I went through it last year.

But before that, it’s worth remembering that VCE and its exams are not the be-all and end-all of your academic career. Of course you should all strive to do your best and put your very best feet forward, but you should also keep in mind that VCE feels a lot more overwhelming when you’re right in the middle of it. I haven’t thought about my VCE results more than once or twice in the past year, and I guarantee you that the second you exit the History exam room you will forget all of those dates and quotes.

If you leave the exam room and you feel like you underperformed, stay calm. There are always pathways to get where you want to go in life. You are much more than your study scores and your ATAR, and life only gets started after VCE. Enjoy it.

Finishing the Exam

The History: Revolutions exam is notoriously long. I’ve previously given you my personal advice on each of its components, but today I’m going to run you through how I tackled it last year in the exam room.

We begin with 15 minutes of reading time. The first thing I’d do is flip through the exam booklet and have a look at each of the questions I’ll be answering, just to start jogging my memory on those specific topics. I’ve gone into the exam room knowing which revolution I want to do for each section, but if you’ve prepared for either then you should decide within the first 5 minutes and stick to it. The remaining 10 minutes I’d spend on planning the essay – figuring out in my head which ideas I’d want to include in each paragraph and what evidence supports my contention. Any leftover time I would spend analysing the sources for the first source analysis question.

Then begins writing time. There is a strict hierarchy of the text types’ importance, in the sense that you should definitely aim to finish some but others can be cut short if you’re low on time. The essay is the most important. 20 marks and an unforgiving format where if you’re even a conclusion short, you’ll be losing quite a few marks. Then are the source analyses, another 20 marks each with a pretty set length that must be met to score well. Analysing and incorporating the sources properly can also be annoyingly time-consuming.

Last are the extended responses, 10 marks each. The reason these are last is that they can survive shortening more than any other text type. When I did my exam, I felt the pressures of time and decided not to include a conclusion sentence for either of my responses. This was fine, because the extended response has probably the most forgiving structure and requirements. Obviously you should aim to complete all text types in full, but if there’s any place you need to cut from, do it here.

I personally completed the exam in its printed order, because I was confident I could finish it in time. Despite that though, I kept to a strict time limit for each piece that I recommend you follow as well. 30 minutes for each source analysis, 15 for each extended response, and 30 plus any leftover time on the essay. It can be difficult to leave a response behind if you haven’t finished it, but you need to think critically about whether it’s worth spending the time there more than somewhere else.

The Day Before the Exam

I’d strongly advise against any heavy studying the day before the exam. At that point, I don’t know if there’s even any benefit to be gained or if you’re just increasing your stress levels. If you want to study for another subject I’d say go for it, if it’ll keep your mind occupied. If you want to watch Netflix the whole day then that’s fine too, if it’ll keep your mind occupied. Whatever you do, try your best not to fixate on the exam too much. It’s happening, you’re gonna ace it, and there’s nothing left to do but trust yourself.

The only study I’d recommend is content spot checks throughout the day. Check your cheat sheets and test yourself against problem areas. But I really can’t recommend writing any kind of response.

Make sure you sleep early. It will be difficult to fall asleep knowing your exam is the next day. Go to bed early, and avoid using screens close to bedtime. If there’s any day to follow that advice, it’s this one.

On the Day of the Exam

It’s up to you how you spend the morning of the exam, but in my experience it’ll feel like you’re just killing time.

I’d recommend going to school early and chatting with your classmates. You’re all in this together, and that can help you feel better.

Avoid discussing the exam or subject in too much depth, but you’re allowed to do final content checks here and there.

No matter what though, remind yourself that you prepared for this. That you’ve spent the past year becoming an expert on two revolutions, memorised countless bits of evidence, and practiced writing too many responses to count. You can do this.

And once it’s over, you’ll be the happiest person in the world.

Have a question?

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

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