100 Days Until the VCE Chem Exam: StrategyBy Rachid Kamareddine in VCE
5th of August 2018
Rachid Kamareddine achieved a 46 raw in Chem, and is now studying Biomedicine at Monash University.
In this article, they provide their own perspective on the upcoming VCE Chem exam.
Ahhh Chemistry. Arguably one of the best subjects to have taken during VCE. Its logical nature and varied question types make it extremely interesting and enjoyable. However, it’s also highly competitive (due to being a med prerequisite) and at times requires a very critical eye for minute details and in-depth analysis. The exam for Chem is also the most unpredictable in terms of what they may ask of you, and the malevolent beasts up at VCAA HQ have been known to throw the odd curveball.
Unfortunately, the new study design seems to have been the biggest adjustment in VCE Chem history. Just looking at the exam in 2017, the huge reduction of mathematical-based questions as in previous years and increased prevalence of those dreaded 4 mark theory/application-type questions shows how the new SD places greater emphasis on understanding and applying the content taught rather than just memorising. But it’s not as hard as you think, it just takes practice. So let’s kill the exam and stuff up VCAA’s bell curve this year. This is how to get a 45+ in VCE Chem.
Note-taking and content prep:
So, we’ve just finished the term two holidays. For most of you, your teachers would have begun teaching the Unit 4 content, which is quite understandable. In terms of the content ahead that still needs to be taught, I would recommend ditching the whole note writing scheme and instead adopting mind maps. These can be extremely helpful as it condenses all the information into a few specific points and allows you to make meaningful chemical connections. The way I did it was breakdown each AOS into its respective outcomes, and each outcome would have its own mind map. Under each title it would have a few short dot points expanding upon it. One such simple example is attached below.
Make them as pretty and colourful as you want because colours aid in memory retention. They should be around a page or two long, so print them off and stick them around your house. In terms of handwriting or typing, I’ve always been a firm proponent of writing notes with multiple coloured pens. I feel like it helps memory as I could usually recall most information during my SACS and exam. But that’s just my opinion, so if you want to type again that’s cool too.
Practice, practice, practice makes perfect:
In terms of SAC and exam preparation, this is entirely true for the subject, so you need to be as proactive as you can. Go beyond just the ‘set homework questions’; challenge yourself. I would always, when finished with homework, set aside twenty minutes or so to just work through chapter reviews and any extra questions I could get my hands on. Try a varied bunch of resources so you can really get a feel for potential questions that might pop up in the exam.
In terms of exam prep, I started doing exams for Chem when term 3 holidays started. I did in total 30 full exams for Chem, and I mean units 3&4 combined. I recommend doing all VCAA exams from 2006-2017 and leaving them till last after all the other ones are finished. Bear in mind that there are questions which are no longer applicable to the study design. Off the top of my head, this includes Gravimetric analysis, Acid-Base equilibria, DNA and a few others. Sit with your teacher and cross out the questions that you don’t need to do. But please, do these closed book, and even under timed conditions as well if you can. I had just over 2 minutes per SAQ in the exam which is difficult under timed constrictions and exam pressure.
Another piece of advice; do these exams qualitatively. It’s not about how many exams you do, but about how well you do them. Any questions you get wrong, note them down and go discuss them with your teacher. Try to understand why it’s wrong, and why the correct answer is correct. Go through any chemical principles and do a few questions if needed. Then answer it again and again until you have a watertight, refined answer. There’s no point in just blindly churning out exams if you see no real progress.
With only 100 days till the Chemistry exam, you really need to up your game and start from now. You will thank yourself later on, take it from me. The more time and effort you take to build up your knowledge and refine your technique, the more confident you will be when you walk into that exam hall on the 13th of November at 9am. And you’ll have a much better chance at reaching your dream study score, whether it be a 35 or even that perfect 50. I wish you good luck for the tumultuous few months ahead of you, and I hope that your exam is a breeze and goes just how you wanted it to go. But don’t hold me to that though, cause it IS Chemistry…