Saran graduated in 2016 with an ATAR of 99.80, and a raw 49 in VCD.
If you have questions before the VCD exam, ask them here!

I hope your preparation for exams is well underway, and stress levels aren’t too high. Whether you have started revising for VCD or not, this article aims to provide you with advice I found useful in preparing for the VCD exam last year.

Although we often think the design folio is more important than the exam, the exam can really influence your mark more than the folio. Even if you have received A+s on your folios, don’t let yourself slack off in preparation for the VCD exam!

1. Know what is expected.

Take advantage of your resources by looking up the study design, past exams and examination reports from 2013 onward.

First, consider past exams, and classify types of questions based on what is required. For example:

•     Terminology, and identifying design elements and principles.
•     Quick drawings representing design elements and principles visually.
•     Short-answer response, including:

•     target audience, constraints, collaboration with other professionals.
•     design decisions, design thinking techniques.
•     how design elements and principles are used, and their effects.
•     intellectual property.
•     methods, media, materials, and final presentation.

•     Technical drawings, including isometric, planometric, orthogonal and perspective.
•     Rendering, including material textures and application of shadow.
•     Design tasks, including design thinking techniques.

Second, read examination reports from 2013-2016. Take notes on relevant feedback briefly in dot points.

Examination reports explain what assessors were looking for in responses, and point out what students failed to do, and what the top students did do.

This will help you identify what specifically can make you a high-scoring student.

2. Link terminology with visual representation.

Assessors want to know if you know relevant terms, including the design elements and principles. Have a look at pages 38-46 on the study design for what you are expected to know!

The best way to prepare is to have a table/list of terms with definitions, interesting describing words and simple, quick drawings.

For example, for the design element of line, I would make associations with adjectives such as: organic, undulating, bold, delicate, zig-zag, crisp, irregular, rectilinear, loose, precise, etc. But I would avoid using ‘thick/thin’, ‘straight’ and ‘curved’ as much as possible, because many people would use them. Be specific and stand out from the crowd!

These words will be useful in the short-answer section, where you need to describe elements and principles.

Having drawings similar to the ones on the study design can effectively link terms with their visual representation. Always think of the focus – the particular design element/principle you are trying to convey in the drawing.

The drawings will be useful in the multiple choice section, and also the quick drawing section.

3. Justify your written responses.

For the short-answer section, it is very important to practise the structure of the response.

•     Identify the design element/principle in the given design.
•     Explain how it functions in the design.
•     Explain its effects on the viewers.

You can practise this on any form of design around you: logos, advertisements, whatever you want.

I suggest you think of the three steps above wherever you go, and see designs with specific terminology in mind. The more comfortable you are analysing design, the easier it is to identify things to discuss in the limited time of the VCD exam.

For questions asking about target audience, constraints, design decisions, methods, media and materials, think back to what you did in your folio.

I recommend you stick with the clear and straightforward answers you can easily justify. For example, for the target audience attributes of a perfume brand, I would go with age and socioeconomic status (“disposable income”), rather than religious beliefs or cultural background.

4. Rendering – keep it simple!

Rendering is one of the most time-consuming parts of the VCD exam.

We can all spend hours to perfect rendering for the folio. But in the exam, both efficiency and visual effects are important.

For rendering, consider:

•     Materiality and surface texture of the object. It is important you know how to show material textures in a quick and effective way. The key materials are: paper, card, wood, glass, metal, clay, stone, plastic and textile (refer to page 39 of the study design).
•     Shadow. Don’t forget to draw the shadow according to the light source!

Some tips on rendering:

•     Have coloured pencils, water-based markers (different tip sizes would be useful), and pencils with different hardness. Some mediums are better at representing particular textures.
•     Use pencils to overlay colours rather than using 20 different coloured pencils for shadow. It will definitely save time and look much better.
•     Use blank space on paper as the highlight. You don’t want to spend more time creating a contrast of tone, just because you coloured the highlight area, and it no longer looks like the lightest area. For the light area, render minimally but effectively.
•     Use your eraser wisely. The eraser allows you to create a subtle gradation of tone, especially for metal objects.

5. Technical drawings – establish a step-by-step process.

A technical drawing can be tough when you’re in a hurry, and are struggling to understand how to correctly represent it.

As such, I encourage a step-by-step strategy. For orthogonal/isometric/planometric drawings:

•     Measure the key dimensions, and write them down on the given drawing.
•     Create the framework of the drawing (angled lines for isometric and planometric). As you draw lines faintly (using a ruler), start making dimensions on the paper (with appropriate scale).
•     Try drawing as many lines in the same direction at one time as possible. This should lead to fewer rotations of the ruler, fewer mistakes, and less time required.

And for perspective drawings, I would focus on getting the form of the object right, since you can’t measure perspective.

6. Design task – follow the brief.

Always read the requirements and the target audience of the design carefully.

Think of each requirement like a checklist, and make sure you are covering all in the final design.

This section is not for showing off your amazing creativity, but for demonstrating you understood the brief thoroughly.

If there is a design thinking section, always use a technique or techniques you used for generating ideas in your folio, such as PMI or SCAMPER. It doesn’t have to be extensive (you want to have time to execute the final drawing), but use it as a quick sketch/note to show you have thought about the design through design thinking techniques.

Remember: every single mark counts, and the effort you put in now will definitely help your final score.

Good luck with your VCD exam preparation, and enjoy the opportunity to draw in the exam!

If you have questions before the VCD exam, ask them here!