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Taking an exam designed by the teachers you’ve had all year is one thing, but taking an exam designed by people you’ve never met is another. The external exams at the end of year 12 might be intimidating – especially since they are worth so much of your grade – but they also present you with opportunity. Opportunity to score higher than you did on IAs, opportunity to show everything you’ve learnt, and opportunity to practice for uni exams. To best take advantage of this opportunity, it’s great to start early and work smart rather than just working hard.
As a Victorian graduate, I’ve been through this and am here to give you my tips on preparing for the ATAR system end of year exams.
You know that feeling when you walk into a test room and suddenly you’ve forgotten everything? Or when you’re staring at a question but you don’t know the answer so panic starts building until you can’t think of anything except your panic and how time is running out? That’s what we want not to happen.
Here’s some quick tips on how to avoid that so you don’t feel like the ATAR system end of year exams will be the end of you:
– If you are starting to panic, look away from the question paper and focus on your breathing. You’ll feel like time is racing faster than it is but allow yourself to use it. Taking a minute to regain clarity is a lot more effective than continuing to spiral out of focus.
– Do at least one practice exam mimicking exam conditions. It’s easier to remember information when the place you learnt it in is similar to the one you’re in now & if your emotional state is similar to when you learnt it. The closer you can make your practice to the real thing, the better. This also gives you more confidence that you’ll be able to manage time well and not be reliant on notes.
– Take care of your mental wellbeing. I know, it’s hard – especially in the pressure of year 12 – but it’s 100% worth it. Doing things for this like getting enough sleep, getting in exercise, & keeping in social interaction helps you and your studies. These benefits including making it easier for you to lean, practice self-discipline, and regulate your emotions.
– Manage stress rather than trying to eliminate it. Too much stress over a long period of time is harmful but a little bit of stress can help. If you do get a bit of stress that’s your body’s way of saying “there’s a challenge coming up, let me help you meet it” (e.g. fast heartbeat pumping sugar and oxygen around the body to help your cells with energy). If you think of your stress as a key part of you that’s trying to help – rather than an enemy – it helps stress help you.
The syllabus is your ultimate guide to what you can be tested on. If the syllabus doesn’t include it you won’t be expected to know it for the ATAR system end of year exams. With that in mind, it should be your guide to exam preparation and revision. Here’s some more specific tips on how to ensure you understand and can apply the content:
– Keep a log of mistakes tracking questions you get wrong to help you learn from your mistakes and know what areas you should work on more. I like to make these as a handwritten table with: where I made the error (e.g. q35 VCAA 2017 exam), what my answer was, why it was wrong, and the topic the question was in. You can also see examples of how some other students choose to set them out here and here. They’re great for reducing the amount of silly or careless errors you make and for identifying what you should revise.
– Try teaching the content to someone or – if you’re not comfortable with teaching others – “teach” a or teddy bear. This will force you to put the content into your own words which is great for when you’re writing answers. Additionally, it’ll make you more aware of gaps in your understanding. Teaching others could be your family, at school, making helpful posts and/or guides here or even “teaching” a pet. An advantage to teaching in a school environment or on the forums is that you can get feedback from listeners or readers on your understanding.
– Don’t be afraid to adapt your approach for different subjects. Flash cards, for example, tend to be more useful for humanities-based subjects than for maths ones.
– Where possible, try to avoid memorising and instead focus on understanding. Sometimes this might mean brushing up on fundamentals from previous years. Once you understand your content search for connections within and outside that subject. If you understand how the content is connected and the foundations, that will help you more than a textbook definition. E.g. people describe psychology as “content based” but I only memorised 3 definitions (and scored in the top 1%).
– Regular revision and study tends to be far more effective than cramming at the end of exams. Start revising before you have finished all of the content. Similarly, it’s best to complete practice questions throughout the whole year rather than leaving them until after each unit.
Best of luck for year 12 and especially for the ATAR system end of year exams 🙂
If you ever have any questions or want advice about how to study feel free to make a post here. Remember that as intimidating as these exams might be, it’s like that for everyone. You can reach out for help and support from us on the forums, teachers, family & friends. You don’t need to go through this alone 🙂