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How to Study for the Physics Exam – Three Weeks Out

By Alevine Magila in Study
25th of October 2017

Alevine Magila graduated in 2016 with a raw study score of 46 in Physics.
Before the Physics exam, check out a free sample of the Physics Complete Course Notes here!


The Physics exam is now only three weeks away!

You may be wondering how prepared you are to tackle the exam. Have you done enough study? Enough revision? Enough practice exams?

 

THE BASICS

PRACTICE EXAMS

Hopefully we’re all aware of how critical practice exams are. But just to reiterate one more time: practice exams are crucial. Especially when it comes to Physics. Why? Because after you do enough practice exams, a lot of the questions begin to seem very similar.

Soon enough, it becomes easy to identify the question structures the VCAA is adopting.

Personally, I’ve always found that the breadth of questions asked in the Physics exam tends to be quite small – smaller, usually, than both Chemistry and Methods (if you’re taking either of those). As such, practice exams are useful, because they help you gain mastery over the possible range of questions faster.

And then, of course, there are the usual benefits to practice exams: increased speed, better quality answers, improved confidence. The list goes on. The benefits of practice exams could honestly be given an article itself, so take my word for it: do as many as you can.

 

IDENTIFYING WEAKNESSES

Secondly, you need to identify your weakest areas. This tip is really one part of the larger idea that in VCE – if you want to succeed in a subject – you have to extremely self-aware about your abilities, your learning style, and your weaknesses.

There are students out there who are extraordinarily intelligent. Like, seriously beyond smart. However, that does not automatically guarantee that they are going to get a perfect 99.95 ATAR – or even an ATAR close.

The vast majority of students who score an ATAR of 99+ are those that are in touch with themselves and their abilities. They work hard. They know exactly where they are in a particular subject, know where they need to be, and know how to get there.

Too often, we interpret the ATAR as some kind of metric of intelligence. But really, it’s better interpreted as a measure of determination, discipline and tenacity.

Anyway, I digress – back to Physics.

The point I was trying to make earlier is that if you want to do well in Physics, you need to be that student. This holds true throughout the year, and still holds true now – even with just three weeks left until the Physics exam.

Doing these two things – practice exams and improving your weakest areas – will take you far. Honestly, if you do them well enough, it increases your chance of getting a 40+ pretty significantly.

But there’s still more you could do. Little things that could help you go that one step further and really polish the diamond (where, in this analogy, the diamond is your Physics skill). In other words, things that will help you separate yourselves from the crowd and develop a more strategic approach to the exam. I’ve listed some of these tips below.

 

PRACTISE ‘EXPLAIN’ STYLE QUESTIONS

Some people doing Physics are really, really good at maths. But being able to rearrange equations alone is not enough to get you a 40+ in Physics. You also need to be able to address ‘explain‘ style questions. These tend to be the questions where a significant number of students struggle, a.k.a. the ‘separator’ questions.

As such, it is crucial that you practise answering these types of questions.

Painstaking as it is to actually write an answer (instead of just doing some algebra), it is still essentially knowledge. You need to be able to know how to explain things like what the function of a split-ring commutator is, why AC is preferred over DC for electricity transmission, how Young’s double-slit experiment provided evidence for the wave nature of light. And the list goes on.

My point is, applying your knowledge in a clear and concise way that addresses what the question is asking for is a fundamental skill needed to score highly on the exam. And, as such, it should be given the due practice it deserves.

 

CHEAT SHEET: MAKE IT PERSONAL

The best advice I ever got when it came to cheat sheets was simple: make it personal.

Generic, one-size-fits-all cheat sheets are tempting to copy. But ultimately, you don’t want any old cheat sheet – you want a cheat sheet that will 1) work best for you, and 2) most increase your chances of succeeding in the exam.

These are not features that come in any bought or borrowed cheat sheet; they’re inherent only in the cheat sheets you actually make yourself.

The cheat sheets are literally a chance for you to write practical and meaningful comments and explanations on your weakest areas of knowledge before the Physics exam. If you know everything about how things move without contact, you don’t need your cheat sheet equally divided into five subjects for each Area of Study (excluding practical investigation). After all, you already know one of those Areas of Study perfectly fine!

What might be more valuable, is if you instead allocate some of that space to your weaker areas. For example, explaining why the wave model was inadequate to model the photoelectric effect.

 

STORE VALUES IN YOUR CALCULATOR

Did you know you can store values in your calculator?

Without a doubt one of the scientific calculator’s most useful functions; yet, so many students don’t utilise this key functionality!

If you don’t know how to store values, I’ll give you a quick crash course. (Note that this quick tutorial is meant for CASIO fx-82AU scientific calculators.)

First of all, input the number you want to store. For example, 3.0 x 108. Press ‘equals’, and let the number sit in the bottom right.

Next, press ‘shift’, then ‘STO’, which is located above the ‘RCL’ key on your calculator. You should notice on your calculator that there are several red letters. Select one of these letters to store the chosen value in. I’ve picked the letter ‘C’ in which to store my value.

Finally, press ‘equals’, and you’re done! The value ‘3 x 108’ has just been stored in the letter C.

This is an extremely useful function, and can save you a lot of time in the exam. Instead of writing out constants like the speed of light, Planck’s constant or the Universal Gravitational Consntant, you can just store these values in your calculator. This makes them instantly more accessible.

Moreover, this helps you save time, and minimises the chance of errors occurring when you substitute values into your calculator.

 

NEVER STOP CHECKING YOUR WORK – EVER

This should be an obvious tip. Yet, it amazes me how many students don’t follow through with it.

If you’re sitting an exam – or even a SAC – and you have left over time, double-check your work. If you’ve double-checked your entire paper and still have time, what should you do? Triple-check your work.

In fact, so long as you have spare time, you should be using every second to ensure you’ve gotten every single mark on that exam correct.

It’s not enough to relax and flick through the pages of your exam, glazing over the work you’ve done. Instead, you want to thoroughly scan and assess every single answer, making sure there is no possible way you could have gone wrong.

This tip may sound a bit extreme, but it’s definitely something you want to do if you’re aiming for a 45+ study score.

 

EAT HEALTHY, EXERCISE AND SLEEP!

Finally, the most underrated tip of them all: be healthy.

Of all the tips out there, this tends to be the one most often neglected. However, the power of being healthy and getting enough sleep must not be underestimated – especially leading up to the exam.

You want your mind to be well rested, focused and clear – not just on the day of the Physics exam, but also on the days preceding it.

This means going to bed at a reasonable hour, and waking up at consistent times throughout the week. While it may sound like a bit of a hassle, trust me: one of the benefits of staying healthy is that it considerably increases your performance.

 

These are just a few small tips that will, hopefully, help you take the extra step when it comes to performance in the VCE Physics exam. However, I want to emphasise that, even if you haven’t started preparing properly for the exam, there is still time.

You undoubtedly have a few exams between now and the Physics exam, but three weeks is still a decent amount of time – use it!

Use it to revise your weakest area(s), and use it to do practice exams. Ultimately, every little piece of effort you put into a VCE subject will pay off. And when it comes to VCE Physics, simply being strategic, self-aware and healthy paves the way for you to achieve the high Physics scores you want.


Alevine Magila graduated in 2016 with a raw study score of 46 in Physics.
Before the Physics exam, check out a free sample of the Physics Complete Course Notes here!

COMMENTS (1)

  • avatar_comment

    chantelle.salisbury

    10/11/2017

    Hello.. i am having troubles storing values in my calculator. is there any tips or tricks that i could be doing incorrectly? thankyou :)

COMMENTS (1)

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