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Advice for Psychology 3/4 in Year 11

By Olivia Soliman in VCE
22nd of January 2018

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As you can probably tell from the title, I did Psychology 3/4 in Year 11, and I honestly think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For me, it was one of those subjects where, even after the intense 2.5 hour exam, it was kind of sad to let it go because of how interesting I found it to be – an opinion shared by most of my peers.

As somebody who’s more into the arts than the sciences (I know people say Psychology 3/4 isn’t a real science, but until you finish VCE, it totally still counts), I was shocked that I loved this subject as much as I did. I really only started doing it because one of my friends talked me into it and there wasn’t much else on offer in the way of accelerated subjects at my school. Fast forward two years, and I finished at the top of my class with a 45 study score.

So, here are my tips on how to get those marks you need. 🙂


1. Start Doing Past Papers Early

I know, I know, we hear this all the time from everybody who has basically studied anything, ever.

I can say now, it is my one regret the whole year.

Although I began revising early enough, I still managed to completely neglect doing past exams. I thought I’d just wait until the end of the year, when those questions mattered most. When I did start doing them, I was constantly stressed as I would only get part of the mark when answering questions. It’s not that I was wrong – I made sure I knew the information before I did the questions – but I didn’t have enough to get full marks.

I found that Psychology 3/4 is one of those subjects where you have to basically say everything you know about what the question asks in order to get full marks. Essentially, I had to re-learn my answer writing style and perfect it with the exam less than a month away. I knew this was something I could have avoided if I had started early, found the questions relating to what I was studying at the time, and hence improving my answering style throughout the year.

Moral of the story? Start early on everything, including past and practice exams!


2. Study Smart, Not Hard

This is a pretty basic thing, although to some people it can seem a little contradictory. “You need to study hard to get the top marks,” I hear from people endlessly, especially since I come from a culture that fully endorses this. But the truth is, it’s not always the case.

Now, I’m not saying that those who study hard don’t or can’t get good marks, but I am saying that that approach doesn’t always work for everyone, including me. There were days when I could sit down after school for hours and smash out all the homework I had, plus some extra revision of my own.


There were other days when I would open my textbook and and notes ready to study, but five minutes in, my brain would just shut down and I’d proceed to watch TV for the rest of the night.

That’s also great. How?

Because I found a balance.

I appreciated that there were days where it was impossible for me to even look at my work, and there were other days when I would be studying past midnight. (This is where starting early in the year comes in, because it means you can have those lazy days without being guilt-ridden looking at the piles of unfinished work you have to do!) Obviously don’t JUST take breaks, but study when you can, take those breaks often and this will only improve your ability to retain information.

Which leads me on to my next point:


3. Find YOUR Way of Studying

For those of you in Year 11 who are doing an accelerated subject, you have been given a massive opportunity this year: to find the way of studying that suits YOU.

I think the great thing about doing Psychology 3/4 when I did was being taught about learning and memory, which came in handy when needing to know a whole year’s worth of information in a content-heavy subject such as this.

After multiple attempts at finding what worked for me, I came to realise that I would remember the things that I had written down a lot better than the things I didn’t – the technical term for this, as I discovered, is kinaesthetic memory. As well as this, I’ve always been a person who needs a lot of colour in their notes. Around the middle of the year, I decided to combine these two things into what became a 145-page binder of hand-written notes with everything on the study design, which I worked on whenever I had the chance. I colour-coded, I drew diagrams, I simplified everything in the 633-page textbook into something just over 1/5 its size in a way that I could understand.

And that worked for me (pics below!).


As well as this, don’t just find the way of studying that works best for you, but also when you study at your best. It makes all the difference when you work because you’re ready to, rather than when you “have” to. I found that I worked much more productively at school. Instead of taking my breaks during my free periods or at lunch, I would study then, meaning I could just switch off at home.

This was especially useful to me as my teacher and friends were there when I was working, so it was easier to get my work marked or second opinions on answers. If you’re going into Year 11, take the opportunity to find what works for you. And Year 12s, it’s not too late yet!


4. Trust Your Teacher and Yourself

Generally, teachers know what the VCAA wants on the exam, and the best way to learn the content. I was very lucky to have an awesome teacher who knew her stuff and was always willing to help. Whenever I couldn’t understand something, I would ask as soon as I could to get everything clarified in a way that worked for me. I honestly think my incessant question-asking was a major factor in my understanding of the content and subsequent marks. Your teachers are there to help you, so go to them whenever you need it, and trust what they say. They really are your key to doing well.

However, they will not be with you in the exam or be able to help you in your SACs, which is where the second part of this point comes in: trust yourself. If you think that a particular answer is the right one, especially in the multiple-choice part of the exam, go for it. If you’ve studied enough and done your best, you’re probably right. Don’t second guess yourself, especially in the exam, as this will only cause you to stress (and that’s the last thing you want!). My teacher would tell us to only ever change our answers if we were looking back on it at the end and were 100% sure it was wrong. Other than that, go with your gut and trust that you’ve done enough to do well.

Good luck with the subject, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 🙂