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Year 11 resilience after receiving disappointing study scores

By Tram Truong in VCE
13th of December 2019
Year 11 resilience and ways to improve your scores

Below is the perspective of a past student on receiving disappointing results through Year 11, particularly in Units 3&4 subjects. The views are of the author; everybody perceives results in a different way.


If you’re looking at your study score(s) and thinking “well here goes my bottom 2”, this article is for you. If you’re disappointed with your results, not all hope is lost.

But now you learn to deal with the disappointment in a productive way.

If you identify as a high-achiever, a piece of advice for VCE is this: be rational. All you want to do might be curling up in the fetal position and sucking your thumb into oblivion, but that probably is not going to help in the long-term.

Think, you and your mind of steel, how this study score you’re disappointed with is getting in between you and your dream ATAR. A lot of people expect their Unit 3/4 subject(s) in year 11 to be the best, and it can be disappointing when this doesn’t happen.

But fear not, young one, for you may lose this battle, but you will win the war. Where do you go to see how the war be won? I suggest the ATAR Notes ATAR calculator, or any ATAR calculator of choice.

Yes, enough with the pep talk. It’s time we talk strategy.

Before we jump into business, I’d like to remind you that if you’re in Year 11 currently, this is the only chance for you to apply these hard-learned lessons from your not so pleasing study score(s) directly back into your VCE career. Next year? Not so much. This is your only chance to do something about the fact that you’re not happy with your study score(s).


Step 1: See where you are at: use your 2019 study score(s) to predict your performance in 2020

By now, you probably have a pretty clear idea of what subjects will contribute to your ATAR. Have those set out neat and ready to go in your ATAR calculator.

The result(s) for the subject(s) that you did in 2019 are the only certainty that you have. Be bold, because you are going to assume that for every subject you do in 2020, you’ll get the same study score as what you got in 2019. The logic is that you already have the methods to get this sort of study scores (study techniques do vary from subjects to subjects, but for most people it all comes down to persistence and how well you plan). You must at the very least know what it takes to be where you are now.

And behold! A possible ATAR.

How far away are you from your dream ATAR, if you weren’t there already? I would not be surprised if some of you realise that you would do just fine getting the same study scores you’ve got now (me in 2018), especially with subjects that scale highly. Make adjustments where needed for scaling and..

Behold! Another possible ATAR (final take).


Step 2: A bit of mindfulness

Will this ATAR get you to where you want to be (for university, that is)?

It’s very important to differentiate between the ATAR you need and the ATAR you want. You might want 99.95 (just because) but only need 85 for your desired course. Sometimes, people don’t know what they want to get into and decide to get the highest ATAR possible to keep their options really open. If that’s you, move onto Step 3. Some other times, you can be under certain pressures to get some very specific ATARs. Perhaps you’re the academic one in the family and suffering from others’ high expectations. Perhaps you’re with a very judgmental crowd and feeling a horrible need to prove yourself. I’ve been there, and I’ve learnt to tell myself this: pressures are self-perceived; stress and anxiety are self-inflicted. At the end of the day, it’s your education. You decide in which ways it’ll benefit you. You don’t owe anyone a pretty ATAR, unless that’s what you want, in which case I’d like to introduce step 3.


Step 3: Get into battle mode.

Step 1 gives you the baseline – what would happen if you continue with what you’d normally do – but you’ve run out of time to experiment other methods now. In VCE, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You just have to make do with what you know to do well. Right?

⚠️ Wrong! ⚠️ There’s still time to update your study plan. You’re going to spend the next few hours or whatever amount of time required to devise your study plan for 2020.

First, I’d like you to make a table of what you did in the past year to prepare for SACs and exams, then rate them on efficiency (how time-consuming each task was. Would you do it again, or can the same outcome can be achieved using a less laborious method? How do you know the alternative will work?)

Transfer the activities that you believe have contributed significantly to your 2019 results to the 2020’s will-dos. They’re how you’re going to stay where you are with your VCE study scores.

But you want to be better. That’s why we’re also looking at things that you didn’t do well, aka 2020’s won’t-dos. Have them improved, and you’re basically guaranteed better results for next year. That’s why we’re looking at alternatives by picking other people’s brains on VCE forums all over internet. If I were you, I would go ‘how to get 40+ in [blank]’. Tailor your searches to relevant subjects. You might not be aiming for 40+, but trust me there’s something for everyone in this level of discussions. Physically match those alternatives with things you didn’t do quite right in 2019 (to see your thoughts mapped out is a powerful thing). Note on repetitions. If something has worked for many people from multiple generations, it’ll probably work for you, too.

Do the thinking now so that when year 12 hits, you only have to execute. It’s usually now that you still have enough brainpower, patience and sensibility for the masterplan. Try to avoid being in the position where you’re stressed to plan after a series of terrible SACs. Chances are you’ll have so much work to finish that it’s a real pain to the spend any more time planning. The key to VCE is to stay organised and keep going and pushing.

Before I wrap this up, these are a few questions I want you to consider with regards to your VCE study plan.

Have you been using the VCAA website? How have you been using the examiners’ reports? Have you been dissecting past exams for trends (because they are there)? Have you been keeping records of your mistakes, even silly ones, in a separate book? Did you have a go-to resource when there was a gap in knowledge? Where did you have your notes all summarized? How well did you use your teachers?

That’s it, folks. Good luck for next year!