“Nothing can replace the writing process,” he said. “Students will have a far greater chance of responding well to the questions on the English examination if they continue to write. Practice makes perfect – and, if not perfect, then writing regularly certainly helps to improve the quality of one’s writing.”
Bendigo Senior Secondary student Alyssa already has the Indonesian exam under her belt. She said she and her mother were perhaps equally nervous about the weeks ahead.
“They [her family] are expecting me to do well. I’m from Malaysia and ever since I started school they’ve always been pushing me to try my best,” she said.
“So I think as long as I try my best and reach my potential then they’ll be happy and I’ll be happy.”
Alyssa studied year 12 biology last year and learnt from that experience to do plenty of practice exams and not spend too long on multiple choice questions.
“I think second time around I’m probably a little more confident than last year because I know what to expect,” she said.
“But I think at the same time, I’m probably as nervous as anyone else because it is a big time. VCE is really important and there’s a lot of pressure on these exams.”
Familiarity with exams helps. Lucinda Moje has been sitting exams twice a year since year 8 at University High School in inner Melbourne.
“It makes them less stressful,” she said.
Associate Professor Helen Askell-Williams of Flinders University said it was not too late for students to develop high-quality learning strategies superior to repetition, rereading and highlighting.
She said students need to select the information they need to learn, relate that information to what they know, organise the new information in meaningful ways such as paraphrasing or talking with peers and adults, and self-test.
Many people find mind maps – a diagram used to visually organise information – helpful.
Professor David Lawrence of the University of Western Australia advises students to try deep breathing or mindfulness to help control nerves.
“It is natural to feel anxious in an exam or a performance situation, but remember it is also an opportunity to show your teachers what you have learnt from them,” he said.
Exams tips from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
- Make sure you’ve got notes on each of the Key Knowledge and Skills set out in the Study Design
- Do three or four past exams to revise – if you can, work with friends to check and comment on each other’s answers
- Read the examiners’ reports
- Don’t try and cram at the last minute. Draw up a revision schedule that makes best use of the exam lead-up period.
- Better to get more sleep than stay up late studying during the exam period
- Make sure you have two or three spare pens
- Read the questions carefully
- If you are stuck on a question, mark it, move on to the next and come back to it at the end
- Keep track of the time during the exam, and make sure you try and answer as many questions as possible
- Don’t leave the room early – use any left over time to revise and check
- And a last bonus tip – don’t try to cheat
Madeleine Heffernan edits The Age’s Monday education page