This article was written by Dmitri Dalla-Riva, owner of LearnMate Tutoring and a VCE graduate from 2012. Dmitri attained an ATAR of 95.40 in 2012 and passes on his tips for success to fellow students! We hope you enjoy!
Eat better and drink lots of water.As cliche as this sounds, it’s so very true.
Plan some time each week for YOURSELF – be it with friends, family or just by yourself.
Be resourceful. Reach out to your tutors, your teachers and your mentors. They don’t hate you as much as you think they do.
Stop looking back at the past. You’re not going that way, so don’t use your past supposed ‘failures’ as a way of bringing you down. Let it fuel you.
Let nothing stop you. Forget all this external pressure. This is YOUR MOMENT to do something great, to compete against yourself.
Be positive! It’s so easy to feel down particularly in the winter months. Days are shorter, weather is colder and the assessments seem to keep piling up. It’s a test! This is the test of the almighty ATAR – if you can get through this, you stand a great chance of getting an amazing ATAR. I like to call this the ‘dip’ – a time when everything just seems like s***.
Start that side project! Do something during the year that isn’t just geared towards your studies. Your brain needs variety and creativity and not just constant study. Launch that website, begin to write that book, record that video, or build that bike.
Study in groups with friends. Study groups are a great way of alleviating pressure and also help to build your confidence.
Try to study in a new location every now and then. The new location will do wonders for your creativity and concentration.
Create some great notes, but balance this with practical application. All those glossy notes won’t mean jack when you’re struggling to practically apply it.
Dominate your time! And manage your time too. Both in exams and out of it. Learn how to complete that practice exam under timed conditions – don’t worry, you’ll thank me later 🙂
Read the question – it’s amazing how many students DON’T do this. Read the question over and over again, and read the marks allocated to each question.
Not sure how to craft an A+ essay? Don’t worry, many students are never really taught HOW to write an essay. To help solve this, of course, be resourceful, but also EXPOSE yourself to A+ essays. Read study guides and past A+ essays, and begin to subconsciously use the language in these responses.
Write up your goal on the wall! Yes, do it. It’s scary and it’s in your face, but there’s something about writing up a goal and putting it up on the wall that makes it so satisfying and rewarding. Put it in your study area and on a simple A4 piece of paper stating the ATAR goal you wish to achieve.
And most importantly, WORK HARD. This is your year, but it won’t come easy. You will need to work for it. Sorry, there’s no secret formula. It’s all hard work coupled with smart work (see above hacks).
In addition, we’ve also added in other tutors’ contributions to this list! The following article was written by Alex Gavrilidis, a SACE tutor who attained an ATAR of 97.45
Plan. Whether you use a diary, an app on your phone or sticky notes, it is highly important to manage your time to produce your best work and have it submitted on time!
Quality sleep. It is hard to sleep when the group chat is on fire on Facebook, but teenagers require 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to be healthy. This amount of sleep increases concentration and productivity, improves memory, spurs creativity and can lower stress levels, all of which are important to keep on top of your study game!
Break it down now. Prevent getting overwhelmed and burnt-out by breaking bigger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks.
Refuel. Utilise the Pomodoro technique, a time management strategy that limits distractions and fuels willpower thanks to quick, 5-minute breaks after every 25-minute period of study
Real fun. Schedule fun events into your week (e.g., sport, concerts, parties) between study sessions. Procrastination (in the form of “kinda-fun” activities such as scrolling through Facebook) is less likely to creep in during study time when you have designated “really-fun” events to look forward to.
Learn for next time. There is always something to take away from feedback on an assessment, especially constructive criticism, which when viewed in a positive light, can be used to take your work to the next level!
Ask questions. Don’t hesitate to ask your teachers and tutors for help when you need it, that’s what we are here for and we love doing it!
Practise exams. Start doing practise papers well in advance and under timed conditions for the best results! You can develop your time management skills, learn to write model answers, get comfortable with the format of questions and reduce your stress levels for when you face the real exam.
Editing. Before submitting an assessment that you think is ready; print it out, leave it for an hour and then read it in hard copy with a pen in hand. You will always find something that needs fixing!
“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.” This quote applies to succeed in achieving a high ATAR in countless ways. For example, exposing yourself to high-quality exemplars and well-written texts will improve your own writing. (Let’s not literally “copy” though, because of plagiarism!)
Teach. Summarising a topic for someone else (e.g., friends, parents, pets, your reflection) will allow you to consolidate what you know and notice the gaps in your knowledge. This method also allows you to retain 90% of the information in comparison to 10% when you only read it.
Get Ahead of the Game. Prime your brain before starting a new topic by reading ahead in the textbook or watching some relevant YouTube videos. Grasping new concepts are much easier when you have seen them before.
Prime revision time. Aim to do a little bit of active revision before bed every night to improve your recall the next day!
Healthy mindset: Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others, achieving a high ATAR is not a competition against your peers. Use the ATAR as motivation only, not a source of stress. Work hard, study smart and do your best.
You do you: At the end of the day, we all learn differently. If you have found a strategy that you like and gets you the results you’re proud of, keep doing it!
In addition, we’ve also added in other tutors’ contributions to this list! The following article was written by Imogen Van Der Meer, a VCE tutor who currently tutors with LearnMate.
Are you struggling to figure out how to scrape those extra marks for VCE? Do you feel like you aren’t performing to your full potential? Well, here are 15 tricks that I used when I was studying my final year of high school to better my chances at getting a high ATAR. They worked for me, and I don’t see why they can’t work for you as well. Here they are:
Practice what you aren’t good at – we all love the feeling of reciting a page of notes word for word, but what about all the stuff you are hoping won’t appear on the SAC or exam, because you’re not confident with it? I absolutely loathed Maths Methods, but I still put time and effort into doing the best I could in a subject that seemed to be fighting against every single fibre of my being. It sucks, but your weaknesses will always remain your weaknesses if you continue to ignore them.
Divide your study time equally – we all have our favourite subjects, as well as subjects that we regret choosing… but at the end of the day, there are at least five subjects making up your ATAR score, so your time needs to be split into at least five different chunks. And don’t slack on those subjects that you think will only contribute 10%! I was convinced that Maths Methods was going to be my lowest scoring subject, but it ended up scoring higher than Literature (my favourite subject) and my raw score for Japanese. You never know how the numbers will go!
Redo the things that you get wrong – for me, this was about 10 questions on every single Maths Methods test I did. As I said, I couldn’t stand Methods and found it extremely difficult to understand. I could’ve looked at my test scores and thought, at least I passed, but instead I looked at every mistake I made and tried to work out what I did wrong. Long story short, I went from having to re-sit a SAC I initially failed, to get a respectable 36 in the final exam. But that wouldn’t have happened if I ignored the mistakes I was making.
Take notes in EVERY class – I always had a pen and paper (or word document and keyboard) in front of me at school. This is particularly helpful in English or other Humanities subjects, where the teacher tends to waffle on about the studied texts or theories. But I also found it beneficial in my science and math classes. Sometimes I’d be going through practice questions and think, I swear I’ve heard that term before. Then I’d just flick through my notebook and sure enough, there’s the answer to the question. And really, what’s the harm in taking notes? You have to sit and look at the teacher regardless; might as well pay attention.
Study actively, not passively – Notice how I was just talking about practice questions? Well, that’s because it’s the most effective way to study for an exam! There are only so many times you can write out the definition of osmosis, or quotes from a novel, or the quadratic equation formula, or the kanji character for ‘summer’. Eventually, you need to practice applying all this knowledge to types of questions that will be on the exam. In VCE, it’s just the answer that matters, it’s how that answer is structured; often, you get more marks for how you answer than the answer itself.
Pick a hobby, and make time for that hobby – this might be a sport or even some kind of art. Work out how many hours/sessions you need to commit to this hobby, and then organise your studying around those sessions. And be realistic; don’t plan to get 4 hours of study in after coming home from a netball match at 7:30 pm, we all know you won’t last that long.
Have up to one hour of rest and relaxation every night before bed – whether this is watching a couple of episodes of a sitcom, reading a book that you don’t have to write about, baking a cake, or even walking the dog. Do something you enjoy doing, but has no kind of commitment or expectation attached to it. We all need to have a break.
Eat brain-power food – trust me, it helps… and not only with the look of your Instagram page! You’ll be surprised how much a balanced diet can contribute to your ability to concentrate. Some examples of brain foods are walnuts, blueberries, eggs, avocados, green veggies, salmon, and dark chocolate. But really, anything rich in good fats and antioxidants, which isn’t caffeinated, processed or deep-fried, will help fuel your body in the best way for studying.
Minimise your social agenda – This may sound harsh, but pick a handful of your closest friends. Those are the 18th birthday parties you should attend this year. This is not the year to be partying every weekend and wasting a precious day of studying trying to catch up on sleep.
Holidays are not holidays – they are days that must be as disciplined as a school day, but which have the flexibility of being performed in any attire you so desire, including onesies. I used to treat myself to one full day of no study, usually early in the first week. I’d organise a day out with my friends and a study-free evening. Then I’d get back into the grind the next day.
Listen to your body – figure out when you can concentrate the most. I have always been more focused in the mornings but would start to zone out after about 9 pm. So for me, getting as much done straight after school was ideal. You might not be able to focus properly until after dinner. Everyone’s different, and you can modify your study schedule to suit when you perform best.
Sleep is important – without it, you won’t be getting the best test results possible. And that’s what VCE is all about; performing to your best ability. Think about it; is the Wednesday night Netflix binge worth risking SAC marks on? It is on-demand viewing after all; the episodes will still be there once your exams are over.
Hand in extra work to your teachers – they will mark it, give feedback, and explain ways that you can improve. This instantly gives you an edge over all your other classmates who just looked at their mark and then threw their practice SAC in the bin. Every bit counts.
If you don’t understand, ask for help – it’s impossible to practice something that you don’t even understand the concept of. And trust me, a memorised definition is useless if you still don’t know what the word means.
Stop stressing – As I keep saying, this year is about performing at your best, not anyone else’s. Maybe your best is 60, maybe it’s 99.95. When I was waiting in line for my English exam, I was the calmest I had been for the whole year. I stood there knowing I had done everything I could to perform at my highest ability that day. I wasn’t nervous, because I knew I wouldn’t let myself down. I walked out of the exam with the exact same feeling (with the addition of hunger, of course).
To this day, I do not regret a single moment of my VCE. And whenever someone asks how I went with my studies, I can always answer them in the same way: “I could not have done any better if I tried!”
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