Hi there! My name is Daniela and I am a VCE Maths Methods and Biology tutor on Learnmate. I graduated from John Monash Science School with an ATAR of 98.85 and scaled study scores of 49 for VCE Maths Methods and Biology, also achieving 45+ in Chemistry and Physics. I’ve been a passionate tutor for the past 3 years and I’m here to provide you with insights into how to set yourself up for success in VCE!
Are you finding the concepts in Maths Methods daunting and constantly difficult to wrap your head around? You’re definitely not alone! Although the concepts and applications can be challenging, this blog will guide you in making that practice exponentially easier!
Embrace the Study Design
Many students may go through the entire academic year without consulting the VCE Math Methods study design, but not you! This document serves as a comprehensive guide, detailing all aspects that VCAA (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority) or your school may assess you on in VCE Maths Methods. Think of it as your roadmap to success, providing a thorough overview of each topic, learning outcome, and crucial knowledge point. Here is the link for the study design. Print it out, highlight key points, and annotate to ensure a deep understanding and identification of any knowledge gaps. Additionally, it enables you to prepare for upcoming topics, providing a bigger picture of the content.
Your Bound Reference and Practice Book
Many students ask me how they are meant to take notes for their bound reference and although there are many different strategies, this is what has worked best for me:
- Make sure you meet the requirements for the bound reference: There is nothing worse than a student putting in hours of work into their bound reference only to find that the book they have used does not meet the requirements by VCAA.
- Have a separate notebook for notes and practice questions: Having separate notebooks ensures that you have more than enough space to do both notes and practice questions. It also makes it easier for you to find content you’ve written and overall creates a more organised space.
- Use different colours for different topics: Colour theory and association is well known to improve memory recall. Use a different colour to highlight and make headings for different topics. This will also help you to easily find what you’re looking for when you are flicking through your book. (I recommend getting the 20 pack Crayola SuperTip markers!)
- Leave space between topics: After you’ve finished writing notes for a class, leave at least a full blank page before you start your next set of notes. This blank page is for you to add clarifications, examples and practice questions.
- Use different pens/pencils when writing examples: I would recommend writing the question/example in pen and then working out in pencil so that you can immediately tell where one question starts/ends.
How to Make the Most of Class Time
Your preparation actually begins before class starts, and this is where the key work for understanding begins! Before class starts, you should ideally have already read up on the topic from your textbook. Although you may not understand everything just yet, familiarising yourself makes a world of difference for when you encounter the topic again during class. Simply spending 30 minutes reading through the chapter and attempting a few practice questions will save you hours of catching up! During this pre-reading, note down any questions you have about the content.
Your time during class should be spent understanding the topic and making clear notes. Your goal should be to completely finish your notes DURING class so that the rest of your time can be spent doing practice questions. Furthermore, class is also when your teacher is available to clarify anything, don’t waste that opportunity. After class has finished, look back on the questions you noted down from your pre-reading, check-off everything that was answered during the class and then approach your teacher to clarify anything that was not answered!
Hopefully after class you feel like you understand the general concept of the topic, if you don’t, this is your first priority. Most of your time outside of class should ideally be filled with practice questions. Start with your textbook questions and then move to previous exam questions! Do these practice questions until you feel beyond confident in all the different styles of questions.
REPEAT! Repeat this process for each class and this will without a doubt set you up for complete understanding of topics. This structure also ensures that you are using your time in the most effective manner.
Not convinced? Learnmate's research has showed that 79% of students who achieve an ATAR of 90+ and 88% of students who achieved an ATAR of 99 or higher have one thing in common: they all complete practice exams as part of their study routine.
Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!
I know that this is common advice, but it is true that the more you practice the more confidently you will understand the topic and the more likely you are to remember the topic in a few months! But, not everyone talks about how you should approach practice questions!
- Each topic has different ‘styles’ of questions: Have you ever noticed that you keep getting the same kinds of questions in a topic, just different numbers? These are “routine questions”. It is important to understand these styles of questions because they tend to have a common way to tackle them and they are very likely to come up on your SACs and exam. Do these practice questions until you get completely and utterly bored of seeing the same question over and over again!
- Non-routine/application questions: These questions are the ones that are notoriously more difficult. The thing to remember is that you have all the tools to complete the question, you just need to apply them! Often it is a case of “trusting the process”. I also highly recommend annotating the question with all the information you have been given and diagrams as it gives you a clearer idea of what is happening!
- Notes or No Notes: For the first few sets of practice textbook questions, feel free to use your notes, but beyond that, attempt without your notes. This will challenge you to ensure that you truly understand the topic.
- Teach someone else: If you find that you are still really struggling to understand the questions/topic, grab a family member or friend and begin trying to walk them through the topic/question. This technique is extremely effective for inducing memory recall but also in guiding you to understanding the topic. Try it out, it is a complete gamechanger!
- Add examples into your bound reference: Knowing what to add can be tricky but my general rule is to add at least 1 example of each style of routine question and around 3 examples of non-routine questions!
Don’t Keep Making the Same Mistakes
Do you find yourself still making the same mistakes over and over again? Whenever you get a question wrong (or got lucky on a question), make a record of it! This record would include the general concept, the specific question, the answer and what you got wrong. This reflection will make it far less likely that you get the same questions wrong, it will help you identify patterns and struggle areas, and it will be an amazing revision tool for your SACs and the exam!
Implementing these approaches will set you on the path to understanding VCE Math Methods. Keep in mind that success in this challenging yet rewarding subject is directly proportional to your commitment and consistent practice. Best of luck!
This blog is the first in a series dedicated to uncovering the essential skills and strategies necessary to succeed this year in VCE Maths Methods. Stay tuned for future blogs in this series as we continue to dive deeper into this subject, aiming to equip you with a comprehensive toolkit for success.
Need a little extra support or a confidence boost in VCE Maths Methods? Explore more expert tips and resources and connect with former top-performing student tutors and qualified teachers at Learnmate to start working towards achieving your potential. Share this guide with your peers to ensure you all succeed today!
This blog was written by Daniela L, a VCE Biology and VCE Maths Methods Tutor on Learnmate. Daniela is tutoring while studying a Bachelor of Advanced Science Research at Monash University. She graduated with a 98.85 ATAR, 45+ study scores in 4 subjects and has been supporting other students achieve their goals through tutoring for over 3 years.
You can view her profile and, subject to her availability, request Daniela as your tutor here.