When You Have Nothing To Do…
This article was written by Imogen Van Der Meer, a current VCE English tutor. Imogen currently is accepting students, so if you’re interested in her services, please go here.
It’s the best feeling, isn’t it? After hours and hours of gruelling SAC study and weekly class tasks, you are FINALLY up to date with all of your subjects. There’s no close due dates coming up, no homework set by the teachers; there’s nothing to do until your next class, right?
Unfortunately, being a VCE student means there is always something to do. And that something is being as prepared as possible for the final examinations.
Now, you might be thinking, but they’re months away! I have SACS to worry about before then! Ultimately, however, the earlier you start planning for those exams, the less stressful you’ll be as the date creeps closer and closer.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you are never allowed to have a break from the study during your entire VCE. That’s ridiculous and unnecessary. But it’s imperative that you are smart with your time during VCE; because every second wasted is a second where your knowledge could have grown just that little bit more.
So this is a shout out to those people who sit twiddling their thumbs in their free periods because they’re ‘up to date’ with all of their work. It’s also for those dedicated students who are trying their hardest to receive the best marks possible but are unsure where to start without the teacher telling them what to do. This is a checklist you can work through whenever you have time to study, but think that you have ‘nothing to do’.
- Look ahead – what’s going to be on the next SAC? What even is the next SAC? Is it a Prac? An essay? A test? What chapters/texts/methods will it be covering? How long do you have until that SAC? Maybe read through the next chapter, so you can see the kind of things you’ll be covering in class. Think about any questions you had while reading it, and see if they ever get answered in class discussion. And if they don’t, ask the teacher! Whether you like it or not, you are going to have to familiarise yourself with whatever material you need to be tested on. So what have you got to lose by starting early? Nothing, other than future stress!
- Look even further ahead – not sure what the next SAC is? Well then, have a look at the final exam! Go through the layout, and see what types of questions they ask and the kind of answers they want. For instance, is there a lot of multiple choices? Or are they after longer responses? Understand what is expected of you as a student of the subject. Get a feel of what you think you’ll struggle with the most, and then maybe, in your next class, ask the teacher for some practice questions for that area. Or better yet…
- Look at what’s been done in the past – examination reports! They literally show you exactly what is required to do well in a subject. Have a read through them, with the exam paper alongside it. You’ll get an idea of the kinds of ‘trick questions’ they tend to sneak in, and what to look for to avoid being ‘tricked’. They’ll also provide a good guide as to the type of responses they’re after. For instance, biology examiners hate full sentences. They just want dot points that include the key phrases. Other subjects expect not only full sentences but multiple structured paragraphs per response. Every subject is different, and it’s important that you understand – and practice – these differences.
- Look back at what you’ve already done – By this, I mean look at what you’ve already been tested on. Do you remember any of it? If not, are your notes detailed enough that you can easily revise all the important parts? This is where you find gaps in your knowledge. And these gaps are inevitable because its impossible to remember every single thing you hear in class the first time around. But that’s what ‘studying’ is; it’s going through the same things over and over so that they become embedded in your long-term memory. I liked to have a read through my notes for a previous chapter, and then have a go at answering some review questions. It was the easiest way for me to find the missing pieces between my theory and application. And the point of the VCE tests is to reward students who have the least amount of these missing pieces.
- Re-visit whatever you aren’t confident with – this is the most frustrating form of study, which is why I’ve left it to last on this list. No one likes to do things they aren’t good at. But there’s no way to avoid that in VCE, other than to strengthen these weaknesses. And with everything in life, improvement comes from practice. This means questions. This means corrections. This means writing more notes. This means more questions. And so on and so forth.
It’s gruelling, but it’s worth it. Trust me. It’s better to have the ‘I don’t know any of this’ freak out before you walk into that exam room.
I’m sure none of the above sounds appealing, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to practical and nothing more. That’s really all I want you to get out of this; to be practical with your approach to studying, and be realistic about your idea that you have ‘nothing to do’. Because that is never the case until you walk out of your very last VCE exam.
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