You only get out what you put into the VCE. Almost all of us have heard some variation of this idea from our teachers, tutors, parents and even friends. In this instance, what you are expected to ‘put in’ is hours of study and hard work. So why is it that two students who spend the same amount of time studying might end up with completely different marks?
Aside from aptitude and ability, one of the key differences is how you are spending your time while studying, or in other words, whether you are completing ‘low-value’ or ‘high-value’ tasks.
Low-Value Tasks: This includes tasks that involve a very little critical thinking or challenge. This includes tasks such as writing quote banks in English, writing topic summaries in History or writing out approaches to a formula in Mathematics. While these tasks are absolutely essential, especially while you are still familiarising yourself with a new area of study or consolidating your knowledge, it is important that these tasks are not taking the place of higher value tasks that will actually help you improve and gain the marks you deserve. To use an example outside of the VCE, while it might be useful to a competitive chess player to read books about tips and tricks, but this knowledge wouldn’t be of much use at all unless they actually picked up a chess piece and practiced playing the game itself! Always remember that you are not being marked on your knowledge of themes, characters or quotes, but on your ability to utilise this knowledge in the format of an essay within a timed examination context.
High-Value Tasks: This includes any tasks which utilise the skills upon which you will be assessed and involve a high degree of mental stimulation. This includes tasks such as tackling mathematics problems, writing essays and writing responses to short answer examination questions. Studies have shown that applying knowledge within the context in which you require it actually improves your ability to recall that information. This is why it is often so much easier to remember the quotes you analysed within an essay compared to those you simply wrote down for a quote bank. But perhaps most importantly, engaging in these tasks allows you to practice the specific skills you are being assessed on and provides the highest value return on your time investment.
So, how should you decide how much time to spend on ‘low-value’ and ‘high-value’ tasks?
Well, naturally this depends on where you are within an area of study. If you have just started working on a new text or a new area of study, you might decide to dedicate one hour to high-value tasks for every two hours spent on low-value tasks while you bring yourself up to speed. Once you start to feel more comfortable, you might evenly split your time between the two kinds of tasks. By the time you are facing assessment, you might switch entirely to high-value tasks after having already consolidated your knowledge. It is important to note that the nature of these tasks will evolve as well, as you might choose to initially complete untimed exams to practice the skills and later transition into a time when you begin working on gaining the necessary speed.
We all know that practice makes perfect, but it is your job to ensure that you are giving yourself the opportunity to get enough practice in the first place.
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