Hi there VCE student! My name is Dmitri Dalla-Riva, and I am a current VCE English Language tutor and owner of LearnMate. Since I started tutoring nearly two years ago, I have come to realise how often students were asking me for study tips and advice. And so, I decided to create a concise, yet detailed guide on how to study effectively and efficiently for VCE.
I understand that you’re often ‘under the pump’ in year 12, and finding time to study all of your subjects proportionately can seem difficult, but I am here to tell you that like any skill, studying can be learnt.
So let’s begin!
Remove ALL Distractions!
This is a very simple one, yet most people often forget to enact on this.
Your study desk at home should be clear of all objects on the table when you’re studying. In fact, the act of merely removing all physical objects from a desk frees up the mind and removes the feeling of ‘untidiness’. Of course, having your textbook or laptop/PC on your desk is an exception, but still try to aim to remove all useless objects off your desk! If we even go a step further, you may want to clean up your room as again the feeling of tidiness will help with your mind feeling at ease.
In addition, make sure you turn off your phone when studying at home, and also deactivate Facebook!
Find Your Passion In Each Subject!
Now that we have got removing distractions out of the way, we can now progress to finding your passion!
I get it. I have been there. You may not be entirely ‘passionate’ about a particular subject and are merely taking the subject to increase your grades or get into a particular Uni. In any case, I highly urge you find your passion or something that’s interests you in each subject you study, as this will make your studying much easier and less boring. For example, my favourite subject happened to be my best subject (45) due to the fact that I would go above and beyond the recommended work as I had a genuine interest in the subject. This is precisely the reason why I advise you to find your interests in each subject.
Let me give you some examples:
- You may not like the textbook for English but love to write, so weave the enjoyment of writing into your essays.
- You may not be the biggest fan of formulaic expressions in chemistry, yet love the actual experiments.
- You may not be the biggest fan of business management theory but love business itself.
Ask yourself and write this down on paper:
“What do I love in each subject that I study?”
Study In Small Digestible Chunks!
People cram for exams all the time. I highly advise against this practice. The brain can only go through so much knowledge absorption in a given time period, and it often needs breaks. So to fix this issue, I advise you only study for 30 – 60 minutes at a time. Put a time on your phone, and make sure you do not go over 60 minutes!
Then, after the time period, take a 5 – 15 minute break and study again.
When studying, try to keep the learning material consistent; in particular, stick to a similar topic in a given study period so that the brain can group topics together and absorb the knowledge better. It’s often unwise to spend 5 minutes on one particular topic then 5 minutes on another, especially if they are entirely unrelated.
Compile Comprehensive Revision Notes
At the end of every unit, area of study or topic, I advise you create your own ‘revision notes’ which sums up all of the important aspects of the topic. The reason is simple: the mere act of writing down your knowledge after each topic reinforces this knowledge into your mind and helps with memorisation. In addition, come exam time, you can just revise over your revision notes and not waste time.
This is the reason why revision notes have become very popular in recent years.
So how do you create these notes? Simply create a Word document and create appropriate headings for each topic, much like this guide!
Studying Time After School
Studying after school is usually different from studying on weekends. The reason is simple: you’ve had a whole day at school and you may be tired from studying all day.
When you get home, first ensure you have a short break and afternoon tea. After 30 minutes to an hour break, you may then commence studying for the evening.
Again, study in 30 minutes to 1 hour blocks, but I only recommend you complete this cycle only three times in one evening. Therefore, I recommend you keep the subjects down to three maximum in one evening.
Studying Time On Weekends
Weekends are usually quite different from after school times. On the weekend, I highly advise you give yourself a break to recover from the week. It’s unfeasible to study 7 days per week! From my personal experience, I always took Saturdays off to relax, play sport and visit friends. Or, you could reverse the days if that suits you better. For example, you may decide to study on Saturday instead of Sunday.
Then, come Sunday I always attacked Sundays studiously. In other words, on Sunday you should outline a plan in the morning of how you’re going to study that day.
For Sundays, I recommend you still stick to the 30 minutes to 1 hour study blocks, BUT you can accomplish much more. On a given Sunday you should be able to Study for 4 to 6 hours, if you follow my method of taking breaks after every 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Visual, Auditory of Kinesthetic?
Your learning style will undoubtedly define how well you retain information.
Visual learners tend to:
- Learn through seeing
- Think in pictures and need to create vivid mental images to retain information
- Enjoy looking at maps, charts, pictures, videos, and movies
Auditory learners tend to:
- Learn through listening
- Have highly developed auditory skills and are generally good at speaking and presenting
- Think in words rather than pictures
- Learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say
Kinesthetic learners tend to:
- Learn through moving, doing and touching
- Express themselves through movement
- Have good sense of balance and eye-hand coordination
- Remember and process information through interacting with the space around them
By now, you should be able to categorise yourself into one or more of the above learning styles. Now, below find your learning style and the recommendations of how you should approach each subject.
If you’re a visual learner, you should:
- use graphics to reinforce learning.
- colour code to organise notes and possessions.
- use colour to highlight important points in text.
- take notes.
- illustrate ideas as a picture before writing them down.
- ask for written directions.
- use flow charts and diagrams for note taking.
- visualise spelling of words or facts to be memorised.
If you’re an auditory learner, you should:
- read aloud.
- recite information to learn.
- use tunes or rhymes as mnemonic devices.
- read aloud and tape test questions or directions.
- use verbal analogies and storytelling to demonstrate their point.
If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you should:
- make models or role play to physically experience learning.
- skim through reading material before reading it in detail.
- annotate text and write questions while reading.
- translate information into diagrams or other visual study tools.
- recite a list of items by counting on fingers.
- memorise or drill while moving e.g. when walking.
- listen to music while studying.
Read Study Guides and Sample Responses
Most subjects provide external comprehensive study guides, so aim to find where these guides exist and who authors them. If you’re unsure, ask your teacher.
In addition, you should ALWAYS check past exams and the examiner’s report to study sample responses. See the link here: http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/pages/vce/exams/examsassessreports.aspx
Lastly, you should ask your teach for past responses from previous years to help you with your study – most teachers are more than happy to provide these to you.
After you’ve acquired these resources, you should then go through them, read them and highlight the important parts in each text. Analyse what makes this response the best? What could I use from this that would make my responses better.
- If you’re studying English, you may want to read over excellent sample responses from your teacher or past exams and annotate/highlight the important parts, and then use it in your own responses.
- If you’re studying maths, you may want to analyse and read over how a person works through a particular solution to a problem.
Your Diet = Your Grades?
Last, but definitely not least, WATCH YOUR DIET!
Try to restrict your caffeine intake during the week as it can prevent your ability to sleep properly.
Try to stay off sweets and junk food as this is not nutritionally beneficial for your brain.
Try to eat healthy food, high in protein and good carbohydrates.
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