6 Tips for Surviving VCE

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Roving reporter Rochelle looks back at her final year of high school and shares what she learned. 

When I started the last year of my schooling, I was nervous and unsure what the year was actually going to be like. I’d heard the stories from those in years above me, but I was yet to experience VCE Year 12 myself in all its glory.

During Year 12, and in the time between school finishing and starting my tertiary education, I experienced a lot. I learned a lot. So I’ve complied the things I learnt into a list of the things I wish someone had told me when I was scared and worried about starting VCE.

1. Balance is important

VCE Year 12 is a year of hard work and huge commitment, but it's also a very social year with many chances to step outside the education bubble and let your hair down, especially with the 18ths that seem to be held almost every weekend.

With so much going on it can be hard to find a balance between study and life. "Balance" is a word you’ve probably heard before, from every year level coordinator, education expert, psychologist and everyone else with an opinion. Well you’re going to hear it again from a former student who didn’t have a good balance and got very sick as a consequence. That would be me.

I let my studies consume my life. I focused so hard on studying, for ridiculous periods of time, and completely reneged on maintaining a healthy body and relationships.

I didn’t find a balance, and I look back on the year now and wish I had. You have 24 hours every day and it's possible to do everything that you’re required to in that time period, once you find that balance.

Keep up hobbies and leisure activities, and talk to someone if things are getting overwhelming. Remember: everyone at your school is on your side and looking out for your mental health.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

It's easy to get caught in the trap of comparing your marks/results/whatever to those of your friends or peers. Try to avoid this. All it does is get you frustrated with your own marks and make you doubt your abilities - which isn't helpful in the slightest.

Keep in mind that everyone completing VCE has different circumstances. As much as VCAA tries to make VCE Year 12 a level playing field for all, the reality is that it’s not a level playing field. Everyone has different abilities, knowledge and skills, which means you shouldn’t compare yours to those of another.

3. Find your own best way to study

Throughout the year, you’ll have people telling you how to study, when to study and what to study. You should probably listen when you’re told what to study, but as for how and when, don’t take them too literally.

VCE Year 12 is all about independent learning and finding out how you learn best. This means discovering how you study. You might learn best by drawing pictures and diagrams, making up songs with matching dances, or you might learn by simply writing things down.

As well as experimenting with different methods of study, try studying at different times of the day. You might be sharpest of an evening, rather than the morning! If you know yourself and how you study, learn and remember, you will have a better chance of knowing your coursework.

For some ideas about ways to tackle study, check out our Studying Tips & Resources section.

4. Actually try in the GAT (no really - try)

You probably all know about the General Assessment Test (GAT) from older students and their advice and wisdom, or maybe even personal experience. It’s a strange test, stretching over three hours with two writing tasks and 70 multiple choice questions that quite often have you scratching your head.

For years students have been dissatisfied with their GAT. You often hear things such as, "Well that was three hours of my life I’ll never get back!" and "They should call it the GWT- the General Waste of Time!"

The GAT is by no means a waste of time, though. It could very well save a year's worth of hard work if you happen to fall sick around exam time.

The GAT is essential to formulating a Derived Examination Score - should you be unable to attend an end of year exam because of extenuating circumstances, the DES is the score that you get for the exam. It is a prediction of your outcome, based on GAT and SAC scores. So as tiresome as it can be (I know this from personal experience) stick it out and do your best. Because it’s worth it.

5. SACs are intended to prepare you for exams

School Assessed Coursework (SACs) is the closest you’re going to get to an exam situation throughout the year, especially with regard to time constraints. Use your SACs to practise completing assessment tasks in allocated times.

That practise is absolutely essential and will give you an advantage in the exam. It will also help you to feel at ease and less pressured when having to write a lot in such a short amount of time. Treat every SAC like you would an exam - lose the phone, arrive with the right supplies and forego chatting in class. That way, you’ll be much more prepared to tackle a real exam.

6. Don’t stress too much

VCE Year 12 isn’t the be all and end all. Promise. I’m not going to tell you not stress at all, because I know that’s not going to happen. So many people told me not to stress. I laughed at them (you might call me a "highly strung" person).

Unfortunately, the build-up through the schooling journey towards VCE Year 12 doesn't help to dispel the unnecessary hype around the ATAR, and the stress that many students feel about it.

Is it a ranking of all of the VCE Year 12 students in Victoria? Yes. Does it measure intelligence or individual skill? No, not at all. In simple terms, the ATAR is basically a measurement of who can remember and apply the most knowledge in an exam situation. It doesn’t take into account personal circumstances and most certainly doesn't define you as a person.

What I will tell you though, student to student, is: it doesn't matter if you don’t finish the year the way you want. It doesn’t matter what ATAR you get. Because if you want to do something more than anything, then nothing will stop you. Not an ATAR, not a VCE result.

Of course a high ATAR is a great thing to have, but there are lots of pathways to anywhere that you want to go. Sometimes, instead of taking the direct route, you just have to take the scenic one instead.

For more advice about high school and more study and exam tips, visit these sections on Youth Central: