Welcome to term 2! Although it may look and feel a little different to this time last year, it’s important that we turn our focus away from COVID-19, and start thinking about those exams at the end of the year. Although it feels like they’re a while away, what you do now will have a big impact on how ready you are when they creep up. But it’s not like you can start studying already, so what can you do from now?
Here are our top tips for tackling term 2:
1. Learn the content you’re supposed to know but don’t
At this point in the year, you have already learnt a big chunk of the year 12 syllabus for most subjects and chances are, you probably won’t revisit that content again until you’re answering a question about it in an exam. So it’s important that you take a minute and get caught up on any topics you didn’t understand. I know term 1 was a little messy, and you were forced to do some learning from home, which may have disrupted your flow. But now that school is back I would recommend sitting down with the syllabus to work out what dot points you have covered and should know!
With no stress of exams this term, this is the time to take a minute to re-learn the content you’re not so familiar with. The best way to do this is to go back over the resources your teacher might have given out on that topic.
But is that enough?
To get a high level understanding of your content, it’s also important to look at different resources to make sure you have in-depth knowledge. Using Atomi lessons and video content is a great way to fill in any gaps in your learning, and they might even help clarify some things that you are still a little confused about. Your textbook might also give you some extra information that you can use to chunk up a response to a question about that topic. So make sure you cover all your bases.
2. Finalise your notes
Now that you have caught up on all the content, it’s time to fill in your notes to make sure they’re up to date and complete for all topics. If you’re a fan of our blog then you know that we highly recommend you structure your notes to match the syllabus. What this means is that all your headings are the syllabus dot points, and the information under them is exactly the info you need to help you answer a question on that dot point. In your notes also include things like important dates, case studies, examples and key definitions and meanings.
If your notes aren’t structured like that, I would recommend taking the time to do so. Not only will it help you later, but by just going through the process of moving around the content, you will be learning where the content fits and what is relevant under each syllabus dot point. That in itself is a form of studying too – so it’s a win win!
3. Start writing practice responses
All your notes are done and you have learnt all the content up until now. So now what? Well now it’s time to take what you’ve learnt and actually put it into practice. No doubt you have 100 things due this term and the only way to make sure you’re handing in a high quality assessment is to get some practice responses done first. Find some practice essay or extended response questions and give them a go. Get an old past paper that has some short answer questions and try answering them. Use your notes, see if the info in there is actually helpful in answering questions and if you find that you’re googling things then maybe your notes need another update.
By writing practice responses you get the chance to learn how to pick and choose what information to use to answer a specific question. It will also be good to learn your cognitive verbs or key terms before exams roll around. If you don’t know what that means – then it’s time to find out.
Once you do a few practice questions open book, then you can get really strict and give them a go closed book, like you would in an exam. The best way to mimic exam conditions is to do a practice question lucky dip: write down a bunch of questions on slips of paper, fold them up and put them in a hat, set your timer, pick out a question and start writing. You don’t get to see the question before time starts in an exam so why should you see it before time in a practice exam? This may seem a little OTT, bust trust us – it works!
4. Hand work in for feedback
Practice responses are now done. Time to move on? Think again. What is the point of doing practice responses and not knowing if they’re any good. For all we know you could be writing 5 practice responses that don’t even answer the question, which isn’t helping anyone. So it’s time to get some feedback on your practice responses so you know how to improve them. This is when your teachers come in handy. Teachers love reading and marking responses so send them your work and ask them to mark it using an exam/assessment marking criteria. Also ask for as much written feedback as possible, because whilst knowing that your response is worth 13/20 is useful, it’s not really that insightful on where you went wrong and what aspects you need to work on.
Once you get the feedback, don’t just read it and stop there. Have another crack at an extended response and try to implement the feedback your teacher has given. Then hand that in again. It’s an ongoing process. And if you find that you aren’t improving then maybe it’s time to sit down with your teacher and have a one-on-one session (in person or on Zoom) about how you can improve, they might just recommend some strategies or techniques that can make a big difference. At the end of the day your teachers want you to do well and will be there to help you achieve your goals.
5. What not to focus on this term
This is more of advice rather than a direct tip. There’s a few things this term that you probably shouldn’t be spending too much time on. If there are no exams this term, then don’t waste time memorising your notes. Memorising is good in the week leading up to an exam, but not so good now because you will likely forget everything and fill your brain with new content before your next set of exams anyway. Also, if there are no exams then don’t spend time doing whole past papers. At this stage in the year it’s more important that you focus on understanding the content, learning the techniques to apply your knowledge and getting feedback, rather than focusing on your ability to sit a whole exam paper. That being said, past papers can be useful for practice questions – but there’s no need to do it all in one go.
Term 2 is about learning content, practicing your skills and making sure you solidify your understanding. Use this time to get feedback from your teachers so that you can start improving from now, and don’t wait till exams or assessment due dates to only realise that you have missed a whole topic of content. Get your notes sorted, get your practice responses in and it’ll be smooth sailing!