Study like You Brush Your Teeth
I don’t know if this is really a study technique - but it’s righteous advice. You wouldn’t brush your teeth all at once for a whole year - it wouldn’t be as good as brushing your teeth regularly for short periods of time, and it would seem like a long, painful experience. But that’s how lots of people approach studying for the exam. Trust me, it’s much better to study regularly for short periods of time than to save it all up and study in the weeks leading up to the exam.
The Pomodoro Method
Break up your study using the Pomodoro method. It makes study feel less arduous. You’ll want a pomodoro timer (there are dozens available on the app store). Study for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. After four of these, take a longer break, perhaps half an hour, to watch a favourite Netflix show or look at memes or have a snack (set an alarm to remind you when the break is over). Then get back to it.
Multi-task Your Study
When you get home from school, and you are sick of sitting down at a desk, but you also feel like you should be studying, try listening to a podcast while you go for a walk or run. Or if you have chores to do (washing the dishes, perhaps), you can study while you are doing them. There are a few available - including one that I made, called “Douchy’s Biology”. You can search for and subscribe to it using Spotify or any podcast app, or go to biologyoracle.podomatic.com.
Recall Trumps Recognition
Studying by reading over your class notes - or re-reading your textbook (etc.) are great - but they are no substitute for struggling to recall something you have learned and started to forget. Remember you make strong memories (i.e., learn) by allowing yourself to start forgetting, and then struggling to recall it. When you reread something, it is re-presented to you in the exact same way you knew it before. This makes it very easy to recognise - it looks familiar after all. But it’s not the best way to form strong memories. It’s much more effective to have a friend quiz you on your notes - or use some other method to allow you to struggle to remember. Flash cards are good for this - so are tests, past exam papers, etc.
Have a plan for making sure you don’t run out of time. The strategy I like is this:
1 When reading time ends, turn to question 36 and write 10:00am.
2 Count marks (starting with question 37) and highlight every 12th mark.
3 Add 15 minutes for every highlighted 12th mark.
Now when you are doing the exam, you will get eight time-checks throughout the exam. As soon as you start to fall behind schedule, you will get an early warning, and be able to speed up a bit without having to panic.
Andrew Douch is one of Victoria’s leading educators. He is an independent education technology consultant, podcaster and keynote speaker with over two decades of classroom experience. Douch spoke at Edrolo’s Study Fest 2023, which saw over 800 Year 12 students descend on the Melbourne CBD to hear from Victoria’s top VCE teachers ahead of their VCE exams.