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Study tips and education news

Congratulations Year 12 students!

Elio Damato

Congratulations to all our LWD Year 12 students (and their Mums and Dads) for their remarkable achievements this year!

We are all very proud of your efforts and are so excited about what lies ahead in the coming years. Remember to always stay true to yourself and believe in the magic you can share with the world. We look forward to continuing to witness your personal development into the future. Enjoy the Holidays! You all deserve it!!!

Year 12 Results Release – What Next?

Elio Damato

Receiving your year 12 results via text message will likely be one of the more stressful moments in your life. In the lead up it can be hard to know what to expect, and you might feel like there’s a lot of pressure placed on you.

Make sure you have someone on the day with whom you can discuss your results who isn’t also in year 12. It can sometimes be really hard to discuss your results with a friend when they have also just received theirs, and are trying to digest the information themselves. You’ll want someone who will share in your success or empathise if you don’t do as well as you thought. Your parents could be good people to have this chat with, although if they’re putting a lot of pressure on, you might want to find another close adult like a family friend or aunt or uncle you could talk to. Often schools will have careers counsellors working on the day you receive your results, so be sure to ask them anything you need to help you understand the implications of the score you have just received.

If you do as well as you wanted or better than expected

Congratulations! Enjoy the moment and have a quiet celebration with your family. If you’re planning to go to university, consider whether you want to change your preferences at this stage. You might have changed your mind in the last couple of weeks, or you might have done better than expected, and you can add a different course to the top of your list.

Please be sure not to change your preferences just for the sake of ‘changing’. Often doing a course simply because you achieve a certain ATAR may, in fact, lead to disappointment.

If you don’t do as well as you thought

Firstly, ‘Well done’ on all your hard work and on finishing year 12! It’s still a great achievement. If you would like to change your university preferences, you’ll have a chance to do so now. Almost all universities have information sessions or the chance to drop in and speak to an advisor during the change of preference period. Go and talk to someone about your options.

And remember, you DO have options. For example, there are often multiple pathways to help you get to your ideal course. Speaking to staff at a university can help you plan an alternative pathway and allow you to make the right decisions. Or you can take the opportunity to actually do something completely different than what you expected and embrace this as the opportunity to embark on a new phase of your life.

However, at the end of the day we are all individuals. Other people might not be having the same reaction that you are, so while you can certainly ask other people about their results, make sure the conversation moves on, as it can be a hard time for people who didn’t do as well as they expected. Rest assured, though, your life will not be determined by your ATAR. In fact, your results won’t matter in a few months time, so take a breath, play with the cards you've been dealt and start planning the next exciting phase of your life!

Making the most of your summer holidays

Elio Damato

As you reach higher year levels at school, your summer holidays get longer and longer. The summer between year 12 and university (for those going straight into further study) can be a long and glorious time with no commitments and lots of independence. One of the most important things to do during the holidays is relax – the break is designed to prepare you for another year of study, so you want to go back to school (or university) feeling refreshed. But there is also a whole lot more you can do during your holidays. Here are some ideas.

Work

The summer holidays are a fantastic time to earn some extra money. This could mean you save up enough to buy something special or go on a trip, or it could mean you can work less hours and focus on your study during term-time. A lot of the retail industry hire Christmas casuals over the summer period, so you could get a job that lasts just for the holidays if that suits you.

Volunteer

Now that you’ve got a bit of extra time up your sleeve, it’s a great idea to volunteer over the holidays. There are a lot of people doing it tough at this time of year, so find an organisation that speaks to your interests and find out how you can contribute your time. Volunteering also looks great on a resume!

Do your holiday homework

I know you will have been told this a million times already, but try to knock over your holiday homework earlier rather than later. You’ll regret leaving it all to the last minute, and you’ll feel even freer if you get it done at the beginning of the holidays.

Find a new hobby

You have time now to finish that project you started last summer but never completed. You could also find time for something new that you don’t usually do when you’re busier. You could read some more books or take up a new sport with a friend.

Catch up with a friend or family member

Now is a great time to catch up with someone you usually don’t make time for. You could message that friend who attends a different school who you don’t see much during the term. You could ring your grandma for a chat. You could organise to go out for dinner with your cousins. Reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in a while!

Relax

Remember to relax. That’s what you’re on holidays for. Just remember to intersperse your total relaxation with something like working or catching up a friend so that you don’t become bored by the end of the break!

Managing a difficult relationship with a teacher

Elio Damato

It’s approaching that time of year when you’ll be finding out which classes you’ll be doing next year. This is mostly cause for excitement – new topics, new classes, new friends to make, and new teachers to meet. However, what happens if you find out that you have a teacher you clash with or you don’t learn well from?

Your first reaction might be to switch to a different class. If there are multiple classes, this could be a good idea. However, if this will result in lots of changes to your timetable, this switch may not be worth it.

If there’s only one option for the class, I would not recommend switching subjects. It’s not worth dropping a subject because of the teacher. You don’t want to miss out on a possible career path when there are ways to deal with the situation.

If you’re in a classroom with a teacher you clash with, try not to react negatively to things they say. As much as students may protest, a classroom is not a democracy, and fighting with a teacher will most likely end badly for you. Learn to take a few deep breaths and keep your mouth shut if you’re feeling irritated.

Even if you don’t like the teacher, you can still focus on the schoolwork. Throw yourself into doing work in that class – you can be the silent person at the back of the class who surprises everyone with your great work!

If you feel like your teacher isn’t teaching the subject very well, it could be a good idea to find a tutor. Tutors will explain things in different ways, and you’ll receive one-on-one attention in the areas in which you need targeted help.

You can also create a study group with your friends in a free period or after school to go over what you are learning (or think you should be learning) in class. This way everyone can contribute their own understanding of the topic, and you can collaboratively revise.

Even if you feel like your teacher isn’t teaching in a way you’d like, they have access to a lot of great resources. Ask them for different practice exams and revision questions so that you can see a variety of questions and ways the topics may be presented to you. Also remember that the VCAA website has a lot of great resources for you.

Make technology your friend!

Elio Damato

During school, technology can be a huge distraction. It might feel like there’s always someone on your back telling you to get off your phone and go and study. A lot of us know the feeling of saying “I’ll just check Facebook” and then somehow it’s 2 hours later and you haven’t accomplished anything.

Social media isn’t inherently bad, though. It’s a great way to communicate with your friends, and maintaining good relationships when you’re studying is really important. It’s especially great for any friends you don’t go to school with. Social media can also be really fun, and a great way to relax.

If you find social media and everything else that’s out there on the internet is too much of a distraction when you’re trying to study, you’re going to need some ways to manage this.

If you think you have a certain level of self-control, you can probably switch your phone onto silent (completely silent – no vibrations!) and hide it in a cupboard for an hour or two while you do some homework.

It can also be a good idea to sit your phone in a different room while you study – maybe have it charging in the kitchen when you’re doing homework in your bedroom.

If you don’t have this level of self-control, ask someone you trust (maybe one of your parents) to keep your phone with them for an hour while you do some study.

We also need to remember that technology can be really useful when we’re studying. The internet is an amazing resource, so it’s entirely understandable if you have your laptop open while you’re doing some work. However, sometimes it feels like an automatic response to just open Facebook when you get stuck for a minute.

If you struggle to stay off social media, there are plenty of apps that can help you. They block certain websites for an amount of time that you set, so that you can get some work done. Here are some apps you could try: SelfControl, Cold Turkey, and Facebook Limiter.

There are so many useful websites out there that can help you study, as well. You could download audiobooks if you can’t quite manage to read your novel one more time, find flashcards on Quizlet, or watch some TED talks to broaden your knowledge.

Should you have a part-time job while you're studying?

Elio Damato

There are many reasons why you might want to have a part-time job while you’re still at school. However, you should think hard about this decision and make sure it’s the right one for you. For some students, they don’t have a choice about whether they have a job while they’re studying – they might need to support themselves or their family – so read our tips on the pros and cons of having a part-time job and also managing your time effectively while you’re working and studying.

Why is it a good idea to have a job?

  • Earning money of your own is really exciting! Making decisions about what to spend your own money on is a great way to increase your feeling of independence.

  • Having a certain amount of money coming in each week or fortnight is also a great way to learn how to budget. It helps you make decisions about what to spend money on, and you can learn principles around responsible money management.

  • Having the first job on your resume will also be great for any future job you apply for. Make sure you stay on good terms with your boss or manager when you leave so that you can ask them to be a reference!

  • Even if your job is relatively unskilled, you’ll still learn really important workplace skills. You’ll certainly learn about teamwork, compromise, following instructions, taking initiative, showing leadership, and even master simple things like organising your life so you get to work on time with a clean uniform on!

Why might you not want to have a job when you’re studying?

  • There is no doubt that having a job while you’re at school takes time out of other areas of your life. You’ll have less time to study and spend with your friends and family, and if you play a sport, it’s quite possible that you won’t have much extra time to work. Though this can be a challenge for some, see if you can overcome this by finding a job that will let you do just one or two shifts a week at regular times. This will make it easier to plan around your life.

  • Young workers are often exploited more than older workers. This is because, if it’s your first job, you’re less likely to know all the workplace rules and regulations, and often you may be seen as ‘cheap labour.’ You can do your best to manage this issue by doing lots of research before you agree to start a job. This could be in the areas of minimum wage, the difference between part-time and casual, and the award for your industry. This website could be a good starting place.

How to manage your important study time when you’re working

  • Make schedules of when you’re going to get things done. Stick to the schedule.
  • Ask your manager or supervisor if it’s possible to have a set number of hours or a set time for your shifts each week. This will help you to plan your life better.

  • Let your employers know that school is important to you. Most workplaces will be considerate of your desire to succeed at school, and give you shifts accordingly.

  • If you’re working to support yourself during school, or you have to support your family, make sure you know what support you’re entitled to from the government. You can find out here.

Staying motivated for your last exam

Elio Damato

When you have a number of exams spread across a couple of weeks it can be easy to get burnt out and stop studying for the last one or two. You might feel like you’ve put all your energy into your first two exams, and you don’t have enough energy to keep up your studying stamina for another week.

However, it’s quite possible your strongest subject is coincidentally at the end of the exam period. Remember that almost all your subjects are weighted equally, so all the exams are important!

Here are some tips on how you can stop yourself getting burnt out and tired during the exam period.

Make a schedule

Write up a schedule of what you want to get done every day between now and the end of exams. Be specific about what you’re going to get done, for example, “Chemistry: 2014 VCAA exam”. Make your study goals realistic, but also make sure you’re working hard. This is the last time you’ll have to study for these subjects, so put in your best effort!

In terms of making your goals realistic, don’t convince yourself that you’re going to get up at 7 am and study consistently until 8 pm, with one break for lunch. You might be able to do this for one day, but it’s not a sustainable study method.

Set yourself up for productive study

When it gets close to exams, it might feel like a good idea to go all out and start cramming and studying crazy hours. However, if you have a long exam period, this is unsustainable. When you’re studying, you need to make sure you’re taking regular short breaks, like going for a 15-minute walk, so that you can keep working.

Keep your phone away from your study area, and only check it during your breaks. This is especially true if some of your friends have finished their exams and have forgotten that you’re still in exam mode.

When you relax, really relax

It can be easy to get caught up in total exam mode and forget how to relax. However, when you’re taking a break from study, do your best to completely switch off from it. Schedule in relaxation times, which could be something like watching your favourite TV show, going for a swim, or catching up with a friend (and promising not to talk about study!)

If you have a really long break before your last exam and you’re feeling prepared, it might even be a good idea to schedule a whole day off. You could get out of the house and take yourself out for lunch or to see a movie, or stay home and chill out all day. This is a good way to recharge the batteries and feel refreshed before diving back in to studying.

Look after yourself

You’ll get burnt out even more quickly if you’re not looking after your body. Make sure you’re getting lots of sleep and eating regular meals.

It’s also a good idea to have some of your study breaks involve exercise. Exercise gives you endorphins, which will help you feel good, and it will also mean you sleep better. If you’re sitting down at a desk all day, sometimes your body isn’t tired enough to sleep well at night. Exercise can help with this problem.

Year 12 English exam – Be Prepared!

Elio Damato

Author: Maria D'Amato

The English exam is always the first of the VCE exams and it is often the one you are most nervous about. This blog will discuss how to tackle the exam and more importantly what to focus on. Master these points to be sure you will get the very most out of yourself and achieve a result that you can be proud of.

General Exam Tips

  • Remember to take a dictionary.

  • Use black or blue pen.

  • Answer every question.

  • Devote equal time to each of the three sections – they are equally weighted.

  • Spend 2-3 minutes planning, and write short plans only. Plans will not be assessed.

  • Spend no more than 50 minutes on each of the sections, as you don't want to run out of time.

  • You must bring each of your essays to a conclusion.

  • Allow 3–5 minutes to proofread and edit your work. Check spelling and grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraphing and clarity of expression. Ensure you have included all the components of your plan.

  • Please learn the correct spellings of authors’ names, characters’ names, and text titles. The assessors will view this favourably.

  • Put the pen down momentarily and take a deep breath before commencing the next essay.

Section A: Text Response

  • Select one of the two questions. Select the topic you know you can answer best.

  • Look carefully at the key terms used in the prompt and unpack their meaning.
    Essay questions are set up very carefully and each key term needs to be addressed.

  • The introduction needs to directly answer the prompt.

  • Don't memorise essays and reproduce them in exams.
    Remember to respond to the prompt and focus on what’s relevant to that prompt.

  • Be consistent with the development of the contention across the essay. Each paragraph in the body of the essay needs to develop your contention.

  • Examples and evidence are drawn only from the text. You cannot bring anything external to it.

  • Learn a comprehensive series of quotations from the beginning, middle and end of the text.

  • Don’t forget to mention the ways in which the author expresses or implies a point of view and/or values.

  • The conclusion includes the fulfilment of your line of contention.

Section B: Writing in Context

  • You will be given a prompt to which you must respond, which is almost like a universal statement.

  • In Section B you are able to express your thoughts and ideas relating to the overall theme in whatever form you choose, be it imaginative, persuasive or expository; however, you must work with the prompt regardless of what format you choose.

  • The studied text is there for inspiration, not to write a text essay on.

  • You need to show knowledge of the text but can also go beyond it and draw on related ideas (such as current affairs, your own experiences) to develop your argument.

  • Don't just retell the story; you need to explore the quality of ideas and link back to the text.

Section C: Analysis of Language

  • You should devote at least 10 minutes of reading time to read the written material in this section. This will enable you to gain an impression of the overall issue.

  • Remember the what, how and why language is being used in an attempt to influence readers/audience.

  • Identify the Context, Contention, Tone, Audience and Purpose.

  • You need to focus on specific phrases and analyse how the language used by the writer shapes the beliefs/feelings of the reader.

  • Paragraphs for language analysis are essentially “point, evidence, analyse”.

  • You also need to analyse how the visual material shapes the beliefs of the reader.

  • Keep your language simple and straightforward.

  • Don’t forget to use language of comparison to show the differences/contrasts of opinions.

And finally,

GOOD LUCK 😃 

Preparing for the exams

Elio Damato

Exams can be scary for many people. Even for the best prepared! While we can’t take the exam for you, we can give you some tips on how to prepare, as well as what you can do in the room to maximise your exam time.

  • Try to get a good sleep the night before. There’s no use staying up late studying – sleep will be more beneficial than another practice exam at this late stage. However, you’ll probably be nervous, so try not to stress if you can’t sleep – you’re still resting your body and mind if you’re lying down in bed. Having a bath, drinking a cup of tea (without caffeine!), or doing some meditation are also good ways to relax the night before.

  • Don’t skip breakfast. Make sure you’ve eaten a healthy and substantial meal before the exam so your brain has enough energy. Stay hydrated, but be careful not to drink so much water that you need to take a toilet break!

  • Don’t talk about the exam before the exam. I find that it’s best not to hang out with friends before the exam. However, if you think being around people is what you need, then talk about something other than how much you’ve studied and what you think will be on the exam.

  • Use your reading time wisely. Decide before the exam what you’ll read during reading time. Will you quickly glance at the whole exam? Or will you focus on one question and try to work out an answer? What is essential is that you use this time to plan in your head what you are going to do.

  • Decide your exam approach in advance. You know what the structure of the exam is going to be, so decide in advance in which order you’ll do the sections. Start with your strongest section/s first. However, be sure to plan your time correctly so as to not rush at the end.

  • Stick to a time limit. Further to the above, set time limits for each section, and don’t go over them. It’s better that you finish all sections of an exam and don’t have time to read over them than miss out on writing the last paragraph of an essay, for example.

  • If you’re stuck on a question, move on. If there’s a single question you can’t work out, don’t stay on it for too long. It’s quite likely your brain just froze for a second, and that when you come back to it, it’ll be more obvious.

  • Don’t leave early. There’s always something more you can have a go at. If nothing else, review your work and read your responses aloud in your head. I’ve seen far too many people leave exams early and lament their responses once they get to re-read what they have submitted. Remember, VCE exams are not intended to be finished early so make use of the time allotted.

  • Decide what you’re going to do afterwards. Most people find it extremely unhelpful and distressing to talk about the exam after it’s over. There is nothing you can do to change it now, so don’t talk about it. You could do something fun such as relaxing with your friends, or you might want to go home and chill out before studying for your next exam.

  • If something unexpected happens on exam day, find out if you can apply for special consideration. If you were sick or think your circumstances affected your ability to sit the exam on the day, find out more here.

Maintaining self-esteem

Elio Damato

Self-esteem is an important thing to maintain. It can help us be happier and more resilient.

Some things that might make you feel bad about yourself during your years at school:

  • Not doing as well at school as you’d like to, or feeling “stupid”
  • Feeling unhappy with the way you look
  • Feeling like your friends don’t really like you, or like other people better

I think that all negative self-esteem more often than not comes down to comparing ourselves to others – others who we admire or are envious of, and who we see we’re not like in a certain way.

It is much easier said than done that you need to stop comparing yourself to others. Although it’s a gradual process (I know I’m still learning it!) it’s something that will make you much happier with your life and who you are.

If you’re having a lot of negative thoughts about yourself, stop and consider whether comparing yourself to what others are doing is an appropriate response for an intelligent and special person! Even this simple acknowledgement of why you’re feeling this way can help you to overcome the negative feelings a little.

Just as important as it is to not talk your self-esteem down, it’s also not helpful to make yourself feel better by dragging others down. For example, if you’re feeling unhappy about the way you look, it’s definitely not helpful to think, “Well, I might have bad hair, but he has bad skin”. All you are doing is getting caught up in the cycle of comparing yourself to others, which is hot helpful or productive at all.

We all have something different and great to offer, so it’s important to remind yourself regularly that there are plenty of reasons why you’re interesting, fun, smart or a great friend. It is also useful to remind your friends of the reasons why they are special too. Everyone likes to feel that they are admired for who they are, and if you can promote a caring culture amongst your friendship group you will find that the respect becomes mutual.

Often achievements can affect our self-esteem, so something that can help is to set reasonable personal goals. Your goals shouldn’t be based on what others are doing, and they should be reasonable enough for you to achieve. So if you’ve really been struggling with a subject, you shouldn’t aim to get an A+ on the next test. However, you could set a goal of improving on your score from the last test. With a little hard work and concerted effort, you may achieve some quick wins, all of which will go to building your level of satisfaction.

You could also remind yourself of some of the positive things you’ve done. While it can feel silly or self-absorbed to think about good things you’ve done, it’s also a good idea to remind yourself that you’re not a bad person! Take a break and think of three good things you’ve done, like “I’ve been really supportive of my best friend recently”, “I wrote three essays this week”, or “I made a delicious dinner for my family yesterday”. The word ‘self’ relates to you, the person, so if you can’t say something good about yourself, then who can? The good news is I bet you won’t have to think hard about wonderful things you have done for yourself and others.

It’s also important to be able to embrace and overcome mistakes and failures. We’re all going to do something we’re not proud of or wish we’d done differently. It’s important to realise that a mistake doesn’t define who you are. It’s also important to reflect on what went wrong so that you try to improve in the future.

No discussion on this topic would be complete without discussing the need to learn to like the way you look and its role in building your self-esteem. The first thing to remember is that your appearance doesn’t define who you are, and there are much more important things that you will be valued for by those closest to you, such as being hardworking and/or a good friend. It’s important to appreciate that your body has a purpose other than the way it looks. However, if you wish to make some healthy changes to your lifestyle, then ‘yes’ you can set body-related goals, just make sure they are about what you can do, rather than what you look like. This could be something like “I want to be able to run 6 kilometres” or “I want to be able to climb the 1000 Steps”.

Finally, take a good look around you because if you’re around people who put you down or make you feel especially bad about yourself, it might be a good idea to limit your time with them and change your environment. Avoid spending time with them if you can, or if you are comfortable enough to do something about it, then standing up for yourself when they say something negative will demonstrate to them that you respect who you are.

To learn more about how you can take control and improve your self-esteem refer to this page for more tips.

Nobody can overcome negative feelings about themselves entirely. We all have days where we don’t feel like we’ve been the best version of ourselves. But the journey to positive self-esteem will help you feel happier in the long run.

The importance of resilience

Elio Damato

Resilience is an important skill to have, but it’s one a lot of us struggle with. When something bad happens, it can feel insurmountable and prevent us concentrating on anything else for the rest of the day.

There are a number of issues you might face during school that will test your resilience, such as getting a bad mark, fighting with a friend or family member, feeling like you’re not getting anywhere in your studies, or having no idea what you want to do when you finish school.

Resilience helps us overcome the more difficult times in our life and helps us work through our problems in a reasonable way. We won’t all be successful all the time, so it’s important to be able to deal with the big or small things life throws at us.

You might say something like “I’m just not very good at dealing with my problems” or “I often overreact”. But resilience is not only based on our personality and characteristics. It’s also influenced by contextual factors, such as having a great support network and stable accommodation and finances. While you might not have the power to change these factors, there are some things you can do to improve your resilience.

Improving your resilience is not a quick fix – it requires long-term effort, and you might not improve straight away.

When something bad happens, you want to be able to think things through clearly. Try to take the time to engage with your problems rationally, rather than reacting emotionally. You can also think the problem through and analyse whether it’s really as bad as you think. If your brain immediately jumps to catastrophic situations, see if you can create an alternative scenario in your head. One thing I like to do is think, “Will this problem matter tomorrow? In one month? What about in a year?” This can help put some things into perspective.

When something unpleasant happens, you can also try to take action. Some people become paralysed by their problems, and find that when something goes wrong, they react by doing nothing. While you should certainly stop and think about what’s happened, you should also try to take some kind of action to overcome or work around the issue, and learn some strategies to boost your resilience to the situation.

You can also work on some things over a longer period of time that will help you to develop strategies for promoting resilience and developing self-awareness of your emotions and how you react. Start by reading this information page from Kids Helpline. Use the strategies listed as a starting point to digging deeper into how they might be able to help you. A great place to start is by asking someone you respect how he or she copes. Asking someone you have a strong connection with is a good place to start, because often how they deal with situations should resonate with you.

Learning to accept change as a normal part of life can help you adjust to different situations and problems more easily. Learning to become more optimistic by keeping a positive view of yourself and the world around you also helps you move on from small problems.

It’s also a good idea to practice self-care so that when something testing does happen, you are better equipped to deal with it. This includes things like sleeping well, eating healthily, getting some exercise, maintaining positive relationships, or even something small like having a bath or reading a book.

When uneasy things do happen, take the time to reflect on what happened and how you dealt with it. Even if you didn’t react in a way you would like to repeat, you can learn from that mistake. If you got a bad mark and reacted by ignoring that subject altogether, you can start fresh today by choosing to study that subject. If you had a fight with a friend, you can learn from the situation by thinking what you wouldn’t do next time you’re in a similar situation.

It’s also important to remember that even though being resilient and looking out for yourself is a great skill to have, you should also ask for help if you need it. Your family, friends and school will provide assistance if you’re struggling. Or you can seek advice from Kids Helpline by calling 1800 55 1800.

The best way to prepare for your exams

Elio Damato

Authors: Maria & Chris

There unfortunately is no quick fix when it comes to acing your end of year exams. The simple fact is that the best way to prepare is to do lots of practice and, just as importantly, to take your practice exams seriously.

If you’re sitting practice exams at school, do not waste the opportunity to test your skills in an environment similar to what you will experience on the day. After all, you’ll be sitting your real exams at school, so try to make it a practice run for the real thing. Prepare for them as well as you can within the time remaining. Rehearsing your exam day a number of times at school is a good way to control your nerves on the big day (although a little bit of stress can give you adrenaline!) And even though it is just practice, don’t leave early – you can never read over your work too many times, and there’s always something else you can have a go at!

But to set yourself up for success you really should also be doing practice exams at home. Responding to a wide variety of questions is a great way to be prepared for whatever the exam may throw at you. Past exams are available on the VCAA website. You should also be able to access some different exams from your teacher.

When you sit practice exams at home, it’s important to practice them within the same conditions you will be under, including sticking to the time limit. It’s no use being able to answer all the questions on the exam in seven hours – you need to give it the best shot you can under a time constraint. Try not to become disheartened if it feels like you’ll never do everything under the time limit – you’ll get quicker and be able to include more detail with more practice.

Furthermore, try to complete your exam without the aid of study notes and textbooks. You won't have access to them on the day, so best you learn to wean yourself off them now. If you have done the preparation beforehand then this should be easy. If not, then you know you have a bit more work to do. The good news is that you still have time to prepare.

After you do a practice exam, it’s really important to go through it afterwards and see which bits you got wrong and which bits you can improve on. If you’re doing a VCAA exam, you absolutely should read the exam reports on the website – they not only have answers to the exam, but specific advice about what the examiners are looking for, and what a lot of students missed or consistently get wrong.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to acing your exams. By preparing to perform under exam conditions, both mentally and physically, you have the best chance to succeed on one of the biggest days of your life (no pressure of course!)

Choosing your VTAC preferences

Elio Damato

As the date for submitting your VTAC preferences approaches, we want to give you some tips for making this choice. Selecting your VTAC preferences can feel intimidating. I think there are two main reasons why this might be scary.

  1. What if I don’t get into any of the courses I choose?
  2. What if I choose a course, and then when I start studying, I hate it?

But your VTAC preferences are not the last study or career choice you will ever make. If you’re still feeling unsure about your choices, don’t worry!

What if I don’t get into any of the courses I choose?

  • Make sure you put a whole range of courses on your preference list. The first one or two should be your dream courses, even if you think there is no chance you’ll get into them. The body of your list should be ones you want that are realistic. Then make sure the last couple are courses you would still be happy to do, but which have entry requirements you’re pretty sure you can achieve.

  • Your first round selections are not the ‘be all and end all.’ You can change your preferences once you know your ATAR. Learn about change of preference here. If you realise you did much better or much worse than you expected, you can change your course preferences so that you have some more realistic options.

  • Put your courses in order of preference. This seems really obvious, but a lot of people put their preferences in order of highest ATAR to lowest ATAR, or some other method. However, the entrance score for a course can change from year to year. You never know exactly what you’ll get, so make sure you list the courses in the order you actually want them.

What if I choose a course, and then when I start studying, I hate it?

You won’t know exactly what a course is going to be like until you’re in it, but here are some things so you’ll have a better idea of what uni will be like.

  • Be prepared. Find out as much as you can about all the courses you’re applying to. It’s best to be well-informed. You can tour universities to get a feel for them. You can read about courses on the university’s website. You can search the internet to see if current students are blogging or leaving reviews for their course or subjects. You can find out what subjects are offered within individual courses. You can look up what graduates from those courses are doing. Think about what’s important to you – it might be leaving university with a job, or leaving simply with an open mind.

  • You can transfer between courses once you’re at university. If you hate your course, you can usually transfer to a different course at the same university. You might even get credit for the units you’ve already studied. I know someone who purposefully applied for a course she didn’t want, because she knew she would be able to get into it and then transfer to the course she did want. I also know someone who applied to a course she didn’t want, and then discovered that she loved it, and has changed her career path.

  • University will be a bit difficult for at least the first semester. Once you start, try to separate your feelings about the social side of uni from your feelings about the academic side. The first semester can be lonely – you might not know many people, and you might have moved out of home for the first time. It’s harder to make friends than at school, as you don’t spend as much time with the same people. If you’re struggling to make friends, it’s totally normal, but feeling lonely doesn’t mean the same thing as hating your course.

Finally, the reality is that University isn’t for everyone. Success can often be measured in pretty confined terms – go to a “good” uni, get a “good” job, make lots of money. But your happiness is also really important. Measure success in terms of goals you set yourself, rather than ones other people set for you. Listen to people’s advice, but make up your own mind at the end of the day.

Overcoming Frustration

Elio Damato

When you’re studying hard for a long period of time, you might start to feel burnt out and frustrated, and your workload might feel completely insurmountable.

Sometimes we may lament that “There is so much to do that I’ll never get it all done – I may as well do nothing”. This is understandable, but unhelpful in the long term. Instead, follow some of these tips so that you can find the drive to go on and overcome the frustration of feeling like you’re stuck in a rut.

  • Set achievable goals. If you’re writing a list or thinking about what you want to achieve in a day, don’t expect too much from yourself. This isn’t an excuse to do one small task and call it a day, but you do need to set goals that you can reasonably achieve. Achieving every task you set yourself to do in a day gives you a great feeling of accomplishment. Setting achievable goals on a consistent basis will also prevent you from getting burnt out.

  • Break work down into small chunks. If you know that you’re super behind in chemistry, try not to think about the enormous amount of work you need to do to catch up. Instead, you can break it into smaller sections and focus on completing one section at a time.

  • Study in short blocks. Know the amount of time you can reasonably concentrate without a break – this might be one hour, for example. There’s no way you can concentrate for five hours straight. Schedule breaks throughout a study session, and don’t make your breaks longer than the scheduled time.

  • Save your easiest tasks for the end of the day. When you’re tired after an hour or two of really good study, it can be tempting to completely switch off. But at the end of the day you could also quickly do a small task that isn’t too much of a mental strain. This could be some kind of repetitive task like revising vocabulary for your LOTE subject. The flipside to this is making sure you do your trickiest work at the beginning, when your mind is fresh.

  • Make your study space a study sanctuary. I find that when I’m particularly unmotivated, it helps to make my study space as nice as possible. This makes it feel like somewhere I want to spend time. Light a scented candle. Put some flowers in a vase or move a houseplant into your space. Play some instrumental background music, if this isn’t too distracting for you. Make a special flavour of tea in your best cup.

  • Look after yourself. Try to make your breaks positive. For a short break, make a fun, healthy snack, like a fruit and veggie smoothie. For a longer break, go for a walk, run or swim. If you’re studying in front of a screen, try not to take breaks in front of a screen as well.

  • Remember that things will be better tomorrow. If you’re feeling frustrated or sad about your studies, remember that things will be better after a good night’s sleep. If you’re really not getting anything done, try to go to bed early.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Elio Damato

If your body doesn’t stay healthy, it’s really hard to stay focused on your studies, as well as all the other things going on in your life. While we can’t prevent all illnesses coming our way, here are some tips you can follow to avoid getting sick, and looking after yourself if you do.

Before you get sick

There are some good things you can do to help build your immune system, making it less likely that you’ll get sick.

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat healthily, including lots of fruit and vegetables – they contain heaps of vitamins!
  • Do regular exercise – maybe you could got for a walk, or play a team sport. Exercising will also help you sleep better.
  • Avoid infections by washing your hands regularly.

There are some other things you can do that have been shown to increase immunity.

  • Try not to be too stressed. This one seems counterintuitive to doing year 12, but in general, it's a really good idea to learn how to manage your stress as well as you can. You can help manage your stress by staying connected to important people in your life, practicing meditation, and getting more organised.
  • Maintain strong relationships. There is some evidence that that staying connected to people can raise your immunity. Positive relationships with family and friends are good for your mind, at any rate, so try not to isolate yourself, even when you're studying hard. 

It’s also a good idea to prepare yourself for the fact that you might get sick at some point during year 12. There are some things you can do so that this will hit you less hard.

  • Stay organised throughout the year where you can. If you unexpectedly get sick, you don't want this to completely throw a spanner in the works. Stay on top of everything as much as you can so that a couple of days in bed isn't going to set you back.
  • Don't take on too much. It's important to learnt to say no to things – you probably won't be able to do every activity that comes your way, so choose the ones you think are the most important.
  • Prioritise rest. Make sure you have scheduled times for chilling out in your week. This might mean that on Friday nights you stay home and don't study.

While you're sick

If you do get sick, there are some things you can do to try to recover.

  • Rest! Get as much rest as you can. This will help you recover more quickly.
  • If you feel up to it, go for a walk. You shouldn't do intense exercise, but going for a short walk to get some fresh air is a good idea. 
  • Stay hydrated. This is good for you at all times, but particularly when you're sick (especially if you're taking cold and flu medication).
  • Avoid making others sick! Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze to avoid spreading germs and disease to other people. 

If being sick has affected your studies, make sure you talk to someone about it.

  • Get a doctor's certificate if you miss important dates like a SAC. It's important to keep a record that you were sick so that you don't miss out on getting marks for a test.
  • If you've been significantly unwell during year 12, it's possible you can apply for special consideration, which can assist you getting into uni if your illness has impacted on your studies. You can find more information about this on the VTAC website. If you have an acute or chronic illness, you might be eligible for special provision in your school-based assessments and exams.

Managing the relationship with your family during VCE

Elio Damato

During year 12, you might be starting to feel more independent from your family, or like you want more freedom. This comes at the same time that you have to start focusing on your studies a lot more. It might feel like your family are hassling you during this time, but they can actually be your greatest allies.

If it feels like your parents are too pushy and they are more stressed by VCE than you are, firstly try to remember that they are only doing this because they care about you. However, if the pressure they’re putting on you just increases your stress, then you might want to have a conversation with them about backing off just a little. Try to approach this with kindness, because they really do just want you to be successful. Accept that they’re not going to stop caring about you, and try to think of their pushiness as a positive.

If your family mostly just leave you to do your own thing, then lucky you! However, if you know that you struggle with motivation, you can ask your family if they can help remind or encourage you to do your homework or study. Remind them that the VCE is important to you, but also try to absorb some of their chill vibes and remember that you’ll be okay.

If your family is really busy and have priorities other than your VCE, then you might need to remind them that year 12 is really important to you. This might include taking some time out from family activities to study, or setting up a quiet space designated for study at home. You can also find great support in other places. If home isn’t the best place to study, you can usually stay after school and study in the library for an hour or two. You could also go to your local public library. Your teachers really want you to succeed, so ask them for help if you need it. You might also want to think about finding a tutor.

You can use your family to your advantage during VCE. Your family want you to succeed, and they can be your best allies. You could ask them to practice flash cards with you. You could teach them the new topic you learnt in class today – teaching to someone else is one of the best ways to revise. Teach to your pet if your family is busy, as a way of reinforcing concepts learned. You could have a group study session with your siblings.

As someone who has a few years’ distance from trying to get along with my family during VCE, I know that they were my biggest allies during this time. My relationship with them has become so much better, and I appreciate them a lot more now. Try to appreciate your family now if you can. They might annoy you sometimes, but at least there’s someone around who always cares and will always laugh at your jokes.

Making the most out of Open Days

Chris Ebbs

This week we’re focusing on Open Days. Today our Education Support Officer, Chris, will give us some insights into her own Open Day experiences just a few years ago.


I attended Open Days in both year 11 and 12. I would definitely recommend spreading out the Open Day madness across two, or even three, years. August of year 12 is a busy time, and you probably don’t want to spend every weekend travelling to a different Open Day.

If your parents will be driving you to Open Days, you might want to ease the strain on them by carpooling with your friends. I attended a couple of Open Days with a friend who was interested in studying a similar course. We attended information sessions together and asked questions of the same faculty members. Taking a friend is a great way to hear a question you might not have thought of or see a part of campus you might not have visited. It also meant that our parents only had to drive us every second weekend!

If you think you’ll be living at home or in a similar area while you attend uni, it’s a great idea to take the public transport or bike route you would take. (You could also drive, depending on whether you think you’ll be driving to uni and whether there is adequate and affordable parking on campus.) This will help familiarise you with the route and remove one small piece of stress from your first week of class.

I lived in a residential college for my first couple of years of uni. This meant that on Open Day, I had to tour all the colleges as well as the university campus. This will take a lot longer than you expect, so narrow it down to your top choices and just visit those ones. If you won’t be able to live at home and don’t know about the housing options for the particular uni, there will be people at Open Day who can help. They will tell you about university accommodation or provide advice and contacts if you’re going to be renting privately.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. University is unfamiliar, and there will definitely be some things you don’t expect or understand. The people helping on Open Day are there to assist and will definitely be friendly. They’ve also heard it all before, so don’t be embarrassed to ask something that feels silly or trivial, whether it’s “How many people do I have to share a room with?” (Zero) or “Can I take maths in my Arts degree?” (Yes, but I didn’t end up doing it).

Go into Open Day with an open mind. This is something I wish I’d done. I went to Open Days even though I felt like I’d already decided where I wanted to go. This meant I didn’t keep an open mind at some of the other universities, which I know would have been equally as good in different ways. Attend every Open Day like it’s the uni you will be attending.

Take notes at the end of the day. I also wish I’d done this, as once I’d visited a number of universities, all I could remember was some vague impressions rather than solid facts. Write down what you liked, what you didn’t like, what your housing and transport situation would be, and which courses you’re most interested in.

You don’t need to take every piece of paper you’re offered. I finished year 12 with about three trees worth of Open Day brochures. Most of this information is online anyway, so only take the brochures for the things you’re really interested in or things that you can’t find online.

It’s also a good idea to listen to what your parents thought. If you attend an Open Day with them, ask their opinion and really listen. They were at all the same events and casual chats as you, but they might have come out of it with different impressions. They know you really well, so they might have some good advice. But remember that in the end, it is your decision.

Stay hydrated and well-fed. You’ll collapse if you try to walk around all day without sustenance in a new environment where you’re constantly meeting new people and having to concentrate on a huge amount of information. There will most likely be free or cheap food on campus, or you could take a break and find a café nearby. My mum and I almost couldn’t keep going by the end of one Open Day – but it was lucky we did, because the last place we dragged ourselves to ended up being the residential college I stayed at for two years! You never know what you’ll miss out on if you let yourself get tired too early in the day.

Don’t be afraid to follow up if you missed something on Open Day. If you forgot to ask a burning question or have had a sudden change of mind about courses, there will always be someone you can email or call to find out what you need to know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as it’s important to make a well-informed choice about your future university!

Open Days - An insight into your future

Elio Damato

Author: LWD Team.

As you progress through the senior years of study you will often be asked questions like, “What will you do when you finish school?” “What career would you like to pursue?” “Is there a particular university you would like to attend?” 

However, let’s face it, our responses are usually based on not much more than what subjects we like at school or what our parents, older siblings or friends may recommend we do. Well as you make your way through the academic year you have to start really thinking about your future. What degree are you going to apply for? Which university are you going to attend? What are your career options?

Well this time of year provides a great opportunity to get an insight into your future as universities open their doors to visitors to give prospective students and their parents an insight into what university life is like and what options are available to you.

‘Open Days’ are run on weekends starting in late July through to early September and most major universities hold their Open Days on alternative weekends. You can obtain a full list of upcoming Open Days by visiting the VTAC website.

The benefits of attending a number of different Open Days are numerous. Firstly, they provide invaluable insights on one of life's most important decisions. You can get a sense of the vibe and atmosphere of a university by having a casual chat to the lecturers and to students from different faculties (subject areas) and walking around the campus to get a sense of the facilities.  

It also helps if you do a bit research before you go. This will allow you to focus on areas of interest and help you use your time efficiently. Make a day of it because the time will fly as you engross yourself in what your future life is going to look like. And don’t worry, if you feel a little nervous about attending on your own then you are welcome to bring your parents, siblings and/or friends to the day in order to share your experiences with them.
 
You will walk away from the Open Day with a good gut-feel as to whether you wish to pursue studies in a particular subject area and whether it is the right institute for you.

Finally, Open Days are not just for those in Year 12. In fact, it is a very good idea for year 11 and 10 students to attend as well. It helps students to understand what subjects they should pursue in VCE and what academic achievement is required in order to obtain a position at the university of your dreams. 

Overcoming lack of motivation

Chris Ebbs

Author: Chris Ebbs

It can be difficult to stay motivated for long periods of time, and during year 12 this can become a real problem. It’s important to maintain motivation so that you can keep studying at a consistent level throughout the year. However, when the end feels too far away, it can be tricky to push yourself to study as much as you might want or need to. Here are 5 tricks you can try in order to stay motivated throughout the school year.

The ‘just do it’ method. For some people, the hardest part is getting started. They might need a lot of convincing to get off the couch and to sit at a desk, but once they’ve got their books in front of them, the actual study part isn’t so bad. If this sounds like you, then remember to ‘just do it’ and you’ll thank yourself for it later. You might want to set a time that you promise to be at your desk every morning or ask a family member to help you get motivated to start. For best effects, remember to wear your fave Nike gear.

Work first, have fun later. This is an important trick to keep practising throughout your life. Once you start doing something fun, it can feel impossible to drag yourself away from it to get back to your desk. However, if you finish everything you were planning to first, then watching that tv show or meeting up with your friend will be so much sweeter.

The reward method. This is a similar concept to ‘have fun later’, but it’s much more defined. For some people, creating specific rewards for completing certain tasks really helps them get through it. If you study for an hour you could reward yourself with a snack. For the whole day you could watch the latest episode of your show. It’s also a good idea to have bigger rewards: for doing a SAC you could buy yourself something you’ve had your eye on for a while. And then make sure you have some kind of reward in mind for finishing year 12 – maybe your parents will take you out for dinner or you can plan a fun day with your friends.

Study with a friend. Some people can’t study well with others (I know I can’t). But some find that this helps them keep going. For this to work, you need to know that your friend isn’t going to distract you (and make sure that you’re not distracting them either!) But having a friend around can make the experience more fun, and also help you stay motivated as you learn together. If they’re studying, you might feel bad about taking a break and power through an extra hour. You can also help explain key concepts to each other if you’re studying any of the same subjects.

Go to a library. While having a consistent study space can help get you in the zone, sometimes a change of scene is just what you need. At home, there can be a lot of distractions, and if you’re alone in your study space, there is less accountability about taking extremely extended ‘breaks’. Going to a library is perfect – it’s quiet, lots of other people are studying, and you can usually turn the Internet on and off depending on whether you need to use it or you need to avoid distractions. (You could combine this one with Study with a friend.)

Dealing with stress

Chris Ebbs

Author: Chris Ebbs

School can be stressful, particularly during year 12 when there are all sorts of expectations and goals you want to meet. But finding ways to manage your stress will help you be much more successful. It’ll also help you be healthier and happier!

  • Sleep. I’m sure you’ve noticed that being tired seems to make everything worse. It also makes it harder to study and harder to make decisions. Sleep is an important part of the learning process, as it can help commit things you’ve learnt to memory. Teenagers need more sleep than adults, so see if you can go to bed half an hour earlier tonight. Sleep can help you cope with everything else going on in your life, and can be a simple way to improve your health.

  • Exercise. Exercising is obviously good for your physical health, but it’s also good for your mental health. It can improve sleep, and if done regularly, can help you cope directly with stress. Go for a run or a swim, join a sports team, go for a walk with your friend, pet or family, or dance around your room.

  • Extracurriculars. Activities outside of school aren’t just something to put on your resume. It’s a good idea to have a variety of activities going on in your life. This could be something like playing an instrument or playing a sport. Even a part-time job can be a good distraction from the other things happening in your life. It doesn’t even have to be as formal as going to a piano lesson. You could create some art or get really into looking after your pot plants. Anything that’s getting you away from study for something else positive is a good way to cope with stress.

  • Say no. On the flipside of extracurricular activities, sometimes you have to cut down what’s going on in your life. If you’ve taken on too many shifts at work or you’re trying to make the Olympic team, it’ll probably be hard to stay focused on study. If succeeding at school is your goal, sometimes you’ll have to cut back on some of the other things in your life in order to manage your stress levels.

  • Talk to positive people in your life. Stay connected to your friends – don’t stop hanging out with them because you need to study all the time. Positive relationships can help create a sense of belonging, increase happiness and reduce stress. Your family is also an important part of your support network. They can help you cope with all the things you have to do when you’re stressed, whether it’s being there for a chat or letting you off your chores for the week.

  • Just do it. The homework that’s adding to your stress won’t provide stress once it’s done! Some of your stress could be reduced by sitting down at your desk and completing a task. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with something you know you can do. Ticking things off your to-do list can give you a real sense of achievement.

  • Get help if you need it. If stress is really taking over your life and you feel like you’re not coping or it’s affecting your health, talk to someone about it. You can start with a trusted friend, family member or teacher. You can also talk to a school counsellor or nurse, or find a professional counsellor or psychologist. Headspace is a great place to check out if you need some help with your mental health.