Amazing achievers

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VCE 2012 students reveal their exam experience, success and future plans to SHALINIKA PERERA

Congratulations to all the students who successfully attained their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in 2012. As the journey through secondary education is now complete, the transition into adulthood begins. But before bidding adieu to 2012’s VCE class, we spoke to a number of students who went through the experience of sleep-deprived nights and exam stress, towards a rewarding finish of their school year. They shared insights into their experiences and key strategies used during the year that contributed to their success. We hope that the 2013 VCE batch will gain inspiration and confidence from their predecessors. And good luck to all of them.

Social life kept me alive
Arushi Jain
Year 12 is a special year – clichéd, but true. In this year the entire cohort worked together more than ever before, forming stronger relationships with our teachers, working like slaves (lots of work, no pay), but while having fun at the same time. Schools constantly tell us to achieve a ‘balance’, and in some ways, I did. I had to stop my music lessons because it needed a lot of time commitment. However, other activities kept me sane throughout the year, such as ballroom dancing lessons, participated in house activities (chorals, madrigals, drama and lip-synching), community volunteering and maintaining some kind of social life. I attended 18th birthday parties and had my own and even went to wedding receptions and celebrated occasions with my family and friends. It is important to take short breaks during study, but ensure that they aren’t longer than your study sessions.

From experience, my advice is to choose subjects that you are good at and genuinely enjoy. I almost chose Specialist Mathematics until my mum pointed out that it would be a stupid decision – maths is not my best subject, I would put in a lot of effort and not get a brilliant result. Instead, she suggested that I do psychology, which is something that I would enjoy and understand. And I’m glad, because I found the content engaging, was motivated to study it, and eventually came out with a study score of 50, far better than what I would received in Specialist.

My study routine was writing out lists of what I needed to do and prioritising them. Each tick gave me a feeling of achievement. I studied at home, with music playing in the background, and I have to admit that the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song is great for writing essays. But practice exams are best done in exam conditions, without any distractions.

If studying a language, practicing speaking skills with a friend helps as even general conversation makes you more fluent. And finally, sleeping well is key! It gives you enough energy to keep you going, helps in concentration and keeps you alert. I’m now eager to commence my tertiary studies in the health science field.
Arushi Jain studied at the Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, and scored an ATAR of  99.70

Eager learner
Amarjit Batra
Rather than the marks that I received, it was the enjoyment and eagerness to learn a particular subject that made me realise my affinity for it. Its best to pick the subjects that you enjoy and shortlist potential careers in advance, at the start of year 11. So despite receiving higher marks for English in year 11, I chose Literature in Year 12 because I enjoyed its extra focus on analysis, and looking back, it was the right choice. My parents supported my decisions on subject selections and my dad took a keen interest in my courses.

I believe in studying the subject rather than a ‘book’. I focused on applying the knowledge learnt at school to real life concepts, especially with IT applications and Economics. Another method I used was to revise key ‘buzz words’ for each subject at the end of each week.

Most of my support came from my excellent school teachers who I constantly annoyed by asking a lot of questions! And there is no better revision than doing practise exams. Ask friends, teachers and search for them online.

On completing my exams, I visited the Gurudwara and had special lunch with my family and a night out with friends and close cousins.

I’m now looking at either pursuing a Bachelor of Environments (majoring in construction management) at the University of Melbourne or a Bachelor of Construction Management and Property at the University of New South Wales.
Current year 12 students should enjoy their last year of school and aim to make a memorable and proud one.
Amarjit Batra from Camberwell Grammar School scored an ATAR of 98.75

Pacing and planning
Aman Rekhy
The VCE is like a marathon, but spread over the course of two years. And like a real marathon, its important to pace oneself. My studying technique involved balancing out the time spent on each subject according to the amount of effort needed, whilst still trying to maintain as much equality as possible. Put in constant work throughout the year, rather than taking it easy until the exams and then increasing your stress and workload. When selecting subjects, if you don’t know your strengths, pick a subject that interests you and the desire to learn, achieve and excel will be fuelled by that interest.

Beyond school, I was a part of two soccer teams – indoor and outdoor – which was a valuable release that diverted my attention from studying for a short period of time. Also, my love for music and being a drummer for 6 years helped me to simply forget about my VCE pressures. I also added to my musical capabilities by attempting to teach myself the guitar, a further temporary release from my academic endeavours.

Celebrating the end of exams was spectacular. The sense of freedom and joy was simply unimaginable. After my last exam, I spent the evening with my girlfriend just walking around South Yarra and making up for time lost during the exam period. An ‘end of exams’ celebration party was also organised by a close friend.

My most memorable experience of Year 12 was the final assembly at which the school song’s words “swift fly the hours in work and in play” rang truer than ever on final assembly. In those few short hours I reflected on the entire year and the reality of the situation hit me. I would now be considered an ‘Old Boy’ of Melbourne High School. I would no longer walk down the halls of our prestigious school. The camaraderie and friendships developed would no longer exist within the grounds of the school. I would walk through the front doors for the last time ever as a student, and plunge into the independence that awaits me.

Opening up a new and exciting chapter in life, I am hoping to pursue either a Bachelor of Commerce or Bachelor of Arts/Business at Monash University.

Consistency is key to study. I highly recommend careful and strategic planning to students undertaking the VCE. Failing to plan is planning to fail!
Aman Rekhy is from Melbourne High School.

A rollercoaster year
Kartik Singh
Year 12 is a rollercoaster of a year, with so many peaks and troughs, that it forces students to team up in order to face it.

The most memorable aspect of the year were friendships that were both made and strengthened with my fellow students, and I am hoping to continue these long into the future.

To make the most of Year 12, equal priority should be given to both study and leisure. This was my most fruitful year academically, but also my most social year and I ensured that most Saturday nights were for my own plans. At times, taking your mind off the VCE is the best thing, even if it is just for a few hours a week.

I was consistent with studying throughout the year, planning my weeks in advance by allocating certain amounts of time to each subject. During exam time however, I spent most hours of the day at the library.

I have always been inclined to study Commerce following high school, so I chose similar subjects for VCE (Accounting, Legal Studies, Economics, Methods etc.). Additionally, I chose to study Chemistry (a pre-requisite for other courses) in order to keep my options open, in case I changed university preferences during Year 12. My advice would be to pick subjects you’re interested in, rather than picking those which scale highly. This helps enjoy Year 12 infinitely more, you have a much better chance of doing well.

I will study Commerce at Melbourne University in 2013, and will join Ernst & Young as a full-time Cadet in 2014. Following that, I hope to pursue further study overseas.
You only get one shot at your VCE, so to get the most out of it, put 100% into everything you do and you’ll have no regrets when it’s done.
Kartik Singh from Melbourne High School scored an ATAR of 97.65

Setting sensible goals
Priya Agarwal
At the start of 2012, I set some goals about what I wanted to achieve during my last year of high school. I wanted to try my best, take every opportunity, and balance my time effectively. I worked as hard as I could and managed to achieve an ATAR of 99.85. However, there were quite a few hurdles to overcome like the constant struggle between work, rest, enough sleep and play. But I prioritised my work, completed everything ahead of time and ensured that I was not ‘cramming’. Keeping my schedule in control helped me to plan ahead. Balance is especially important in Year 12, since studying excessively can take a toll on one’s health. I practised yoga for clarity of mind and completed my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. When I wanted to relax, I listened to some quiet music and concentrated on my breathing.

My advice to VCE students is to work with determination to achieve your goals, but put everything into perspective. Spending time with friends is important; it’s easy to feel burdened when you spend lots of time alone. Forming a study group is a great way to find some balance. Planning ahead, spending time with friends and getting enough sleep will help you to achieve your goals. Time is really of the essence, and Year 12 flies by, so have a sound study timetable every week from February to November, especially during the holidays. I started doing trial exams four months before the VCAA exams, and reviewed topics as soon as they were finished. Additionally, make sure you utilise every resource available, including your teachers, who are truly invaluable during Year 12. Overall, work hard and with discipline, but don’t forget to laugh and smile as much as possible. One of the goals I achieved this year was to make someone laugh every day; making other people smile has been the best part of this year for me.

I will commence a double degree at Monash University, to have more options in the future when applying for a job.

Enjoy your last year of high school. It will be the busiest, most exciting and fun year of your schooling. At the end, smile and congratulate yourself as the end of Year 12 is the start of the next stage of your life!
Priya Agarwal of Camberwell Girls’ Grammar School scored an ATAR of 99.85

Relief at last!
Nikita Kulkarni
As a past VCE student, I understand how hard it can be studying all the time. It is necessary to allow yourself a little break between study periods, so that your brain can stop processing the information you read after a certain period of time.

My study technique involved writing notes and revising. The more revision you do, the better. By revising you solidify what you know and learn what you don’t and you familiarise yourself with the information, which then makes it easier later during the exam periods.

I figured out which subjects I enjoyed simply by what I liked, and the things the teachers taught. My parents were fine with what I chose because it was what I needed for what I want to do. I am hoping to undertake an engineering degree at university, so I chose my subjects accordingly.

Support during this crucial year is important as it pushes you harder and encourages you, as the VCE year is full of many ups and downs. It helps to have the right support from not only your family, but from relatives and friends. I was lucky to have a lot of support.

It is important to maintain a balance between study and recreation during this hectic year. I swam, read and danced, besides being a member of the debating team and the Social Justice team in high school.

By the end of exams, relief settled in at having lasted the year and finally completing it. Slumping on the couch and watching a complete movie that I was unable watch during the year without feeling guilty was worth it!

Give the VCE your best shot. After all, in the end you’ll be opening the doors for yourself, and no-one but you can help do that. As a wise man once said, “A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.”
Nikita Kulkarni is from Killester College, Springvale

Psychology perfect
Sandali Seneviratne
It is important to take care of those around you throughout the year, even if the VCE is ultimately a competition. My parents were a very solid foundation for me throughout the year and kept me grounded and sane. Year 12 is a very stressful year and if you don’t surround yourself with the right people, you’ll find it a lot more difficult than it has to be.

Over the year, my family and friends were my best support team. I was lucky enough to have a solid friendship group throughout the year that motivated me and pushed me to do better.  My favourite subject in year 12 was Psychology, and I think I realised this from the very first lesson. My class was hardworking and my teacher inspired me like no other teacher did. It made me want to do well so I studied harder and got the marks I wanted. I started to love what I was studying, and began thinking of Psychology as a future career option. My parents were extremely happy, and encouraged me to discuss schoolwork at home, as well as ask questions in school if I was confused about anything.

At most schools there is also the option of completing a year 12 subject early in year 11. I did Biology with a few of my friends, but soon realised that I wasn’t very good or interested in it. But I found out that since Biology was my sixth subject and an extra one, it wouldn’t really affect my ATAR, but would only boost my score. But I’m grateful now for doing that subject as it did increase my score and also prepared me for what year 12 and VCE would be like.

For me, the best type of studying was actively utilising the knowledge in the form of practise questions, essays or even exams. Good studying is not cramming at the last minute but a few days of study over which you reconsolidate knowledge, thereby keeping it fresh in your mind.

I will be doing a Bachelor of Nursing at Monash University, as my interest in psychology has inspired me to specialise in mental health.
Sandali Seneviratne is from Pascoe Vale Girls’ College

Adapt and overcome
Gurveen Singh
Having always foreseen Year 12 as my ‘perfect’ year, I did not expect any obstacles of great enormity to come my way, especially in my personal world. But having my grandmother diagnosed with cancer in April and my grandfather passing away a month before my exams in October was both a shock and cause of great sadness to me; but the lesson I learned is that of adapting. I also learned the importance of approaching Year 12 with no preconceived notions or ideas, because the reality is that things can change in unexpected ways. It was important for me to surround myself with support from friends, teachers and school counsellors, as well as keep my priorities in focus. I completed by VCE with an ATAR of 93.20 despite these trying times, and have applied for a double degree of Commerce/Arts at Monash University at Clayton. I may also consider completing Juris Doctor at the postgraduate level.

I would study in time blocks of half an hour or two hours according to each of my subjects, with 5-10 minute breaks at every half hour interval. As an aid, I kept inspirational quotes above my study table to motivate me, and a big clock so I did not lose track of time. I also would try to avoid technology (my phone, laptop, TV) while studying, unless absolutely necessary. By my side throughout the year was my trusty study buddy – chocolate.

The Year 12 Formal and Valedictory were great highlights of the year, as well as the annual ski trip. Another memorable moment was maintaining a leadership role as the Social Justice Captain of my high school, which was the perfect foil during the hectic year. Year 12 was the most enjoyable of all my schooling years, so don’t be afraid to embrace extracurricular opportunities that come your way.

To students doing their VCE in 2013, don’t deprive yourself from enjoying the final year of high school; it is important to have a social life as long as it does not impinge on your studies. Your marks are highly reflective of your exam performance, so ensure you are well prepared on the day, not only by studying, but by eating and sleeping well. Remember that your family are your friends! Rely on them when the going gets tough as they only want what is best for you. And finally, adapt – if things don’t go your way, make the most of what you have!
Gurveen Singh of Mater Christi College scored an ATAR of 93.20

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