Reading Time: 17 minutes
As students finish their VCE, they reflect upon the past year and emphasise that persistence is the key to success
As they finished what was called ‘The Year of Light’, VCE students from the class of 2015 saw not only the light at the end of the tunnel as they finished the final year of school, but also the spark of a new light that brings them into an exciting new stage in their lives.
We send our hearty congratulations to all school leavers from 2015, and wish them well for university.
Here we speak with a small group of students about their VCE journey.
Tell us how you tackled the last year of school. Was it stressful? What was your process of going about completing the VCE? Did you get tutoring, participate in a study group, or something similar?
Pravik: Year 12 is a demanding, but rewarding year – it is only as scary and stressful as you make it. I didn’t get any tutoring, but found three important aspects that were more valuable than any tutoring could be.
Firstly, I tried to be as organised and time-efficient as I could. The quicker school tasks were complete, the more free time I had. Free time also felt much more valuable when I knew I was up-to-date with my school work.
Secondly, I made an effort to be collaborative. I did my best to be involved with friends and form small study groups where we could discuss ideas in a constructive way. Not only did this build everyone’s confidence, but I found that teaching others is one of the best ways to check that you really understand the material yourself.
Finally, I picked subjects I was passionate about. The more I enjoyed the subjects I was doing, the more readily I took my learning in my own hands.
School: Balwyn High School
Subjects: English language, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Specialist Maths and Maths Methods
Intended Uni course: Medicine
Anooshree: Sometimes I would be lying in my bed thinking, ‘Wow… this is actually the last year of my schooling. These exams that I sit aren’t just going to be something I do to impress my parents and teachers, they’re going to essentially determine my future.’ I still couldn’t comprehend the fact that I was a big grown up Year 12!
I took tutoring for Methods, Spec, Chem and Latin. I found that these one-on-one consultations really cleared my mind and kept me motivated. Before each SAC I made sure I completed all the textbook questions and past papers and had no doubts about the topic. I had awesome teachers and I really exploited them; talking to them after class and getting my work checked, especially for English. Surprisingly, not too many study groups, I’m more of an individual studier, but on occasion my peers and I would get together in the break-out rooms and revise together. I would dedicate snack and lunch to hanging with friends and not worrying about work.
Sarthak: Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed my last year of school. Despite the inevitable stress and constant study, I bonded with peers and teachers. I also enjoyed it because I selected subjects I enjoyed (with the exception of Accounting… would not recommend choosing a subject you aren’t enthusiastic about) and so studying became easy to integrate into my time. Nevertheless, it was very stressful! I found myself anxious before SAC results even though I kept my usual optimistic attitude at the surface. My mindset through VCE was to tackle it with my best effort because what scared me the most was regretting my choices few years down the track. Within that effort were many study groups for subjects such as English and lots of independent study for other subjects like Maths. I find it difficult to work in big groups and prefer to work with one or two people. Like all of my friends, I too attended tutoring for three of my six subjects. I believe that you do not need tutors to become successful in Year 12, but I would recommend it for the resources that many tutors offer and for the other students you meet up that are equally driven to study.
School: Nossal High School
Subjects: Maths Methods, English, Chemistry, Physics, Accounting and Specialist Maths
Intended Uni course: Science. Or maybe Maths.
Hemanya: The last year of school was indeed stressful. To handle the stress I usually went for a brisk walk, played soccer or went to the temple. The year went by really quickly and to be able to cope with its pace I tried to get things done in advance and plan out things effectively and promptly to be able to spend some time relaxing. No, I did not take any kind of tutoring outside of school because to be honest I found that it was rather expensive and I could save that money for University perhaps.
Saloni: It was difficult, but having a supportive family helped a lot during the stressful times. I did go to tutoring to get the extra practice, but mostly it was having a set routine from Day One that helped me maintain focus.
Samir: Yes, it was at times stressful, but I feel like I minimised the stress in comparison to many of my peers by being confident and on top of the ball. My Maths Methods tutor recommended that in the summer break I should begin learning the initial content of the course, and I decided to do this with all my subjects. This meant that when we learnt a topic in class, I could review it and confirm my understanding or ask any questions I needed to so I could leave the class feeling confident about that topic, rather than feeling as if I had just newly learnt it.
I also ensured that I fit in leisure activities and exercise to clear my head whenever I needed to in order to maintain focussed and avoid getting stressed out.
Which subjects did you enjoy studying the most?
Pravik: Every one of my subjects was fascinating in its own right, but I loved English the most. We learned about ‘applied linguistics’; how language works to convey ideas and social meaning, how people use their language to achieve certain purposes, and how our identities are represented and shaped by the language we use. As a predominantly Maths/Science oriented person, I was introduced to so many perspectives and types of thinking that I hadn’t encountered before. In the end, this subject has changed who I am and how I view the world in fascinating ways.
Anooshree: Depending on my SAC marks and the type of work we were doing in class, I had a new favourite subject each week! But I’d have to say the subjects I enjoyed studying the most were Chemistry and Latin. I found I grasped Chem well and each area of study was really interesting right down to the molecular level; hydrocarbons, spectroscopy, equilibrium etc. On top of the fun prac experiments, typing furiously on your calculator and getting the right answer was extremely satisfying. Latin was not only about learning a new language, but also diving into an enriching ancient world and learning about ancient Roman history, literature and mythology. The language itself is very structured and disciplined and has a larger connection to English than you would think.
Sarthak: I loved Specialist Maths! I’ve always loved Maths and it’s never felt like study but rather it has felt like pursuing a hobby. It also helped having a tutor like mine who I was able to become very close with over the year, and my Dad who teaches Engineering and reflects his passion towards Maths and Physics around the dinner table.
Hemanya: I actually enjoyed all my subjects but I found Hindi language, Chemistry, Maths and English most enjoyable.
Saloni: I loved Chemistry and all my Maths subjects. This was reflected in my results because they were my top scores.
Samir: I enjoyed studying English and Business Management the most, as these subjects allowed the most room for creativity.
How did you feel at the end of your first assessment of the year? How did you feel at the end of your final VCE exam?
Pravik: No one really knows what they’re getting themselves into during that first assessment. But, at the finish line, it’s a huge relief, and an amazement that we managed to get through it all.
Anooshree: I don’t remember what my first assessment was but I didn’t worry too much at the end of it. I didn’t like thinking about how this assessment would affect my ATAR – that stuff is only going to unnecessarily stress you out and it’s only your first SAC! Rather, I had a quick ponder about what I found easy, what I found difficult and how I could better myself in the next SAC, but really I didn’t want to think about it too much. As for my final exam, well that’s another story. Chem was my last exam, 10th November, I can never forget that date. Before the exam I just couldn’t wait for it to finish; 2 hours and 45 minutes more and I was free! After the exam I was happy but I was also stunned by the fact that my ATAR was set. All these questions of doubt started raiding my mind: Could I have done better? Can they even read my handwriting? Did I read the question right? But ultimately, I was just glad I had finally finished.
School: Suzanne Cory High School
Subjects: English, Maths Methods, Specialist Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Latin
Intended Uni course: Bachelor of Biomedicine
Sarthak: Each assessment was like an up and down hill. Pre-assessment I would usually feel comfortable with my preparation, or at least assured of my own capabilities, but after discussing it with friends after I wouldn’t always be a hundred percent confident. This was consistent for the first and last exam. However, as you might imagine, the relief at the end of the last exam was tremendous.
Hemanya: Honestly, I felt very relaxed and did not feel like doing anything, but I also realised that there are more assessments imminent. This period was even more stressful than the usual school schedule but my family helped me so that I could cope with this arduous phase of my schooling life. Conversely, I felt overjoyed as soon as the examiner announced objectively, “Stop writing”. I was so relieved.
Saloni: My first assessment was a bit daunting but getting it over and done with, I knew it went well so I gained more confidence for the others! Honestly speaking, I was quite upset after my last exam because it was English and it was not my strongest subject. However, I did feel like a big burden was lifted off my shoulders after I finished my exams.
Samir: I remember studying excessively for my first SAC and then running out of time to write my answer despite knowing it. This was a stressful and frustrating experience at the time, but as a result I learnt the importance of practice papers as compared to rote learning the content.
I also remember an overwhelming relief after triple checking my answers and confidently watching the clock tick down the last couple of minutes. I had had seven exams in nine days and I was overjoyed to walk out knowing that I had truly given it my best.
How did you celebrate the end of your exams?
Pravik: The same way everyone else did, food. And not particularly healthy food, either!
Anooshree: I took advantage of the fact that it’s impossible for parents to get angry at their kid after their final exam, so I walked to the chemist and got myself my 3rd ear piercings! Other than that, it was the usual lazing around, catching up with YouTube, chatting with friends and of course sleeping. But the real celebration came a month later when my family, some friends and I went on a two-week cruise to New Zealand. On the ship, the world of exams and studying felt like an eon away!
Sarthak: I cleaned my room! As weird as that may sound, the post-exam relief of stacking exam papers and notes in boxes to be stored away as memories felt very fulfilling. I also went to Vietnam with family, where I did not have to think about my exams at all. Just recently as well, I returned from a trip to Rye with my close friends where we celebrated finishing 13 years of schooling and reminisced of all the good.
Hemanya: After my exams concluded I could not celebrate as my younger brother who was also undertaking VCE subjects and was still waiting for the commencement of his exams so I had to wait a while before I could celebrate. But after his exams finished we went out for dinner.
School: Balwyn High School
Subjects: English, Hindi, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.
Intended Uni course: Engineering
Saloni: I did not leave my bed for at least a week to catch up lost sleep! But I did things that I did not have time for throughout the year such as drawing and painting my nails!
Samir: I went on Schoolies to the Gold Coast with friends. It was great to kickback after a year of hard work.
Social media played a big part of the lives of many VCE students this year. Did you find Facebook groups such as the VCE Discussion Group helpful?
Pravik: VCE DiscussionSpace is good for exactly three things: memes, light banter and rants. If you expect anything more, you’re probably expecting the impossible.
But the VCE groups dedicated to particular subjects are generally more useful and collaborative. If you’re looking for actual discussion or help in a subject (or if you want to help out someone else), those groups are likely of some help. However, I’d recommend face-to-face engagement with peers and teachers at school (through study groups and the like) over social media alternatives.
Anooshree: We had a General Year 12 Suzanne Cory group and people would post dates of important days and so forth and that was all definitely helpful. But we never had any VCE discussion groups. If I had any questions about any subjects I’d just privately message friends or ask at school.
Sarthak: I found them helpful to a degree. Some reminders of dates helped and it’s always helpful to find the opinion of other Year 12s.
Hemanya: I did not use Facebook since Year 11 because I did not find it useful, I fancy physical interaction and discussions over virtual interactions. Being quite new to the VCE I did not even knew how the scores are calculated and how much each component weighs and so on. I think I disadvantaged myself by limiting myself to the resources I had… perhaps I should have used social media more.
Saloni: I restricted my time on Facebook so I did not participate in the discussions on these pages. Plus, most of them are just satirical comments based on the assessments.
Did you have a goal in mind while completing this year?
Pravik: Yes; to do the best I could. My primary motivation was about being the best I could be. In the end, the ATAR reflects both ability and effort, and I think those two things are much more important to improve and think about, than focusing on the ATAR itself. By having a clear goal of self-improvement in mind, I remained passionate throughout the year, and there was never a moment where I questioned why I was working my best. All we can do, and should do, is do our absolute best.
Anooshree: I liked to keep more short term goals rather long term ones. For example, rather than having a goal to get above 95, I would urge myself to complete at least 3 practise essays before an English SAC or ensure I maintained a 80+% mark on all by Bio SACs. I found these small frequent goals helped keep me more motivated and organised without forcing me to think too much about the scarier broader picture.
Sarthak: Every year I would see the top scorers commended for their efforts. Every student who received an ATAR of 97+ was invited to this event, for instance. I always wanted to be up there. That was my goal and I feel very happy to achieve it.
Hemanya: No, I did not really think of a particular score I desired or a ‘goal’, my disposition was to do the best I can.
Saloni: I did have a goal. I did two Year 12 subjects in Year 11 and I wanted to make them my 10% increment. I also wanted to achieve a scholarship for my university and I was happy to achieve them both!
School: Nossal High School
Subjects: English Language, Chemistry, Accounting, Further Mathematics, Specialist Maths and Maths Methods.
Intended Uni course: Commerce/Law
What moments from the past year do you remember most?
Pravik: The most vivid moments involve teachers and friends who have inspired me, and who I have perhaps inspired in return. I do remember the things I learned, but in my mind it’s more about the people I’ve interacted with and gotten to know better.
Anooshree: Funnily enough I don’t remember anything about this year’s gruelling SACs or long hours in my room studying. The most memorable moments were the time in athletics carnival when all the Year 12s spontaneously ran in the middle of the field for a photo, the formal proposal in the middle of the agora (where we eat), formal night when we all formed a circle and sang ‘See You Again’, the crazy mischief we got up to on muck-up day and the bittersweet tears in valedictory. The moments where the Year 12 bond felt like a tangible force are what I remember the most.
Sarthak: What I remember the most is not the times studying, but rather the times we supported each other in our final year. It was stressful for all of us and so it was great to see the mutual support and understanding.
Hemanya: I remember formal night at the pier which was fun. Orientation assembly was memorable too. I also got my learner’s permit last year which was exciting!
Saloni: The most vivid thing I remember is getting so much support from my teachers. Leaving all that behind will be very difficult! I also tutored some students and seeing them improve was definitely a highlight!
What other activities did you keep up during the year?
Pravik: Throughout the year I was heavily involved in debating, which I thoroughly enjoyed and currently miss. Debating teaches us how to speak with passion, how to use logic in argument, and how to present ourselves in a persuasive light, all important skills worth developing parallel to studies.
As a student, I also did my best to help others out in their studies where I could. This included mentoring a younger student in Maths Methods in my school’s Peer Mentoring Program. Through this experience of teaching, my own knowledge and confidence as a student was reinforced, and I also felt genuinely good in the very act of helping out someone else.
I also entered just about every external Science and Maths competition offered at my school, as I knew it would be the last year I could do so.
Anooshree: Unfortunately, I didn’t have any extracurricular activities pending during the year. I thought continuing netball, which was what I used to do, would be an extra burden on top of studying. But now looking back, I realise that I actually had a relative amount of free time and I could have easily juggled studying and playing sort.
Sarthak: Besides study, I kept up with my social life and dance. I also worked part time, although I did take a break from all of these things leading up to the final exams.
Saloni: I kept up with my piano lessons.
Samir: During the year I avoided activities that required commitment as a result I quit my basketball team for the year in anticipation of the workload. I still went and played locally often, but not with a club where I had time commitments which may have inconvenienced my study. However, when winter came I felt like I was on top of my work so I decided to play my last season of school footy and I’m very glad I did.
What activities or events do you regret missing out on last year, if any?
Pravik: I had been previously involved in the school band (playing saxophone) and my school’s Interact club (where we raised money for various causes), which I decided to discontinue for my busy final year of high school. It would have been nice if I could’ve kept up my involvement in those activities.
Anooshree: I wish I had kept up with netball or any type of organised sport. I regret missing out on all the interschool sports like hockey, soccer, cross country etc; I guess I just wasn’t bothered on catching up with class work or rescheduling SACs. Also, because of the workload, I had to sacrifice a lot of family outings and dinner parties; on one instance I was home alone for three days while the rest of my family went to Kings Lake and did all kinds of adventurous stuff.
Sarthak: There were lots of dance competitions I missed out on, that but at the same time I’m glad I chose not to attend.
Hemanya: I tried to continue my normal life throughout. But I did miss out on the Diwali Mela 2015…
Saloni: I regret missing out on certain family events.
Samir: Missed my cousin’s wedding in New York in July… I was asked to be best man!
What would you have done differently, overall?
Pravik: I would have done much the same thing, but maybe put greater emphasis on English from the very beginning. On the whole though, I don’t have major regrets; I made mistakes in various ways, but I learned from them.
Anooshree: I wish I procrastinated less, thanks to YouTube, Facebook etc. Rather than using YouTube as medium for break time, I wish I had used that time reading books from the local library. If I could do it all over again I would definitely have begun doing practise exams for each of my subjects sooner. Also I wish I had gotten more sleep. I cannot stress how important a good night’s rest, at least seven to eight hours, is for the brain to function properly, especially with all the demands of Year 12.
Sarthak: Not pick Accounting! I would also start studying for English earlier.
Hemanya: I wanted to try a different method of study in Year 12, but having only used one method of studying all my school life, I thought it might be detrimental to my results. If provided another opportunity I will try new ways to study.
Saloni: I went behind on my school work from time to time so if I had a chance to do it again I would try to keep myself more tied down and work a lot harder.
Samir: I would definitely take a 6th subject.
School: Caulfield Grammar School
Subjects: Accounting, Business Management, Further Maths, Maths Methods and English
Intended Uni course: Commerce/Computer Science
What key tips would you give students starting their VCE?
Pravik: Print out the study designs for all your subjects so you know what you’re expected to know. Recognise that your English subject is very important (it is compulsory and contributes maximally to your final result), and hence give it the most attention. Use the holiday breaks not only to recuperate, but to get ahead.
In general, work diligently and efficiently (rather than ineffectively working long hours). Pick subjects and tasks that interest you the most, rather than choosing the easiest option. Most importantly, be as organised as you can (that’s half the battle!)
Anooshree: You don’t have to go all extreme with colour coding and 24 set highlighters, but before you begin the year, prepare some organisational material like subject folders and an assessment calendar so you can dominate those hectic coming weeks. Build a friendly relationship with your teachers and surround yourself with a positive group of friends. Your study area should be roomy, have plenty of natural light coming in and not facing your bed! Read the study design so that you know exactly what to expect in the end of year exam and don’t waste time studying irrelevant topics.
When you’re studying at home mix it up with some timely breaks, eat and sleep early. In saying that, don’t forgot to say hi to the folks at home; it’s healthy for you to escape your hermit life once in a while and hang with siblings or chat with your parents. Don’t leave practice exams till the last minute and do as many as you can. Revise regularly so information stays in your mind for long and so you don’t have to cram last minute. Don’t ignore your English subject; smash out two to three practise essays before each SAC and get your teachers to give you the tick of approval before you are satisfied.
Sarthak: Choose subjects that you enjoy and don’t study for the mark at the end of the day. If you take time you will find your own appreciation for the beauty of the courses. Don’t bother with studying very early. It’s better to go slow and with the school rather than too fast ahead.
Hemanya: Do not get disappointed by bad marks, try to learn from your mistakes and move on, improving yourself. If you do not get your desired score, don’t stress about it; in the end what matters is how good of a person you are.
Saloni: Have a good routine! It is easy to get distracted by the amount of events you have during the day. You need to have a clear goal and a plan to achieve it. Remember, hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard!
Samir: Start early, stay calm and be confident.
Know any good VCE / ATAR jokes?
Pravik: The GAT!
Anooshree: Ten minutes into textbook and chill, and your phone gives you that look
Throwing ‘thus’ into an exam essay and deeming yourself a literary genius who cannot be tamed.
Saloni: There are only three things I can be in the future: a doctor, a lawyer or a disappointment to my family.
Describe your VCE year in three words.
Pravik: Puns, banter, exams.
Anooshree: Unforgettable demanding roller-coaster
Sarthak: Exciting. Worthwhile. Stressful.
Hemanya: A fantastic year.
Saloni: Time consuming, character building (I did increase a lot of my confidence), challenging.
Samir: Challenging. Draining (at times). (But overall) Rewarding.