VCE 2019: Looking back at the last year of school

How the latest bunch of VCE graduates navigated Year 12

Reading Time: 9 minutes
VCE 2019
VCE 2019

Bhavi Nagar


Taylors Lakes Secondary College

Anavi Chandhok


Glen Waverley Secondary College

Manav Singh


Melbourne High School

With your VCE now done and dusted, you’ve probably had much opportunity to look back at it all with some wisdom. What did you learn about yourself in the VCE year?

Bhavi: The most significant thing I have learnt is how to cope with increasing stress and learning to balance between five or more subjects effectively without burning yourself out. Studying in small and manageable chunks was very effective for me than studying non-stop! Another thing I learnt is to not underestimate yourself and your ability to do well – it all comes down to individual hard work and motivation.

Anavi: Throughout the year I had certain study score expectations for each of my subjects. I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that the subjects that I had self-claimed as my ‘bottom two subjects’ all year actually turned out to be some of my highest study scores. Through this experience I have learnt that with hard work and persistence I can achieve the goals I have set for myself, despite the bumps in the road I may face. 

Manav: I learned to control my nerves and be able to prepare in advance. This included not being too stressed about the end-of-year exams and being able to stay in the moment.

What were your expectations going into the VCE year? How did reality compare?

Bhavi VCE 2019

Bhavi: Frankly speaking, my expectations were very very low. I was expecting a pretty average ATAR like around the 75-ish range so I was definitely shocked when I saw a 90.2. I also only needed a 75 for the course I wanted to enter so I was really ecstatic as I can now pursue the career I am really passionate about. Guess all that overthinking and catastrophic thinking was for nothing!

Anavi: The VCE year is notorious for being the most taxing and hectic year for students, it is also known for having the best school based events. While the formal and muck-up day lived up to its hype, the academic side of VCE was not as difficult to endure as one may think. Sure there are weeks where you have 3 SACs consecutively and so are almost drowning in practice papers, but what many students fail to acknowledge is that these SACs are not just given out of the blue. The subject timetable is given at the start of the year and so we are given sufficient time to prepare a plan for tackling the dreaded ‘hell week’. I was also pleasantly surprised at the extent that teachers would go to provide one-on-one help (including staying back two hours after school!). VCE is definitely difficult but the reality is that so many resources are available to students that the workload truly is easy to manage, if you play your cards right.

Manav: I expected the VCE year to be extremely competitive, almost as if it was every student for themselves, seeing that the ATAR is a number concretely ranking the whole cohort. I found instead that the VCE year was one of the best years because instead of being individual we got closer as we worked together to get through the tough year and as a result it became more of a group effort, which I didn’t expect.

What was your studying technique?

Bhavi: It differed based on the subject. For humanities/content based subjects such as Legal Studies, etc, I wrote notes and I did lots of practice questions relating to the area of study/dot point I was studying. I reviewed content every week (i.e. every Friday night I would just flick through my notes or do some questions for each of my subjects) and consistently did this throughout the year. I wasn’t productive at all at school as the environment was just so disruptive and I procrastinated a lot so studying at home was probably the most effective for me. For LOTE based subjects, it was mostly skilled based so I just exposed myself as much to the language as possible (i.e. via music, etc) while doing other subjects. Italian was probably the most fun subject for me as it was just so chill, less content heavy and mainly consisted of doing grammar practice, having convos with teacher in the language, watching Italian movies and just enjoying the language. For English, I just wrote a billion essays/plans and asked my teacher for feedback as soon as I did them. There’s no other way around it. And I also read my books/texts inside out and didn’t leave everything to the last minute. I honestly used to procrastinate and disregard English so much as I hated it with a passion and also as I was very bad at it but I still got a reasonably high score (which I am still surprised about). So, don’t neglect English, and seek advice/help ASAP if you struggle with it or don’t have motivation for it.

Anavi VCE 2019

Anavi: For more content heavy subjects like Psychology, English and Chemistry I created an extensive set of notes addressing each individual point in the study design. I tried to complete these notes one week prior to the SAC date. Following that I would do as many practice questions as possible while simultaneously reading and consolidating the information in my notes every night.

For more practical subjects like Methods and Further I completed the workbook questions assigned by my teachers to learn the basic knowledge first. I then further prepared by completing many practice questions from exams/past SAC’s until the SAC date.

I often found that a week was not enough to self-learn content especially if the SAC was on 3-5 chapters, hence I also listened intently in class to ensure I wasn’t missing out on any useful tips and tricks.

Manav: I always made sure I was ahead of the ball – I was either reading on ahead or at least pre-reading the textbook before going to class. This way instead of learning a topic in class for the first time I was revising what I had already learnt which gave me opportunities to consolidate what I learnt through test settings like practice exams.

Social media now plays a big part in the lives of many VCE students. Did you find Facebook groups such as the VCE Discussion Space helpful?

Bhavi: I actually didn’t even know about the VCE Discussion space throughout the year! I literally just joined now like 2 weeks ago. But I wish I had known about this it way before my exams so I could’ve gained other students’ advice/insight into Year 12, see how others are going/approaching SACS/exams or to simply vent out my rage and hatred we all have towards that one subject (in my case, English).

Anavi: Throughout the year I had a love/hate relationship with VCE Discussion Space. The comedic aspects of the page (especially after the GAT) were definitely entertaining, and the general posts complaining about VCE helped me realise that I was not alone in the journey. Despite the page being mostly a comedic outlet, closer to exams people started posting their high SAC grades and predicted study scores which definitely heightened the competitive atmosphere of VCE. My general advice would be to take the posts in VCE Discussion Space lightly, and use other resources like the forums on atarnotes.com for more academic discussions.

Manav: The Discussion Space did offer some help; there were others there you could talk to and they understood what you were going through as it was happening to them as well. It also had different resources and information that I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t on the page. However, I found the most help from the group chats that we made for our different study groups and subjects.

What extra-curricular activities or hobbies helped you maintain a balance between work and play?

Bhavi: Listening to music especially during study helped me to de-stress. I also danced to songs in front of the TV and went out for walks with my parents every now and then as a way to get out of my room and just surround myself with nature. I also drew a lot and just overall spent a lot of time with my family and friends. In order to succeed in VCE, you don’t need to sacrifice everything and study 24/7, it’s essential to take out time for yourself and do things you genuinely enjoy

Anavi: Throughout Year 12, I maintained my part-time job at KMart. While a part-time job as well as the heavy load of VCE seems daunting for many students, I found that my short shifts every week gave me a good break after countless hours of studying at my desk. I also continued watching TV and socialising with friends, which I believe was the essential reason I did not experience the dreaded ‘burn out’ like many other students I know.

Manav VCE 2019

Manav: Part of the Melbourne High School is its extensive club program where there would always be something for everyone. If not, you could just start one. One of the clubs I enjoyed particularly was photography club where we shot many of the school events which was always fun. In terms of outside of school, I played tennis consistently either with my family or friends.

What would you have done differently, overall?

Bhavi: Procrastinate less and scroll less through my social media. Ask more questions to my teachers and seek feedback whenever possible which was really hard for me as I was a quiet student. I also wished I put in more effort for English and did more practice exams instead of merely memorising/revising notes.

Anavi: While I am quite content with my academic and personal achievements during my VCE years, there are definitely some pitfalls I could have avoided throughout the year that would have made my journey to a 96.6 ATAR easier. Reading and writing notes for the first few chapters of my Psychology and Chemistry textbook in the holidays prior to the commencement of Year 12 would have been a major head-start in terms of preparation (and would have saved me hours later on while preparing for SACs). Another change I would make is repeatedly consolidating Unit-3 knowledge while learning Unit-4. This is mostly to minimise the frustration I felt towards the end of the year when I had to painstakingly relearn some mathematical concepts taught in Unit-3 methods which I had mastered in term 1 prior to the SAC and forgotten by the October holidays.

Manav: Maybe utilise the extra time I had as a result of doing the extension study, because it gave me twice the free periods that I would have had without it. I could also have considered maybe participating in more of the clubs at my school to diversify myself.

What would your advice to future final year students be?

Bhavi: Study SMART, not HARD. It’s a common misconception that you have to study 24/7 and sacrifice everything to achieve good grades and get a good ATAR. No! Refrain from this mindset as it can be very detrimental to your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Also, maintain a good and healthy mindset. Year 12 is not the end of the world. While in hindsight exams may seem like the most important thing in the world, it’s not the ‘be all end all’ if you don’t achieve the ATAR/score you want. There are a whole lot of pathways available to get into your dream course/career so don’t overstress/overthink Year 12. Even if you get a poor SAC mark/ATAR, you gave it your best shot and honestly that’s enough as the ATAR doesn’t define you or determine your future success – it’s just a NUMBER! Another advice is to identify and focus on your weaknesses as soon as possible, don’t just mindlessly do questions on topics you are strong at (just to please yourself); challenge yourself and try those harder questions that puzzle you, that’s the only way you are going to grow and improve! Final tip is to never underestimate the power of practice exams – and the earlier and more you do, the better!

Anavi: Be kind to yourself. There were so many times in the year where I made (in hindsight) very unrealistic study timetables for the week detailing exactly how much I will get done in a day. Then when I fell behind on my study schedule I often felt horrible and frustrated with myself and my procrastination, but every single time I always managed to make it through and get a SAC score I was proud of. It is a given in VCE that at times you will feel inferior but it is important to remind yourself that you are trying your hardest and in the end you may end up surprising even yourself at how well you do!

Manav: Yes, VCE can be a stressful time and at times it will be difficult. That’s why it is important to be part of study groups to get help and support whenever you need it. It is also good to know that despite how long it seems, time really does go by quickly and soon exams will just spring up and it is important to know that and be prepared for it.

Favourite quote from a teacher?

Bhavi: ‘Practice makes perfect’. Also, ‘Work smart, not hard’.

Anavi: The best is yet to come.

Describe your VCE in three words.

Bhavi: Challenging, rewarding and memorable

Anavi: Exhausting yet rewarding

Manav: Stressful, time flies

Manan Luthra
Manan Luthra
Writer, cricket fan, gin and tonic enthusiast. Emerging journalist passionate about art, sport, and education

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