Tradition teaches that the end result, the almighty ATAR is the terminus of our Secondary Education and thus succeeding in being awarded a high ATAR is synonymous as life success. Submitting to this theory will only result in disappointment when you cross the long awaited finish line. Only in finishing VCE is the grand revelation finally realised that all of the stress was a means to an end, Tertiary education, and not a conquest in itself. Having a goal beyond High School will fast track VCE by making it more bearable. Studying is less tedious if it interests you, is rewarding, and can lead to future career options. So choose subjects that fulfil these criteria. Yes, for some people Physics and Specialist are their favourite subjects, which do not bore them in the slightest, and come with relative ease. Just because the VCE system is rigged to reward certain proclivities more than others, it does not mean that you should mould yourself to obtain the best mark ups. If you can’t stand LOTEs don’t do them. Hate maths? Avoid them, easy. Remember that VCE is a personal journey and you can tailor it to suit you.

For me, Year 12 was a year of recovery from a chronic illness which had hospitalised me and absented me from school from the entire Semester of Year 11. The start of the year was veiled with uncertainty as to whether I would even undertake Yr 12, and if so over two years or one. I ended up enrolling in a reduced schedule (4 subjects). Luckily I managed to self-educate by Year 11 ¾ (Biology) from home, for which I received a study score of 44. This left me with 5 VCE subjects, with a SEAS application and special exam considerations. Never let your problems independent of school constitute evidence against your ability to complete VCE. If you have struggled with health, family issues, reduced means, or learning difficulties, do not be disheartened. Despite the difficulties I encountered and the periods of time stolen from my study, I managed to obtain an ATAR of 99.05. My study scores where a 50 for Chemistry, 45 for Methods, 42 for English and 42 for French. I also received Valedictory awards for each of these subjects for topping each of my classes for each subject.

Next. To get excellent results put in a hell of a lot of work. No sugar coating it. You must slave away. You must stress. Your room must be an emporium of practice exams. These are the unfortunate inevitabilities of academic success. If you are not prepared to invest all this work, that’s ok. Achieving scores at the highest end of the scale is not meant for everyone. But don’t use this as an excuse to escape the necessary work required to secure good grades, even if not outstanding. A decent dose of good work will be rewarded.

What does a work load for a perfect score look like? First of all, just doing textbook questions will not suffice. You must have complementary study guides and workbooks to be exposed to a greater range of questions. As well as my textbook, I used Checkpoints, Lisachem questions, Neap Study Smart Guide and Study On throughout the year to prepare for each SAC. I also kept a glossary of key terms and accompanying notes as well as a document of mistakes I commonly made. I started doing practice exams during the June/July holidays. I committed to doing at least one Unit 3 Practice exam a week afterwards. This picked up closer to the exams as I started doing Unit 4 practice exams (around when we finished all the coursework) over all I did around 75 practice exams. I kept an excel file to keep track of how many exams I’d done and what grade I’d received for each one, to avoid repeating the same exams. For methods I did around 100. Keep in mind that some subjects are more conducive to practice exams than others. For instance, it would be ludicrous to do 75 English practice papers. For my essay writing subjects I focused on writing individual essays and writing essay plans.

The most important advice I can give is to figure out what works for you in VCE. Burning through practice exams may not be good revision for you, as opposed to revising notes. Everyone works in different ways, so what works for one person may do nothing for you. The first key to VCE is learning more about your learning. When you find a method of study that suits you, then you can be unleashed.

Good luck

Catherine Fitzgerald completed VCE in 2014 with a study score of 99.05. She also participated in many of the co-curricular opportunities available to her, culminating in her achievement of a Red Band Award. Her notes can be viewed at


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