For me, I lived by a simple motto, “leave nothing in the tank.” This idea of giving everything you have was something that kept me motivated for both my study and sport. I didn’t want to look back at my time at school, particularly year 12, and have any regrets. Whilst it is important to study and stay on top of your work, it’s also important to seize every opportunity that comes your way.

VCE is largely a test of how hard you work, not how smart you are. I would by no means consider myself to be a smart person, just someone who knows when to put their head down and work.
VCE in a nutshell: ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’

Here are some keys for reaching your academic potential and getting the most out of the year:

  1. Set goals

Both short term and long term goals will not only keep you motivated but also give you direction throughout year 12. For me, my academic goals were largely orientated around setting myself up in the best possible way for the exams. However, I also had sporting goals such as playing a game in the 1st XVIII. It’s important that you have goals outside of your academic and schooling life.

  1. Limit social networking/media devices

Unfortunately we live in a time where social media and connectivity dominates our world and has proven to be a burden on us, the younger generation. At the start of year 12 I decided that I couldn’t keep up with the constant temptation of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I deleted all apps from my phone, leaving only one piece of social media. It’s important that you still keep in touch with your friends. It’s quite refreshing reducing the amount of time you spend on your phone. Never have the internet up when studying and always leave your phone in another room when working and even sleeping. If you aren’t fully concentrated, there’s no point. Eliminate half-hearted study.

  1. Hassle your teachers, and other teachers

It’s important to establish early on with your teachers that you are willing to work hard and want to succeed. Seeing your teachers on a regular basis is critical. I didn’t necessarily see my teachers if I had an issue with the work, most of the time it was just to talk about the upcoming SAC or certain concepts/ideas. You can learn more from talking to your teachers for 20 minutes than you can learn in 2 hours of reading a textbook. Your teachers are smarter than you think, and if you’re lucky they may have had experience in examining papers. Seeing other teachers can also give you a different insight into the work, or they may be able to give you more questions. Don’t be afraid to use the experience that is around you.

  1. Work hard play hard

During the school week I studied whenever I could. I had school training twice a week, plus my own training twice a week, which meant that I had to maximise my opportunities to study. I would often do some work at recess or lunch, because it meant that I could reduce my workload even before the school day finished and ultimately give me a starting point for when I got home. I would give away my Facebook password for the week, which would remove the temptation to be distracted, and then I would get it back on a Saturday for an hour or two. During the school week, you work hard. When it comes to the weekend, you need to let your hair down and go a little crazy. It’s important to have fun with your mates and erase the thought of study or school from your mind. It’s critical that you reward yourself for working hard. Having said that, plan your night outs according to the week ahead.

My final tip!

You will retain:

  • 20 percent of what you see (flip-charts)
  • 30 percent of what you hear (audiotapes)
  • 50 percent of what you hear and see (videos, teachers talking)
  • 70 percent of what you say and discuss (study groups)
  • 80 percent of what you say and do (role-play)

With this in mind, the most efficient and effective learning technique is the elaborative rehearsal or ‘teach the dog’. I only tried this leading up to the exams, and it is the best thing I could have done. Don’t bother with reading your notes and thinking that you’re learning.

You retain more information, as outlined above, when you try and teach someone else. I stuck a picture of a dog on my wall and I would talk to it. Yes, my family thought I was crazy. But it worked. I would read approximately 3 sentences aloud slowly after having read the desired text several times, then I would turn to the dog and try and explain to it what I had just read. This technique enables you to identify what you do and do not know. If you can teach someone or something else what you’re learning, then you will be able to answer questions more confidently and competently.

Miles Bergin completed VCE in 2014 at Xavier College. He achieved an ATAR of 98.10, played 1st football, was part of the triathlon team, and vice-captain of the 1st touch rugby team. His notes can be viewed at 


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