Category Archives: Exam tips

VCE Biology Revision


With about five weeks until the final end-of-year examination for VCE Biology on Friday 31st October (9.00am to 11.45am), you still have time to prepare an effective study timetable that will assist you to achieve your best result. It is important to balance your commitments at this time of year and avoid getting stressed and anxious, because that won’t help your revision process. You may like to consider some of the following ways to support your exam revision:

Much of your success in this subject will depend on your knowledge of scientific terms, definitions and concepts and how to apply these concepts in new situations. Spend some time identifying key knowledge in each Area of Study, perhaps using the Exam Revision Audit I sent around recently. I have sent a link to a collaborative Google Document for you to complete a specific section, so that the whole class will have a set of online study notes. Please add some information about the concept, an example and a link to more information for each term.

Quizlet is an online tool where I have created sets of terms and definitions for each area of study. You can use these Quiz sets in different modes (Learn, Flashcards, Scatter, Quiz etc) and edit them to add your own terms.

Mindmaps are great to connect different terms and concepts. Create your own using lots of colour to group ideas. Try completing this mindmap about the evidence for evolution. The benefit for learning is in creating your own – the colour and movement stimulate your brain to remember the text. You can also create them online using and other free software.

Slideshare is an enormous resource with many of my teaching resources uploaded. You can find slideshows on almost any topic and there are several specifically for VCE Biology revision.

Past Exams are available on the VCAA website, but be aware that there is only one example (2013) of the current format – (120 minutes) with 30 multiple choice questions (worth 1 mark each) and 90 marks worth of short answer questions. Keep working hard and contact me by email, Twitter (@brittgow) or phone if you need assistance.

Unit 3 Exam Revision

By now, students should be well immersed in study for the Unit 3 exam in less than two weeks time. It is essential to create a study timetable that allows time for school, work, sport and study for each subject. Make sure you understand the key terms and definitions and can apply the various concepts included in “Biological Macromolecules” and “Detecting and Responding“.
Many students find that creating Flashcards helps them to remember key terms and concepts. You can do this online at Flashcardsdb and Quizlet and use the cards for revision.
Another great way to study concepts is to create concept maps, such as these hand-drawn ones at this site. You can also create concept maps online using FreeMind, Inspiration or
Quiz Revolution (previously called My Studiyo) is another online tool you can use for exam revision. Use this site to create multiple choice questions, with or without images, to test student knowledge.

Before your examination, make sure you:

  • get enough rest and sleep
  • eat sensibly, don’t skip meals or try to fill up on snacks – active brains need a balanced diet
  • check on the starting time and allow plenty of time to get to your examination centre
  • check that you have everything you need – make yourself a list

The materials you should take into the examination room with you include:

  • one or two highlighters – you can use these to highlight action words that guide you in how to answer each question; key information and data in each question and questions that you know you may want to come back to during your 5 minutes checking time
  • clear (transparent) ruler
  • two pencils (with extra lead or a sharpener)
  • eraser
  • scientific calculator (either with new batteries or a back up scientific calculator)

Tips for during the examination

Using your reading time: One strategy that works for many students during the 15 minutes of reading time is to:

  • Spend the first minute or two simply ‘flicking through’ the examination paper to gain a snapshot of the length of the paper, layout of questions, occurrence of figures such as graphs, tables and drawings.
  • Check all pages and questions are present as described on the front cover of the examination booklet
  • Follow this up with scanning each question very briefly to determine its focus; for example, is the question related to biological macromolecules, homeostasis or signalling molecules and ask yourself whether the question requires a definition, analysis of data, evaluation with evidence or is another type of question. (This may only require 6-8 seconds per question, and sometimes less.) It is not necessary at this stage to begin solving for the answers but simply allow your brain to begin processing the information.
  • This will leave you with about five minutes to carefully read particular questions, during which time you may like to start mentally outlining your answers.

Once writing time begins, try to stay calm. You might like to start with a question that you feel is straightforward to answer. Use your highlighter to identify the ‘action words’ (such as name/nominate, describe, outline) to help keep you on-track as you respond to each question.

Students are warned against listing or describing more examples than asked for in a particular question, if you think of a better quality response than you first wrote, it is recommended that you clearly identify (by highlighting, underlining or circling) the examples you wish the examiner to assess.

If you find yourself writing much more than the lines and space provide for in a particular question, then it is possible that you are writing too much and you should consider using dot points. It is important that you allow yourself sufficient time. Attempt all questions, even if you are not entirely confident of your answers – examiners cannot award marks to empty spaces.

(This post was adapted from an article by Hayley Bridgewood and Gerry Healy, VCE Examiners).

Exam Revision


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Next Wednesday afternoon you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of all the work we have covered during first semester. You will have 15 minutes reading time and 90 minutes writing time to answer 20 multiple choice questions and about 8 short answer questions. The following tips may assist you during your revision period:

Use flashcards to study definitions of key terms, vocabulary and concepts – there is an online program called flashcardsdb which can assist.

You may like to try creating mind maps, using lists of related terms to identify the links between different words and concepts.

Re-read your text, taking notes and highlighting key terms in your notes. Create revision notes by taking down the headings of each chapter and adding key words and concepts under each heading.

Visit the assessment guide online for lists of key concepts.

Look after yourself – don’t stay up late, eating junk food and studying all night. Try to get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods and get some fresh air. If your body is functioning at 100%, your brain will be working better too!

Do lots of past exam papers – at least two or three as timed exams under test conditions. Identify concepts you find difficult and spend more time revising those areas.

Read the questions carefully – make sure you understand the key words ‘identify’, ‘describe’, ‘compare’, etc and look out for negatives and exceptions.