Study Strategy

The Need for Rest in the Holiday Period… Yes… Rest!!!

I would like to highlight the importance of students maintaining a sensible outlook on WORK, REST and RECREATION over the holiday break. Whist acknowledging that the commitment of our students to their studies and ongoing improvement is nothing short of outstanding, I feel there is a need to realign some of the thinking among some students and parents that ‘more work produces better outcomes’. While there are cases of this being true, for example when students are doing little work and expecting great results, eventually we get to a stage where too much work, without sufficient rest, becomes counter-productive. And the holiday break is such a time.

There is clear research in many quarters that the students who are most successful in the latter years of their schooling have a balanced approach to organising their commitments. They devote an appropriate time to study and homework, but they also have plenty of breaks, engage their interests by playing sport or a favourite musical instrument, have time for friends and family and some even have a small part-time job. Being able to participate in various forms of activity help young people grow, develop positive relationships with peers and adults, keep them physically and therefore mentally fit, and give them opportunities to develop collaborative skills and teamwork. All of these skills supplement those they directly need to achieve highly at school, and help them grow personally.

If students are to perform at their academic peak at important times, for example in an exam, they need to be fresh, mentally fit and alert. This means they need a good diet and plenty of sleep. All of our students have been working very hard for an extended period of time, and this term has certainly been a long one. This has required great perseverance, dedication and sacrifice. That so many of them have been prepared to commit themselves so fully is a great credit to them. But now it is time to take a break, and rest up both physically and mentally. It is the mind which needs a change of routine.

At JMSS we take the well-being of our students very seriously, as healthy and happy students will perform much better academically than tired and unmotivated students. Therefore I am appealing to parents to assist with helping their sons and daughters to achieve some balance in the holiday break, get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, exercise regularly and eat properly, have some fun, do some revision by all means, but please do not pressure them into a two-week grind of schoolwork.

In order to allow students to plan their time over the next two weeks, there will be no extra homework given to students over the holiday break. The only work Years 10 and 11 students might have to do is to complete any set tasks from the start of their semester two courses in the last one (Year 10) or two (Year 11) weeks of the term. Hopefully they will complete this before the term finishes.

As for Year 12s, I would strongly suggest they take some time for a breather, as it is the last significant break they will get before the November exams. They need to make sensible decisions about how to spend the two weeks in terms of what school work they might want to do, and how much of a real break they need. This could include any or even all of these depending on the particular student:

  • completing any work still not done from semester one, including the reading of set novels;
  • getting notes and topic revision summaries in order prior to the end of the year;
  • completing any work set related to the last two weeks of the semester, in other words the first two weeks of semester two.

If our students are to develop the skills of independent learners, then they need to have room to decide what they need to do in this break, and plan accordingly. They should allow for at least one complete week away from study.

A Strategic Approach to Study – Planning and Organisation!

As is usual at this time of the year, some students are looking toward the mid-year examination period with more trepidation than anticipation, and this is beginning to affect their thinking and in a few cases probably their wellbeing. Here are some thoughts and strategies I think will help students over the coming weeks. The first is about PLANNING.

Students tend to feel overwhelmed by work when it starts to mount up, and some often have no systematic approach to dealing with it. The strategic use of a weekly planning tool might assist students to get on top of their work. The tool is simply a large grid of the seven-day week, broken into hourly timeslots from 6am to 11pm. The five school days are encased in a bold outline. Students who need better planning should obtain one of these grids (I will ensure students can be provided with a copy via email) and follow these steps:

  • Shade out all COMMITMENTS in that week (sport, tutoring, part-time job, church, family etc);
  • Make a list of all work you wish to complete that week in each subject, including extra preparation for SACs OR mid-year exams like practice from the Checkpoints book or from past VCAA exams if you are in Year 12, or topic summaries etc;
  • For each piece of work estimate the time you need to complete it, and calculate the TOTAL TIME you need for each subject;
  • Break this time into SESSION TIMES you feel you can stick to, for example 4 hours of Maths could be achieved in one 2-hour and two 1-hour sessions;
  • Place these sessions onto your weekly planner, stick it on the bedroom wall and commit to it! Make sure you get a good night’s sleep each night and put in some REWARDS for yourself, say some exercise, a movie etc to give yourself a break;
  • Do this EVERY SUNDAY for the following week;
  • Finally get yourself a cardboard wall calendar from Officeworks (I am told they cost around $7) and put it on your bedroom wall at home. Put all important dates and deadlines on it, including assignment due dates, SAC dates and exam dates. This will keep deadlines ‘public’ for you, not lost in a diary, and will help you plan accordingly.

I would suggest that students use this tool STRATEGICALLY, that is, when needed. It is best used when:

  • you fall behind with work and you have a lot to do in a short time or
  • you want to include revision for exams in your homework schedule, say four weeks before the exams begin or
  • you just want to get a bit more organised when you have a lot going on.

I believe a more strategic approach to study will help all of our students. I will talk more about balance and keeping things in perspective, and closer to the exams I will include some strategies to use immediately prior, during and even after them.

If students and parents would like advice with appropriate study schedules, you are welcome to contact your son’s or daughter’s mentor, House Leader, one of the Assistant Principals or myself. We are happy to help.

 

Peter Corkill

Principal

 

Maintaining a Balance between Work, Rest and Recreation

Whist acknowledging that the commitment of our students to their studies and ongoing improvement is nothing short of outstanding, I feel there is a need to realign some of the thinking among some students and parents that ‘more work produces better outcomes’. While there cases of this being true, for example when students are doing little work and expecting great results, eventually we get to a stage where too much work, late at night and without sufficient rest, becomes counter-productive.

There is clear research in many quarters that the students who are most successful in the latter years of their schooling have a balanced approach to organising their commitments. They devote an appropriate time to study and homework, but they also have plenty of breaks, engage their interests by playing sport or a favourite musical instrument, have time for friends and family and some even have a small part-time job. Being able to participate in various forms of activity help young people grow, develop positive relationships with peers and adults, keep them physically and therefore mentally fit, and give them opportunities to develop collaborative skills and teamwork. All of these skills supplement those they directly need to achieve highly at school, and help them grow personally.

If students are to perform at their academic peak at important times, for example in an exam, they need to be fresh, mentally fit and alert. This means they need a good diet and plenty of sleep. I have spoken to students who regularly work after midnight, and sometimes long hours into the early morning. Whilst I admire their perseverance, it is simply ineffective to be working so late. The cumulative effect on young minds of several late nights is extreme tiredness, and once that sets in, students will begin to lose their enthusiasm and energy for their studies. Continually tired students are also far more susceptible to illness, so it becomes a really unhealthy cycle to be in. Ironically in this situation, the more time they spend on their studies, the less effective they will be. It becomes a case of quality versus quantity – and we would always err on the side of students producing quality work at a time when they are physically and mentally ready to do their best.

In a few cases it may be that students are taking longer to complete tasks than they should due to engaging in social networking at the same time. This is a good way of turning a 2 hour task into a four hour task and is simply unproductive! My advice would be to do your homework first and finish it, then do something else to relax if you want to. Just like trying to do homework and watching TV at the same time is fraught, so too is doing any tasks requiring you to think with your Facebook site open! However I get a sense that we still have people who are up too late at night and not engaging in over-use of the computer. You need to think things through differently, and soon.

At JMSS we take the well-being of our students very seriously, as healthy and happy students will perform much better academically than tired and unmotivated students. Therefore I am appealing to parents to assist with helping their sons and daughters to achieve some balance in their lives, get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, exercise regularly and eat properly. Young bodies will only develop effectively in these important teenage years if we look after them appropriately.

The weekends are also a time to recuperate from the busy week, spend time with family and engage in activities such as sport which get you physically active. Some students are spending most of their weekends involved with extra tuition, studying at Language Schools as well as doing some homework. The guidelines we have given to parents in the student diary are clear – a maximum of three hours of homework per night and only doing homework on one day in the weekend. Students who spend most of their weekends doing schoolwork are missing out on the social interactions which are so important in growing up. The danger for them is that school becomes a social outlet, rather than a place of work, as they use it to compensate for what they are missing at other times. The trick is simply to get the balance right.

The pressures and stresses which naturally occur during the VCE will be greatly eased with a more balanced approach. VCE is certainly NOT the time to give up playing music or your favourite sport. If you are fitter, healthier and more alert, you will perform better and be more confident in your ability to cope. It is that simple.

If students and parents would like advice with appropriate study schedules, you are welcome to contact your son’s or daughter’s mentor, House Leader, one of the Assistant Principals or myself, Peter Corkill. We are happy to help.

Exam Advice Part One: Before Exams

I would like to reinforce some tips for PREPARATION which should stand you all in good stead.  You need to start NOW.

1.  As a first step complete a summary page for each topic in each subject you are sitting an exam for.  Include headings, key ideas, examples, diagrams, and show how the ideas are linked.  Use colour to assist you to recall these ideas when you need them.

2.  Obtain practice questions and start working through them.  You can get these from chapter reviews, revision sheets, past exams.  If you are in Year 12, the ‘Checkpoint’ series of books are a great resource.

3.  Unit 3 Physics and Biology students can access past exams and examiners reports from the VCAA website (www.vcaa.vic.edu.au) .  These reports are a MUST READ for every student as they contain answers, hints and trends you should take heed of.

4.  As you get closer to the exams, try questions under test conditions to ‘road-test’ your skills under pressure.  Always do at least one full practice exam under test conditions before the real one.  These have been organised for all students doing a Unit 3, 4 Study.

5.  Always get feedback on this work. Check by looking over answer sheets, chapter answers or examiners reports.  Discuss difficulties with fellow students and teachers.  Doing this will greatly improve your confidence before you begin.

Exam Advice Part Two – During an Exam

1.     Ensure a good night’s sleep before the exam.  There is little point staying up unnecessarily late – perhaps better to get up earlier and do some final preparation.

2.     Make sure you are at the exam venue at least 30 minutes prior to the starting time.  There is no excuse for lateness which shows total disregard for other students in the exam who will be disrupted because of your late arrival.

3.     Make sure you have all necessary equipment, including a spare battery for your calculator, mathematical drawing equipment if that is necessary, and any notes you are allowed to take in.

4.     Once inside you may begin reading ONLY when you are directed to by the supervisor.  Strict silence at all times in the exam room.  If you have a question, raise your hand. You must NOT pick up a pen until instructed to do so.

5.     Use reading time wisely.  Read through the full exam at least once, more if you have time.  Most exams contain questions graded in difficulty from easiest to hardest.  You can use reading time to decide on the order you are going to attempt the questions.  For most students, doing questions in the order they are given to you is the best advice.

6.     In reading time, find the TOTAL MARKS on the exam, and the TOTAL TIME you have.  This will help you work out how much time you have per question.  For example if you have 90 minutes to do an exam worth 60 marks, you have 1½ minutes per mark.  So a question worth 1 mark should take a minute or so, and one worth 4 marks a bit over 5 minutes.  DO NOT SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON ANY QUESTION.  Sensible Time Management is the key to performing well in exams.

7.     Go through the exam and do those questions you are confident about first.  Then go back and do the rest.  If you run out of time at the end, make sure it is doing questions you are unsure of, not questions you could do easily if you had more time! (See part 6).

8.     Leave the white-out at home.  Don’t waste time whiting out answers.  If you want to replace an answer, rewrite your answer and place a single line through the one you don’t want.

9.     Read each question twice before beginning a written answer, once again during your answer to see if you are on track, then once again when you finish. Many marks are thrown away answering your question, i.e. the one you WANT to write about, not the one you HAVE to write about.

10.  Be careful of instructions in exams which require answers to “two decimal places”, to “three significant figures”, or which ask for “three reasons why …. “.  Adhering to the little things makes a big difference.

11.  Written answers often expect you to use technical language related to that subject.  Know these words, their spelling, their meaning, and how to use them in context.

12.  Read over your work when you finish, do questions involving mathematical working again to see if you get the same answer, if you have time. Never leave an exam early.

13.  Don’t engage in “post mortems” after the exam with other students as this often induces unnecessary stress.  Put it out of your mind and prepare for the next one!

GOOD LUCK!

Victoria's top VCE students share their exam advice

Top VCE students have provided practical tips about their best exams to assist current Year 12s approaching their end-of-year exams. Each of the students scored a perfect 50 in the subject they are offering advice about.

Study tips 2017 - download a PDF (1MB).

http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/students/Pages/vce.aspx