Why Strong Readers Are Not Necessarily Strong Writers

There is a very common misconception that students who read a lot will automatically become good writers. On the surface level, it makes sense. After all, reading extensively allows students to develop a large vocabulary, appreciate different perspectives and gain an understanding of how different texts are structured. As with any skill, the first step towards becoming proficient is to watch a professional at work.

On the other hand, nobody learns to drive a car by watching their mum drive; nobody learns how to shoot baskets by watching basketball on television; and nobody learns how to bake a perfect souffle by just reading recipe books. In all these situations, practise is the key. While this all seems obvious, to be a strong English student, people often forget the importance of practising writing. Like any skill, writing requires constant practise. Here are some skills that you can only get from practising writing…

1. Practising writing builds muscle memory

Students often forget that writing is not just a mental task; it is a physical one as well. When students sit their VCE exams, or if they sit a Selective Schools or Scholarship test, they are required to write long, well thought out essays or creative narratives under a strict time limit. Quite often, under these situations, students’ hands get tired before their brains do. Students who haven’t practised writing essays or narratives on a regular basis will find it hard to write quickly enough, or for long enough, to get all of their great ideas on the page. On the other hand, students who recognise that writing (like all tasks) needs practise, are much more likely to have the physical and mental skills they need to succeed.

2. Learning to read and learning to write are two completely different skills

Reading is obviously a wonderful skill for building imagination in students; but it is, in the end, largely a passive activity. When you are learning to read for the first time, you need to recognise the shapes of letters and words and decode them using your knowledge of sounds and phonics. Then when you have built up the required skills to read a story, you get to sit back and let the author take you on a journey.

When it’s your turn to do the writing, suddenly your job becomes a lot more difficult. How do you even start? What is the right word to use to communicate the right message? How can you grab and maintain your reader’s attention? How do you conclude in a satisfactory way? What about grammar/ spelling/ punctuation? You’re given an empty page that you’re supposed to fill with ideas. This can be incredibly stressful, and many students face writer’s block as a result. Learning specific writing skills and practising writing is a good way to get better at generating your own ideas, so you can succeed every time. The more you practise, the less intimidating the empty page will look, and the more techniques you will learn for generating ideas in order to become a successful writer.

3. Practising writing demystifies the art of writing

Have you ever read a great essay or a great story and thought, “How on Earth did they do that?” It’s a common experience, and it’s part of the fun of reading. When we read good writing, we’re not necessarily trying to figure out how the author is doing what they’re doing, we’re just enjoying their work. This is one of the reasons why it’s not enough to just read extensively if you want to learn to write well. Put simply: reading good writing doesn’t teach you how to be a good writer yourself. On the other hand, when you practise writing regularly, you start to notice the patterns, the little tricks that you can use again and again to make your writing successful. Practising writing allows you to look behind the curtain and seeing the mechanisms that make up a successful piece of writing.

Of course, practising is hard. And it’s not the kind of thing you can just do without guidance. That’s where we come in. If you or your child wants more guidance on how to practise their writing, feel free to email us at enquiries@spectrumtuition.com or call us on 1800 668 177 to book a free assessment. Alternatively, you can book online by clicking here.

If your child is preparing for a Scholarship or Selective Schools Exam, you might also want to check out our custom Writing Bundle. This bundle contains our best selling persuasive essay book and narrative book.  After reading these books your child will have the skills required to write a compelling and well structured narrative and persuasive essay!

Why You Should Take A VCE Subject Early

This is the time of year when year 10 students will start to make serious decisions regarding which subjects they will choose to complete for their VCE.

Many schools will offer students the opportunity to complete a year 12 subject while they are in year 11 and while most students will take advantage of this option, other students decide not to and instead opt to complete all their Year 12 subjects in the following year. In our experience we find that taking a VCE subject in year 10 has many advantages.

The Structure Of VCE: A Brief Overview

When VCE students finish their exams at the end of year 12, they each receive a total score, which is used to calculate their ultimate ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank).

The ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) is based on up to six VCE results and is calculated using:

  • Your best score in any one of the English studies (English, Literature, English Language) plus
  • The scores of your next three studies (which together with the English subject make the “Primary Four”), plus
  • 10% of the scores for any fifth and sixth study with you may have completed (these are called increments)

These scores are combined to produce an ATAR aggregate, which is a number between 0 and over 210. All students are ranked in order according to this aggregate and the percentage rank is converted to an ATAR, which is a number between 0 and 99.95.

What this means is that a total of 6 subjects can contribute to a student’s total ATAR. Students who only do 5 subjects miss out on a valuable possible 10%. Despite this, most schools only allow students to complete 5 subjects in year 12. The only way to get around this, and avoid missing out on that precious 10%, is to complete a VCE subject early. This is an increasingly popular option. Each year more and more dedicated students choose to start a year 11 subject in year 10 and complete their year 12 exams in year 11.

Three Reasons You Should Take A VCE Subject In Year 10

Here are some reasons why students should take up the option to complete a year 12 subject early:

1. Gain Valuable Experience

Apart from ensuring that you have completed a 6th subject, the main benefit of completing a VCE subject a year early is the valuable experience it gives students. Students who take a year 12 subject in year 11 will gain valuable insight into what it takes to study for and sit a proper VCE exam. They will learn how to prioritise their time, organise their notes, revise questions and deal with exam pressures. And, best of all, they will learn all of these skills before they even commence year 12 and tackle the full load of subjects.

2. Focus Your Energy

The other benefit of completing a year 12 subject in year 11 is the potential to get a high score. Year 11 students don’t have the distractions and pressures unique to year 12 students. They don’t have to deal with prefect positions, graduation ceremonies, university applications, or the pressure of studying for 5 other year 12 exams. Because of this, a student who takes a year 12 subject early can focus significantly much more attention and energy on that one subject. Because they only have a single year 12 exam to study for that year, their chances of getting a high score dramatically increases.

3. Cover Your Bases

Considering that VTAC uses scores of up to 6 subjects to calculate the ATAR aggregate (English, the scores of your next 3 best subjects and 10% of any fifth and sixth subject), choosing 6 subjects is strongly recommended to maximise the ATAR you will ultimately achieve. Many schools offer Year 11 students the opportunity to study one Year 12 subject. Take advantage of this if the opportunity presents itself.

Most importantly, 6 subjects is obviously better than 5. A student who completes a subject early will have an automatic 10% advantage over a student who only completes 5. On a more pragmatic note, a 6th subject will ensure that a poor mark in one subject will have significantly less of an impact on the student’s overall score.

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If you think your child should start a VCE subject a year early, or you would like to know more about how you can improve your child’s chances of ATAR success, feel free to call us on 1800 668 177 or email us for more information!

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4 Ways To Prepare Your Child For VCE

With the VCE exams currently taking place, a lot of students in years 9 and 10 will no doubt be nervously looking ahead to their own futures and the challenges that lay ahead of them. I have had a lot of experience helping students with the transition into VCE. One thing I have noticed is that this transition is easier for some students that for others. Some students take to VCE like ducks to water, scoring consistently high marks on their SACs from the start of the year. For others, the first few months of VCE are a blind panic, as they struggle to keep their head above water as they figure out how to organise their notes, manage their time and structure their own revision. So, what’s the reason behind this? What makes some students so much more suited for VCE than others? More importantly, what can you do to ensure that, come the start of year 11, your child is one of the students who thrives?

1. Encourage Their Independence

One of the biggest shocks that students encounter when they start VCE is how independent they are required to be. No longer will teachers walk them through every concept, tell them how to revise for tests, or give exact instructions about what homework needs to be done each week. While your child will still get assigned homework, this constitutes only a small fraction of the total work they need to be doing if they want to achieve good marks; the rest is made up of individual and self-determined study and revision. In order to prepare your child for this, it is a good idea to encourage their independence from an early age. Instead of telling them exactly what homework they need to do and when they need to do it, ask them what they need to achieve and encourage them to develop their own plans for how they will get the necessary work done. While they may need your guidance from time to time, the more you can teach your child to plan and structure their own study time, the more they will be prepared for the challenges ahead.

2. Foster A Love Of Reading

If you are going to perform well in VCE, you need to be able to read quickly, efficiently and productively for extended periods of time. Of course, this is most important in subjects like English, where students are expected to read and interpret novels and articles. Students who struggle to make it through their novels before it comes time to discuss them in class will inevitably have a disadvantage. However, the ability to read well also affects basically every other subject. Whether it be revising a difficult concept in a Maths Methods textbook, remembering definitions for a Psychology SAC, revising a big stack of old Physics notes or interpreting a difficult question on an Accounting exam, good reading skills are vital. Fortunately, if you get in early, this is a skill that you can easily help your child develop. All you need to do is ensure that they regularly have access to books and distraction-free spare time; all they need to do is to read as much and as widely as possible!

How To Get Your Head Around Long Term Goals

Do you find that the biggest and most rewarding things are always the hardest to achieve? This is because, to a large extent, our brains are mostly incapable of dealing with large-scale long-term goals. Our minds are very good at focusing on the immediate future: what we want to do on the weekend, what we want to eat for dinner and whether or not we feel like sleeping in. But we are much worse at thinking practically about the long term future: what we have to do to get into the University course of our dreams, what we can do to achieve a high ATAR score. When we think about these goals, it is often hard to figure out how to act on them. Today, I will provide my top 5 tips on how to get your head around your own long-term goals and start working towards them today.

1. Understand your motivation

Before you can start working towards a long-term goal, you need to understand your motivation. What do you hope to achieve? Why do you want to achieve this? How will you feel when you achieve it? The more you focus on your motivation and exactly why you care about the particular goal, the more likely it is that you will work hard towards achieving it

2. Set smaller milestones

As I have said, our brains are pretty terrible at thinking in the long term. If you plan something that you want to achieve in a year, you will either find yourself overwhelmed by the enormity of the task or entirely apathetic and inclined to procrastinate.Ideally, you should set yourself clear milestones of what you wish to achieve at least every couple of weeks. This will make it easier to plan what you have to do.

3. Make a clear plan

“Work hard” is not a plan. “Study every day” is not a plan. “Get better at maths” is not a plan. In order to achieve a long-term goal, it is important to set yourself clear objectives and clear instructions as to exactly what you need to do each day to achieve it. Do this when you are most motivated and make sure you live up to the tasks that you have set yourself.

4. Assess your progress regularly

Every couple of weeks, it is important to check your progress and ask yourself whether or not you are on track to achieve your goal. Try not to think about this in terms of succeeding or failing; rather think about whether or not you can change anything in the immediate future to make it easier for your to achieve your milestones. Perhaps you need a new plan, or perhaps you need to reassess your motivations.

5. Enjoy your successes

A lot of students forget that they are allowed to enjoy their successes. Every time you achieve a short-term goal, every time you make progress towards your long-term goal, you should allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment. We are driven by emotions; the more you link your hard work to positive feelings, the more you congratulate yourself for your efforts, the harder you are likely to work in the future.

5 Reasons To Work Hard In VCE (Apart From Just Getting Into Uni)

For many students, VCE is a means to a very specific end: getting into their chosen University degree. Students that have a very clear idea of what they want to do after school, and who are chasing a specific ATAR score, are inherently motivated to work hard throughout their final years of high school. The unfortunate flipside of this is that, for students who don’t know what they want to do after school, it is often hard to maintain enthusiasm for their VCE studies. Students that assume that the VCE is only a stepping-stone into a degree that bears no other significance in their lives might not work as hard to achieve the best that they’re capable of. Today, I wanted to put the VCE and the ATAR score into context and show that there are many other reasons for working hard during years 11 and 12, apart from just getting into uni.

1. It Builds Confidence

Self confidence is an amazing thing. If you think you can achieve a goal, you are far more likely to work hard towards it. Doing well in VCE doesn’t just give you a good score, it also helps you realise what you can achieve if you work hard. Students that achieve a high ATAR score learn an important lesson: though they might face great difficulties in their lives, they are capable of great things if they put their mind to it.

2. It Teaches You How To Work On Long-Term Goals

Achieving a good ATAR is one of the biggest long-term undertakings of a student’s life. In order to succeed in VCE, you need to plan ahead, sometimes up to two years in the future, and think about what you can do over a long period of time to achieve a larger goal. Thinking in such a long-term way is often very difficult; people are more likely to respond to short-term achievements and find it difficult to work hard towards anything that is not immediately rewarding. Working hard to achieve a long-term goal, such as achieving a good ATAR score, is a valuable experience because it teaches you to plan ahead and work towards something that is truly worthwhile.

3. It Teaches You Time Management Skills

VCE is tough. Students have to juggle up to 6 classes, each of which involves homework, tests, SACS, exams and assignments. Some students crumble under the pressure; others flourish and develop excellent time management skills. Guess what? These skills don’t stop being useful as soon as you graduate. If you can learn how to manage all of your classes in an efficient and effective way throughout VCE, then you have developed time management skills that will help you throughout your entire life!

“No Such Thing As Bad Student, Only Bad Teacher.” Really?

In the 1984 film, The Karate Kid, wise old karate master Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that there is “no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” Is this true?

What Mr. Miyagi is trying to emphasise is the importance of good teaching. Of course, the value of an inspiring, dedicated and experienced teacher cannot be underestimated. However, what Miyagi fails to take into account is that learning is a shared responsibility. No matter how good or bad a teacher is, a large portion of the responsibility must fall on the student. Ideally your child and their teacher are a team, working together to achieve a common goal. Today, I provide some examples on ways that teachers and students can work together to ensure that their time in the classroom is as successful as possible!

1. A good teacher… provides clear explanations.

Every great teacher I have ever had was able to explain difficult and unfamiliar concepts in a way that was easy to understand. They used real life situations, concrete examples and clear diagrams. They modelled methods and clearly demonstrate that what they are teaching you makes sense.

A good student… actively engages with explanations.

However, no matter how good a teacher’s explanations are, they will ultimately be unsuccessful unless your child is willing to actively engage with the explanations. This means they have to do more than just sit and listen. Actively engaging means taking notes, asking questions and trying examples. A good student will take it upon themselves to ensure that they have done everything in their power to understand what has been explained.

2. A good teacher… makes time to help each of their students individually.

Every student needs a bit of extra help once in a while. A good teacher is one that ensures that they set aside enough time to give each and every student the one-on-one assistance that they need.

A good student… knows how to make the most of this time.

When teachers sit down with a student to help them individually, they are usually faced with two types of questions:

1) “I don’t understand any of this. Can you help me?”


2) “I didn’t understand question 5c. I think I got the first bit correct, but I don’t know how to find the value of y.

As you can probably tell, the teacher will find it much easier to help the second student, because they have clearly taken the time and energy to work out specifically what they need help on. A teacher’s time is limited; the more your child can think ahead, reflect on their own weaknesses, and give ask specific questions, the more likely they are to receive the help that they need.

3. A good teacher… gives constructive criticism.

A good teacher never gives a mark on an essay or an assignment without letting the student know exactly why they got that mark. The more feedback a teacher gives, the easier it will be for students to improve in the future. The best kind of feedback is constructive criticism; it lets the student know what they did wrong, but also provides positive advice on how they can improve next time.

A good student… takes responsibility for their own performance.

Unfortunately, a lot of students like to fall back on excuses when it comes to feedback. They say things like “the teacher didn’t say why I got such a bad mark” or “they just gave me a bad mark because they didn’t agree with my opinion.” While this may be true in a very, very small minority of cases, these complaints more often come from students who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own performance. A good student makes sure to take all feedback on board and actively tries to incorporate it in their future work. If the feedback is unclear, a good student will politely ask their teacher for more advice on how they can improve.

The 5 Biggest Lies VCE Students Tell Themselves

If you are a year 12 student completing the final year of your VCE or IB diploma, the clock is ticking; the game is on. The time to work for VCE students is now. Successful students understand this. A successful student has already spent their holidays reading their English texts, getting organised and trying not to forget how to differentiate polynomials. A successful student knows that, from day one, they have to be organised, focused and ready to work.

Unfortunately, for some students, now is the time to start making excuses and compromises, to start telling themselves little fibs that make them feel better about the disorganised procrastination ahead of them in the next few months. Students are great at justifying their own bad behaviour. They tell themselves that they will study later, that this test isn’t all that important, that it’s ok that they got a D on their SAC because the rest of the class did poorly too. Unfortunately, these little fibs can have make the difference between a student who achieves their goals and one that falls short. So today, I aim to cut these fibs off at their source. Below are the 5 most common lies that VCE students tell themselves, and why they are completely false.

1. My SAC scores don’t matter as long as I do well on the exam.

I have heard this one many times. A student, unwilling to work hard on their SACs throughout the year, reassures themselves that, come exam time, they will make up for their poor performance with a last minute display of genius. This is dangerous thinking for two reasons. Firstly, SACS actually do matter very much. The SACs given throughout the year are used to rank the students in each class. Based on this ranking, the study scores for each of their subjects may go up or down. A low ranking student who does well on the exam might actually get a lower study score than a high-ranking student who does slightly worse on the exam! Secondly, studying for SACs is a great way of practising the valuable study skills required to achieve success on the final exam. After all, who do you think will be able to study better: a student who has cruised through the year, or one who has diligently studied and revised their notes for every single one of their assessments?

2. Subjects like Psychology or Health are the easy subjects.

There is a common myth that some subjects are ‘easier’ than others because they are scaled down. Subjects like Psychology, Graphic Design and Physical Education are considered less strenuous than subjects like Physics and Specialist Maths. Some students take this to mean that these subjects are “easier,” that they don’t need to work as hard at these subjects to do well. This could not be further from the truth. A student studying Psychology not only has to contend with the inevitable scaling down of their study score, they also have to compete with the above-average number of students completing the subject. While the exam may be easy, it will be equally easy for the other tens of thousands of students sitting it. Whilst doing average in Specialist Maths might yield a good study score, doing average in Psychology or Design is simply not good enough. To get a good score in these “easy” subjects, students have to stand out from this crowd. The good news is that the higher a student’s study score in these subjects, the less it gets scaled down. A 50 in Psychology stays a 50. That is not easy, but it is worth aiming for.

3. If you do harder subjects like Specialist and Chemistry, you’ll get a better ATAR score.

This myth goes hand-in-hand with the one above. There are students who believe that some subjects are inherently good and some that are inherently bad. Subjects like Specialist Maths are tricky because they are a good idea for some students, and a terrible idea for others. On one hand, students who excel at Maths and take Specialist are likely to increase their chance of getting a high ATAR score, because Specialist is scaled up quite significantly. However, students who aren’t highly competent in their mathematical abilities and are just doing Specialist for the sake of the scaling are likely to struggle with the advanced coursework, which will take time away from more achievable subjects, and receive a consequently poorer score than they would have if they had simply chosen a more suitable subject. The trick is that each and every student needs to assess their own abilities, interests and pick the subjects that suits them and their future goals.

4. I don’t want to be a mathematician, so I don’t have to do Methods.

That said, a student should think very carefully before turning their back on maths. Some students find mathematics painful; they have been baffled by x’s and y’s since they started high school. However, before deciding to drop maths, all students should think seriously about the university courses they wish to apply for, and carefully check the prerequisite subjects for each of these courses. A lot of courses, particularly in the fields of science, economics, engineering and biomedicine require students to have completed Maths Methods.

5. I can’t start studying for my exam yet.

Yes you can! Yes! Start now! It is never too early to start studying for an exam. Students who leave their exam study for SWOT VAC are doomed to a week of panic and confusion. Students who want to be successful will spend their entire year developing revision sheets, refining their notes, attempting exam questions, going over each of their SACs with a magnifying glass and making sure they  learn all the skills and keep all the necessary resources required to be as prepared as possible come November. VCE is not a sprint to the finish; it is a marathon, a long haul, and the sooner students start applying themselves to the challenge, the more successful they will be.

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Are you worried that you’re not exam ready? Why not call us to discuss how we can help. Call us for free on 1800 668 177 and we’ll explain how we can help you get you ready for your VCE exams. Click here to find out more about how we run our classes or book a free assessment by clicking on the button below!


Demystifying the ATAR Score

On the 20th of December this year, thousands of VCE students across Victoria will receive their ATAR score. For these students, for better or for worse, their VCE journey is at an end; they have worked hard, studied for hours on end and (hopefully) received the results required to gain them entry to their desired University course.

For students commencing year 11 or 12 in 2014, the journey has only just begun. And often, for these students and their parents, the task of achieving a high ATAR score can seem like a scary, daunting and complicated process. What makes matters worse is  how many parents and students don’t even know how the ATAR score is calculated.

If this sounds like you, then read on. Today, I will be explaining how the ATAR is calculated and, based on this explanation, giving some tips on how you and your child can maximise their chances of ATAR success!

How Is The ATAR Calculated?

1. Firstly, each student will usually complete between 4-6 subjects. Based on their exam and SAC scores, they will receive an ATAR Subject Score out of 50 for each of their subjects. This is not a simple score, but a ranking, in which a score of 50 indicates the highest performing students and 30 is the average.

2. Next, because some subjects may be more competitive than others, some subjects will be “scaled up” and some may be “scaled down.” This means that a certain number of points will be added on to, or subtracted from, the raw ATAR Subject Score. It is worth noting that higher performing students will not have their scores scaled down. The degree to which each subject is scaled is determined on a yearly basis. To check out the extent to which subjects were scaled in 2012, check out this link!

3. The ATAR Aggregate is then calculated. It is found by adding

-Your best ATAR Subject Score in any one of the English studies

-The ATAR Subject Scores of your next best three studies

-10 per cent of the ATAR Subject Score for a fifth study (where available),

-10 per cent of the ATAR Subject Score for a sixth study (where available)

(It is worth noting that, as shown, an English subject MUST be one of your top 4 subjects)

4. The ATAR Aggregate is then used to rank all students. The final ATAR score is an indication of the students rank within their year. For example, a score of 97 indicates that the student has performed better than 97% of students. ATAR scores are given in intervals of 0.05, and the highest possible score is 99.95.

What does this mean?

This may seem complicated, but there are a few useful pieces of advice that you can get from understanding the way in which the ATAR system works…

1.    Do not neglect English.

English is the only subject that MUST be one of your child’s top 4 subjects. As such, a poor performance in English will affect your child’s score dramatically. English is also one of the more difficult subjects, as it requires students to think in different and complex ways about a particular text. At Spectrum Tuition, we spend all year preparing our students for their final English exams, giving them as much diverse and practical experience as possible.

2.    Your top 4 subjects are important.

It is important for your child to have a strong top 4 subjects. They are the subjects that make up most of the mark. Whilst it is important to do well in all subjects, you should make sure that your child is confident in getting an excellent score in at least four of their subjects.

3.    High subject scores are not scaled down

In year 12, my friend was very concerned because she was doing a lot of subjects, such as Psychology and Graphic design, that get scaled down. She was worried that this would ruin her chances of getting a good enter score. Because she knew this, she made sure to focus a lot of attention on these subjects. She made a clear study plan, and got a tutor to help with her exam preparation. In the end, she got a 50 for Psychology, and so it wasn’t scaled down at all! If your child is taking a subject that gets scaled down, they need to be aware that this is not an “easy subject”. If they want to achieve, they will have to work extra hard on these subjects to make sure they are scaled down as little as possible.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments! If you would like to see a first-hand account of how ATAR scores are calculated, check out this handy ATAR score calculator.

4 Main Hurdles Getting in the Way of VCE Success

The mid-year break is finished, and students are heading back for term 3. For students in year 12, this is often a time for panic. With SACs piling up and exams creeping closer and closer, students start to really feel the enormity of the task ahead of them. How your child faces the next few months will have a profound impact on their performance on their exams in November. Now is the time for them to get over their bad habits that are stopping them from achieving their full potential. Today, I will go through the 4 main hurdles getting in the way of VCE success, and give some tips for how you can help your child overcome them.


1. Lack of a Plan

Studying hard is important, but there is a big difference between planned study and unplanned study. A student who doesn’t have a plan will read through their notes, flip aimlessly through their textbook and struggle through a pile of practice exams. And they will ultimately miss something or get overwhelmed. The best thing your child can do at this stage of the year is to take a step back and ask themselves some questions: What do I need to know for the exam? Can I break down the course into several smaller topics? What areas do I have the most difficulty on? What should I revise first? By asking these questions, your child will be able to plan more clearly what they need to study and when.


2. Excuses

It is very easy to make excuses. As a tutor, I have heard them all.

“I got a bad mark on my SAC, but so did all my friends.”

“I couldn’t study for the test, because I had too much on that week.”

“I got a bad mark on the exam because my teacher didn’t explain it well.”

Sometimes, these reasons may be valid. But more often than not, students make excuses so that they don’t have to take responsibility for their own success or failure. This is a habit that should be discouraged. One of the most common traits of successful people is that they always take responsibility for their own fate. Successful people accept that their success and their failure are in their own hands, and work hard to achieve their goals. When your child performs poorly, ask them how they can improve next time; when they perform well, congratulate them and ask them what they did to perform so well. Show your child that their performance is up to them.


3. Distractions

This one is an obvious one. Video games, text messages, Skype, Facebook, TV, comics and movies are just a few of the things that can distract students from their studies. Year 12 students are especially good at distracting themselves; some students even clean their house to avoid studying! The best way to prevent your child from getting distracted is to separate work from leisure. Your child should have a specific time and place to relax, and a specific time and place to study. For example, your child should know that when they come home, they can relax for half and hour, then spend an hour at their desk working, then have dinner, relax and watch TV. If your child has a clear study timetable and a designated study space, they are far less likely to get distracted.


4. Fear

All VCE students feel scared, anxious or nervous sometimes. This is natural; year 12 is a stressful year. What is important is how your child handles their fears. There are always some students who let their anxieties overcome and become paralysed by their fear; they don’t know where to start studying, they make silly mistakes in their exams, and they start to give up. As a parent, the most important thing you can do for your child is to look after their emotional wellbeing. Talk to them about what they are worried about, and make plans to overcome these worries. If they are worried about a particular subject, it’s not too late to seek tutoring, and give their performance a much-needed boost. By making clear plans and getting organised at this time of year, you can turn your child’s fear, anxiety and nerves into motivations, determination and success.

Alice in ATAR-land – Why the Cheshire Cat was a genius

When you find yourself choosing subjects for Year 12, there are a number of questions you must ask yourself. The first relates to the story of Alice in Wonderland written by Lewis Carroll.


If you are unfamiliar with the story, it goes like this:


Alice goes on an adventure through a land of make believe meeting such characters on her journey including the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts.


But the always smiling Cheshire Cat has the most insight in my opinion.


Can you remember him?


There’s a time in the story when Alice is walking along and reaches a fork in the road. She has the option of going left or right.


She didn’t know which way to go and was in a state of panic. Looking upwards towards the heavens she looked for some form of direction. Her eyes met with those of the smiling Cheshire Cat casually sitting above her in the tree.


Almost instantly Alice spoke out glancing at the divided road: “Which way should I go?” After a moment of silence, the Cheshire cat said, “That depends…”


Alice said, “Depends on what?”


The cat said, “It depends on your destination. Where are you going?”


“I don’t know….I just don’t know….” answered a confused Alice.


“Then,” said the Cheshire cat, while grinning broadly….“It really does not matter.”

Before you select subjects for VCE ask yourself, what outcome do you want to achieve?


Think about that for a moment. Get clear on it.


Although it sounds simple, don’t brush this question off because it pays to get really clear.


Our goal is to help you attain the highest possible ATAR so you have your pick of tertiary courses when the time comes and in most cases, the best subjects to choose in order to achieve the highest possible ATAR are subjects you enjoy and subjects you can study for.


Do you enjoy writing? Can you see yourself writing as a career option? Are you interested in money matters and finance? Do you enjoy business and current events? Do you have an interest in the latest gadgets and seek out the latest in technological advancements? Perhaps you are more logical and enjoy mathematics and science.


Your answers to these questions will help you decide which subjects to choose for your VCE.

For example, if you are interested in business studies and commerce, choosing subjects like Chemistry, Physics and Specialist Maths just because they scale up probably wouldn’t be your best option.


English, Maths Methods, accounting, economics, further maths and business studies might be a better fit.

Similarly, you may enjoy singing, but if after years of practice are no closer to being the next Mariah Carey or Michael Jackson, it might be a good idea to leave music performance as a hobby, and choose subjects that you can study for.

The first step is to get really clear on your outcome. Of course, that’s only the first step.

For more information about how the ATAR is calculated, study scores and scaling, visit www.vtac.edu.au or book a free assessment and consultation by calling 1800 668 177.