This article, by Hayley Bridgewood and Gerry Healy (VCE Examainers) has some good advice for studying for the VCE Environmental Science exam. Even though it was written prior to the Unit 3 exam, it still has some good tips for general exam revision and practise. I have reproduced the relevant parts here:
“Tips for before the examination
Using your revision time
From this stage onwards, you may like to focus mainly on practising exam questions from examination papers. Other revision strategies such as making cue cards and writing summary notes can be very helpful for reviewing material including definitions, labels on diagrams and key steps involved in processes – but the specific application of your knowledge and understanding to structured questions, often involving scenarios, is where students most commonly find they make the greatest progress towards being ready for their examination.
VCAA examination papers can be sourced from their website at http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/vce/studies/envscience/exams.html. You should ensure that you make good use of the Assessment Reports as they will give you a fair insight into what the examiners are looking for in your answers. Various organisations also publish sample trial examination papers. Although these examination questions are in no way endorsed by the VCAA, they may still present a useful source of questions for you to consider.
As you sit each practice examination:
-give yourself 15 minutes reading time whenever possible
-do NOT give yourself access to the solutions
-restrict yourself to ONLY 25 minutes for Section A and ONLY 60 minutes for the Section B; this will leave you 5 minutes to recheck the types of questions you know you generally find difficult
-DO NOT LOOK AT THE SOLUTIONS immediately at the end of your 90 minutes – but instead use your class notes, textbook and any other useful resources to fill in any gaps (using a different coloured pen to distinguish it from your first answer). Feel comfortable with looking up any concepts that you were not 100% sure about (make comments and hints in the margin using your different coloured pen)
-ONLY when you feel totally satisfied that you have answered all questions as well as possible, and using all available resources, then check your answers against the official solutions
-after correcting the paper, REREAD the entire exam along with your annotations and construct a dot-point list of concepts or facts that you did not understand or know. Set aside time to go and look these up as well as ask for help from your teacher.
Although this process may sound a little complicated and time-consuming, experience shows that students who follow this method tend to have a much greater understanding of the material that they need for their examination.
If you are short for time on any particular day, then consider just applying this method to EITHER Section A or Section B.
Preparing yourself and your materials
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
-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)
-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 Pollutants or Ecologically Sustainable Development 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 will have 90 minutes of writing time to complete the examination paper. 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, evaluate) 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.
Remember, it is never too late to start your revision program. Work systematically through the course, guided by the Outcomes of the Study Design. Even a little bit each day (starting today) can mean significant progress over a few weeks. Good luck, and remember if you have any concerns about your revision program, examination preparation or the examination itself, your teachers are there to help you.”
This article about methyl mercury may be of assistance for your review of Unit 4: AoS 1: Pollutants.