BlogStudyHow to Ace Your External Exam for QCAA Physics

How to Ace Your External Exam for QCAA Physics

Newton's Cradle - QCAA Physics External Assessment Featured Image

Starting Units 3 and 4 of QCAA Physics and want to begin preparing for the external exam?

With this exam being worth a hefty percentage of your final grade, you obviously want to do your best throughout the QCAA Physics external exam! Since you can be assessed on any or all of the content from Units 3 and 4, you need to have studied consistently throughout the year.

While this may all be overwhelming, we’re here to help with our tips on preparing for your EA.

Keep scrolling to discover our strategies for acing your QCAA Physics external exam!

Preparation in the Lead Up to the QCAA Physics External Exam
The Day/Night Before the Exam
During Perusal Time
During the Exam

Preparation in the Lead Up to the Physics External Exam

The amount of revision needed for physics will differ between people but there are some techniques and advice that apply to all skill levels.

Physics External Assessment Preparation

Applying Your Knowledge

The most important thing to do in preparation for the exam hands down is to try and do as many practice questions and exams as possible. You can review the content and theory 100 times but trust me, it won’t help at all if you haven’t applied your knowledge to practice questions before!

The QCAA supplies practice papers on their website that you can use to get familiar with the structure of the paper.

Check out our short response practice questions and multiple choice questions for the Physics external assessment!

When should you be revising content?

While you should be going over content consistently throughout the year, you should really take your exam revision knuckle down when there are around 2 weeks before the exam date and to review the topics daily if possible.

To help you revise content, we’ve put together quick content summaries for Unit 4 of QCE Physics!

Reviewing a topic for even a couple of days in a row will solidify the knowledge and make your life much easier during an exam.

It is important to be able to balance your Physics study with other subjects as well, so I would recommend coming up with some sort of study planner/calendar to make sure you aren’t over or under working yourself.

Check out the overview for Unit 3 of QCAA Physics here!

Time Management

Another important part of revision is timing yourself. Especially if you are doing a practice exam, try and complete the exam in the same timeframe as your external exam, 10 minutes of perusal and 90 minutes working time.

When doing practice questions, start off giving yourself plenty of time for questions and slowly get it faster and faster as a challenge to yourself. If you do this, you will become exponentially faster at solving problems!

We’ve written a whole article on how to better manage your study time and focus leading up to the external exams!

Studying with Your Peers

If you struggle with revising, another useful technique would be to form a study group. One of the best ways for people to learn is by teaching others and a study group allows you to both teach and learn from your friends.

Most schools have some sort of study/revision period when coming up to external exams so this would be a great time to form a study group. Be careful when using this method that you don’t become too reliant on your peers however as they won’t be available during the exam!

Learn how to study consistently across 4 weeks for your external exams here!

The Day/Night Before the QCAA Physics External Exam

Okay so by this point most of the work is done! This last day of revision should mainly be used for recapping and reviewing areas that you find tricky, do a couple of practice questions and quiz yourself on topics to make sure you’re good to go.

Get some sleep!

Bed for sleeping

The most understated and important thing to do the night before an exam is to get a good sleep and to not burn yourself out by rigorously cramming or thinking about the topics.

Personally, my teacher always said to stop studying by 8pm the night before at the very latest and to be asleep before 10pm so that you wake up early and fresh for the morning.

What should you do in the morning?

When it comes to the morning of the QCAA Physics external exam, make sure you have a good, healthy breakfast. Don’t show up to the exam too early (or late!).

Most importantly, don’t talk to people that are talking about the exam. Talking with other people, especially friends, about the exam right before you go in can seriously stress you out and throw you off.

It’s important to trust in your own knowledge and hard work that you put into revising and give it your 100%.

The best thing to do before an exam is to just chat with friends about anything that isn’t the exam. Taking your mind off of the exam sounds counterintuitive but it will relax you and help your mind to focus once you get into the exam room!

During Perusal Time

Before the exam officially starts, you will be given 10 minutes of perusal time. During this time, you aren’t allowed to pick up a pen or any other utensil on your table, the only thing you are allowed to do is read the paper.

There are a few different techniques during perusal time that will help you out once the exam starts properly. 

Technique #1: Answer multiple choice questions in your head

Multiple choice questions being answered

The first technique during perusal is to answer as many of the multiple choice questions as possible. Obviously this technique only applies to Paper 1 but when applied properly you can complete over two thirds of the exam before the timer even officially starts.

Most of the multiple choice questions can be done in your head and won’t require any further calculation. If you want to try practising this method, you can time yourself as you revise your multiple choice questions to determine how many questions you can finish in 10 minutes.

Chances are, you won’t finish all 20 questions in the minutes, which is completely fine! These techniques aren’t used to complete the exam within the 10 minutes, but simply to give yourself a leg-up for when the exam starts properly.

Not only this, but it will give you extra time at the end of the exam to check all of your answers.

Technique #2: Come up with methods for solving short response questions

Brainstorming ideas on a chalkboard - Physics External Assessment

The second technique during perusal is the exact opposite of the first — to attempt to answer as many of the short response questions as possible. This is done in the same way as the first technique but it will be much harder as these questions will typically require a calculator to answer (which you won’t have during your perusal time).

For this reason, it is recommended to not try and solve the question but rather, come up with a method for solving the question. You will have access to your formula and data book during this time so make sure to use this as necessary.

This is still a useful technique as typically these short response questions are the hardest in the paper and therefore getting these out of the way quickly will relieve some stress and give you more time for checking at the end.

When it comes to Paper 2 of the QCAA Physics external exam, there are only short response questions in the paper so you will have to use this technique.

Again, similar to the last technique, it is recommended to time yourself during revision to see how many questions you can finish within 10 minutes. This will give you an idea of how you should pace yourself during the perusal time!

All this pain could just be avoided if you took effective study notes for science… learn how by reading this article!

During the QCAA Physics External Exam

Once perusal time has ended, you will have 90 minutes to work through and complete the paper.

Order of Completion

The order that you complete the exam comes down to personal preference, some people prefer working through chronologically from the easiest to hardest questions while others prefer starting from the hardest questions.

You will have mock exams a few months before your externals so I would recommend trying both methods during those exams to find which works best for you.

Pacing Yourself Throughout the Exam

Try to pace yourself in such a way that you have at least 15 minutes of time left at the end of the exam to review your answers.

During this time, rather than just reading your working again, try to do the question again, as if you’ve never experienced it before, on a piece of working paper. This way you can notice any calculation discrepancies that came up.

There you have it!

After all of this, you are done! From this guide, hopefully you can see how majority of the work needed when it comes to preparing for an external Physics assessment actually comes from the revision phase.

If you can really nail the revision process, properly manage stress levels and exam technique, then you will ace your exam! All the best for your exams and the final few months of high school!

On the hunt for other QCAA Physics resources?

Wondering what ATAR you might get based off your internal assessment results? Check out our QCE Cohort Comparison Tool!

We’ve got plenty more practice questions for you to use to revise previous content from throughout the year! Check them out:

You’ll also want to have a look at our nifty guides for working on your QCAA Physics assessments below:

Are you looking for some extra help with the QCAA Physics External Assessment?

We have an incredible team of QLD tutors and mentors!

We can help you master the QCAA Physics syllabus and ace your upcoming Physics assessments with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or online!

We’ve supported over 8,000 students over the last 11 years, and on average our students score mark improvements of over 20%!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational QLD tutor and mentor, get in touch today or give us a ring on 1300 267 888!

​​William Bye is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Advanced Science with Honours (majoring in Physics) at the University of Queensland. He was part of the very first cohort in Queensland to go through the ATAR system and wishes to help other students to make this journey as easy as possible. Will enjoys his time playing guitar in a band with his friends and hopes to continue balancing his science and music for many years to come.

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