Mar 25 / Charles Kuang

VCE Chemistry SAC Preparation Guide

VCE Chemistry SAC Preparation Guide

Mar 25 / Charles Kuang
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What makes VCE Chemistry Unit 3 and 4 SACs hard?

Although there is variation between different schools, generally you're 3/4 Chemistry SACs are going to be much, much harder than you're 1/2 SACs. Here's why:
  • Harder exam style questions. In Year 11, the difficulty of most of the questions on your SACs would have ranged from extremely basic to slightly harder textbook questions. However, in Year 12, many of your teachers will take inspiration from exam questions which are longer, have more information, and require a more complex application of the content. If unprepared, you will find yourself struggling to answer questions on your SAC.
  • An accompanying practical. Year 11 sacs are more like topic tests covering certain aspects of the course. In contrast, your first chemistry 3/4 SAC might be based upon a practical, with an additional written component to be done under timed conditions. This adds to the complexity of the assessment, as many of the questions asked will be based upon the practical. Since this is a new situation that will have unique nuisances, you won't get away with memorising answers to common question types alone and will require a much greater level of understanding of the content.
  • More time pressure. One of the biggest challenges in Units 3/4 is managing your time. Depending on the difficulty of your school SAC, expect to struggle finishing it if you don't prepare properly.  

4 easy tips to prepare for your next SAC

1. Try and come up with some reuseable structures for worded questions

Students often describe struggling on worded questions, whether they're spending too long writing a response, or are finding it difficult to phrase their answers. Regardless, it can be a source of great anxiety for many students during their SACs and exams. However, one of the easiest solutions to the problem is to formulate reuseable structures that are applicable to many of the common worded questions that are going to appear repeatedly across your assessments. For example, a question asking students to make use of Le Chatelier's Principle has been asked on all of the past VCAA exams and will most assuredly be on your SAC for rate and extend of reaction. If you develop a clear, and systematic structure to answer these questions, you are going to find yourself spending infinitely less time writing your responses, giving you more time and confidence to tackle the rest of the assessment.

2. Practice the worded questions from VCAA

Your teachers may adapt or even copy some of the worded questions from past VCAA exams, especially longer ones. Even if they don't, answering worded questions from past exams is a great way to train your ability to answer theory/content heavy questions. The skills you learn will not only be directly transferable to the questions your teacher sets but will also set you up for success at the end of the year, even before you begin your exam preparation. 

However, it's all about quality over quantity. Simply doing 100 questions isn't going to help you improve significantly. After marking each question, you should spend a reasonable amount of time comparing your responses to the exam report. This way, you will have an objective, unbiased marking scheme to help you reflect on the quality of your responses. Only in reviewing your answers will you actually know how to improve your responses. Also, if you often find yourself struggling to come up with ideas and points on discussion based worded questions, VCAA's report is a great place to get different perspectives and broaden your points of view for future attempts. It will also be a great opportunity for you to practice the reuseable structures that tried to develop. 

VCAA Chemistry Exam 2019 Question 10a

Model Answer

  • Biofuels are carbon neutral because CO2 absorbed by the plants during growth "completely offsets" (quote 3) the CO2 emitted when they are combusted. This leads to a lower net emission of greenhouse gases which is more sustainable for transport as it minimises the contribution to the enhanced greenhouse effect.
  • Biofuels are "produced from biological sources such as trees, plants, or microorganisms" (quote 1), meaning it is more renewable than fossil fuels as they can be produced relatively quickly via natural processes. This suggests biofuels are sustainable as fuels for transport.
  • However, biofuels are only theoretically carbon neutral as CO2 emissions may arise during production and transportation of the biofuel. Therefore, it may not be as sustainable non-carbon based fuels.
  • Also, "dedicating land specifically for generating bioenergy is unwise" (quote 5) as it may compete with agriculture for food. This may exacerbate existing food scarcities or lead to environmental destruction to gain more land for agriculture. This means that biofuels are not entirely sustainable in use as fuel for transport.

Exert of VCAA Exam Report

3. Practice Under Time Conditions

Completing questions without time pressure is important for learning the basics of the content and building accuracy. However, if you neglect to practice under time conditions, you will not be prepared for the stress and anxiety of the actual SAC. Often students will describe performing poorly on their SACs despite knowing the content. The main reason for this is being unable to draw upon their knowledge quickly and efficiently. Therefore, in order for you to make use of your knowledge most effectively is its imperative that you acclimatize yourself to the stress of time pressure.

This means that you should be doing any practice SAC given to you by your teachers or sourced elsewhere under time pressure. Furthermore, when doing practice VCAA questions, you can give yourself 1.5 marks/min as a rough guide (the exam is 120 marks with 180 minutes of reading time). It may not be perfect, but the key is to replicate the anxiety of having a set amount of time to complete questions - it doesn't matter if you estimate the time wrong. 

4. Think about errors and improvements in your practical

If your SAC involves a practical, your teacher may ask you to explicitly discuss errors and improvements relating to the practical, or may ask you to write a discussion which will include errors and improvements as well. These can often to be tricky to come up with on the stop and you may end up relying on minor errors/improvements that your teacher may not deem adequate to give marks for. As such, if you brainstorm them in advance, you will have more time to come up with a list of errors and improvements that are impactful and valid, saving you a lot of time and stress during your SAC. 

Want to learn more about taking your Chemistry to the next level? 

At Artin Education, we believe in supporting students to achieve their full potential. It doesn't matter if you're struggling, or if you're looking to achieve a 50 - if you're interested in maximising your Chemistry score, get in touch now to see what we have to offer!