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December 23, 2017
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Easily the most common question I get asked post-VCE-results has been: “How did you do it?”
For a lot of people, they think getting a 50 in English is just a distant dream for them, that they don’t have the skills or drive to achieve that elusive number.
I didn’t believe I was one of these students last year, and I can’t tell you how I did it. There are a huge number of variables involved in obtaining a 50, and many of them you can’t control. But I do know now that the work I did during last year gave me every chance of being one of those select students, and that I should’ve believed my work habits gave me every chance to achieve that dream number.
Keep in mind that I wasn’t getting full marks on my English SAC’s at any point last year, so don’t think that to get a 50 you need perfect marks consistently through the year. Perfect marks help obviously, but don’t be disheartened if you’ve just missed out. Those close-to-perfect scores are actually quite valuable, because they should make you feel confident that you have all the capability of writing a perfect essay on the end of year exam, while giving you the tidbit of feedback you need to fine-tune your writing.
If you’re in that top rung of students consistently getting perfect or near perfect scores on SAC’s, the most important thing you can do to keep achieving such high scores is to take on every piece of advice your teacher gives you. Most often when you’re at such a high level of writing, it’s advanced skills like the clarity in the way you communicate the ideas within a text, or zooming in on specific points of discussion or symbolism to add some zing to your essay. These skills come with practice – I would know. So be patient with English; it takes time to build up the technique and expertise required to cook up a perfect essay.
So for all the people wondering what they can do to crack that 50 study score – there is no such thing as a guaranteed 50, and most certainly no one way to “think” like a 50 student, but there are many things you can do during 3/4 English to give yourself the best shot at one.
Here’s what I did, and how it might help set you on the path to a 50.
I cannot emphasise enough how much writing and keeping well set-out notes helped keep me sane through the insanity of Year 12.
Right from the get go, make sure you have a system of note-taking that works for you. Whether it be writing them out in a notebook or keeping them in a document on your laptop, ensure that you write down every little helpful tidbit of information you might be told during class by a teacher, or even read on a website. This will ensure you don’t have that horrible feeling of regret when it comes to later down the track closer to the SAC (*can rhyme*) and are kicking yourself for not writing down that sentence about a character, or idea about a theme.
AND when I say “writing them out in a notebook or keeping them in a document on your laptop”, I don’t mean throwing everything in random nonsensical order on your page – separate your notes into headings. Keep your “characters” separate from your “themes”, so your ideas don’t get muddled up and you don’t confuse yourself into a state of breakdown two nights before the SAC when attempting to decode your notes.
Trust me, keeping solid notes is perhaps the most important self-care tip of Year 12. It may take some more time and effort, but you will be thanking yourself over and over when it comes to SAC and exam time.
If you had a dollar for every time a teacher had told you this you’d be able to pay your way to Schoolies, but they say it for a reason. And having been there and done that, I can validate that their hassling is completely reasonable.
Learning quotes sooner rather than later not only means you won’t be rushing to memorise them in the days before the SAC/exam, but it’ll help you get a grip on themes within, and the chronological order, of the text.
The most effective way I found to learn quotes is to split your total lot of quotes up into even groups. List your quotes in order from hardest (the ones that might be longer or have more complex language involved) to easiest to learn, then split them into small groups depending on how many weeks out you are from your SAC/exam - say you have 35 total, split them into groups of 7 to learn over, for example, 5 weeks.
Start with the hardest ones and focus on learning them throughout that first week. Then the following week, once you’ve memorized that first lot, add in the second hardest group and learn them while still going over the first group. Then the third week, add in the third group to learn while still going over the last two, and so on.
Using this method ensures you have 1. An even workload leading up to the SAC/exam and 2. More time to nail the quotes that are more difficult and will take longer to memorise.
Ask any student who slays at English and they’ll tell you that they have planned topics until they never want to see another essay plan again. Planning topics is the best way to work out your strengths and your weaknesses in regards to the themes involved in your text. You can nail a plan for a topic you know you can smash, and sit down and really think about solid paragraph ideas and examples for a topic that would normally make you want to run out of the room crying if you got it in the SAC/exam. This way you’re literally planning for the worst case scenario and making sure that if you do get a topic you don’t love, you’ve still got a solid plan you can use for it. If you plan for all the topics you don’t want to get in an essay, you won’t have to worry about that “OMG I don’t know how to write an essay on this” panic setting in – who cares if you can’t think of ideas on the spot, you already have a killer plan you prepared earlier, you clever cookie.
Let’s just clarify what planning means though. Simply writing down three or four 5-word ideas for paragraphs is not going to be much help to you during the actual assessment. Writing full, articulate topic sentences and putting down examples of quotes and/or events you’ll use to support your arguments, INCLUDING how they explain your point, is what you’ll find helpful when you’re looking over them in the days before/the day of.
You might be thinking “I’ve been learning quotes for 5 weeks now, she’ll be right – I’ll take this week off just to focus on planning”.
No, my friend, that is not what you should be thinking. No matter how much you might hate learning quotes, you’ll never forgive yourself when you’re sitting in the assessment and have forgotten how the quotes you’re looking to use are worded, or when they’re said, or even who said them, because you haven’t been over them the last few days.
Don’t back off revising quotes in the last week. Quotes are what make your whole essay, and the more and better you can embed in your essay, the higher your mark is likely to be. You don’t want to do yourself dirty by switching your focus to planning and completely neglecting quotes – think about how easy it is to forget things once you’re sitting at a desk with nerves running through you on SAC/exam day. It ain’t going to end well if you ignore your quotes in that last week.
Regardless if you’re a visual learner or not, I’ve found mind maps are a really smart, time savvy way to organise your notes and knowledge. You might think it’s a waste of time, but in the course of making them you’re forced to consolidate your notes into the smallest but most informative piece of information you can, you’re writing it down, and you’re literally connecting your ideas together. It’s a perfect recipe to help make sense of your text.
Mind maps also come in really handy for exam time, as you can stick them up on whatever surface of your choosing to have them to look at and help you revise. Not only that, but on SAC day when you don’t want to overwhelm yourself by rereading all your notes and bombarding your brain, mind maps are a great way to revise and remind yourself of the connecting ideas within your text.
Don’t get caught up in all the “I don’t know any quotes” and “I don’t know how to write an essay” stress that other students pass around in those hours before the SAC and exam. These are the people you don’t want to touch with a 50-foot pole. It’s so easy for you to forget about all the hard work, planning, quote learning and essay writing you’ve done in the last few weeks when you’re surrounded by the stress from other people who are way underprepared.
If you’re going to write a flowing, connected, non-clunky essay, you need to think in a flowing, connected, non-clunky way. Keep your thoughts clean – instead of looking at your topic and thinking something along the lines of “Oh ok this isn’t what I expected have I done a practice essay on this topic no ok omg so what paragraphs am I meant to write how am I meant to plan this” and on and on, take a breath and steady yourself. Take another look at the topic and break it down: pick out the focus words, being those that relate to the theme the topic focuses on or characters it concerns, and pull your paragraph ideas from those focus words. When you’re writing your paragraphs, you want to keep your thoughts structured. Focus on your wording, write each sentence at a time and try not to rush ahead, and make sure at the end of each sentence you think about what purpose you want the next one to serve. Is it a segway into your next example? Is it explaining your example and connecting it back to your overall theme? This thought pattern is really key to ensuring you write a coherent and eloquent essay.
This is really where that 50-student mindset comes in – remind yourself about how hard you’ve worked, and how ready you are for this assessment. Chances are you’re going in more prepared than about 90% of the other students in your cohort. Stay calm, because you don’t need to stress. Nerves are ok though – it means you care! Just make sure you take a minute to breathe before you start and clear your head so you can go straight into planning mode once that clock starts.
If there’s anything that’s a clear indication that you’re thinking like a 50 student, it’s working smarter, not harder – changing the way you approach writing and preparation to incorporate the most effective methods for you and make the most of the time you have is a surefire way to set yourself up for the best chance at a 50.
Best of luck.
For an overview of English Language, the study design, what’s involved in the exam and more, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to English Language.
There are several strategies you can use to your advantage to extend yourself in VCE English Language.
One simple way to expose yourself to more examples is to follow news pages on social media so that you can see regular updates about current affairs. Have a read through of point 7: Year 12 Essay Topic Categories in our Ultimate Guide to English Language so that you can understand what types of examples you should be keeping an eye out for.
Right from the start of the school year, make sure you set up a system to keep track of your examples. You could do this by setting up a document with headings (such as ‘free speech’, ‘egalitarianism’, ‘political correctness’, ‘double-speak’, ‘ethnolects’ and ‘Australian identity’) and adding examples to this document throughout the year as you find them. For more information about the potential headings you could use, have a look at the dot points in the VCE English Language Study Design from page 17 onwards.
I’d also highly recommend checking out Building Essay Evidence Banks for English Language as it teaches you a great table method for storing and analysing your examples.
The advantage of creating an example/evidence bank of some sort is that if you start looking for examples right at the start of the year, you’ll have more time to analyse and memorise them. Additionally, you’ll also be able to use them far earlier in your essays, which means that the quotes and examples you select will become much easier to remember for the final exam.
Having a basic understanding of Australian history, politics and social issues is highly beneficial for enhancing your analytical skills for English Language. This is essential in developing strong contentions for your essays. Some key issues that would be worth having some background information on include the following:
Look into the following:
Having an awareness of key events and social issues in Australia, an understanding of the groups that make up Australia, and exposing yourself to a diverse set of media is really important in developing your essay writing skills. It does take time, but what will ultimately happen is that your discussions in your essays will be much more insightful and demonstrate a well thought out argument.
When writing essays, try your best to apply your critical thinking skills. Identify the assumptions you’re making when you present a certain point, and try to develop arguments against your position so that you can better understand why you have chosen your side. Developing a holistic and detailed contention is far better than just picking one side out of simplicity, as it allows you to demonstrate consideration and analysis of a range of factors that affect a certain issue. Use your evidence (contemporary examples, linguist quotes and stimulus material) to develop your points, and position yourself to be mindful of any biases you may have by continuously asking yourself what has influenced your way of thinking. Above all, try to discuss your essay prompts with your peers, as this will provide you with different perspectives and help you strengthen your own point.
Consistently revising metalanguage is crucial for doing well in English Language. Throughout Year 12, consistently revising metalanguage will be your responsibility. It is likely that you’ll be spending a greater proportion of class time in learning content, and writing practice pieces. Therefore, it’s really important to figure out a way that works best for you in being able to frequently revise metalanguage. Flashcards are useful for revision on the go, as well as making mind maps so that you’re able to visualise how everything is set out in the study design.
One issue students run into when it comes to learning metalanguage is that they’re able to define and give examples for metalanguage terms, however, they are unable to understand how those terms fit into the categories under each subsystem. For example, a student is able to remember what a metaphor is, but unable to recall that it fits under semantic patterning. Similarly, a student may know what a pause is, but not know if it’s part of prosodic features or discourse features.
It’s important to know what all the categories are because the short answer questions usually ask you to identify features under a particular category (e.g. you’d be asked to talk about semantic patterning, not metaphor or pun). Therefore, spending time on just revising the definitions alone isn’t sufficient in learning metalanguage. You also need to be able to ensure that you can recall which category each term fits under. Refer to the study design (pages 17-18), for a list of categories you need to remember; these include:
When you talk about a certain variety of English, say for example ethnolects or teen speak, rather than just providing a lexical example or translation, try to find a contemporary example of the term being used in the media, online or by a prominent individual. For example, rather than saying:
‘The lexeme ‘bet’ is an example of teen speak which allows young people to establish solidarity’,
you could say:
‘Bakery owner Morgan Hipworth, who largely has a teenage following and is a young person himself, employs teenspeak in a video recipe, where he responds to the question “Can you make a 10 layer cheese toastie?” with “Bet, let’s go.”’
This will provide you with a better opportunity to talk about in-groups and identity, rather than just defining and identifying an example as part of a particular variety. In doing so, you’re better able to address the roles of different linguistic examples in a contextualised and detailed manner.
In Building Essay Evidence Banks for English Language you’ll see that a short analysis for each of your examples (the ones you are collecting throughout the year) is encouraged, but, you could take things one step further - add on an extra column and combine your analysis and example in a practice sentence. Head to the blog to learn more about building evidence banks.
When I look back at Year 12 and compare it with my life now, I realise that the times in my life when I have grown the most are also the times when my future was uncertain. It's been almost five years since I left secondary school, and I'm about to graduate again, at the end of this year, hopefully with an Honours degree firmly under my belt. What I’ve noticed is that some of the nervousness and insecurity I'm feeling now are my 'old friends' that I got to know very well several years ago.
Something that I'm sure you're aware of by now is that generally, feeling uncertain about your future just feels plain bad. While I enjoy being challenged and find novel experiences rewarding, not knowing what my next steps will be tends to make me feel anxious. I'm not alone, either. According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the top reasons why people resist change is because we hate it when we feel like we can't control where our lives are heading. I'd always like to think that I am the ‘master of my fate' and the 'captain of my soul', to quote the Victorian era poet William Ernest Henley (you know this poem well if you're studying Invictus this year), but it doesn't always feel like I am.
For those of you currently going through Year 12, you might be experiencing some of these emotions: worry, fear, insecurity - the list goes on. You might not have any idea of the career you'd like to have after you finish your education. You might not have any idea what course you'd like to get into if you are thinking of going to university, or you might not have decided which one you want to attend. It's likely that you're wondering if the ATAR you'll receive in December will be good enough to get you a course offer.
For the first two points, I'll tell you a secret - very few people are truly certain about what they want to do 'when they grow up'. I would describe secondary education as linear; you progress gradually from Year 7 to Year 12, and as you get closer to finishing school, you are given more freedom to choose which subjects you do.
Tertiary education is most certainly NOT linear. I can confidently say that most of the people I've met at uni have changed courses at least once, swapped unis, failed subjects, changed their majors, or decided that uni wasn't for them and left to pursue other things. If they did follow the 'usual path', they've often chosen a career that has very little to do with what they studied (my lovely employer Lisa is a perfect example!). There is a huge amount of flexibility available to tertiary students, and nowadays most universities make it a priority to offer high-quality advice to students, both present and future, about all kinds of things. Open days are a great way to access this advice, but don't be scared to approach these services on your own. Universities love potential students and love encouraging them to come on board by answering their questions!
Now, about the last point, I'd like to emphasise that ATAR stands for 'Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking' - emphasis on the word 'Ranking'. The number you receive at the end of the year represents your scores compared to the scores of the rest of the state, and it is NOT a mark out of 100. Essentially, this means that there are two things that go into this ranking: your performance, and everyone else's performance. Which of these can you control? If it's the second one, maybe pay a visit to the Avengers, they might have a spot for you in the MCU. Bad jokes aside, the most realistic approach to take towards your ATAR is simply to do the best that you can and accept any resulting outcome. I'd also recommend visiting the VCAA website to look at their resources explaining how the ATAR is calculated to clear up any confusion you may have.
It's all very well for me to try to talk down your worries, after all, I've been through them already. The future always becomes easier to handle once it's safely in the past, and I know that right now, nothing can fully take away the uncertainties you feel in the face of an unknown factor. With that said, though, here are some strategies you can employ to help you deal with turbulence in a productive way.
Try a new hobby, talk to someone you've never approached before, try a new food. The more frequently you put yourself in unfamiliar situations, no matter how minor, the better you get at handling them. I am not a naturally extroverted person, and I've found this extremely helpful for networking and job hunting.
We often barrel through life desperately trying to avoid feeling emotions that don't make us feel good, but a rich and full life involves a full spectrum of experiences besides happiness. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living by Russ Harris is where I learned this, and it's a fantastic, easy-to-read book with lots of useful exercises to help you come to terms with the reality that humans are not meant to be happy all the time.
I might seem like I'm contradicting my last two suggestions, but I'd argue that this is the most crucial point. Up to this point, I've been focusing on day-to-day anxieties, the worries you'd expect any young person on the cusp of their future to feel. There's a big difference between that and the kind of feeling that can completely put you out of action or prevent you from going about your daily life. Sacrificing your mental health for academic success in Year 12 or career opportunities later in life is not a good idea (and that's putting it mildly). Keep your family and friends close to you and take advantage of professional help if you need it.
Whichever methods you use to deal with uncertainty, from one unsure student to another, I can assure you that stressful periods of life can help you become a stronger, wiser and more resilient version of yourself. It's a big fat cliché, but life really does go on, and as my mum and dad would tell me, "All you can do is your best, and that's all we can ask of you.".
Fact: The VCE is a competition.
Fact: There are so many brilliant minds out there with vocabularies that can wow the pants off examiners in seconds.
Fact: We have all felt intimidated at some stage of this race by these kids, but here’s the craziest fact of them all….
Fact: You can be one of them.
Do you really believe that the top VCE students, you know, those 99.95 geniuses out there, study religiously for 6-8 hours a day and feel totally motivated to work 24/7?
I used to think that these kiddos were on auto pilot - robots that never had difficulty remembering a quote, never struggled to find their next point in an analytical essay, could always find the energy to write another piece for their teacher to correct. It was as though these students weren’t real, but now that I have had a personal experience at tackling the VCE, I think that anyone can appear to be this ‘amazing’ in English, simply by following one piece of advice: changing your attitude towards studying.
There are no magic tricks, no gimmicks, and no simpler way to put this. If you want to see real results, you need a new perspective on not just English, but all subjects - start “wanting” to study. Today.
So how does this epic VCE competition - full of thousands of students - set apart the very top end students as opposed to the, well, only great students? I’m a firm believer in that your attitude towards your studies will always be indicative of how well you will perform in this race. So don’t start changing what, when or how much you study, make changes to how you study!
Easier said than done, right? Try me. Start by immersing yourself in English (or any subject for that matter) so that you can start to enjoy learning about it. For instance, go to a book club for context, debate the pros and cons of a character’s personality as if they are actually real, and watch the movie adaptation of the book you are studying etc.
Try to find as many avenues as possible that will allow you to enjoy writing an essay, even by taking baby steps. Why not start playing around with an imaginative story about your favourite TV show just to get the hang of creative writing before you hand in an imaginative essay tailored to your study requirements? Once you change that attitude from “I ‘need’ to write this” to “I ‘want’ to and ‘would like to’ improve on this” you will see an enormous shift in results, self-satisfaction and confidence! Don’t be daunted by a difficult topic in the text response section – view it as a way of “showing off” to the examiners; take your time planning about how much depth you can put into your response and make it a challenge to rise beyond expectations as opposed to meeting the bare minimum and providing a mediocre response.
So c’mon! Dive right into the deep end and throw yourself into your studies. You don’t need to take out a mortgage, nor a fancy exercise book with fluffy pink pens. You only need to pack your positive attitude.
The majority, yes the majority of your peers this year will hire tutors for extra assistance in their studies. It's perfectly understandable since VCE is only getting more and more competitive, and students are looking for that edge that will set them apart from others! If you are a student who is currently looking for that one ideal tutor in whatever subject it may be, then this guide is for you. You might be in the same situation as I was a few years ago, someone who has gone through so many tutors that you can't even keep count. And why is that? Probably because you simply weren't satisfied with them. And you know what?
Let me tell you now, there is definitely that perfect tutor who is: knowledgeable, passionate, highly regarded, and someone who strives to help you succeed in VCE! Let's have a look at a few factors that you should take into consideration when looking for the best tutor for you:
1. Just because a tutor didn't get a study score of 50, don't overlook them.
A study score of 50 means that this person has fantastic English skills - we can't deny that. However, teaching a subject is very different to learning it. To be able to communicate well with a student, recognise their strengths and weaknesses, and cater tutoring sessions to suit you so that you achieve the most benefit is more important than simply being top of the class.
2. Tuition class structure.
Next, you need to consider whether the tutor's teaching method matches well with your preferred way of learning. There are tuition schools which often follow a strict syllabus structure week by week. Other tutors are more flexible with a 'we-will-focus-on-what-you'd-like-to-focus-on' approach. Which one do you prefer?
3. Assistance inside and outside of classes.
To put it plainly, tutoring is a highly paid job, which means that some people are only in it for the money. You want to find a tutor who will be more than happy to go that extra mile to ensure that you can benefit as much as possible from their tutoring. Are they willing to help you outside of class sessions through email or text messages? Are they happy to organise extra tutoring sessions if you need? Will they do extra work on the side so they can be adequately prepared for your next session? This year I taught an EAL student who particularly struggled with certain grammar and sentence structures. Since I had less experience in teaching EAL, I spent my own private time deciphering out the best way to teach him, and how he could overcome these challenges. Try to find a tutor who isn't just in the business for the money, but puts you, the student as their first priority.
4. Cost $$$.
Let's be honest. How much you will pay a tutor is also a major consideration. Generally, the higher the price, the more credentials that tutor has. Many VCE teachers are going for $100+ an hour, and that value is increasing! Also find out, what else apart from tutoring will you get? Will you be offered extra resources (study guides, A+ essays and more), can you contact your tutor outside of tutoring hours, will you receive reports on your progress? It's not enough now to simply have one hour of tutoring each week, you should be looking for tutors who will go that extra mile for you.
'Freshness' is basically my way of asking, how up-to-date is the tutor with the current syllabus? Some tutors only teach what they studied in school, continue to use the same resources and provide the same advice year after year. It's a good idea to seek a tutor who actively aims to upgrade their knowledge and resources each year. This shows how staying relevant is important to them, and demonstrates that their ability to cater to their students' needs is a priority. However, it is important to keep in mind that just because a tutor is 10 years out of school, doesn't mean that they're not up-to-date. This goes both ways - a tutor who is 2 years out of school may seem current because they've only just graduated, yet if they haven't spent the time to learn the new syllabus changes, then that speaks for itself!
Tutors with personality are always a big bonus. Tutor personality plays a major role in how effectively they communicate with you, as the student. Have you noticed how some of your favourite teachers are probably your favourite because of their great personality and how they use that to teach? By making class fun, it helps to stimulate your interest and encourages your curiosity to learn. So you can see how a tutor who is enthusiastic and passionate in their teaching will make you want to be a better student too!
Under no circumstances should you hire a tutor to do your homework for you! Nor should that tutor offer to write you an essay in return for compensation. In Year 11 Literature, my tutor told me she would write an essay for me, which I understood as writing an essay then showing it to me the week after. What I didn't realise was that the next week, she presented me with the essay, and told me I had to pay for it. Because I was quite shy, I didn't say anything and took her essay. But I didn't feel right using her work and after that, I stopped attending her sessions because I felt too uncomfortable. A good tutor is well aware of their part in helping you with your studies. They know that the best way for you to improve is to support you, not encourage you to copy their work. Remember that in the end, when you're sitting in that SAC or exam hall, you only have yourself to rely on. In the end, I did show my Literature teacher both copies, my own and my tutor's (I did explain to her that the second essay was not my own), and asked her if she could grade both. How ironic, because my essay had actually scored a higher mark than my tutors!
The best form of credentials for any tutor is word-of-mouth. Hearing that a tutor is good at what they do from others is always a sure sign that you're choosing somebody right. If you are recommended somebody, then they're probably worth looking into. If you are feeling out of the loop, start asking family and friends if they know anybody they could recommend you. Another form of credentials is a tutor's success stories. As a tutor, I often boast my own teaching successes rather than my own study score. I achieved 45 in my English studies and while tutoring over the past 6 years, I've actually facilitated several students to gain higher marks than myself! Now that I'm proud of!
Most importantly, don't settle. If there's something you're unhappy about your tutor, firstly speak to your tutor about it. Your tutor is there to help you and if they're not interested in adapting to how you'd like to learn, then perhaps they're not the tutor for you. There are so many different tutors out there, with so many different approaches to tutoring that you're bound to find the right person!
At Lisa's Study Guides, we take pride in our specialised VCE English (EAL, Literature, and English Language) tutoring service. We have a small, select team of tutors who have achieved study scores of 45 and above (the top 2% of their year level). All tutors have been especially selected because of their fantastic personality and ability to hone in on students' strengths and weaknesses, and cater tutoring sessions to optimise student results. We also ensure that we are up-to-date with any study design changes, so that we can stay on top of the VCE game. If you're interested in finding out more, check out our private tutoring page here!
Although clarity in expression takes priority, employing sophisticated vocabulary will win you major points with the examiner. Essays with a (healthy) level of adornment tend to demonstrate greater control of language and insight, giving the piece a perceptive and erudite aspect. Nevertheless, trying to employ new vocabulary seamlessly in your essay can be tough- rather than swapping random words in and out of your essay post-mortem, adapting your vocabulary bank to your own writing style can make the process a lot less jarring.
Finding the right bank for you
The conditions of your vocabulary bank should be suited to your specific needs. A focus on a need or theme enables more visible connections within the vocabulary bank. Having those connections will make it easier to 'memorise' new terms. Instead of compiling a dense 20-page glossary, try breaking your vocabulary bank up into smaller, specific sections.
For example, if you're hoping to find new verbs to express the author's intention:
The author argues
The author shows
The author criticises
The author supports
contends, asserts, posits, proffers…
Branch off 'shows' (Neutral tone):
demonstrates, exposes, elucidates, delineates, explicates…
Branch off 'criticises' (Negative tone):
condemns, denigrates, lampoons, parodies…
Branch off 'supports' (Positive tone):
praises, endorses, exalts, lauds…
From storage to use
After clarifying their definitions, try using some of your new words in a sentence or a paragraph, relating to either your texts or language analysis. You can also extend your vocabulary bank by adapting the words to different sentence structures:
The author criticises the superficiality of our consumerist culture.
The author condemns the superficiality of our consumerist culture.
In a condemnatory tone, the author delineates the ostentation of our consumerist culture.
The author argues that gender is an arbitrary concept.
The author asserts that gender is an arbitrary concept.
Asserting that gender is an arbitrary concept, the author explicates the categorist nature of human understanding.
Using convoluted expressions can be fun or exasperating! Whilst demonstrating extensive vocabulary may raise your mark, the key is to ensure harmony between your words and your understanding.
1. You’re using too many
Bet you didn’t think that you could use too many quotes in a text response essay - it seems impossible, right? Wrong. There needs to be space in your essay for ideas to develop and some sentences (other than the introductory and concluding sentences) will have no quotes in them.
Each quote or group of quotes needs to be quantified in its own right so that it adds sustenance to your essay. If you use a quote, you need to pair it with a concept. The point of quotes is to justify that what you’re suggesting about the text is true and correct. If you can use quotes effectively, then you should be able to justify a huge number of abstract viewpoints about any work.
There is no set number that constitutes a correct amount of quote. It’s mostly about the ratio within an essay.
To ensure that you do not use too many quotes, read over your essay to check that your ideas are clear and the quotes substantiate the concepts that you put forward. For every quote you write, ask yourself, does it support my idea and is it relevant to my essay topic? For every small point that you bring up, you can collect quotes and perhaps use three to four short quotes (see point three).
Too many quotes can give you a headache.
2. You’re using too few
On the other hand, there is such thing as using too few quotes. You need enough evidence to support what you’re suggesting about the text, otherwise it seems as though you lack knowledge of the text.
This one is common mistake made among those students who decide that they can get through VCE English without reading the texts.
The solution is easy. Read the text and make mind-maps of themes and ideas along with quotes from the text that suit. In order to do this, you can read each text at least twice - once to soak in the work, and a second time to work out ideas that require that bit more understanding, and to find those relevant quotes that you need for text response.
You don’t want yours to be like the desert of essays.
3. Your quotes are too long
Quotes that are too long tend to become redundant and a waste of time to memorise and write down. The examiner or marker will also lose interest if your quote spans over more than a line or so. A group of smaller quotes might be more effective in supporting your contention. Of course you should rely on your own judgment and expertise. It is your essay, your ideas and therefore you should decide what types of quotes work best and when!
To evidence your understanding and knowledge of the text, collect several short quotes (one to four words long) from different areas of the text. If you choose several different pieces of evidence from the beginning, middle, and end, all from the same character, and/or from differing characters, this will prove that your idea exists throughout the entire work.
You trying to memorise an entire novel worth of quotes:
You memorising shorter, connected quotes:
4. Your quotes are irrelevant
A common mistake is simply peppering quotes that you remember throughout your essay to make it look like you know the text. Instead, you should actually know your text, and always choose quotes that fully support what you are saying in reference to the author’s contention.
The reader won’t know where your essay is going if you throw random quotes in that don’t support your argument:
5. You’re not embedding the quotes
Finally, to effectively use quotes, you should be embedding your quotes correctly to ensure that your essay flows. You should be able to read the essay aloud, with quotes, as you would read a speech.
Let’s be honest. Life is crazy right now; everything we know has been completely flipped due to COVID-19 and there’s no denying it. Students studying Station Eleven must be feeling a little creeped out! Everything is changing so quickly as decisions are being made on a daily basis, but as of right this moment, we are in lockdown: schools are shut, gatherings are banned and most of our parents are working from home. Most of us are wondering: how will we be able to reach our teachers? What about my friends? How can I study effectively without being in class? Here are some things to remember whilst enduring the pandemic...
First of all, we are all in the same boat. Nobody in the state will be going to school until at least 13th of April, and between you and me, it’ll probably be longer. You are not alone and certainly we will all get through this together.
For those who are doubting how school will function without physical attendance, remember how far our society has come with technology! Schools across the state are finding ways to optimise your learning. From Zoom to Microsoft Teams and Skype, schools are utilising fantastic platforms to help you learn. All you need is an internet connection and a willingness to learn and you’re all set. Furthermore, teachers are usually available over email and if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly reaching out to teachers for help — and I highly recommend it! Ask for help, ask for more resources, ask for advice and guidance.
Finally, if you feel like you need some extra help, private tuition is also a great way to make sure you’re on the right track and moving towards your dream results. LSG has a great private tuition program where you’ll find amazing help online from dedicated and tech-savvy high achievers. They’ll be your tutor, motivator and mentor all in one! Just because there’s no actual school, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to learn effectively.
If you'd like to learn more about LSG's Private Tutoring program, head over here — we'd love to chat!
I know it’s easy to think,
“I can’t study at home, I always get distracted by my sibling, my cat, my parents, YouTube, games and food I just procrastinate too much!”
For me, Year 12 was full of bursts of intense focus and longer bursts of procrastination. I tried so hard to focus but sometimes, Netflix was just too tempting! However, there are a few tips that kept me in check (especially during the holidays) and helped me to do well in the end. Hopefully, they can help you too!
Looking for some advice to score 50 in VCE English? Here's what 50 study scoring LSG tutor Elli recommends!
It’s so important to have a consistent routine. This will help you direct your focus to what matters and form consistent study habits. You can even follow your school timetable if that helps! This will integrate study times for certain subjects and also appropriate break times.
Routines also help with stress. You can wake up every day and not have to think about what you are going to do that day — just follow your routine! This will work wonders in helping you to manage all your subjects, homework and socialising needs.
When building a routine, start small and build your way up. Start your day by waking up at a certain time, or scheduling when you’ll eat or even deciding when you’ll do exercise. Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I know this is a while, but if you can stick with one or two small routine changes in your life, it will make a huge difference!
There are a few things to remember when creating your own routine!
• Don’t plan out every second of every day. This will make you feel like a robot with no freedom and you’ll get bored very quickly.
• Have a basic routine that can be adapted to everyday needs! This kind of links back to the previous point, if you plan every second, you won’t be able to be adaptable and spontaneous
• Have break time, downtime and exercise time!
For some more advice on work/study/life balance, check out Lisa's interview with LSG Content Manager Matt here.
If you create a list to get done everyday, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will both motivate you to study harder and to stay focussed to reach your goals! This also ensures that you are staying on track and that you’re on top of all subjects and homework. By keeping track of what needs to be done and when, your stress levels will be reduced because everything is written down — so, when you have some time to relax, you can actually relax. Your to-do list will act as your ‘second brain’ that you can return to when you’re refreshed and ready to study.
Ensure that your to-do lists are specific. Rather than writing “study for English”, which really doesn’t tell you anything, write tasks like, “quote sheet for English” and “summary book for circular function for Methods”. Then, you know what each task expects of you and what it will look like when it’s finished.
If you’re following your school timetable, make sure that in your scheduled time to study a particular subject you have a list of things to do, otherwise, you’ll be sitting at your desk thinking about what you should be doing instead of actually studying!
There are hundreds of apps that help with productivity, organisation and procrastination. Here are a list of some of my personal favourites:
• Forest grows trees when you aren’t using your phone, and everytime you open it, a tree dies. This helps to prevent you from dawdling on social media too much.
• Just turn it on before you start studying and you’ll feel a little grief every time you open your phone because trees will die.
• Todoist helps create to do lists and alerts you with tasks you need to get done. There are plenty of apps that do this, so have a look and find one that suits you and your needs best.
• Mindly helps organise your internal thoughts! You can do pretty much anything from structuring thoughts, explore ideas, plan a speech and take notes!
• This particularly works well for subjects like English and Lit that requires a lot of idea generation
This may sound like a strange piece of advice, but it’s so tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day and lounge around. But, if you don’t change, you’ll constantly feel like you’re ready to sleep. Getting dressed in proper clothes helps change your mindset and make you feel ready for the day ahead: conquering every task that you set yourself! It sounds silly, but try it — it actually works.
Not to mention, the little things in life right now are the ones that matter the most. If you can’t do the little things, imagine tackling the bigger tasks in the world. So, start your day off well by doing the things you would normally do when preparing to leave the house.
It’s easy to become a sloth when you’re forced to stay home all day and just eat junk food all day, but remember: a healthy body = a healthy mind. It’s so important to take a break from intense studying period and get moving again. Whether that is doing some yoga, going for a run or just playing with your sibling/pet, it’s up to you. All of this is integral in maintaining your ability to concentrate and prevents burnout!
Doing exercise isn’t easy so if you have a particular routine where you schedule it in, you’ll build a great habit. If that’s not enough to get you up and moving, try incentivising yourself with a particular treat like an episode of your favourite TV show or a snack (a healthy one)! Do exercise that you enjoy.
Eating healthily doesn't always mean eating clean 24/7. Rather, it means simply maintaining a balanced diet. Eat chocolate when you crave chocolate — but don’t go overboard. Try the 80/20 rule, 80% of the time you eat as healthily as possible and the other 20% of the time, you can treat yourself. If you eat healthily, you’ll feel great and be ready to tackle the day's work!
With all this talk of social distancing in the media, it’s hard to remember that this really means physical distancing. Please don’t forget to communicate with your friends and family. Use technology to your advantage! Facetime your friends and come up with activities you guys can do together virtually. Gaming is a great idea but as I’m not a gamer myself, my friends and I had a virtual baking challenge (not to brag but I definitely won!) Keep in virtual contact! This will help keep you sane in such crazy times.
Whilst you might not have the in-person classroom interaction, you can still generate discussion with your friends online and even ask them for help. Remember that a group of minds will always be better than just one. Everyone is trying to stay on top of their learning anyway, so why not do it together?
Hopefully these tips will help you learn to be the best student you can be in this rough time! Remember to stay safe, stay home and stay dedicated to being the best version of yourself.
To quote a professor from one of the most famous schools ever:
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore
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