Simply fill in the form below, and the download will start straight away
VCE Study Tips
December 23, 2017
Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.
Click below to get your own copy today!
Hey there! Welcome to the subject of English Language, probably the most inconveniently placed exam there is in VCE, and one of your compulsory VCE subject 'top fours'. So if you're a science/maths-y sort of person, English language is probably your last exam (right after your good old methods + spesh + chemistry + physics + just kill me now exams), and if you're a humanity/language-y sort of person, English language is probably your first/one of your middle exams (legal studies + revs + global + language + why do I even bother exams). Feeling disadvantaged compared to the mainstream English students yet?!
I UNDERSTAND! So, in order to help you prepare for your exams and SWOTVAC, here's a blog post about how to plan your life and tips for you during the examination period!
SWOTVAC, what is it? In Australia, SWOTVAC stands for Study Without Teaching Vacation. So yes, studying is involved. How do we plan for SWOTVAC? The common misconception between students is that VCE is just us chilling and relaxing throughout the year then CRAMMING a whole year's worth of study into the few weeks before your first exam. However tempting this is, PLEASE DO NOT try this. Not only will this end up with you being exhausted and reliant on coffee, it will also negatively affect your sleeping schedule. So, before SWOTVAC, keep a constant pace of studying throughout the year, whether it's 15 minutes after school, or an hour every day. Doing this will ensure that you are reviewing concepts you have gone through during class, reinforcing information you are not familiar with, or even seeing gaps in your knowledge, that you can ask your mates/teachers the next day.
You may not realise it, but you have an abundance of resources available to you for the preparation of your exams. For effective studying during SWOTVAC, you cannot rely on yourself. I'm sure that becoming a hermit at home in PJs all day attempting practice exams may sound super fun (??????), but your teachers and peers are crucial during this time. As most of us know, your study scores are dependent on how your cohort scores. And now that it's SWOTVAC, and SACs have finished, it's time to really start spending time studying with your study group you've neglected since week 2 term 1. Studying with a study group can allow each member to see how other members work and attempt exams, or even share examination techniques they have learnt from older students, friends, or tutors. Doing exams together, bringing out past SACs and marking them together, can also help everyone discuss potential ways to stop making mistakes. Explaining concepts to others is the best way to reinforce your own knowledge! Other than your in-school mates, you've also got your mates from other schools doing the same subjects as you. Asking to share SACs and school resources also allow you to be more exposed to different types of questions, and potentially what else could pop up in your exams. Exposure is key. Lastly, you've got your teachers and tutors. Your teachers will always be there to help you, whether it's an easy concept you can't seem to get, or you'd like extra work or work to be marked. Same goes for your tutors, we're all here to help you out, so never feel like you're doing this alone!
That's right, you need to plan rests and social days during SWOTVAC. Plan days where you go out and grab a bite with friends, go to the gym or the beach. You need to know your limits. Studying after you’re already tired is not going to get you anywhere, taking a walk to refresh your mind will help you focus. VCE is all about working hard and playing hard.
Remember to work hard and not procrastinate when you are working, but not talk about work whilst you are out having fun!
Studying is important during SWOTVAC, but planning your study allows for efficiency! Last year in 2016, I did the subjects Specialist Maths, Chemistry, English Language, and Global politics, exams in that order. My exams were not very spaced out, with Spesh, Chem, and EngLang exams being pretty much days apart. So, unlike other students, I didn't get the luxury of studying between exams. This may be the case for many of us, so here's a tip for you: When walking into exams that are pretty much back-to-back, make sure you are already 99% ready for each exam. This applies especially for English, seeing as how it is a compulsory top 4. So, don't anticipate many studies the night after an exam, for an exam the day after. Exams are tiring! So, rest as much as you can after exams, and read about your next exam lightly the night before, sleep early, then read lightly about your next exam the day after.
Good luck for VCE and the future. Remember, you are more than your ATAR :)
VCE English (or any one of the 4 Englishes) can be one of the most daunting and difficult subjects to study. On top of that, as students of the VCE, we are plagued daily by distractions that seemingly inhibit our ability to maximize the time to fulfil our best potential. Feeling anxious about what seems to be such little time before the exam in October, we face mind blanks and find ourselves in a constant battle against feelings of doubt and anxiety.
However, these feelings only trick us into thinking that we are not good enough to achieve and consequently diminish our much needed motivation. Thoughts about having to write three 1000-word essays in three hours by October translate into doubt about our skills, generating to thoughts saying “I don’t know what to do!” when attempting to start, or whilst writing an essay. Amidst this, our mind is inundated with thoughts about competition: “what are other students in the state studying?” “How do other students tackle the tasks so easily whilst I’m here still figuring out how to start?” However, the more we align ourselves with such anxious thoughts, the more we convince ourselves that “I can’t do it”, and we unknowingly retreat to procrastination. Despite this, time mercilessly continues to move forward and October will eventually and inevitably arrive!
To overcome this negative mentality, therefore, we must reconstruct our perception about what VCE English is really about and what it entails. To most of us, English simply involves the repetitive 1000-word essay involving an introduction-body-conclusion, discussing the themes of a novel, play or film which appear not to have any relevance for our future. But believe me; English can be far more exciting!
Put simply, we must start thinking: collaboration, not competition. English is one of the more exciting subjects because it provides us with a platform on which we can debate and share ideas. It also grants us an opportunity to express, in our own style, the ideas we construct thus granting us freedom for creativity and a space where all ideas are worth sharing! Hence, rather than perceiving your peers as competitors, embrace them as your allies. They too are most likely undergoing the same doubts and stresses. Whilst being willing to share your opinions, make sure that you engage with students who enjoy debating and sharing theirs – VCE is not something that you can do on your own!
Considering this, there are a few things you must keep in mind when studying English. A blank piece of paper or a blank word document on your computer screen appears scary, especially if you are unsure of what to write about, let alone how to start an essay. The important thing that all students must remember, therefore, is to just put something down on paper first. It doesn’t matter how well you write or express yourself (at first). Remember: all ideas are worth sharing. If you are unsure of what to write, write exactly what you think! Prioritise your ideas over your writing style! Assessors care more about seeing a mind at work and do not reward superfluous writing. A talented writer is worse off if he or she does not discuss complex ideas!
Next, it is crucial that you don’t take subsequent criticism from teachers as a message that you can’t do it. Criticism is inevitable and it is a good thing. It means that your teacher really wants to help! Just remember that year 12 is not the end. It is often easy to think that once you finish school, your writing skill doesn’t improve. But this is incorrect. Even the best writers on this planet will always continue to strive to improve!
Essentially, it is important that you write often. The more you write the greater chance there is of improving. In light of this, your writing does not have to be focussed merely on what you study in English – spending time writing about anything you want in any style is a worthwhile mental exercise (it is the perfect substitute over jumping online on Facebook or YouTube when you feel like procrastinating)! Any concerns about writing within one hour should fade away naturally as you write more frequently – this is something you shouldn’t have to worry about.
Ultimately, English can be exciting when you are prepared to share your ideas and listen to the ideas of other students. See it not as a torturous race to scribble out three 1000-word essays in 3 hours, but more rather an opportunity to explore complex ideas that are challenging yet interesting at the same time. Just remember that ideas are the primary concern, and the final piece – the writing – is merely the polish. It is okay to inspire yourself too! Don’t get hung up on appearing modest. Everyone has a viewpoint and an opinion to share and the more you collaborate, the less you will be tricked into believing you can’t. Instead, you will be constantly reminded that you can.
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.
There is one particular thing that everyone should set out to do before their English exam. It’s probably crossed your mind but you’re so overwhelmed with other exam preparation that you decided to give this one a miss. If you’ve already started, or completed what I’m about to advise, then congratulate yourself because you have probably scored yourself a few bonus points on the exam. So what’s this ‘must do’?
Re-read your chosen English text(s) for the exam
Why? It may seem like a waste of time but I can guarantee you another read will be one of the best things you’ve done in English – even if you feel like you know the book inside out. There are many reasons why you should re-read your English novels/watch your films so I decided to create a list.
1. It’s been a while. Some texts are studied at the start of the year so a refreshment is good to jog the mind again. Although reading notes and study guides are a great start, these sources are often incomplete and sketchy, so it’s not the same as actually reading the text again. You will be taking an ‘active’ approach to learning, rather than passively flipping through notes that were made too long ago.
2. Consolidation. Preparing for the exams is all about strengthening your knowledge and understanding. It is likely that you have forgotten some vital information that may be useful for the exam, particularly if you haven’t been writing practice essays throughout the year. There may be gaps in your memory of how or when an actual event unfolded so use this opportunity to fill in those gaps. Another read will allow you to answer your own questions, identify something you missed or didn’t quite understand.
3. Time efficiency. You might feel that reading is a waste of time especially if you need to practice your essay writing. But think of it this way, if you haven’t revised the foundations, your essay writing won’t be as clear and detailed as it can be. The students who can pick out major and minor details from the text will ultimately score higher than those who write a wishy-washy paragraph.
4. Choices. For those who aren’t sure which text they’re going to use; don’t solely base your decision on what others are doing or which text scored a higher average mark in past exams. Make the decision by knowingwhich text you feel most comfortable with. Go back and read your the texts if you feel divided because chances are, it’ll help you establish which text you have greater understanding of, which text you’ll write better on, and which text you prefer.
5. Distinction. Students often just use the information their teacher has taught them in class. This is ok, but what’s going to make the difference between you and 25 others students in your class, let alone VCE students around Victoria? You need to take initiative to search for new information since you’ve learnt the same ideas and explored the same quotes as many other students. I guarantee that if you sit down, spend some time reading your texts, you will definitely come across some interesting information that you’d like to use in the exam. Compounding the information you learnt in class with your own learning will definitely put you on the course to success!
Written expression is often overlooked in our essays. Often, if we are made aware of clunky or awkward expression, we are also not quite sure how to go about improving it. Although sophisticated and pertinent ideas serve as the foundation of a successful essay, how we construct our sentences and express these ideas may be what distinguishes a good essay from a great essay.
These differences can be rather subtle, but the small things can and do matter.
(to read out loud, not sing… unless you really want to)
Take your essay and read it out loud. Let your own conscience guide you in terms of whether a particular sentence flows well, is complete and makes sense. Keep your eye out for these small errors in particular: Grammar:Does your sentence actually make sense? Let’s have a look at an example:Although Funder suggests that the act of telling one’s story, especially one of victimisation, can catalyse the internal confrontation and healing required to move on.
(This is not grammatically correct! This is because this example only contains a subordinate clause and is lacking a main clause.)
But wait… what is this ‘subordinate clause’ and ‘main clause’?
A clause includes a subject and a verb.
Melissa ate an apple.After Wendy ate an apple.
What is the difference between the two clauses above?
‘Melissa ate an apple’ makes grammatical sense on its own. This is what we call a main clause (or an independent clause). On the other hand, ‘After Wendy ate an apple’ is an incomplete sentence as it does not make sense. What happened after Wendy ate her apple? This is the information that is missing from the latter clause, making this a subordinate clause (or a dependent clause).
So now let’s try again…
Although Funder suggests that the act of telling one’s story, especially one of victimisation, can catalyse the internal confrontation and healing required to move on, ultimately, these individuals can never be truly free from the past that has irrevocably defined them.
(Hooray! This is a complete sentence now.)
Spelling: Are the title of the text, the author or director’s name, characters’ names, publisher’s name, etc. all spelt correctly (and capitalised, underlined, and italicised appropriately)?
Did you use the correct there, their and they’re? How about it’s and its? (and so on).
Sentence length: Did that sentence just go on for 5 lines on a page and you are out of breath now? You can most probably split that overloaded sentence into two or more sentences that make much more sense. Check whether you have a clear subject in your sentence. If you have three different ideas in one sentence, give each idea its own opportunity (ie. sentence) to shine. The opposite also applies: if it is for a very short sentence, did that sentence pack enough content or analysis?
One spelling error or half-finished sentence in an essay will not severely affect your mark, but they can easily add up if they occur often enough. Consequently, this will distract the reader from engaging with your ideas fully and thus disrupt the flow of your essay.
By being aware of these aspects, you are now able to easily fix them and boost your writing.
Try not to be casual or overt in your writing as it can be quite jarring to read and unfortunately give readers a potentially negative impression of your piece.
Try not to use phrases such as:
- In my opinion… (You do not need it as your entire essay should be your implicit opinion!)
- This quote shows that… (Embed the quote and link to its implication instead)
- This technique is designed to… (Identify the technique and be specific, especially in Language Analysis)
- I think that…, I believe… (Avoid using first person in a formal essay. Use of first person in creative writing is fine though if required)
They are redundant and do not add much to your ideas and analysis. Try omitting them and see whether that helps your sentence flow better and seem more formal.
Sentences that seem disjointed or a clear connection can make it difficult for your teacher or the assessor to join the dots between an idea and an implication or consequence. Use linking words as they are fantastic for explicitly showing the reader how your ideas are related and thus allow your writing to proceed smoothly.
Therefore, hence, thus, thereby, consequently, subsequently, in addition, additionally, furthermore, moreover, on the other hand, on the contrary, however, henceforth, and so on… The list is endless!
In general, having a wide vocabulary will allow you to express your ideas and analysis more accurately as you are likely to have access to a precise word that can capture the essence of your idea. Make a vocabulary list for a particular text or for Language Analysis (such as tone words) and aim to use varied language to convey yourself well.
Focus on verbs and expanding your list of synonyms for words such as shows, demonstrates, highlights, emphasises, suggests and so on. An individual, character, author or director may not only be conveying but also denigrating or remonstrating or bolstering or glorifying or insinuating. Adding precision to your writing through careful vocabulary choice will distinguish your writing and also add complexity.
BEWARE! There is a fine line to tread with sophisticated vocabulary - do not overload your writing as you can risk writing convoluted sentences that hinder the reader’s ability to understand your piece. Also make sure that you understand the nuances of each synonym and that they are used in the correct context! (They are synonyms after all - not the same word!)
If you are debating whether to use a word, ask yourself: do you know what it means?
If yes: Go for it!
If no: Do not use it until you know what it means.
Reading sample essays, The Age Text Talks, reviews and more of the texts you are currently studying will expose you to not only a multitude of interpretations of your text, but also to different sentence structures, writing styles or vocabulary that you could incorporate into your own writing.
I would also highly recommend that you read outside of the texts you are studying if you have time, whether that may be novels by the same author or even newspapers. Your written expression will only benefit from this exposure as the ways you can express yourself through writing continue to increase upon seeing others’ eloquence.
If you do not write, you will never be able to improve your written expression. Put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) and start constructing that essay. You can only fix your writing once you have writing to fix.
Have you ever come out of an exam or test and felt like you’ve nailed it? I’m guessing after you come out of that exam room, you and your friends crowd around the building screaming out the answers you got for each question or the types of ideas you came up with from the prompt given. But then results day arrive…and you’re sitting at your desk anxiously waiting for the teacher to hand you your paper. As soon as they place the test paper on your desk, you remain sitting there just staring at it, deciding whether or not to flip it around and see your score. Get it over and done with you think in your head, but your arms don’t move an inch. You just sit there for some time staring at it, and praying a little on the inside that it’s the score you want. Finally, you build enough courage to turn around the paper and BAM! It hits you. The score was way below the expectations you set for yourself, or maybe even the standards others have set for you.
What is it that you usually do when you come across such a situation?
From my observations and experiences, there are generally 4 main types of reactions people have – the complainer (the person who’s never satisfied with anything), the one who has no care in the world, the silent sufferer (the person who is disappointed with the score but does nothing to change it) and the calm one (the ideal level we all aspire to reach).
So here I give you 8 tips/suggestions to help you get you through what you may call ‘failure’:
DON’T ALLOW THE SCORE TO DEFINE YOU! I’m sure you’ve heard so many people tell you that you are more than just one score. And let me tell you that they’re absolutely right! That one test score won’t make so much of a difference in the long run. It may trigger some unsettling emotions throughout the day, but it’s not going to matter in a year.
Look at the score you got and then just put it at the back of your mind. Just don’t think too much about it in class. It may stress you out even more, cause you to divide your attention between what the teacher is saying and your own thoughts. Dwelling on what you cannot change, especially if it concerns the past is the worse idea and a better option would be to distract yourself with happy thoughts (obviously not while you’re supposed to be listening to your teacher).
Talk to your teacher and ask them why you have attained this particular score. By having a one-on-one conversation with them you can tell them why you thought you did better or where you believe you’ve missed marks. I’m sure they’ll be willing to help you out. If not, you could sit down and chat with another teacher about the test and get their feedback on it. Collecting feedback from various teachers (or even friends, tutors, etc.) can be useful in knowing which areas you need to improve on most.
Try to consider the concept of failure as your ‘First Attempt In Learning.’ Learn from your mistakes by re-evaluating your previous approach to the question, or the ideas and evidence you put out there. Look at where you lost the marks and redo the test if possible. Get it remarked by your teacher or even a friend. Keep going and don’t give up!
Avoid talking to those ‘stuck up’ students. You should most definitely distance yourself from people who make you feel uncomfortable or lower your self-esteem. It may seem tough at first, especially since you may be confined together in the same school or even classroom, but it’s to the benefit of your mental health. To do this, you could not sit next to them class or just let them know that you’re not comfortable with sharing your scores with them and would rather talk about other topics.
Make more friends! (just exclude those who were mentioned previously). Create study groups and revise together before a test or exam. Ask them about how they study for the specific subject or area of study and if you can read some of their work to get an idea of to how approach specific questions.
Be flexible and adaptable! Once you know that you’ve made a mistake, don’t make it again. Change up specific parts of your answer where you lost marks or just change the entire answer completely to fulfil the criteria. For example, when it comes to English, examiners are always advising students to not go into the exam with memorised responses. By going into the exam with memorised responses, you’re not going to be able to modify or mould your response to fit the specific prompt in front of you, costing you the marks you want. Just have ideas and evidence in mind that you know you can use when relevant rather than spilling unnecessary quotes here and there.
Balance is key. Wise advice that I received from one of my teachers in year 12 was to study a bit of every subject on the days you plan to study. Don’t cram and only focus on one subject a week before the SAC. If having a structured routine doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to ditch the timetable you have created yourself and just go with the flow. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just know when you should study
Finally, my last message to you all is to just take it easy, stay on a pace that works for you. Don’t stress too much about a score that’s not going to matter in the long run, and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to those around you. ☺
Quotations, better known though their abbreviation as ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, as well as providing solid evidence for your arguments. The discussion on quotations in this study guide can be applied to all three areas of study in the VCAA English course which have been explained in detail in our: Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response, Comparative, and Language Analysis.
A quotation is the repetition of a group of words taken from a text by someone other than the original author. The punctuation mark used to indicate a repetition of another author’s work is presented through quotation marks. These quotation marks are illustrated by inverted commas, either single inverted commas (‘ ’) or, double inverted commas, (“ ”). There is no general rule in Australia regarding which type of inverted comma you must use for quotations. Single inverted commas are preferred in Australia as it follows the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either styles, just be consistent in your essays.
The usage of quotations in essays demonstrates:
However, quotations must be used correctly, otherwise you risk (and these frequent mistakes will be discussed in detail later):
As you discuss ideas in a paragraph, quotes should be added to develop these ideas further. A quote should add insight into your argument; therefore it is imperative that the quote you choose relates intrinsically to your discussion. This is dependent on which aspect of the text you are discussing, for example:
Never quote for the sake of quoting. Quotations can irrelevant if a student merely adds in quotes as ‘sentence fillers’. Throwing in quotations just to make your essay appear more sophisticated will only be more damaging if the quotation does not adequately reinforce or expand on your contention. Conversely, an essay with no quotations will not achieve many marks either.
A quotation should never tell the story for you. Quotations are a ‘support’ system, much like a back up for your ideas and arguments. Thus, you must be selective in how much you want to quote. Generally speaking, the absolute minimum is three quotes per paragraph but you should not overload your paragraphs either. Overcrowding your essay with too many quotations will lead to failure to develop your ideas, as well as your work appearing too convoluted for your assessor. Remember that the essay is your piece of work and should consist mainly of your own ideas and thoughts.
Single word quotations
The word ‘evaporates’, used to characterise money and happiness intends to instill the idea that happiness as a result of money is only temporary. (VCAA ‘Can Money Buy Happiness’ Language Analysis)
Single worded quotations can often leave the largest impression on the assessor. This is because you are able to demonstrate that you can focus on one word, and develop an entire idea around it.
Sunil Badami ‘still found it hard to tie my Indian appearance to my Australian feeling,’ showing that for Sunil, his culture was not Indian, but Australian due to his upbringing. (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
This is the most common quotation length you will use in essays.
The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening, I felt the press of their ghosts. I realised then that I had begun to step small and carry myself all hunched, keeping my arms at my sides and my elbows tucked, as if to leave room for them.’ (Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)
Long quotations comprise of more than one sentence – avoid using them as evidence. Your assessor will not mark you highly if the bulk of your paragraphs consist of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations less than 2 lines on an A4 writing page. If you have a long quotation you wish to use, be selective. Choose only the important phrases or key words, and remove the remaining sentence by replacing it with an ellipsis (…).
Here is the same example again, with the student using ellipsis:
The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as she felt ‘the press of their ghosts…[and] begun to step small and carry myself all hunched…as if to leave room for them.’ (Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)
In this case, we have deleted:‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening’ and ‘I realised then that I had’ by using an ellipsis – a part of the quotation that is not missed because it does not represent the essence of the student’s argument. You would have noticed that a square bracket ([ ]) was used. This will be discussed in detail under Blending Quotes.
You must never take the original author’s words and use them in your essay without inserting them in quotation marks. Failure to do so leads to ‘plagiarism’ or cheating. Plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. You must make sure that you use quotation marks whenever you use evidence from your text.
The following is plagiarism:
Even a single flicker of the eyes could be mistaken for the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime. (1984, George Orwell)
Using quotation marks however, avoids plagiarism:
Even ‘a single flicker of the eyes’ could be mistaken for ‘the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.’ (1984, George Orwell)
There are serious consequences to plagiarism. VCAA will penalise students for plagiarism. VCAA uses statistical analysis to compare a student’s work with their General Achievement Test (GAT), and if the cross-referencing indicates that the student is achieving unexpectedly high results with their schoolwork, the student’s school will be notified and consequential actions will be taken.
Plagiarism should not be confused with:
Paraphrasing – to reword or rephrase the author’s words.Summarising – to give a brief statement the author’s main points.Quoting – to directly copy the author’s words with an indication (via quotation marks) that it is not your original work.
You should always aim to interweave quotations into your sentences in order to achieve good flow and enhanced readability of your essay. Below is a good example of blending in quotations:
John Proctor deals with his own inner conflict as he is burdened with guilt and shame of his past adulterous actions. Yet during the climatic ending of the play, Proctor honours his principles as he rejects signing a false confession. This situation where Proctor is confronted to ‘sign [himself] to lies’ is a stark epiphany for he finally acknowledges that he does have ‘some shred of goodness.’ (The Crucible, Arthur Miller)
There are three main methods in how you can blend quotations into an essay:
1. Adding words
Broken sentences are a common mistake made when students aim to integrate quotations into their sentences. Below are examples of broken sentences due to poor integration of a quotation:
‘Solitary as an oyster’. Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Never write a sentence consisting of only a quotation. This does not add insight into your argument, nor does it achieve good flow or readability.
Scrooge, ‘solitary as an oyster’, is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
This example is better, however the sentence is still difficult to read. In order to blend quotations into your sentences, try adding in words that will help merge the quotation and your own words together:
Described as being as ‘solitary as an oyster’, Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Scrooge is depicted as a person who is ‘solitary as an oyster’, illustrating that he is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Tip: If you remove the quotation marks, the sentence should still make sense.
2. Square Brackets ([ ])
These are used when you need to modify the original writer’s words so that the quotation will blend into your essay. This is usually done to:
Authors sometimes write in past (look), present (looking) or future tense (will look). Depending on how you approach your essay, you may choose to write with one of the three tenses. Since your tense may not always match the author’s, you will need to alter particular words.
Original sentence: ‘…puts his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’ (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
Upon seeing Lewis upset, Roy attempts to cheer him up by ‘put[ting] his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’. (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
Change narrative perspective
The author may write in first- (I, we), second- (you) or third-person (he, she, they) narrative. Since you will usually write from an outsider’s point of view, you will refer to characters in third-person. Thus, it is necessary to replace first- and second-person pronouns with third-person pronouns. Alternatively, you can replace first- and second-person pronouns with the character’s name.
The original sentence: ‘Only now can I recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that I, through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept…’ (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)
When Keller was finally ready to share his brutal past with Paul, the latter disregarded the maestro, as he was too immersed in his own adolescent interests. However, upon reflection, Paul realises that ‘only now can [he] recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that [he], through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept’. (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)
Insert missing words
Sometimes, it may be necessary to insert your own words in square brackets so that the quotation will be coherent when incorporated into your sentences.
The original sentence: ‘His heels glow.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)
Achilles like Priam, feels a sense of refreshment as highlighted by ‘his heels [which] glow.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)
It is important to maintain proper grammar while weaving in quotations. The question is: does the punctuation go inside or outside the final quotation mark?
The rule is: If the quoted words end with a full stop (or comma), then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks.
Original sentence: ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres’. (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
1. Title of text
When including the title of the text in an essay, use single quotation marks.
Directed by Elia Kazan, ‘On The Waterfront’ unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. (On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)
Alternatively, underline the title of the text. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.
Directed by Elia Kazan, On The Waterfront unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. (On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)
2. Quotation within a quotation
When you quote the author who is quoting someone else, then you will need to switch between single and double quotation marks. You firstly need to enclose the author’s words in single quotation marks, and then enclose the words they quote in double quotation marks (or, use double quotation marks and then single quotation marks, depending on which you prefer).
Original sentence: ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami Growing Up Asian in Australia)
Sunil’s unusual name leads him to believe that it is ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
As you can see, the student has quoted the author’s words in single quotation marks. The dialogue used by the author is surrounded by double quotation marks. This demonstrates that the dialogue used in the text still belongs to the author.
3. Using quotations to express irony
When you wish to express irony, you use quotation marks to illustrate that the implied meaning of the actual word or phrase is different to the normal meaning.
As a young girl, Elaine is a victim of Mrs Smeath and her so called ‘friends’. Her father’s interest in insects and her mother’s lack of housework presents Elaine as an easy bullying target for other girls her age who are fit to fulfill Toronto’s social norms. (Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood)
In this case, ‘friends’ is written in inverted commas to indicate that Elaine’s peers are not truly her friends but are in fact, bullies.
Questions you must ask yourself when weaving quotes into sentences:
1. Does the quote blend into my sentence?
2. Does my sentence still make sense?
3. Is it too convoluted for my readers to understand?
4. Did I use the correct grammar?
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Lisa's Study Guides, and if you want one of my subscribers, then you probably would have realized how I haven't been filming on my couch lately, and I've just been filming against that white backdrop here against my wall. And that's because, to be honest, I'm a little bit sick of my couch. If you guys prefer this, I mean just let me know. I don't know, I feel like when I stand up, I can give more of my energy to you guys and it just makes the filming a lot more fun for me as well. So yeah, I'm thinking of putting up some posters with puns in the background or famous quotes from authors, things like that. So yeah, if you're keen then let me know. If you don't care, then let me know too. Whatever. Let's get into how to find good quotes.
Tip one. Do not go onto Google and type in "Good quotes for X text," because this is not going to work. These type of quotes are generally the most famous and the most popular quotes because, yes they are good quotes, but does that necessarily mean that it's going to be a good quote in your essay? Probably not. But why Lisa? Because these quotes are most likely to be overused by students, by absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. So you want to be unique and original. So how are you going to find those "good quotes"? Recognize which quotes are constantly being used and blacklist them. Quotes are constantly used in study guides are generally the ones that will be overused by students. So once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the most popular or famous ones.
Tip two. Re-read the book. There is nothing wrong with you going ahead and finding your own quotes. You don't need to find quotes that are already existent online or in study guides. Go and find whatever gels with you and whatever you feel like has a lot of meaning to it. I had a friend back in high school who was studying a book by Charles Dickens. I haven't read the book myself, but there was a character who couldn't pronounce the word S, or he had a lisp of some sort, and apparently what my friend did was he found this one word about the whole book, where this guy with the lisp, only one time ever said S, and apparently that was a massive thing. So he used that, and see this is something that is really unique and original. So go ahead and try to find your own quotes.
Tip three. Realize that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. The main character, yes often does have good quotes associated with whatever they're saying. But just know that you do have minor characters who can say something really relevant and have a really good point, and that is just going to be as strong in your essay, than a main character's quote, which will probably be overused and overdone by so many other students.
Tip four. Develop a new interpretation of a famous or popular quote. Most of the time, the really popular quotes are analyzed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or a different interpretation, then this is automatically going to create a really good quote, that's going to offer a refreshing point of view.
For example, if we look at the Great Gatsby, one of the most famous quotes that is constantly being used is, "He found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass." What most people will do is they will analyze the part about the "grotesque thing a rose," because that's the most significant part of the quote that stands out. But what you could do instead is focus on a section of that quote, for example the "raw". Why is the word raw being used? How does the word raw contribute extra meaning to this particular quote. This way you're honing in on a particular section of the quote and really trying to offer something new. This automatically allows you to investigate the quote in a new light.
Tip five. Just remember that the best quotes do not have to be one sentence long. Some of the best quotes tend to only be really short phrases or even just one particular word. Teachers actually love it when you can get rid of the excess words that are unnecessary in the sentence, and just hone in on a particular phrase or a particular word to offer an analysis. And also that way, when you spend so much time analyzing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the texts and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point.
So those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts. If you liked this video, then please give me a thumbs up, so I know I should do more of these quote based videos. If you have any questions and feel free to comment below and request whatever you want me to cover next.
Check out last week's video over there, where I discussed the three different English subjects that available for VCE students. And even if you're not studying in Victoria, Australia, you can still check it out, especially if you're divided in between different English subjects that are available for you when you're choosing your particular subjects at school.
I hope you all have a lovely week, and if you subscribe below there, then I will see you next week, Monday after school. Bye!
In regards to changing subjects once the school year has started: I've done a bit of research and it appears as though the deadline to change from one subject to another is determined by your individual school. Some schools have a deadline of only a couple weeks whereas others stretch it out a little further. Ask your school for exact dates if this is something you’re considering!
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
Power-up your learning with free essay topics, downloadable word banks, and updates on the latest VCE strategies.
Copyright © Lisa's Study Guides. All Rights Reserved.
The VCAA does not endorse and is not affiliated with Lisa's Study Guides or vcestudyguides.com. The VCAA provides the only official, up to date versions of VCAA publications and information about courses including the VCE. VCE® is a registered trademark of the VCAA.
Designed & built with ♥ by JSHLI.CO