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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.
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For an overview of the EAL study design plus tips and tricks for reading comprehension, time management and more, check out The Ultimate Guide to EAL.
The listening tasks of the EAL exam are worth 20% of the total exam marks. Since this section was introduced to the exam fairly recently, limited past exam questions are available for students to practice. In my blog post EAL Listening Practice and Resources, I provide you with some awesome listening resources that you should definitely check out! And more importantly, I teach you a step-by-step approach for how to use those listening resources to help you better prepare for EAL listening. If you haven’t already read that blog post, go and check it out before coming back to this one so that you understand the steps we’re following.
Here we’ll be working through another exam-style practice to help us improve on the EAL listening section. We will be adopting the same strategies introduced in EAL Listening Practice and Resources. For more advice on how to boost your skills in the listening section, check out Tips on EAL Listening.
Use this link to access the audio clip that we’ll be using in this listening practice: Hospital Parking Fees - Classroom - BTN (abc.net.au)
Download this worksheet so that you can work through this listening task on your own too!
Develop a system that works well for you personally. For example, I usually underline the keywords that give me information on ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘where’, ‘when’. I highlight the speakers in the example below.
Step 1: Fill in the blanks and try to be aware of words you don’t quite ‘get’.
This is where you have the opportunity to fill in the blanks for the challenging words that you did not pick up in the first round. For example: petition, democratic, campaign, rare.
COMMON MISTAKE: check the spelling for ‘rare’, not ‘rear’
Step 2: Note down how the speakers convey their attitude, feeling, ideas, etc.
Let's take a look at this section of the audio clip:
GIDON: ‘It gives me a really good feeling to know that I've made a change, that change has happened. I think what I would like to say to all the other people, especially kids who want to start change, is that it really does sometimes seem impossible that someone that doesn't have a vote and who doesn't have as much democratic power really as adults do, I think what this has shown is that it really is possible to do these things that we still can affect our country and that small people can make great change.’
Here’s one way I analysed the delivery of the audio:
The cheerful and hopeful tone used to deliver the message that the change brings him ‘a really good feeling’ demonstrates Gidon’s approval of the change in parking fees. Furthermore, Gidon states this in a high pitch and fast pace, unveiling that he is pleased and satisfied about the reduction in hospital parking fees.
Step 3: Interaction between speakers.
This step does not apply to this particular audio clip since the audio/ video is a recount of the event rather than direct conversation between two or more speakers.
The transcript is available HERE.
Whilst reading through the transcript with the audio on, try and pick up any information that you missed in previous rounds of listening and also words that you might have spelt incorrectly.
Have a go at these VCAA-style questions that I wrote up, and then check out my sample answers to see how your own answers compare. You will probably notice that a lot of the information you gather from the ‘W’ words actually provides you with the answers to the majority of the questions here.
1. Gidon’s petition is about lowering the fee for parking in hospitals and putting a limit on how much the hospital can charge.
2. Gidon has a rare blood condition which means he visits the hospital quite regularly. Since his diagnosis, Gidon’s family paid more than ten thousand dollars just to visit the hospital.
3. When hospital parking fees are too expensive, patients will buy food and other necessities instead of going to the hospital. Thus, patients may not go to the hospital because parking is too expensive, these poor patients need to choose between paying parking fees and buying food.
4. Regular hospital attendants will receive a 90% discount on what they are currently paying.
5. Families, patients and carers for regular visitors of public hospitals.
COMMON MISTAKE: check the spelling for ‘carer’, not ‘career’ or ‘carrier’
6. Gidon is very happy and proud of the change in hospital fees. Gidon uses a cheerful and hopeful tone (1st mark) to deliver the message that the change brings him ‘a really good feeling’ and he feels ‘unbelievably proud’ that ‘small people can make great change’ (2nd mark). In addition, Gidon states this in a high pitch and fast pace, demonstrating that he is pleased and satisfied with the reduction in hospital parking fees (3rd mark).
I hope you found this guide handy! For further tips and tricks on tackling the EAL Listening Exam, check out How To ACE the EAL Listening Exam.
The life of an English teacher during assessment time is miserable. This is great for us! If you know how to use their misery to your advantage.
Hello, I am here to teach you how you can claim some easy English points off these poor, poor, professors. Let’s begin 😊
This should be a baseline expectation! Yet, if I had a dollar for every student I see launching into an essay not even considering the socio-cultural context in which their book was written, I’d have enough to purchase the VCAA institution and have historical context made mandatory with the punishment being immediate expulsion from VCE.
Just put some historical context into your introduction, it’ll make it beefier and add some spice to your essay. Historical context generally entails listing the form (novella, play, etc…) of your text; the time period in which it was written (Victorian, 20th century, etc…), its genre (Gothic, biographical, etc…), and finally, any of the relevant literary titles it could be classed under (Romantic, Feminist, post-colonial, etc…)
For example: “Mary Shelley’s Victorian Gothic Romantic novella Frankenstein…”
Bonus points if you can actively engage in a set of philosophical ideas that were present at the time, eg: “Age of Enlightenment values”, or the “Feminist movement”.
You must impress an assessor within two minutes. With this in mind, what do you think looks better: a little five-line intro vaguely outlining your points and just barely tickling on the structure and context of the texts; or a sprawling introduction which hits the historical context on the head and articulates beautifully the direction your essay is going and how it plans to get there. It’s a simple Virgin vs Chad dichotomy, be a chad, write a strong introduction.
Your topic sentences NEED to be easy to read and easy to follow. Apply the K.I.S.S rule here (Keep it Simple, Stupid). State the point of your paragraph with clarity, there should be nothing too complex or vague about it. For example: “The architecture of Frankenstein enables the story to act as a cautionary tale”. If you feel you cannot encapsulate your topic within a single sentence, then I suggest dialling back the complexity of your paragraph topic. Remember, text response is a process of stating a concept, then proving it – nothing more, nothing less.
You know ‘Grammar Nazis’? Well English assessors are Grammar Hitler’s. Make sure your expression is on point. Avoid run on sentences, break them up with full stops, a comma is not a substitute for a period.
I’m hoping we all know what verbs, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, conjunctions and etcetera are here? This kind of rather basic English knowledge can seriously pepper up your analysis once you understand how language works. Begin by simply noting how an adjective modifies a verb within a sentence and what affect that has. Once you master this, you can move onto actually classifying the language under specific tones; for example: a pejorative verb, or a superlative adjective of degree. I’ll throw a few free ones your way! A pejorative verb is a doing word with negative connotations, such as: “penetrate” or “molest”. Whilst a superlative adjective is a describing word of the highest degree, for example: “grandest” or “calmest” (as opposed to simply “grand” or “calm”. Although this language seems complex, it’s deceivingly simple once you understand some basic English rules.
Structure is the ‘secret high scoring English students don’t want you to know!!’ If you aren’t writing about structure, then you are missing out on an absolute gold mine of analysis. If you understand how structure works within a text and can write it out coherently you’re essentially guaranteed a 40+. Y’all may call that an exaggeration, but knowing how to write about structure in an essay is like crossing the threshold, your eyes become open – you attain nirvana. Structure is the Bifrost which separates the land of Gods from the land of mortals. Some good ways to begin thinking about structure include: pondering how the text begins and ends, does it begin as a jovial and upbeat story and end as a depressing mess, why might the author have structured the text this way? Or, think about which characters we follow throughout the text and what journey they undergo, are their multiple narrators? Why might this be relevant or what may the author be trying to emphasise? Another great one is just looking for recurring themes and motifs across the text, such as a repeated phrase or similarities between characters. The key to writing on structure is understanding how the text has been structured, and then connecting that to a meaning or using it to support your contention.
PSYCHE I’M STILL
NOT DONE TALKING ABOUT STRUCTURE.
Structure. Your. Essays.
I cannot stress this enough, use TEEL (topic sentence, evidence, elaboration, link), use whatever your teacher taught, but use it! This one is especially important in language analysis, legit, lang anal essays are almost 100% structure, just WHW (what, how, why) your way through that essay. Once you understand how to structure an essay, everything else improves. So, structure your essays!!
Now we’re getting into the big boy material. An allusion is any reference within a text to another text. So when Peter Griffin from Family Guy pokes fun at the Simpsons, he is making an allusion to the Simpsons. Or when your protagonist happens across a bible verse, that is a biblical allusion. Whenever I hear a student mention a literary allusion, my day improves and so does their mark. Most every text has allusions in it somewhere, do your research. Frankenstein has Rime of the Ancient Mariner, about half the books on the planet have biblical allusions, just ask your teacher or research online and you’re bound to come up with some excellent analysis material. Bonus points for allusions to classic texts such as: the Faust mythos, Greek/Roman tales such as Prometheus, the Bible, Paradise Lost, etc…
This one is eating from the tree of knowledge. Including a philosophical concept in your essay immediately places you in the upper echelons. It separates plebs from patricians. You’ll have to do a bit of research here, but it is well worth it. Once you can mention that an idea is “characteristic of the Romantic period”, or that a concept is “Lockean (referring to John Locke)”, you’re balling, you’ll be hustling A+s in no time. Bonus points for philosophical ideas that were relevant to the time period (historical context, remember).
Referencing the authorial agenda is just minty fresh, it demonstrates a clear understanding of concepts even beyond just the text itself. Guaranteed to put a sparkle in your teachers’ eye. Although adding authorial agenda augments your essay extraordinary, don’t overdo it.
If you made it to the end of this then great work! Proud of you <3. Including these tips in your essays is a surefire way to push them to the next level. For sticking through, I’ll give you a few quick bonus tips. Have pre-prepared zingers: you should write out and memorise a few bits of analysis that are intensely high quality, (do it in your own writing) this not only helps with ironing out your language, it also ensures you’ll have some mic drops in your essays. Analyse all included images and titles: this one’s just for language analysis, but you should analyse everything, including logos! And finally… RESPOND TO THE ESSAY QUESTION, this should be a given but there are hordes of people just spewing out words which are absolutely irrelevant to the actual essay topic.
Thanks again for getting this far, unless you just scrolled to the bottom hoping for a TLDR. I wish you all best of luck in your VCE and the exam season, try to make it enjoyable 😊
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.".
I’m sure a lot of you are sitting at home right now, excited but nervous about the year ahead. Let me be honest with you: year 12 is going to be tough. You’re only going to get out what you put in. There’s going to be stress and drama and unexpected turns. There’ll be long hours at the library and even more hours locked away in your room. But there’s also going to be fun and craziness and excitement. I know it’s a cliché, but this year truly is a marathon rather than a sprint, and you have to pace yourself. I know kids who went out way too hard and way too fast and by the middle of the year were completely burnt out. You want to be feeling fresh and ready by the time September comes around. There were a few things that really helped me to stay focused and sane during my final year of school, and I’d like to share them here with you. For me, these 6 factors were essential for staying happy and healthy, and they undoubtedly helped me to fulfil my potential during the VCE.
1. Routine – Have a solid, planned-out routine set up early in the year. Work out how much time you have outside of school and extra-curricular commitments. Schedule time each day for homework, study, revision. Schedule exercise, time with friends, and relaxation time for yourself. And after all that make sure you have still have time for a solid 8 hours of sleep! It’s important to make adjustments and revise your schedule if you find that it isn’t working out. I would suggest that sleep and relaxation time are two of the most important things on your timetable, so try not to cut them out! A regular routine will help keep you on track and make it easier to hit deadlines with minimal stress. It will also assist you in cutting out procrastination! If you’re ever overly stressed or feel like you need time off, it’s alright to take a night off! Just commit to it and really take the whole night off. Don’t think about work at all. Otherwise you’ll still be stressing and you won’t be able to properly relax.
2. Exercise – I cannot stress enough how important regular exercise can be for a VCE student. Given all the time spent on homework and study, I know it can sometimes seem difficult to squeeze anything else in. Trust me though, if you just find 30 minutes a day to go for a run, ride your bike, have a swim, play footy or whatever you like to do, you’ll be so much better for it. Your head will be clearer, you’ll have more focus, and you’ll be so much more productive in your study time. Exercise allows you to just shut your brain off and take some time out for yourself. It allows you to spend all that pent up energy that comes from sitting in the classroom all day. A tired body will mean a much better sleep too! It’s just 30 minutes. Drag yourself out of bed a little earlier in the morning, or schedule some time as soon as you get home from school. I promise you won’t regret it!
3. Sleep – Sleep is one of the key factors in having a good final school year. I know it can be tempting to pull all-nighters, cramming as much information into your head before SACs, exams and the like. This kind of thing can actually be counter-productive though. I’ll concede that sometimes it might be necessary to stay up late to get things done, but if you manage your time well there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get a decent amount of sleep each night. I needed at least 8 hours a night to function properly; whatever your number is, make it a priority to get a solid sleep. Give yourself a cut-off point and stick to it. Just put your books away once it gets to a certain time. Studying on late into the night when you’re super tired can be a waste of time – the information is probably not really sticking in your head. Just stop and continue on the next day when you’re fresh and ready to learn again. I found it useful to take about 30 minutes before bed, just to chill out and unwind before you sleep. Watch TV, read a book, whatever you like to do to relax. Your head will be clear, and you’ll be able to get to sleep a lot quicker.
4. Socialising – Make sure you still find time to hang out with your friends during the year. Remember that you’re all going through the same thing, and you help each other out just by chatting and sharing your problems and stresses. Try to spend time outside during recess and lunch; don’t go to the library to cram in extra study unless you really need to! Taking time out to talk to your mates will be a lot more beneficial in the long run. Organise to catch up with friends outside of school too. There should be plenty of eighteenth birthday parties this year, so take the night off and go have fun. Don’t worry, you definitely have the time!
5. Family – It’s also important to communicate with your family during this year. Don’t shut them out! It’s easy to get angry or frustrated with family members during your VCE. It will be a lot more beneficial for you (and for them) if you let them in rather than pushing them away. Sit down for half an hour each night to have a family dinner and just chat about what you’re studying. Try explaining a concept or an idea or book you’re working with. Give your parents, siblings, grandparents (anyone!) copies of your essay drafts to read. Even if they’re just proof-reading, it’ll have a positive impact on your work and will allow your family to better understand what VCE is all about. Put your timetable and after-school schedule up on the fridge so that everyone knows when you need to be left alone and when they can chat with you. The support of your family can be invaluable, especially when it comes down to the crunch at the end of the year. You might be surprised just how much your family can help.
6. Fun – Just try to enjoy it! When you look back on your VCE, it will hopefully be filled with fond memories. I can honestly say that year 12 was one of the best years of my life so far, despite a lot of stress and drama and everything else that came with it. Get involved with school sport, music, drama, whatever you love to do. Those extra-curricular activities are where you’ll make some of the best memories. I don’t know what it is about year 12, but everyone just seems to become closer. It’s like the VCE is this common enemy, and students band together to take it down. Cliques and groups don’t seem to matter so much; the whole year level is just brought together by this shared experience. The year is going to go so fast. If you can, try to just stop from time to time and let it all sink in. There’ll be so much going on – both good and bad. Try to just enjoy this challenging and rewarding year!
Ok, let’s be honest here. I’m not one to be easily motivated to do things. I’m what you call a part-time-verging-on-full-time procrastinator. Hell, if procrastinating was a career, I’d be rich by now!
But alas, there’s no time left in these last critical months of high school to sit back while you put even the smallest of tasks off because you can’t be stuffed. There’s always that one project, that one piece of writing, that one homework task that you just can’t bring yourself to sit down and do. That’s when you soon discover that you’ve got to find a teensy-tiny ounce of hope and drive in you to complete the unwanted task. Oh, what’s that called again? Ah yes!
So how does one find that motivation to plough through lists of work, practice SACs and exam papers, and write yet another language analysis without going insane?
Well, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’ve always thought admirably of those top 99+ ATAR achievers in my school, the students that score 50s in each subject and the brightest kids in the state that appear on the front of newspapers come mid-December each year. It baffled me for so long that they appeared SO motivated to do all this work! How do they keep pushing themselves? How do they not lose confidence along the way? How do they stay focused for the entire Year 12? And I’ll let you in on a little secret… you can be one of them! Just find the motivation technique that empowers and energises YOU!
Motivation is SUCH a personal matter. It is 110% crucial if you plan on doing well for your final years of school, and once you discover what gets your engine roaring, it’s an invaluable tool you’ll need and keep for life.
Perhaps the most ‘obvious’ motivation for doing well in Year 12 is to get acceptance into your preferred University course, TAFE course, or other career or study pathway. But that’s not enough, in my humble opinion. Plenty of students start off Year 12 with such a great mind frame for the first few weeks or months, and then struggle to keep up the good work. You need to keep your goal as close to mind as possible. Don’t just have a 4-digit figure in the back of your mind or glued onto a pin board. Visualise what it looks like when you’re walking into your dream course, discovering your passion, meeting new people that feel as passionate about what they’re learning as you. Where will your dreams take you? Hold on to those images in your mind. They are pure gold.
If you feel like everything in Year 12 isn’t worth the stress and the effort, think of the holiday that greets you after finishing high school. For some, you might be trekking off overseas for 4 months or even spending a few days at Schoolies! Imagine where you could be in only a few months’ time. What will you be doing, where will you be relaxing, who will you be socialising with, how far will you be travelling? If you give your final year all you got, that break will feel even more rewarding.
Another technique I tried isn’t for everyone, and those that exercise it should do so with caution… but I motivated myself using the big fat F-word: FAILURE. I was emotionally invested in my subjects, so that if I felt that I wasn’t improving my scales, my oral comprehension, or my writing to the standard that I desired, then I would feel like I had failed my teachers. I respected them not only for their expertise, but for their faith and constant encouragement they showed for their students. A healthy dose of nerves and stress is okay, as it can spur you on even more to work harder, persevere and impress.
Year 12 is not a sprint, it is truly a marathon. The best part is, you’re almost there! But if you keep your eyes on the prize and let your friends, family and teachers hand you those water bottles and towels, you can take each part as it comes. It’s not going to be easy, but if you stick to a plan and give it all you’ve got with no regrets, reaching that finish line will be the best feeling in the world!
I’d like to leave you with this. Make the most of year 12. Know that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the marks you were hoping for. But don’t come out at the end thinking that you could’ve done more. Give it your all, remember the points above, and you’ll be satisfied in the fact that you couldn’t have done any better. Honestly, no matter how important your ATAR seems right now, it won’t matter at all once you get to uni. What really matters is knowing that you gave it all you could, and that you filled your year with fun memories alongside all that study. You won’t remember the hours in the library or those spent locked away in your room. You’ll remember chatting with your mates in the library during free period, or mucking around on the oval at lunchtime. Remember to make time for the important things!
Burn out. According to my good friend Wikipedia, ‘burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.’ It’s a phase that most of us are used to hearing throughout our VCE years, especially as workload intensifies in the lead up to the VCAA examinations. Today I will be sharing something much more personal on VCE Study Guides, because I want you to avoid the same mistakes that I made when I was in VCE. Even though I was quite successful with my ATAR score, there are some study habits that I look back upon and I think to myself, ‘why didn’t I do that differently?’.
I suffered from severe burnout in the last month prior to my VCE exams.
Here’s the primary reason why I burnt out: I was too hard on myself. My exam study plan was rather ridiculous and unattainable. My target was to do at least one essay per day from the start of Term 4. In fact, in my September holidays I did not just one essay a day, but often two or three! Sheesh! No wonder I burnt out. I found that over the next few weeks, I started to repeat a lot of similar essay prompts, I would write the same phrases or quotes over and over again, and I personally think that this hindered my development because I was starting to regurgitate everything I had done so far, rather than pushing forward and writing with new ideas and thoughts.
And it wasn’t just English. I was lucky (or was it perhaps unluckiness in disguise?) enough to get my hands on all past sample exams produced by VCAA and other VCE companies for Mathematical Methods, Specialist Maths and Chemistry. And when I say all, I mean I had exams dating back from 1997. Yeah. I made it a mission to do one exam everyday for these subjects and boy did that take its toll on me. You might be thinking – ‘this girl is crazy!’ or ‘how can anyone do that?’. And if you have developed an intense exam study plan just like this but are doing just fine, then I applaud you. I really do! Because I know that for a lot of people, it’s simply way too draining and exhausting. I felt like I had to complete all my resources but in the end, it was simply counterproductive for me.
I ended up hardly touching English during the final 2 weeks before exams because I simply had enough. I felt as though I had hit a brick wall and no matter how much more writing I did, I probably wouldn’t improve any further. Some of you (especially the Psychology students) may know of the ‘plateau effect’. I had basically hit this point (or should I say, flat period?) and I’m sure that many of you reading this will understand or have even reached this plateau yourselves. Below I have quoted James Hayton, a PhD and thesis writing coach on what it means to plateau:
…you can’t improve without practicing- but not all practice is equally effective in improving your writing skill and simply engaging in the activity of writing on a frequent basis is not enough.
If you started playing tennis every day, you would probably improve quite quickly in the first few weeks. But if you continued to play every day without adapting your training, your rate of improvement would slow to the point where you are no longer improving with practice.
The same is true of many skills. You can drive a car every day without becoming a better driver, you can go to the gym every day without becoming stronger and you can write every day without becoming a better writer.
The relationship between practice and skill is not linear. You may experience a rapid improvement early, but this improvement slows and your skill level reaches a plateau. This is known as the learning curve.
Sometimes your skill level can even decline with practice, so it’s important to understand how to practice well. To read more click here.
As you can see, studying more or studying harder does not equal more success or a better ATAR score.
When you organise a study plan, be smart about it. So my biggest tip is this: don’t feel compelled to write one or more essays everyday. This is so not the way to go. Strategically, I think the best approach is be time-efficient. In the last week before the exam, I simply stopped doing any essay writing and just wrote plans for prompts I hadn’t seen before.Work on topics that you haven’t dealt with before, because at least then you can apply your skills. Try not to do too much repetition. Repetition is good for drilling ideas into your head, but it can be problematic if it becomes rote-learning (this applies to other subjects too). Some of my most successful students did just two essays a week, and on other days they would write plans, or simply broke their essay up and wrote a paragraph a day. If you can’t even do that, and you feel like you’ve really hit that brick wall and can’t go any further then take a break. It might seem like you’re wasting time, but if you spend a day off in the sun, or even just going out to eat lunch with family or friends, you will notice the difference as you come back to study with a more refreshed mind and positive attitude.
If you didn't already know, I have a YouTube channel. Here's a video below where I talk about 'burn out' a little more...
I hope through sharing my experience I’ve been able to help you feel less ‘guilty’ if you haven’t done as much English study as you would like today. Remember to study smarter, not harder. Good luck for your exams!
To be honest, my entire Year 12 felt like a longwinded mass of trial and error. One week I ate hot chips for lunch for five days in a row. Once I spent a free double period watching ‘1 HOUR of AMAZING HQ SPACE VIDEO’ (twice over) on one YouTube tab, while ‘2-Hours Epic Music Mix’ played in the background. Crying for no apparent reason became somewhat of a hobby. I would be lying if I said I was some extremely disciplined, studious pupil who wrote my ATAR goal above my desk or slept with it under my pillow. However, despite the constant feelings that I wasn’t doing enough, that I had no self-control in making myself study, and that at any point I could completely burn out and betray my high expectations, I managed to score better than I ever let myself imagine.
I wish I could give you a step-by-step, foolproof guide on how to achieve ‘ATAR goals’, but if I could, I’d probably just use it to get rich. What I can do, is tell you how I coped when the pressure and the ambition and the sheer magnitude of the content you need to know, becomes too much.
1. Expectations are probably not reality
Like many who are facing Year 12, the summer before I started, I was absolutely terrified. Images of long nights glued to my desk filled me with dread, and I looked at the extensive content of my subjects with great fear. With the high ATAR hopes that a lot of you have, I expected a lot from myself, that I didn’t exactly achieve.
Expectation: Exercise Regularly
Reality: Went on two runs throughout the year and got puffed after 500 metres, both times.
Expectation: Watch less TV
Reality: Six seasons of Gossip Girl, three seasons of Orange is the New Black, five seasons of Parks and Recreations, and a billion episodes of the Simpsons.
Expectation: Study constantly: after school and weekends.
Reality: Admittedly, I spent a lot of time studying, but I also spent a lot of time drinking coffee with friends and sleeping until 1pm.
Ultimately I had to learn that extreme self-pressure would not do any good, and setting impossible goals would only lead to guilt and the feeling of failure. Remember that you aren’t going to meet every goal, or be constantly successful, but one promise you should really keep is to be kind to yourself, even when you don’t meet the mark.
2. ‘Heck no Fridays’
Sick of the constant feeling of guilt when I spent long periods of time binge watching Netflix instead of studying for an upcoming English SAC, I decided I needed to create a real, carefree, lengthy break that I could depend on each week. And so I decided that I would no longer study on Saturdays. The name is not imperative, but I’m a sucker for alliteration ;).
It’s a bold move to cut that much time out of your study timetable, but after a week of classes and afternoon spent at the desk, it can be necessary. Having a routine afternoon where I knew I couldn’t study at all meant that I didn’t feel guilty about it, and thus could truly rest.
3. Study outside the box
Two nights before my Literature exam you could find me sitting at my local cafe with my best mate drinking coffee and playing charades. Before Year 12, the idea of doing that would have seemed like I was giving up, like I wasn’t putting in the effort and that I should be studiously writing practice essay upon practice essay.
However, at a certain point, it doesn’t help just repeating your usual study techniques, or repeatedly doing practice exams. One of the best ways to retain information, and better understand concepts, is to learn them in an interesting way. Therefore, playing silly games based off our Literature texts was both enjoyable, and super helpful for the exam.
4. Five minutes… just five minutes.
Throughout the year there’ll almost definitely be days when you come home from school and stare at your desk like you’d rather sit anywhere else in the world. There’ll be moments where you stare at a blank page for twenty minutes having lost all control of the English language. There’ll be free periods when the idea of doing a practice SAC is so repulsive that you reconsider all future goals and ambitions. When you feel like you can’t study, but you’re in a moment where you really, really have to (five SACS in one week), try the five minute trick.
Say you are trying to write a practice English essay, but you are completely blank. Set a timer on your phone for five minutes. In that five minutes, force yourself to write anything. Even if you don’t use grammar, even if you make no sense, even if your sentences aren’t real sentences, just write whatever you can about the topic. Generally, when the five minutes are up, you have either though of enough ideas and have gained enough motivation to keep going, or can at least say you did five minutes.
There’s no be-all, end-all, Year 12 advice, but I think many would agree that the best thing you can do is stay positive, and try and see the funny side of all the screw ups and let downs that are bound to happen, while appreciating yourself for all that you will achieve.
VCE is a two-year journey which involves a high degree of academic and personal growth. Young adults experiencing these two years of life will encounter a number of challenges which, albeit rewarding, are nonetheless a cause of much anxiety and pressure. It is important to recognise that the process is, at the end of the day, a team effort – VCE students are as reliant on their teachers for learning material as they are upon their parents for support, just as they rely upon friends to offer an outlet of distraction and ease. As a parent, your fundamental role during your child’s years of VCE is to help him/her manage their time, stress and aspirations to ultimately reach their goals. The purpose of this article is to provide a tangible, how-to guide to fulfil a healthy parent-student relationship during VCE. The below strategies detail the importance of communication, teamwork and compromise as the three cornerstones necessary to achieve conjunctive family and academic success.
Communication is pivotal during Year 11 and 12. It is important to ensure that all members of your VCE team, whoever this may involve, remain on the same page. Miscommunication is a messy way to disrupt a streamlined VCE journey – continuous and multi-way communication allows you to take positive steps towards your child receiving the most stress-free experience. To adopt this approach within your own family:
It is easy to forget the purpose of VCE given the mayhem of it all. It is crucial to reassure your child that you are present as a support network and that you hold a stake in their journey. Rather than present their results as a source of positivity or negativity, create the perception that a healthy and committed approach to VCE is of the highest importance. If your child knows that your role is centred around their happiness and success, they will be more relaxed and willing to share their journey with you.
VCE is a long, tough effort. It is two years of high expectations and insurmountable workload which culminates in the endgame of a four-digit number. For a student undergoing VCE, it is difficult to remove yourself from this mindset. As a parent, remember to appreciate the small successes and the baby steps towards a more recognisable achievement. Even a little acknowledgement, such as praising consistent grades or offering a “Good work!” can remind your child that they are on the right track and that you are aware – and proud – of this.
VCE is often described as a rollercoaster. This is a metaphor which accurately summarises the highs and lows that are bound to accompany such an important stage of a young person’s life. It may be tricky to understand why your child may come home one day in seemingly ‘meh’ spirits and so forth. Regardless, these actions (or lack thereof) are designed to subtly inform you of their headspace and mindset at a particular time. If you can form a limited understanding of these cues, they will enable you to provide relevant solutions and/or support. For example, if your child is repeatedly answering to you with curt or brief responses, this may indicate that their mind is elsewhere, and they would appreciate the opportunity to study in quiet for some time. On the other hand, if work progress seems to slow down, a distraction and time-out from study may be necessary. Sometimes, just a brief chat about their day will make a significant difference to motivation levels.
Communication should flow freely between the classroom and your home. Remaining aware of how your child is progressing at school will give you the best ability to support them in a relevant and sustainable way, while also drawing attention to areas of improvement or growth and enabling you to respond to these developments appropriately. Parent-Teacher Interviews are a great way to keep in touch. Alternatively, a brief email every so often will inform your child’s teacher that you are committed to their progress and want consistent updates.
At the end of the day, VCE is a team effort! Without a doubt, your child’s work and dedication is the driving force, yet the role of parents, teachers, friends and others provides a crucial support network. It is important to maintain this vision and to acknowledge your place within this team. To implement this strategy yourself:
Basic, genuine attempts to form some understanding of what your child is learning will assure them of your stake within their academic journey. This discussion does not have to be profound – if your child is studying Biology, do not think it is essential for you to gain a strong understanding of the metabolic processes performed by animals, for example. It will never be necessary for you to be an expert at any VCE subject. Rather, simply encouraging your child to share their knowledge with you will contribute to their learning. Carrying on with the example of Biology, you can ask your child to briefly explain the stages of photosynthesis. This technique will result in a number of benefits; your child will be challenged to demonstrate their knowledge and thereby increase their own understanding, and you will find a source of discussion which fosters growth (both academically and emotionally) between yourself and your child.
It is easy for VCE students to attain a tunnel vision and lean towards route learning during the crunch point of their studies. Articulating your intrigue to learn about their studies will boost student engagement and remind your child that subjects can be extended beyond the classroom. Simply asking natural questions and/or clarifying content will demonstrate your stake in their progress and exemplify the team mindset which promotes cohesive growth. Just discussing your child’s English text with them will position him/her to articulate their ideas and, in turn, contribute to the level of analysis they are able to perform when writing an essay.
A tutor performs the unique role of a mentor, friend and teacher who has the exclusive ability to provide one-on-one support. A tutor can further your child’s skills in a focused and familiar environment, sustaining growth throughout the year and tackling gaps in understanding as soon as these concerns arise. Ultimately, a tutor is an invaluable addition to your child’s VCE team! Lisa's Study Guides provides a one-of-a-kind, specialised tutoring service which offers a wealth of curated resources, 24/7 support and lessons with the state’s most high-performing recent graduates. To find out more about what Lisa's Study Guides can do for you, click here.
VCE is a period of significant change and it is important to remain flexible. By acknowledging the importance of focused study time, you can adjust your family’s schedule to meet the requirements of each individual. Encouraging your child to demonstrate two-way communication and positive habits, such as informing you of upcoming commitments, will ensure that compromise can occur in a swift and agreeable fashion. The following advice will contribute to healthy negotiation within your home:
It is inevitable that Year 11 and 12 are going to require intense focus and a dedication, on your child’s part, to his/her studies. Designating specific study blocks is a good way to ensure that you highlight the importance of routine and consistent study. Despite this fact, it can be difficult to come to terms with the reality of such change. During VCE, it is unlikely that your child will have the ability to sustainably divide their time in a way which is familiar to you. This shift may be significant or subtle depending on the consistency of your child’s study habits, their non-scholarly commitments and a range of other factors. Regardless, it is important to remain adaptable and understand that your child’s response to VCE is a natural reaction to the major change involved.
VCE is often unpredictable and assignments can arise out of the blue. Workloads may be relatively easy-going one moment, before three new assessments come up the next school day and suddenly extra work is required. While it is helpful to theoretically organise family time or outings, it may eventuate that these plans are not always compatible with your child’s schedule. Try postponing events where necessary and approach the situation with a neutral attitude – reassuring your child that Thursday is as good as Tuesday to catch the latest Marvel flick will buoy their spirits and link these events to positive emotions.
Settling for an option which disgruntles yourself, your Year 11/12 student or other members of your family is an unsustainable way to manage family expectations during VCE. While it may not be ideal to find a day of the week which is suitable for everyone, or if it looks like cancelling is the easier option, keep in mind the potential repercussions that these decisions may have. Due to its limited nature, time spent as a family is especially precious when a child is undergoing VCE. Reaching mutually agreeable solutions is the best way to meet both family and school needs and will have a significant impact on morale in the long term.
It may be useful to organise your family’s priorities and represent these ideals in an accessible timetable. Doing so will ensure that your needs as a family are met without the potential for certain elements to be overlooked and inform family members in advance of upcoming plans. Organise your standard week by priority and create a tangible, week-to-week routine like illustrated:
VCE is an undoubtedly testing stage for a student and their family – yet, it does not have to be overwhelming. Successful navigation through Year 11 and 12 will occur as the result of a cohesive relationship between a student and his/her support network. As a parent, your role is centred around support. Offering your child the confidence of your time, patience and effort will make a world of difference to their morale and, in turn, results. Simple family adjustments, as listed above, will contribute to the sustained growth between yourself and your child. Implementing these strategies and anchoring your focus on the themes of communication, teamwork and compromise will ensure that your family’s VCE experience occurs smoothly.
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