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December 23, 2017
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Reading your VCE books during your summer holidays might sound a little mundane, especially when you can spend that time with family and friends, but it will be one of the best things you would’ve done for yourself in preparation for your VCE year. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later. The difference with these holidays compared with others is that you have an incredibly important year of schooling lurking around the corner – one that is stressful for most, if not all students. So, for your own benefit, you should definitely take advantage of this break! Having read your books once before you start the school year gives you a major advantage over students who haven’t. Let’s look at some reasons why:
1. Preparing your mindset.
Once you have read your books, you will have a good idea of what you’re heading into during the school year. When the teacher begins to teach the text in class, you will be clear on the ideas discussed, in comparison to other students who will still be reading their texts. You’ll be able to easily build connections between class discussions and the book, whereas other students will definitely struggle. Often, they will miss a vital piece of information brought up in class simply because they didn’t realise how significant that idea is to a section in the book or even the book as a whole!
2. Exposure to all the possibilities.
Even though you might not start studying a text until mid-way through the year or even in Term 4, having read the books gives you a head start on absorbing all the information around you. Throughout the year, you may come across something that catches your eye on the internet (whether it be from a news source or online blog) that you see has ideas which relate to one of the texts you will be studying in the near future. The best thing is that you’ll be able to bookmark it for a later date to revisit! For example, if one of your texts is Brooklyn, a novel about an Irish woman’s immigration to America, if you come across stories about immigration, or references to Irish versus American culture, then this would be ideal for you to save for later!
3. Lighten the workload in VCE.
You’ve already done half the work if you read your novels in the holidays. Many teachers and VCE examiners recommend at least reading your texts twice before your exam (read more about this here). This is because the first read is often to grasp ideas and get an overall understanding of the text. The second reading is for analysis, exploring in detail particular ideas, quotes and others. Since VCE is a heavy-workload year, it would definitely be a smart move if you lifted some of that weight during your holidays. Many people think it will be fine to leave the reading task to the last minute – right before they start studying the text in class, but knowing VCE, SACs and assignments will be thrown your way, meaning that you’ll have less time than you had intended to read. So the earlier you get started, the better!
The summer break is definitely a time when you can relax and just enjoy life. It all comes down to simple time-management. Instead of just lazing at the beach, why not spend a little bit of that time also reading a couple of chapters? Or, you could plan to read about 20 minutes a day, at a time that’s most convenient for you! There’s no reason why you can’t read your books and have fun during your holidays. So just open your books and give them a read!
I started at Macca’s when I was fifteen! This meant that by the time Year 12 came around, I was pretty accustomed to balancing work, school and my other commitments.
I was lucky because I had a good relationship with the management team and my rostering manager in particular. So, I was able to have an open and honest conversation with them about work arrangements for the year and I could trust that the shifts assigned to me would be appropriate for fitting in with all of my other commitments.
It was pretty straightforward! I had a conversation with my rostering manager about the year and we decided that 10-12 hours would be a manageable amount for me. This ended up being around 2 shifts per week!
Definitely! I would usually work Thursday or Friday nights and Saturday mornings. So, this allowed me to see my friends on Saturday nights and Sundays. I would be really strict in not making any commitments (if possible) on Sundays because it was my one day per week to do whatever I felt I needed to alleviate stress and prepare for the week ahead.
There were a few things I could have done if this happened.
I’m pretty lucky with where I work so I was always able to trust they would work towards my best interest, especially throughout Year 12!
It’s funny you ask, actually! I actually heard some advice that recommended if an opportunity comes up to do something you like with your friends, to take it. The reason being, that often if you try to plan out a time to see friends in advance, they might not be free, so if you can rework your schedule, I’d recommend taking up the offer and then the studying and homework can easily be done at another time. I’m not recommending that you neglect your schoolwork, I’m recommending that you do your schoolwork once you’ve given yourself a couple of hours a week to take care of yourself — it’s so important to prevent burnout!
I found that if I saw my friends and had a few laughs with them (at an appropriate time!) it would rejuvenate me so much more effectively than taking a 30 minute break at home. Obviously I wouldn’t accept an invitation to go out for dinner with some mates if I was in the middle of completing a practice exam, but, for example if I’d been studying for four hours straight, seeing my friends would be a perfect opportunity to freshen up my mind and relieve some stress.
It was pretty simple, actually! I would look at my SAC schedule and other school commitments in my diary and then roster off the days in the lead up to SACs, etc.
I actually took 6 weeks of annual leave from work in the lead up to, and during exams. But, I didn’t study all the time, despite having a lot of free time. I obviously studied quite a bit, but I also used any spare moments to see friends and do things I liked to alleviate stress and reduce the risk of my impending burnout!
I went away for about a week and then I started working a few days after I got back.
Be honest with yourself, know what works for you and know your limits. The key factor that enabled me to have an effective work/study/life balance was knowing myself and my needs educationally — from experience, I knew how many days I needed to prepare and what I needed to do to prepare for SACs in the most effective ways!
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.
Dear my past VCE English Student self,
Before embarking on your Year 12 English journey, I believe there are some wise words from your future and possibly wiser self that would benefit you throughout this challenging, yet rewarding year.
1. Keep perspective
Yes, Year 12 is important. Yes English is important. Yes, doing well in SACs is important. But so is breathing, maintaining a balanced lifestyle and spending time with your friends and family. Throughout the year you are going to waste time calculating minor details, worrying over completed SACs and thinking ‘I’m doomed!’
I’m telling you now, remember the big picture. The year really is a marathon (not a sprint), and the exam should not only be seen as the finish line, but also the finals. (Where yes, your SAC marks/past results matter, but it is like the Olympics. If you train hard, like other athletes, you have the opportunity to challenge Usain Bolt and do a personal best!)
2. Have Confidence
Obviously over confidence can manifest into complacency. But because you will be a bundle of nerdy anxiety, you will have done the work. If you have done all in your power to prepare for the SAC/exam - the rest is beyond your control. It is important to know that if a SAC does not go the way you hoped, it is not the end of the world. Don’t let it knock your confidence down and spread to the next area of study. It is important to isolate your disappointments. Back yourself when walking into the SAC/exam by imagining yourself, calmly sitting down and showing off out your knowledge. English rewards thinkers. So even if you are not the best at spelling, grammar and expression - think big (but spelling, grammar and expression all matter too!).
3. Be Curious
This may seem like a tagline to Britney Spear’s perfume marketing campaign, but I believe this will be an important ingredient to your success in the year ahead. Inquisitiveness has the power to seep into all your subjects. Inquisitiveness that compels you to pursue your ideas, gather information and question what and how you are learning. This not only enriches your ideas, but it means you are expanding your mind. Come to class with questions to pick your classmates or teachers brains with - ask them and be ready with an open mind.
There are going to be many times throughout the year that you will wish you could do anything but finish an essay. You will attempt to procrastinate by watching the Bachelorette, taking Buzzfeed quizzes and spiral yourself into a YouTube hole. However, looking back, it is easy to see that teasing out your convoluted ideas, thoughts and errors, is a very beneficial process - far more than pumping out mindless essays.
You’re going to find the first few essays you write for texts the hardest (and probably the worst)! But it is an important step in the result. Don’t be afraid to be imperfect!
5. Run your own race
At the beginning of the year, you are going to spend time comparing yourself to others and secretly cataloguing their SAC marks in your mind (just a head up: That is not only a waste of time, but incredibly pointless!). Regardless of whether English is your strength or just because it is a requirement - competing against your peers is a waste of energy. Furthermore, when it comes to the exam, you and your cohort should work together. As for you to do well, you all must do well.
At the beginning of the year you’re going to read sample essay responses and think ‘Is this English?! What do these words mean?!’ However, if you begin a little note on your computer or phone that you slowly add interesting and diverse words to, then when it comes to writing responses you have a greater pool to draw from. Once you use them a few times, they will become engrained in your mind and pave the way for vocabulary mastery!
2. Study group
Find friends that are at a similar level and that have different teachers to yours - and 2 weeks out from a SAC, get together to make some mind maps and share ideas. It is important that you all contribute equally and all gain from the time you spend! (Advice: Do not do this in the weeks leading up to formal as conversation will likely go off topic.)
Be organized with your notes! Make sure you begin this at the start of the year, and make them easy and clean to understand. Often it is good to make multiple copies as you progress, gradually refining and shedding excess notes for when you arrive at the exam! I also suggest emailing a copy to yourself or regularly backing it up on a hard drive, as you will hear the horror stories of students losing all their notes. Often Unit 4 wraps up quite quickly, and the time between this and exams is often scattered with ‘final day’ activities, valedictories and formal assemblies as you farewell school. Even though you do have time to commit your knowledge, having well formatted notes heading into the exam will put you ahead of the game.
4. The texts
Always read the texts, not just the study guide. Even though these resources are often highly informative, it is important to use them to build your understanding, rather than creating it. Knowing your texts back to front, is also big secret to success! As often most students will know the key passages and plot developments, but if you can tease out obscure and small moments within the text in your essays - this will help your work to stand out.
This may seem old fashioned - but I’m not just talking about the physical newspaper! Reading articles online, researching authors, reviews and scholarly reports about your texts are highly valuable. Not only are they great to nab vocabulary from, but they keep your mind rolling and constantly developing your ideas!
There you go ‘past’ Anna! You’re going to have one of the best years of your life - even though you’ll cry, fall asleep on the floor and be perennially triggered by the library - You’re going to stand on the other side and say it was worth it. Year 12 not only is going to break you, but make you.
Enjoy the ride!
P.S: Don’t wear those shoes to Year 12 formal - they will kill your feet!
Can you believe that the eagerly awaited July holidays are finally here? It’s a bit scary to think that this marks the half-way point until end of year exams. We all know that the VCE year travels on too quickly, leaving us feeling that there is always too little time, and too much to do! As time ticks away and end-of-year exams draw closer, it is important to make efficient use out of your mid-year holidays. Listed below are 5 ideas that you might like to take onboard:
Depending on how you like to study, your approach to these holidays may be different to others. However, the take home message is to ensure you have a well-deserved break while still maintaining a healthy level of study. These few weeks can really make a difference in your VCE studies, so do what you think will help you improve the most. That’s all today, enjoy your holidays!
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!
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!
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!
Quotations, better known by their abbreviation ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, and provides 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 Guides 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 they follow the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either style, 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):
How You Integrate a Quote into an Essay Depends on Three Factors:
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 just for the sake of quoting. Quotations can be 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.
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)
A phrase quotation 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 consists of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations to 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 for 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:
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:
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.
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 (looked), present (look) 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)
The author may write in a 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)
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)
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, you can underline the title of the text instead of using single quotation marks. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.
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. If you're following the American standard, you'll need to do this the opposite way - that is, using double quotation marks for the author's words and and then single quotation marks for the quote. We recommend sticking to the preferred Australian style though, which is single and then double.
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 in 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.
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.
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?
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? Well, it's because these quotes are the most likely to be overused by students - absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. You want to be unique and original. So, how are you going to find those 'good quotes'? Recognise 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. Once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the more 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 already exist 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 letter S, or he had a lisp of some sort. What my friend did was he found this one word where, throughout the entire book, the guy with the lisp only ever said the S one time and that was a massive thing. So, he used that. This is something that is really unique and original. So, go ahead and try to find your own quotes.
Tip Three: Realise that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. Yes, the main character does often 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 too. Their quote is going to be just as strong in your essay as 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 analysed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or offer 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 analyse 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 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 analysing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the text and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point.
Those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts!
Need more help with quotes? Learn about 5 Ways You're Using Quotes Wrong.
Resources for texts mentioned/referenced in this blog post:
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