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English & EAL
October 11, 2018
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As the VCE English exam creeps up on us, many of you will be testing your writing skills under timed conditions (if not, then you better!!!). But, have you sat down under timed conditions for 15 minutes of Reading Time? Have you thought about how to maximise reading time? Many of you may have already figured out how you will approach Reading Time in your exam. Some of you will have a rough idea, while some will pay attention to detail – knowing how to spend each and every minute in that 15 minutes of silence. During Year 12, I was somewhere in between. I knew I didn’t want to waste precious time like others – those who would simply open the exam booklet, check out the three sections, then sit there staring blankly at the clock to tick over to 9:15am (you will definitely see some classmates doing this :’)) Below is a 5x5x5 guideline which, in my opinion, is the most strategic way to maximise every single minute in Reading and Writing Time. Keep reading afterwards for more details!
The best tip I’ve received from a VCAA examiner is: ‘Don’t automatically select the prompt that looks easiest.’
Why? While a prompt may look ‘easier’, it may not necessarily enable you to delve into the text to the best of your ability. It is worth spending a few extra seconds contemplating how you would break down your other available prompts. This is worth doing because sometimes, you actually realise that the prompt which looked ‘harder’ to deal with initially (probably because of some scary-looking keywords), is more suited to you and your ability to respond.
In case you’re wondering, a ‘mental plan’ is my way of saying ‘do a plan in your head’. You should always plan (don’t even get me started if you don’t!). You will most definitely reassure yourself and calm your nerves once you’ve organised your contention(s) in your mind and the examples you want to use. Don’t wait until Writing Time to do this, because you can knuckle out hurdles straight away (especially if it takes you time to come up with ideas and evidence!).
Don’t jump straight into analysing techniques straight away. Reason: This may obscure your interpretation of the contention. The contention is the first thing you need to get right. So sit back, read the article for what it is, and absorb as much of the argument presented to you.
Your second reading should firstly, reinforce your interpretation of the author’s contention, and secondly, involve you identifying language techniques! This should take you right up to the end of Reading Time but even if you still have spare time left, it doesn’t hurt to read the article(s) a third time! The more times you read something, the better your mind will consolidate the cold material in front of you!
Feel free to take on board this guideline or to create your own – at the end of the day, if you have a plan for Reading Time, you’re set!
You've done all that hard work thinking up 'mental plans' during Reading Time, let's put them to paper. Don't skip this step, because you would otherwise have wasted your precious 15 minutes getting ahead. Moreover, it's highly likely you'll forget the points you want to write about if you just store it in your brain. Remember that you are in an adrenaline-driven situation, where nerves can get the better of you. Avoid any mind blanks by guaranteeing yourself success and write the damn plan down!
55 minutes is a good goal because it forces you to get your act together. Aiming for an essay in 60 minutes can often turn into 65 minutes, or even longer. At the very least if you do go over time with a '55 minute per essay' rule, you will put yourself in a position where you can afford to go slightly overtime, and yet still have enough time for other essays.
This is a step that many people skip, but if you're reading this blog - you won't be joining them. A quick review of your work can help you edit errors you didn't notice while writing. As you practise in the lead up to exams, take note of what errors you tend to make when writing. Is it expression, punctuation, or spelling errors? Keep an eye on your most common mistakes when proof-reading to be more a more effective editor. It is these small incremental changes you can make in your essays which add up to make a powerful impact on the final product.
Share this post with your friends and best of luck for your VCE English exam!
Hey guys. So previously I've done a video where I talked about how to write a thousand word, a thousand, a thousand-worded essay, and one hour. And so that segues into this particular video where I'm talking about writing three essays in three hours. So if you haven't watched that video, then I'll pop it up in the comment. I'll pop it up in the card up above. I would recommend you go watch that first before you watch this, because pretty much all of the concepts that I talk about in that video, uh, I just expected details that you should know for this video. So instead of actually breaking down the essays as I did in the previous video, what I'm going to do this time is talk more so about, you know, how to actually write three essays in three hours and just not get burnt out and not die, basically.
Yeah, it's that serious. So I've got a few tips for you guys, but I'll keep this short. First thing is that yes, you do want to practice at least one time writing three essays in three hours. And the reason why I say that is because inevitably there will come times where one essay will kind of overlap into another hour. And you just want to ensure that you can know how to handle those situations when we're practicing in one hour blocks. I think it's fantastic to make sure that we can do that, but then kind of like three hours and three essays is another ballgame altogether. So I would recommend at least practicing once sitting down somewhere and just smashing out the three hours worth of work, just so that you know exactly what it's going to feel like when you go into the exam. Now, most schools will actually offer a, like a mock exam for you to do so that literally could be your one practice that you just need.
But if you were like me, you might want to do it twice. So in your own time, kind of print off your own exam paper and go ahead and just set aside three hours and just do it that way. The second thing is I heavily emphasized doing reading time. So reading time is pretty much your mental thinking game going strong. And this is where a lot of your pre-work will be done before we actually go into the essays themselves. So make sure you practice reading time. It's 15 minutes before the actual exam, but in that 15 minutes, you can plan three of your essays and you can look up in your dictionary, any key words that you might want to define, or you could even look up the dictionary and try to find synonyms for particular keywords. So what I mean by that is when you open up a dictionary and you look up that word inside the dictionary, often the definition for it will have synonyms for it.
So that's like my little hack that I had when I was at school. And then the last thing I would say is just make sure you know what to do if you go over time. So, like I mentioned before, there may be situations where, you know, worst case scenario, you don't finish your essay in time. And that could be because of many reasons. But first thing for you to remember is if you're running over time, sacrifice your conclusion first, do not sacrifice your third body paragraph. I think mostly what happens is students will kind of be somewhere in the third body paragraph for that essay, but rather than skipping that and just do it a little bit of a mess to finish it up and then going into the conclusion, finish off your third body paragraph. And then just forget about the conclusion. The reason why I say that is because a conclusion is basically just the summary of what your entire essay is about.
It's not really supposed to be, to add in any new information where as your third body paragraph. You're still explaining your ideas. You're still elaborating and discussing the prompt itself. So that is way more important to get you the marks that you need than a conclusion. The next thing I would do if you're running behind is save a proofreading until very last. So in the last video I talked about doing proofreading last five minutes of every essay. But if you do not have time for that later, leave all your proofreading until the very end and, and you might find that you only have five minutes, it's true proofread all of your essays, but at least you kind of have that reassurance was that you made yourself more time to write beforehand. And so if you literally find yourself writing right up until the last minute and you can't perforate fine sacrifice that too.
Now last thing is, let's just say that you have sacrificed your conclusion and you're still writing your third body paragraph right up until the very last minute. You still have at least half a paragraph to go, but you know, the first hour is over and you need to move onto your second essay. I feel like you can either approach this two ways. The first way is just finish it off, but then move on to the next one as quick as possible. And obviously your hope there is that you will finish the second essay in time within that hour. So that by the time you get to your thing, essay, you are on track again. Right? But in the other alternative that you could do, and probably one that I via towards a little bit more is just stop your third paragraph. Okay? You still have maybe five more sentences you still want to write, but just move onto your next one. I think that's kind of important because what happens is once we start running into the next hour, you will find that with your first essay, you'll run maybe five minutes into your second hour, but then you might find that you run 10 minutes into the third hour with your second essay leaving only 15 minutes to finish your third essay. And that might not be like what you want. And you might know that you just won't be able to achieve that because the third essay is maybe the hardest one that you left to last. And that's the one that usually takes you the longest. So yeah, like these are just thoughts and considerations for you guys to take away with whatever you guys do. I think just be strategic. Think about these things beforehand, because they are things that could trip you up when you are in the exam, you're stressed, you're anxious, you're under time pressure and you just need to get things done.
It might kind of make you do like bad decisions or you might do something out of the ordinary that you normally wouldn't do. But if you think about these things beforehand and think about, okay, this is what I'm going to do. If this situation occurs, then at least you kind of have some control over what's happening. And that gives you a little bit of reassurance. That is it from me. I wanted to let you guys know that because we are approaching the end of year. And I know that you guys might not need English help from me very shortly, especially when you're in year 12. I wanted to let you guys know that I do have a personal YouTube channel as well. So that's just linked up above for you. And also in the description box below. If you're interested in following me there, then go ahead and subscribe. I would really love to see you guys there and just be able to still have the connection with you guys. You know, it'd be nice to not only just have you guys on board with me for a year, and then you guys kind of disappear and do your own thing, I'd still really love to stay in contact and be able to hear how you guys are going to once you finish school. So I will see you guys next time. Bye!
Once you have finished all your Literature SACs for the year, all that is left is a 2 hour and 15 minute exam that will play a major part in determining your end of year study score. It seems extremely daunting, and because many of the SACs differ from the exam task, you may be feeling a bit nervous or confused about what exactly the exam entails.
In describing the task, the exam paper states:
For each of your selected texts, you must use one or more of the passages as the basis for a discussion of that text.
In your pieces of writing, refer in detail to the passage or passages and the texts. You may include minor references to other texts.
Therefore, you must write two close analysis pieces on the exam, one on each of your chosen texts. You must use the three passages included on the exam to explore and analyse the text as a whole. Most of your piece should be analysis of what is in front of you in the exam, but you must also use evidence from outside the passages, to demonstrate your knowledge and connection with the text.
The exam will be marked against a criterion that differs from any of your SACs (although it is quite similar to your close analysis SAC). Therefore it is imperative to understand the criteria you will be marked on before beginning to study for the Literature exam, and especially before you try some practice exams. They are as follows, and can be found on the VCAA Literature exam page.
Understanding of the text demonstrated in a relevant and plausible interpretation
This criteria relates to your ability to show your comprehension of the text. The examiner will be noting whether the concepts, ideas and themes in the text are understood. They will assess your interpretation of the text, and whether it is relevant and fair in relation to the meaning in the text
Ability to write expressively and coherently to present an interpretation
Literature is a writing subject, therefore this criteria asks that you write with fluency, an expressive vocabulary and clarity. Your piece must also be a coherent, unified work that clearly articulates your discussion and interpretation of the passages and text as a whole. This criteria can also relate to your use of grammar, punctuation and spelling as the clarity of your piece can be threatened if these are not used correctly.
Understanding of how views and values may be suggested in the text
You must demonstrate an ability to identify, discuss and analyze the views and values within the text. You must be able to support your discussion with evidence from the text
Analysis of how key passages and/or moments in the text contribute to an interpretation
Your ability to analyse the three passages, as well as the text as a whole, and draw an interpretation from them. Examiners will be looking to see that you can use set material and the whole text as a basis for discussion.
Analysis of the features of a text and how they contribute to an interpretation
This criteria determines that you must identify factors including metalanguage, specific language and authorial techniques, and discuss how they create meaning. Remember that this is literature, so discussing the different elements used to construct a text (character, plot, setting, motifs, symbols” is imperative.
Analysis and close reading of textual details to support a coherent and detailed interpretation of the text
This criteria determines that you need to use evidence from the text (including quotes) in order to aid a logical and comprehensive interpretation of the text. Examiners will be looking at your ability to look deeply into smaller authorial choices, and how they create meaning.
Best of luck!
William Wordsworth was a British poet and primary co-founder of the Romantic literary movement. He strongly believed that the poetry of the nineteenth century was much too fast-paced and too mindless to be able to evoke a meaningful message to the reader. Contending that ‘all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling,’ he wished to pioneer Romanticism to create a genre of poetry that reminded the reader of the very essence of humanity.
As such, Wordsworth and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge founded a new style of poetry through their co-written 1798 Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poetry which attempted to unite the human condition with the tranquility of nature.
As a resident of England’s picturesque Lake District, Wordsworth enjoyed becoming one with nature by wandering through the neighbouring hills, moors and lakeside views, while mentally composing poems inspired by its glorious elements.
William Wordsworth: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
The Romantic movement of poetry was founded during the Industrial Revolution, a period in which people were growing farther from the serene comfort of nature and closer towards modern mechanisation and mass manufacturing. As such, a primary characteristic of Romantic poetry is nature, as poets attempted to remind humanity of its meditative respite, and the comfort it could provide in the backdrop of the pollution that accompanied the growing industrialisation of England.
Wordsworth was a pantheist and believed that God was within every aspect of the natural world. In addition to this, he categorised himself as an ardent ‘worshipper of nature’. Thus, much of his poetry explores nature in a sacred and religious sense, presenting goodness and naturalness as synonymous - aptly displaying his belief of nature as a living, divine entity that could only to be ignored at humankind’s peril.
Romantic poetry subdues reason, intellect and the scientific truth in order to place more focus on the ‘truth of the imagination’. As a result of the harsh rigidity and rationality of the Enlightenment era, all human sentiments, from melancholiness to hopefulness, were celebrated by Romantics as important instruments in poetry to remind the common people of sentimentality in a modern and intransigent era.
As Romantics believed that these feelings allowed one to look deeper into one’s self, the theme of powerful emotions constructs the very essence of Romantic poetic poetry. As a result of this, rather than placing much importance on sense or sensibility, much of Wordsworth’s poems scrutinise his own effusion of feelings and the universal truths that these help him discover, speaking as the characteristic Romantic poet occupying a sentimental place of alienation.
The Industrial Revolution oversaw the creation of distinct class differences between the extremely wealthy class of businessmen, and financially struggling workers and entrepreneurs. Poets, like all other artists, were forced to become increasingly independent and needed to rely on their unique vision and style in order to succeed in their gradually declining line of work. The Romantics subsequently began to view themselves as heroes who challenged and overcame the social challenges that arose; as champions of independence and self-awareness. As such, Romantic poetry often features characters or symbols of valiant heroism, as the poet acts as a visionary figure in his work, like a prophet telling of poetic self-awareness.
In accordance with their celebration of human emotions, Romantics also became fascinated with the literary conception of ‘the sublime’, a mental state that Classical authors such as Longinus defined as ‘physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, or artistic greatness’ that is of such magnificence that it cannot be measured.
The Romantics explored these extraordinary experiences in their poetry, describing the power of such sublime experiences on one’s senses, mind and imagination. Wordsworth expressed in his essay that a sublime experience is what occurs when one’s mind attempts to attain ‘something towards which it can make approaches but which it is incapable of attaining’. For example, his biographical poem, The Prelude recounts his ascent of Mount Snowdon and the sublime emotions he experiences as a result of its powerful atmosphere.
Many have viewed Wordsworth’s view of the sublime as the Romantic standard, as his poetry focuses equally on both the alluring and devastating aspects of such sublime experiences. His work focuses on the intertwined pleasure and terror that is generated as a result of such experiences, and how either end of the spectrum is ultimately beautiful and inspiring.
Context is really important when engaging with a text in VCE English, so be sure to read Context and Authorial Intention in VCE English.
Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.
And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.
This passage, taken from Wordsworth’s Tables Turned; An Evening Scene on the Same Subject, is a primary example of a poem displaying the Romantics’ propensity and reverence for the natural landscape.
The speaker of the poem contrasts the ‘endless strife’ of book-learning to the spontaneous and liberal method of learning through interacting with nature. The description of the ‘woodland [linnet’s]’ song as ‘sweet’ music evokes an image of heavenly bliss associated with the charms hidden within nature. That ‘there’s more of wisdom in’ such nature works in tandem with this, as the speaker asserts that the natural landscape is able to teach a lesson of a magnificence incomparable to the monotony of the ‘dull’ studying thorough book-learning.
The speaker’s evocation of ‘blithe’ emotions through sound is continued in the second stanza, in which ‘the throstle’ delivers another divine ‘song’ in an attempt to entice the reader. The speaker furthers his advocation for natural learning through a condemnation of route learning, as he attacks teachers of such as ‘mean preachers’. The directly following use of a pun emphasises this contrast, as the ‘light of things’ symbolises both the enlightenment that will accompany nature’s teaching, as well as the literal ‘light’ of nature underneath the sun.
The final line of the passage summarises the speaker’s persuasion aptly, as the phrase, ‘let nature be your teacher’, rings similar to a passage which can be found in the Bible; the speaker thus implies that the natural world is the all-superior entity and source of knowledge that one should take lessons from.
The rhyme and the rhythmic beat of the poem give it a sound comparable to a nursery-rhyme. This works in tandem with the Romantic viewpoint that great poetic language should be simple, accessible and conversational; as understandable to the common people as a nursery rhyme is to a child. This similarity also works in accordance with the authorial message of the poem, that nature should be a universal ‘teacher’, as nursery rhymes are often employed as enjoyable sing-songs that educate children on a moral level. As such, Wordsworth here strengthens his viewpoint through his poetic words; that nature should be a mentor to all.
For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy…
Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance—
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence—wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!
This passage is taken from the final section from Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, a critical work in Wordsworth’s poetic career. Tracing the growth of his mind in different periods of time, the poem is a condensed, spiritual autobiography of Wordsworth himself as it views his younger self from the perspective of his older self, weighing the sense of ‘loss’ suffered against the belief that the years have brought him ‘abundant recompense’.
After recalling his experiences with nature over his formative and adult years, the speaker now addresses his younger sister Dorothy, as he gives her heartfelt advice about what he has learnt. Here, Dorothy becomes a ghost of his former self, as he hears ‘the language of his former heart’ when she speaks and perceives his ‘former pleasure’ in the ‘soothing lights of [her] wild eyes’.
The speaker depicts his loyalty to nature and its reflective loyalty to him, by the expression that ‘nature never did betray [his] heart’ that loves Dorothy, and this is the reason they have been living from ‘joy to joy’, lending nature a role of salvation.
The speaker then directly addresses the moon as a kind of separate entity, in order to ask it to bless his sister by shining on her ‘solitary walk’, so that when she is an adult her mind may become a ‘mansion for all lovely forms’. This is an ode to the harshness of the society at the time, in which the privileged businessmen and factory owners possessed a monopoly over British wealth, and accompanying prejudices clouded social judgement. As such, the speaker expresses his desires for his beloved sister to be exempt from such hardship that he was once subjected to, so that she can enjoy ‘sweet sounds and memories’ without experiencing the vexations of an unrelenting human society.
The conclusion of the poem is cyclic, as it takes the speaker back to the ‘green pastoral landscape’ of the beginning of his meditations. This symbolises the omnipresent timelessness of nature. As the speaker muses upon his ‘past existence’, he wishes to convey his own reverence for nature to his beloved sister, as he expresses that she will not forget the ‘steep woods and lofty cliffs’ upon which he first understood and respected nature.
The language utilised in this poem is lucid and natural, characteristic of Romantic poetry. The simplicity of the words chosen by Wordsworth effectively communicate the honesty of his own emotions towards nature. The elevated blank verse structure furthers this simplicity, as its familiar and easy tone is like that of a comfortable heartbeat or pulse that runs throughout one’s body in a serene state of mind.
Ultimately, the unconstrained and liberating tone of the poem, in accordance with its free blank verse structure emphasises Wordsworth’s belief that nature is within our very selves. Just as the poem runs smoothly and continuously, akin to a human pulse, Wordsworth suggests that nature too runs within everyone as an incessant heartbeat, necessary in order to experience a ‘warmer’ and ‘holier’ love for this universe.
The oral presentation SAC is worth 40% of your unit 4 English mark and is comprised of two sections: your statement of intention, and your oral presentation. It can be difficult to understand what is expected of you, as this SAC definitely varies from your typical English essay! So, if you need help understanding what’s expected of you, check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations. If you’d like an even more in-depth guide on how to approach this assessment, definitely check out the How to Write a Killer Oral Presentation study guide!
Here, I’m going to dissect five of the most common mistakes students make during their oral presentation, and gloss over ways in which you can improve your marks for this critical SAC.
Whilst your other English SACs may require you to write in a formal and sophisticated manner, the oral presentation SAC is the one shining exception! Many students fall into the trap of writing a frankly boring and uninspiring speech that does no justice to their academic ability. Here are some mistakes to watch out for:
Your school may or may not already give you a list of topics to choose from. However, in the event that you must research your own topic, it is essential that you choose an issue relevant to your current audience. You must adopt a clear contention in your speech.
Do not, for example, write a five-minute speech on why one sports team is better than the other, or why murder should be illegal. Choose an issue that you can take a passionate stance on and engage the audience with. Avoid a contention that is obvious and aim to actually persuade your class. Make sure you choose a 'WOW' topic for your VCE Oral Presentation.
This is one of the biggest mistakes students make when writing their oral presentation. I cannot stress this enough – your speech is not a formally written text response! You are presenting your stance on an issue, which means that you are allowed to be passionate and creative. You can educate your audience on the facts without boring them to sleep. Let’s analyse two sample excerpts on the same issue to see why:
Sample 1: 722,000 Australians are on Newstart. Single people receive approximately $40 a day. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently increased this payment by $2.20 to adjust to price inflation. However, I am arguing that this price should be increased more.
Sample 2: As Australians, we pride ourselves on community values, and supporting one another. Yet, the way in which we treat 722,000 of our most vulnerable people doesn’t reflect this. The Australian government recently increased the Newstart payment by $2.20 weekly. But this means that Newstart recipients still live on just over $40 a day. Ask yourself, is that really enough to survive?
Samples 1 and 2 have the same information. Yet, Sample 2 engages with the audience in a much more effective manner. Try to avoid an overly formal tone and speak with passion and interest.
Presenting in front of your class can be a very daunting experience. However, in order to distinguish yourself from your classmates, you must speak clearly and with confidence. Try to avoid making the following mistakes:
Think back to primary school. Remember when your teacher would read you a storybook, and they would put on voices to make the story more engaging and interesting? The same sort of idea applies to your oral presentation. Simply reading a well-written speech will not get you marks. Rather, you should talk to your audience. Make eye contact, maintain good posture, and project your voice. Confidence is key!
I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we haven’t prepared ourselves for a test as well as we should have. The oral presentation SAC is not an assessment that you can simply wing on the day. Oftentimes, poor scores stem from a lack of preparation which can be reflected in the way students present themselves – and stalling for time is a big giveaway. Save yourself the mental stress and prepare for your SAC by writing out your speech beforehand (or even preparing a few dot points/cue cards). I personally find it helpful to practise in front of a mirror or even in front of pets/stuffed toys.
If you’re gunning for a good mark, you want to stand out from your class. This can be especially difficult if you are presenting the same topic as one of your peers. Avoid:
This is another big mistake students make when presenting. Let’s just estimate that there are approximately 20-25 people in your English class. Now, imagine if every person who presented before you began their speech with:
“Good morning, today I’ll be talking about why Newstart should be increased”.
It gets repetitive. You can distinguish yourself by beginning in a myriad of other ways. Here’s an example of how I started my own oral presentation for my SAC:
Imagine you are a foreigner, excited to visit Australia. In your head, you’re picturing our beautiful flora and fauna, our stunning beaches, and the Great Coral Reef. You finally arrive after a long flight, eager to explore the country. You’re expecting the Great Coral Reef to be boasting colour, to look like all the pictures spotted online. Instead, you find what looks like a wasteland – a reef that has essentially been bleached to death. As Australians, we have to wonder what went wrong. If we really loved and cared for our environment, how could we not be protecting the reef, preventing any further damage? Recently, Hawaii banned sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, reasoning that these chemicals were causing harm to coral. Yet, in Australia, banning sunscreens with these chemicals are seen as drastic and useless measures, which simply isn’t true when you look at the facts.
This is an example of an “imagined scenario” starter. How to Write a Killer Oral Presentation outlines other ways to start your speech with examples! If you’re having trouble figuring out how to start with a BANG, definitely make use of this resource.
I say this to my students regardless of the English SAC that they’re writing – you want your writing/speech to reflect that you are indeed learning and enjoying your education. Your teacher will be able to tell if you choose a topic that you have no interest in, or if you are simply regurgitating information. Use this SAC to learn about an issue and take interest in your learning. Believe me, your grades will thank you for it.
Whether you are allowed to present with visuals or not is up to your English teacher. However, it is essential that you do not incorrectly use these visuals, as it can cost you marks. Avoid:
I’m a bit old-fashioned myself and honestly prefer presenting a speech with no images. That’s not to say that some images can’t be a great addition to your piece. However, PowerPoint can quickly steer you away from presenting your topic in an engaging manner.
This is an oral presentation with a stance on an issue, not an assessment where you are marked for presenting information to an audience. Therefore, reading off of PowerPoint slides is a big NO.
The point of focus of your oral presentation should be on YOU – your words, your stance on the issue. This ties into the PowerPoint criticism I made above, but using a cluttered infographic takes away from your well-written speech. Below is an example of an overly cluttered infographic:
If your speech was on renewable energy, your audience would be detracted from your stance, and too focussed on reading the information from the visual. If you have any key information that needs to be explained, it is better to embed this into your speech than rely on an infographic.
If you’ve finished writing your speech, you may have let out a big sigh of relief. But don’t get too comfortable yet – you still have to write your statement of intention (SOI). This piece of writing is supposed to accompany your speech, and it’s worth 25% of your SAC mark. Do not waste all your hard efforts by not taking the SOI seriously.
I like to think of an SOI as a language analysis of your own speech. Essentially, you should be explaining your choice of language, tone, and rhetoric, and justifying why that would make a profound impact on the audience. Make sure you understand what an SOI is.
I like thinking of this as a three-step approach:
How to Write a Killer Oral Presentation outlines exactly what is expected of you in this section of your SAC. If you’d like to see an annotated A+ statement of intention, be sure to check it out!
I hope that going through these mistakes will help you when writing your own oral presentation! It’s always best to ask your teacher or English tutor for advice if you’re unsure of where to start. Happy writing!
3. Symbols and Analysis
5. Sample Essay Topics
6. Essay Topic Breakdown
Alice Munro is a Canadian Nobel-Prize-winning author of short stories, and Runaway, first published in 2004, is a collection of eight such stories (though kind of actually only six, because three of them are sequential). These stories examine the lives of Canadian women throughout the last century, but not all of them are necessarily realistic to what daily life actually looks like. Rather, Munro uses borderline-supernatural events (which some critics say feel staged or contrived) to shed light on the tensions and challenges of gender in modern life.
This can mean that some of the stories are quite hard to follow; they go through all these twists and turns, and the lines between stories start blurring after a while. Let’s go through each in a bit more detail before jumping into our analysis.
The titular story is about a woman Carla, her husband Clark, their goat Flora, and their elderly neighbour Sylvia Jamieson. There are many runaways in the story: Carla ran away from her middle-class home to marry Clark, Flora the goat literally runs away, a scandalous lie about Sylvia’s late husband gets a bit out of hand, and now Sylvia is helping Carla run away once again, this time from Clark. Few of these runaways are really very successful: this story is really interrogating why and how.
The next three stories are sequential, and revolve around Juliet, a well-educated classicist who is working as a teacher in the first story, ‘Chance’ - it is set in 1965 and she is 21. In this story, she meets her lover Eric Porteous on a train, then finds him again six months later. Eric is sleeping around with a few women in light of his wife’s declining health and eventual passing, but by ‘Soon’ he and Juliet have settled down and had a baby together - Penelope.
‘Soon’ focuses more on the relationship between Juliet and her parents, in particular her mother Sara. Juliet feels a bit out of place now at home, and feels guilty about not being more present for Sara. In turn, ‘Silence’ depicts her own daughter running away from her. Juliet returns to her studies and only hears about Penelope’s life through a chance encounter with a friend who reveals that Penelope is now a mother herself.
The next story is about Grace, an older woman revising the family home of her husband Maury Travers. Their marriage never had a lot of passion in it really - Grace was always more interested in Maury’s family - but both of them were just doing what was expected of them. The contrast comes from Maury’s brother Neil, a doctor who accompanies Grace on a hospital trip when she cuts her foot. This trip becomes longer and more sensual, feeling adulterous even though very little actually transpires between them - the story raises questions around what counts as cheating, and what marriages should entail.
‘Trespasses’ is slightly deliberately disorienting from the start (which is actually the end of the story). We go on a flashback in the middle to learn about a father, Harry, and his daughter Lauren. One day when moving house, Lauren finds a cardboard box - Harry explains that it contains the ashes of a dead baby who he and his wife Eileen (Lauren’s mother) had had before Lauren. This leads to Lauren questioning if she was adopted, which is further complicated by Delphine, a worker at a hotel who seems to think Lauren is her biological daughter. The ending (which was teased at the beginning) is the evening of confrontation between the four characters where the truth is finally revealed.
Conversely, ‘Tricks’ has a more linear plot to follow. Robin is a carer for her asthmatic sister Joanne, but she’s taken to watching Shakespeare plays in the next town once a year. One year, she meets a European clockmaker Danilo who plans to meet her next year when she is back in town - but this doesn’t go to plan at all. It’s only 40 years later that Robin finds out Danilo had a twin brother, which is why the plan had gone downhill.
The last story in the collection is arguably the most complex, and it’s broken into 5 parts to reflect that complexity. It follows Nancy as she ages from a fresh high school graduate to an old woman by the end of the sequence, including her marriage to the town doctor Wilf. Importantly, the stories also cover her friendship with Tessa, who has the supernatural powers mentioned in the title. However, by the third story, Tessa has been abandoned in a mental hospital and she has lost her powers. Throughout the stories, we also see Ollie, Wilf’s cousin (or a figment of Nancy’s imagination according to this analysis), who seems to be responsible for Tessa’s demise.
Let’s start tracing some of the common themes between the stories.
A key theme explored throughout many of the stories is marriage and domesticity. There’s a strong sense that it’s an underwhelming experience: it doesn’t live up to expectations and it particularly dampens the lives of the women involved. Nancy’s marriage to Wilf in ‘Powers’ only happens because she feels guilty - 'I could hardly [turn him down] without landing us both in…embarrassment' - but, as a result, she loses her fun, intellectual streak as he tells her to put down her book, 'give Dante a rest'. A similar fate befalls Juliet, who gives up her study in the process of becoming married.
Marriage is also sometimes explored as a deliberate choice, even if it might have unintended consequences - for example, Carla’s marriage to Clark is described as a life that she 'chose'. This interpretation is more unclear though, and is contradicted in other stories like Passion, where Grace’s marriage is described as 'acquiescence ', acceptance without protest. It’s even contradicted to some extent in the same story: Munro compares Carla’s marriage to a 'captive' situation, where she might’ve chosen to enter the marriage, but after that has little say in how it goes.
This sounds a bit trite, but the title is a key theme as well - just not necessarily in the physical sense. Consider all of these different definitions and how they pop up in the stories. In ‘Runaway’, Carla and the goat run away, but also the lie Carla tells Clark about Leon, a runaway lie that taints his relationship with Sylvia completely. Some runaways are described as accidents - 'she – Flora – slipped through' - while others are much more deliberate. The question here is how much control we actually have over our own lives. Not a lot, it would seem.
The other side of runaway/s is to think about who the victim in each runaway is. Does somebody run away because they are 'in a bad situation, the way it happens', a victim of circumstance, or do they run away because they feel guilty, or because they’re abandoning someone else, the true victim of being left behind? Carla does seem like more of a victim of circumstance with good reason to run away, but think about Nancy leaving Tessa behind in ‘Powers’: ‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’
This question about who the real victim is might be the hardest to answer for ‘Silence’. Juliet’s daughter abandons her, but it’s not like there’s a strong history of positive mother-daughter relationships in their family: Juliet wasn’t able to give Sara what she needed ( 'she had not protected Sara') and in turn isn’t able to quite give Penelope what she needs either (Penelope having a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home '). At the same time, Penelope’s abandonment does feel quite callous and inexplicable, even if Juliet feels like it’s what she deserves; Munro suggests at the end of the story that a reunion would be an 'undeserved blessing'. The intertextuality with Aethiopica reveals Juliet’s good intentions, her similarity to the 'great-hearted queen of Ethiopia', but it doesn’t quite give us the satisfaction of a neat resolution either.
Finally, Munro’s stories also raise questions around morality. Besides what we’ve already covered - adultery, runaways - there are further questions raised around parenthood, particularly in ‘Trespasses’. Harry seems to share a bit too much information with his child, who really doesn’t need to know about the dead baby just yet. Lauren is 'not short of information', and it’s worth questioning where that boundary should be for a child of her age.
But not all ethical questions have simple answers: as in ‘Tricks’ they can sometimes just have 'outrageous', cruel punchlines that don’t reveal themselves for decades. Munro doesn’t necessarily have all the answers on this one. She brings up complex moral situations but does not pass judgment on any.
Throughout the stories, Munro brings in a few elements of Greek mythology or literature. The intertextuality in ‘Silence’ is one example, drawing on the classical text Aethiopica, but there are a few more scattered throughout the stories: the constellations of Orion and Cassiopeia in ‘Chance’ and an oracle-like figure in Tessa, a main character in ‘Powers’. All of these elements have some significance:
In general, intertextuality is a way to enrich a text by drawing parallels and linking characters to existing stories or archetypes. Here, Munro uses classical texts to add dimension to her characters in a way that is almost-but-not-quite commentary. Pre-existing Greek myths are a way for us to see what’s really going on.
The other symbol that comes up a few times in the stories is roads or railroads - basically places where runaways might happen. ‘Chance’ is set in the middle of a train journey, ‘Tricks’ involves a couple of train journeys, ‘Runaway’ maps the roads leading in and out of Carla’s home, and almost all of ‘Passion’ takes place on the road. If we broaden ‘places where runaways might happen’ to include planes as well, then we can add ‘Powers’ and ‘Silence’ to the list.
All of these spaces are what might be called liminal - they’re ‘in-between’ spaces with an air of suspense about what can happen. It’s probably most prominent in ‘Passion’, where Grace describes the events of that road trip as a 'passage” in her life, both physically and metaphorically. In general though, they’re the settings where the wildest and most significant events tend to happen.
Having great quotes is one thing, but you also want to make sure you know How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss!
Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy, a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will give you a brief glimpse on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response.
Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:
Step 1: Analyse
Step 2: Brainstorm
Step 3: Create a Plan
‘Forgive us our trespasses.’ What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway?
This quote is from ‘Trespasses’ and captures the double meaning of the word as both overstepping physical boundaries and sinning in the moral or religious sense. It’s likely we’ll want to talk about both interpretations - physically trespassing but also encroaching on boundaries in immoral ways. Note that the prompt also includes the action words ‘created’ and ‘overstepped’, meaning that there’ll be a pretty diverse range of examples that we’ll need to use to answer this prompt comprehensively.
Let’s start with physical boundaries: Carla’s marriage and the fences on her property and the US-Canada border in ‘Powers’ come to mind. Then, we’ve got non-physical boundaries: emotionally as in ‘Chance’ and ethically as in ‘Trespasses’. This is where we start getting into whether these boundaries are created or overstepped.
Clark creates boundaries for Carla and her attempts to break free from them are unsuccessful. The border in ‘Powers’ is more of an excuse for Nancy to neglect Tessa, a boundary she creates and never makes the effort to overstep. Finally, the ethical boundaries in ‘Trespasses’ are overstepped from the get-go. How can we synthesise these ideas into one essay?
I think the trick with questions like this is not to just allocate different types of boundaries and/or different action words to each paragraph. Try to think of creative ways to string these ideas together that also build towards a bigger picture or overall contention about the text as a whole. This example plan explores physical and emotional boundaries but makes a bigger argument that they are often associated with regret in Munro’s stories.
Paragraph 1: Physical boundaries are both the most intentional and the most difficult to overstep.
Paragraph 2: Munro’s stories, however, focus more on emotional boundaries, and the way these are applied varies greatly. This variation underscores their complexity.
Paragraph 3: Regardless, Munro’s characters often come to regret the boundaries they erect or overstep.
Flames is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Let’s get real - nobody likes pancakes without any toppings, or a hamburger without the bun. Well, it’s the exact same for Text Response essays. For that deeply-desired ‘A+’ written on your SAC, you’ll need a holistic interpretation of your text; including some ingredients that are so commonly pushed to the periphery. There are several components that assist in making your essay ‘stand out’ against fellow students, and each should be addressed to convey comprehensive knowledge of your text. Along with the points below, don't forget to also read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Frankenstein is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
2. Historical Contexts and Setting
4. Feminist Interpretation
5. Sample Essay Topics
6. Essay Topic Breakdown
Victor’s personal torment throughout the novel arises as a result of his attempt to surge beyond accepted human limits of science. Walton mirrors this pursuit by his attempt to surpass previous human explorations in his endeavour to reach the North Pole. Shelley evidently warns against such pursuits, as Victor’s creation causes the destruction of all those dear to him, and Walton finds himself critically trapped between sheets of ice, with only his deep loneliness to keep him company. A key difference between Victor and Walton’s fate, however, is that while Victor’s hatred of the creature drives himself into misery, he serves as a warning for the latter to pull back from his treacherous mission, proving just how dangerous the desire for knowledge can become.
The sublimity of the natural landscape is a typical Romantic symbol throughout the novel, as it acts as a source of emotional and spiritual renewal for both Frankenstein and his creature. Depressed and remorseful after the deaths of William and Justine, Victor retreats to Mont Blanc in the hopes that its grandness will uplift his spirits. Likewise, the creature’s ‘heart lightens’ as spring arrives, delivering him from the ‘hellish’ cold and abandonment of the winter. Such as this, nature acts as an instrument through which Shelley mirrors inherent similarity between Frankenstein and the creature. Nature is also constantly depicted as a force stronger than that of man, perceivable by its punishment of Frankenstein for attempting to violate maternal laws in his unnatural creation of the creature. As such, Shelley suggests that Frankenstein’s hubristic attitude towards nature ultimately results in his damnation.
The creature is rejected almost solely due to its hideously ugly physical appearance, standing at ‘eight feet tall’ and described as ‘a thing even Dante could not have conceived’. Prejudice against outward appearances becomes apparent throughout the novel, as despite educating itself and developing a ‘sophisticated speech’, the creature continues to be judged solely on its appearance and is shunned and beaten due to its repulsiveness. Shelley condemns the extent of this prejudice through the character of William, who, despite the creature’s belief that he is far too young to have ‘imbibed a horror of deformity’, demonstrates intense loathing at the ‘ugly wretch’. In stark contrast to this, the reader can perceive a prevalent social privilege of beauty, as numerous characters are favoured solely for their outward appearances. Safie, similar to the creature in that she is also foreign and unlearned in English, is admired for her ‘countenance of angelic beauty’. While the ‘demoniacal corpse’ of the creature is perceived by society as ‘a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned’, Safie’s beauty marks her as a cherished individual who ‘infuses new life’ into souls.
Victor’s obsession with creating life is shrouded in secrecy, and his obsession with destroying his creation remains equally secretive until his revelation to Walton near the end of the story. However, while Victor chooses to remain reclusive due to his horror and guilt, the creature is forced to do so merely by his hideous appearance. Despite this, the theme of secrecy also links the creator and creature through the character of Walton; in confessing to Walton of his crimes before he dies, Victor is able to escape this stifling secrecy that ruined his life, just as the monster desperately takes advantage of Walton’s presence to force a human connection, hoping to find someone who will empathise with his miserable existence as ‘a monster’.
Frankenstein depicts a variety of Shelley’s views and values. Some ways to word these in an essay would be:
Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy, a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response.
Here are a few practice essay questions:
You could approach this topic in a character-based manner, and focus on three female characters:
For more advice on Frankenstein, read Kevin's blog post on How to Nail A Frankenstein Essay.
1. List of Listening Resources That You Can Access For Free
2. How To Use These Free Resources (a Step-by-Step Guide)
3. Let Me Walk You Through How I approach These Listening Exercises
4. Time to Test Your Listening Skills
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 this blog, you will find a comprehensive list of external resources that are accessible for free. Although they are not designed specifically for the purpose of VCAA exams, they can still boost your marks if used wisely. I will offer some advice that helped me receive a perfect study score in EAL and give you a step-by-step guide on how to use these listening resources to better prepare for EAL listening.
ABC Radio National
Randall’s Listening Lab
ABC 5 minutes more (this is super fun and easy one to listen to, perfect for times when we feel a bit lazy)
BBC The Newsroom
And for my fellow Chinese friends, I recommend 可可英语. It pretty much includes all major news sources worldwide including the Voice of America, CNN, ABC, National Public Radio, NBC News, BBC, The Economist and National Geography. I particularly love the fact that both the website and its free app offer English transcription and Chinese translation side by side.
I recommend you listen to the audio three times. Below, I have broken down what you should pay attention to during each listening exercise.
1. I usually underline key information that gives me information on ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ (refer to the table in Step 4 below for definitions for these ‘W’ words).
2. Highlight the main person/subject that the question is referring to. This will help you during note taking and formulating your answer. Under the stress of exams, we might lose track of which speaker is talking, especially when the two speakers sound similar. By highlighting the name of the speaker in the question, it reminds us which speaker to pay attention to when answering the question.
This is pretty self-explanatory!
Step 1: Fill in the blanks and try to be aware of words you don’t quite ‘get’.
Step 2: Note down how the speakers convey their attitude, feeling, ideas, etc.
Step 3: Interaction between speakers.
There will typically be a question that asks you to describe the interaction between the speakers, such as, ‘Suggest 2 words to describe the interaction between A and B’. The answer you need to provide will typically be a two-word answer. I would encourage you to learn the adjectives used to describe a range of interactions, for example:
Words to describe positive interactions include:
Words to describe negative interactions include:
Listen to the audio while you read the transcript if available.
Now that you know the steps, let’s see them in action. Below, I will demonstrate the step-by-step process of how you can make full use of the listening resources above.
We’ll use this video clip from ABC Life Matters as an example: Is the internet becoming more 'ethical'?
Download this worksheet so that you can work through this listening task on your own too!
For practice, I recommend taking notes in a table format, using the ‘W’ words I mentioned above. We are going to designate a separate table for each speaker in the audio.
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: Ubiquitous, monopolists, admirable, immersed, sophisticated and algorithm
Step 2: Note down how the speakers convey their attitude, feeling, ideas, etc.
Step 3: Interaction between speakers.
I will use ‘friendly’ and ‘polite’ to describe the interaction between the interviewer and Jocelyn Brewer. As you listen, see if you can identify why I have chosen these two words to describe the interaction. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer here as long as your choice of descriptive words suit the audio clip.
Usually I would read the transcript in this third and final step, however, since there is no transcript available for this piece, I will skip this step.
Using the same audio clip and worksheet, 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.
For further tips and tricks on tackling the EAL Listening Exam, check out How To ACE the EAL Listening Exam.
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