English & EAL

Introduction to Text Response

Lisa Tran

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What is Text Response?

Remember all those novels and films you watched throughout high school? You should be familiar with watching films or reading novels and then participating in class discussions about themes and characters. Each year revising and improving on TEEL, incorporating quotes and formulating lengthy essays. Well, most of that learning can be pin-pointed towards VCE’s Text Response, one out of the three parts of VCE English Coursework. Text Response, officially known as ‘Reading and Responding’, is the 1st Area of study that involves you studying texts just like you have in the past, but this time round with a few more requirements.

About Text Response

Like its name, Text Response is when you respond to a text. The most popular texts are novels and films; however plays, poetry and short stories are also common. Your response should be in the form of an essay, in which you discuss themes, ideas and characters. You might be thinking, ‘I already know this!’ Then great! Because these familiarities are only the basics, or the fundamentals for what you’ll need to do in year 11 and 12. The key difference in VCE is that the study design insists on ‘analysis of the ways in which structures and features are used by the authors of narrative texts to construct meaning’. This means that not only should you develop a thourough understanding of the plot, but the course is designed so that students can appreciate how and why we come to view the themes, ideas and characters in a particular ways. And how do we come to understand texts in certain ways? It all comes down to the author’s writing style. The VCAA requirements for Reading and Responding are shown below:

  • critically analyse texts and the ways in which authors construct meaning;
  • Much of the ‘meaning’ in a novel/film comes instinctively to readers. Why is it that we can separate the protagonist from antagonist? Why is it that we know whether or not the author supports or denounces an idea? Why can we distinguish a setting in the 17th century compared with 20th century? This all comes from what design features the author used in their text. Here you need to start looking at point of view, symbolism, imagery, misc-en-scene and more. Back to the examples, we can identify the antagonist through the use of negative words used to describe them, we know if the author supports an idea if they represent it with hope and positivity and we know that in 17th century they used words like thou and thee, compared to 21th century slang, ‘what’s up’. All these features are important in developing a novel or film because it helps to send a particular message across to readers or audience. Having this key knowledge is intended to help you understand the texts on a more in-depth level.
  • analyse the social, historical and/or cultural values embodied in texts; 
  • Society, history and culture all shape and influence us in our beliefs and opinions. Authors use much of what they’ve obtained from the world around them and employ this knowledge to their writing. Understanding their values embodied in texts can help us as readers, identity and appreciate theme and character representations.
  • discuss and compare possible interpretations of texts using evidence from the text;
  • Be open to the idea that many texts can be interpreted in many ways. Texts are rarely concrete and simple. Take The Bible, a book that is one of the most popular and famous books in history but is interpreted differently by every person. Acknowledging more than one perspective on a certain aspect of the text or acknowledging that perhaps the writer is intentionally ambiguous is a valuable skill that demonstrates you have developed a powerful insight into your text.
  • use appropriate metalanguage to construct a supported analysis of a text;
  • plan and revise written work for fluency and coherence;
  • use the conventions of spelling, punctuation and syntax of Standard Australian English.

The following are specific for oral presentations:

  • apply oral language conventions in a chosen oral text type;
  • engage an audience through interested and varied language use;
  • respond to audience interest and engagement.

School Assessed Coursework (SAC) and Allocated Marks

Reading and Responding is assessed both in Unit 3 and Unit 4. This means that you will study two texts for this outcome, one text for each unit. The number of allocated marks are:

  • Unit 3 English – 30 marks
  • Unit 3 ESL – 35 marks
  • Unit 4 English/ESL – 50 marks

Exactly when Text Response is assessed within each unit is dependent on each school; some schools at the start of the unit, others at the end. The time allocated to your SAC is also school-based. Often schools use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 700 to 1200 words for your essay (keep in mind that it’s about quality, not quantity!) Often, teachers will provide you with a list of prompts to practice before your SAC. Some teachers can be kind enough to hint you in the direction of a particular prompt that may be on the SAC. For your preparation, make sure you make use of the practice prompts! If your teacher hasn’t distributed any, don’t be afraid to ask. For more preparation ideas, check out ‘How to prepare for a SAC – Part 1 – Text Response’.

Note: In Unit 3, VCAA provides two options for the SAC: either a written or oral response. Majority of schools produce written SACS, since a maximum of one oral presentation is possible in Unit 3 (which is often used for Australian Issues in the Media.) If you’d like to learn more about Reading and Responding, you can visit the VCAA website.

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