With the new study design in place for 2017, it might seem daunting to see new instructions and requirements as you face your final year of schooling. Specifically, the new “Reading and Comparing” section might pose a challenge to navigate. However, have no fear! Though this section might seem unfamiliar, much of it will be to do with understanding your text, using skills that you already have. Here are some tips to help you do so, and by the end of reading this, hopefully you’ll feel excited and ready to smash Reading and Comparing!
1. Understanding your text
This doesn’t mean reading/watching your texts a specific amount of times (though twice is a usually a recommended minimum), but rather, coming to an understanding of your texts. Besides knowing important sections, quotes, themes and characters (which are still important and which you should definitely know), here are some other matters which are also necessary to consider:
- Why has it been chosen by VCAA (out of literally millions of other books)
- why are you reading it (especially if it’s an old text, and how it’s still important throughout the ages)?
- Why did the author write it?
- What kind of social commentary exists within the text (especially on specific issues and themes)?
These kinds of questions are important because quite often in this area of study, you’ll be defending and interpreting your own ideas alongside the author’s. When you find a solid interpretation of the text as a whole, then no essay topic will really throw you off - because you’ll know already what you think about it. Moreover, because you’re comparing two texts in this section, understanding a text and being specific (e.g. both texts argue that equality is important vs while both texts A and B agree with the notion of equality, A focusses on ____ whereas B highlights ________) will help your writing improve in sophistication and depth.
2. Understand your text (structurally)
Besides comparing ideas and themes, and having an understanding of what the text says, it’s also imperative that you understand HOW the texts say it. Furthermore, when you get technical with this and focus on some (rather fancy sometimes) literary devices, it does bring up the depth of your writing.
Some things to consider:
The use of symbolism...
- What kind of description is used?
- What kind of sentences are used?
- Are they long and winding or rather short and bare?
- Are they dripping with adjectives or snappy?
- What is the structure of the text?
- Does one begin with a prologue/end with an epilogue? Is the text continuous or divided e.g.. through letters or days or parts? Does the text end at a climax or ends with a true finality?
- What reoccurs throughout the text? (specific lines, objects or images)
This kind of understanding is important as they are evidentiary material for your arguments. What you say and believe the authors have said, as well as how you believe the texts differ, may rely heavily on these techniques. We go into heaps of detail with Reading and Comparing in our Ultimate VCE English Study Guide. In fact, you can download our Reading and Comparing sample chapter for a sneak peek!