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English & EAL

New VCE English Study Design 2016-2020

by
Lisa Tran

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Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...

The new VCE English syllabus has kicked off its first year in 2016. Now, I know a lot of us are still grappling to understand the changes, and who knows? You might look like this:

...an array of bewilderedness, surprise, and perhaps even...excitement? Don't worry, we're all in the same boat. The new English syllabus is exciting, especially once we're familiar with all the changes. So, have a peek at the infographic below to get a good overview of what we're saying 'hello' and 'farewell' to:

Feel free to download this infographic here.

Ok, now let's look into each of the Areas Of Study (AOS) in detail. The following breakdown focuses on Units 3 and 4 of the new English syllabus:

UNIT 3

Area of Study 1 - Reading and Creating

Students study: 2 selected texts from Text List 1 (see the 2017 VCE English Text List here).

Purpose: To write an expository essay on the 1st text, and then a creative response on the 2nd text for Area of Study 1. 

SAC 1: Write an analytical essay for Text 1 (~800-1000 words).

SAC 2: Write a creative response + a written explanation (~800-1000 words or, if in the form of an oral presentation ~4-6 minutes).

What you should aim to do: You will study both books in detail; looking at themes, characters, literary devices, author's intention and more. Know that the study of these two texts do not overlap at any point - you study them separately for two separate SACs (see below!).

Side note: The 'Writing in Context' component from the old syllabus has been semi-integrated into 'Reading and Creating'. This is the only part of the new course where you have the opportunity to experiment with your creative writing skills. Keep in mind that there will not be a creative component in your VCE English 3/4 exam (I can hear so many sighs of relief)!

Area of study 2 - (Part I) Analysing argument

Purpose: The ultimate goal is to demonstrate your understanding of how the author constructs their argument in an attempts to persuade the reader to agree with his or her contention. Here you analyse a variety of different forms of publication, from opinion articles, editorials, speeches to cartoons and diagrams. Learn more on 'How the author intends to persuade their readers' blog post here.

SAC 3: An analysis and comparison, in written form, of argument and the use of persuasive language in two to three texts (written or visual) that present a point of view on an issue (~800-1000 words).

What you should aim to do: The highest marks in this SAC will be rewarded to those who can clearly explain the connection between author's use of language, and how that enables the development of their ideas. Avoid listing language techniques and offering your personal judgement on whether or not the article is effective in persuading you. You goal is to objectively investigate how the author constructs their article via argument and certain language choices.

UNIT 4

Area of study 1 - Reading and Comparing

Purpose: To explore meaningful connections between two texts. You will be using compare and contrast skills (see our blog post on Compare and Contrast Essays).

SAC: A 900-1200 word essay offering a detailed comparison between ideas, issues, and themes of both texts.

What you should aim to do: Avoid superficial connections. Simply referring what is similar and different between the two plot events will not score you many marks. The key here is to look at the bigger picture – what are the major values and messages that the texts deliver? Are they aligned? Are they the opposite? To ensure you’ve got your Reading and Comparing at an A+ level, download my FREE Reading and Comparing sample chapter from my latest VCE English study guide.

Want more advice? Download your free Reading and Comparing Chapter here!

Area of study 2 - (Part II) Presenting argument 

Purpose: Students must prepare an oral presentation based on a topic debated in the media. It has to have appeared recently, which means it can only be a topic that has appeared in the media since September the previous year. This section pushes you to research and form a stance on the issue, where you will then write your own persuasive speech using the skills you have gained from studying 'Analysing Argument'. On top of that, you will need to focus on your delivery of the speech, which includes things like tone, pace, eye-contact, and much more! If you're curious to learn more, have a look through some of our posts on Oral Presentation ideas for inspiration!

SAC: A sustained oral piece (~4-6 minutes) that presents a point of view relating to an issue currently in the media + a written explanation (~300-500 words) explaining your decisions made in the planning process, and how these demonstrate your efforts in attempting to persuade the audience.

What you should aim to do:  If your school hasn't made the decision for you already, it's crucial that you choose a topic that is original and offers you room for argument. This means avoiding topics where majority of the public opinion already rests on one side (e.g. does climate change exist?). Writing a fantastic oral presentation is only the job half done, you need to ensure your delivery is spot on. Watch my video on quick presentation tips which helped me score full marks in my SAC!

That's my summary and some quick tips alongside to help you cruise through the year. Best of luck! 

Lisa Tran

I graduated in 2008 from Methodist Ladies' College with an English study score of 45. And I have helped several students strive for their goals in English ever since - from selective school students, EAL students, to disadvantaged students. I am so invested in tutoring that I quit my career as a Pharmacist because I find the experience of teaching incredibly rewarding. Over the past 7 years I am so proud to say that I have seen each and every one of my students grow not only in their English skills, but also their motivation to succeed in English and VCE.

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