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July 31, 2016
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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!
The majority, yes the majority of your peers this year will hire tutors for extra assistance in their studies. It's perfectly understandable since VCE is only getting more and more competitive, and students are looking for that edge that will set them apart from others! If you are a student who is currently looking for that one ideal tutor in whatever subject it may be, then this guide is for you. You might be in the same situation as I was a few years ago, someone who has gone through so many tutors that you can't even keep count. And why is that? Probably because you simply weren't satisfied with them. And you know what?
Let me tell you now, there is definitely that perfect tutor who is: knowledgeable, passionate, highly regarded, and someone who strives to help you succeed in VCE! Let's have a look at a few factors that you should take into consideration when looking for the best tutor for you:
1. Just because a tutor didn't get a study score of 50, don't overlook them.
A study score of 50 means that this person has fantastic English skills - we can't deny that. However, teaching a subject is very different to learning it. To be able to communicate well with a student, recognise their strengths and weaknesses, and cater tutoring sessions to suit you so that you achieve the most benefit is more important than simply being top of the class.
2. Tuition class structure.
Next, you need to consider whether the tutor's teaching method matches well with your preferred way of learning. There are tuition schools which often follow a strict syllabus structure week by week. Other tutors are more flexible with a 'we-will-focus-on-what-you'd-like-to-focus-on' approach. Which one do you prefer?
3. Assistance inside and outside of classes.
To put it plainly, tutoring is a highly paid job, which means that some people are only in it for the money. You want to find a tutor who will be more than happy to go that extra mile to ensure that you can benefit as much as possible from their tutoring. Are they willing to help you outside of class sessions through email or text messages? Are they happy to organise extra tutoring sessions if you need? Will they do extra work on the side so they can be adequately prepared for your next session? This year I taught an EAL student who particularly struggled with certain grammar and sentence structures. Since I had less experience in teaching EAL, I spent my own private time deciphering out the best way to teach him, and how he could overcome these challenges. Try to find a tutor who isn't just in the business for the money, but puts you, the student as their first priority.
4. Cost $$$.
Let's be honest. How much you will pay a tutor is also a major consideration. Generally, the higher the price, the more credentials that tutor has. Many VCE teachers are going for $100+ an hour, and that value is increasing! Also find out, what else apart from tutoring will you get? Will you be offered extra resources (study guides, A+ essays and more), can you contact your tutor outside of tutoring hours, will you receive reports on your progress? It's not enough now to simply have one hour of tutoring each week, you should be looking for tutors who will go that extra mile for you.
'Freshness' is basically my way of asking, how up-to-date is the tutor with the current syllabus? Some tutors only teach what they studied in school, continue to use the same resources and provide the same advice year after year. It's a good idea to seek a tutor who actively aims to upgrade their knowledge and resources each year. This shows how staying relevant is important to them, and demonstrates that their ability to cater to their students' needs is a priority. However, it is important to keep in mind that just because a tutor is 10 years out of school, doesn't mean that they're not up-to-date. This goes both ways - a tutor who is 2 years out of school may seem current because they've only just graduated, yet if they haven't spent the time to learn the new syllabus changes, then that speaks for itself!
Tutors with personality are always a big bonus. Tutor personality plays a major role in how effectively they communicate with you, as the student. Have you noticed how some of your favourite teachers are probably your favourite because of their great personality and how they use that to teach? By making class fun, it helps to stimulate your interest and encourages your curiosity to learn. So you can see how a tutor who is enthusiastic and passionate in their teaching will make you want to be a better student too!
Under no circumstances should you hire a tutor to do your homework for you! Nor should that tutor offer to write you an essay in return for compensation. In Year 11 Literature, my tutor told me she would write an essay for me, which I understood as writing an essay then showing it to me the week after. What I didn't realise was that the next week, she presented me with the essay, and told me I had to pay for it. Because I was quite shy, I didn't say anything and took her essay. But I didn't feel right using her work and after that, I stopped attending her sessions because I felt too uncomfortable. A good tutor is well aware of their part in helping you with your studies. They know that the best way for you to improve is to support you, not encourage you to copy their work. Remember that in the end, when you're sitting in that SAC or exam hall, you only have yourself to rely on. In the end, I did show my Literature teacher both copies, my own and my tutor's (I did explain to her that the second essay was not my own), and asked her if she could grade both. How ironic, because my essay had actually scored a higher mark than my tutors!
The best form of credentials for any tutor is word-of-mouth. Hearing that a tutor is good at what they do from others is always a sure sign that you're choosing somebody right. If you are recommended somebody, then they're probably worth looking into. If you are feeling out of the loop, start asking family and friends if they know anybody they could recommend you. Another form of credentials is a tutor's success stories. As a tutor, I often boast my own teaching successes rather than my own study score. I achieved 45 in my English studies and while tutoring over the past 6 years, I've actually facilitated several students to gain higher marks than myself! Now that I'm proud of!
Most importantly, don't settle. If there's something you're unhappy about your tutor, firstly speak to your tutor about it. Your tutor is there to help you and if they're not interested in adapting to how you'd like to learn, then perhaps they're not the tutor for you. There are so many different tutors out there, with so many different approaches to tutoring that you're bound to find the right person!
At Lisa's Study Guides, we take pride in our specialised VCE English (EAL, Literature, and English Language) tutoring service. We have a small, select team of tutors who have achieved study scores of 45 and above (the top 2% of their year level). All tutors have been especially selected because of their fantastic personality and ability to hone in on students' strengths and weaknesses, and cater tutoring sessions to optimise student results. We also ensure that we are up-to-date with any study design changes, so that we can stay on top of the VCE game. If you're interested in finding out more, check out our private tutoring page here!
VCE is a two-year journey which involves a high degree of academic and personal growth. Young adults experiencing these two years of life will encounter a number of challenges which, albeit rewarding, are nonetheless a cause of much anxiety and pressure. It is important to recognise that the process is, at the end of the day, a team effort – VCE students are as reliant on their teachers for learning material as they are upon their parents for support, just as they rely upon friends to offer an outlet of distraction and ease. As a parent, your fundamental role during your child’s years of VCE is to help him/her manage their time, stress and aspirations to ultimately reach their goals. The purpose of this article is to provide a tangible, how-to guide to fulfil a healthy parent-student relationship during VCE. The below strategies detail the importance of communication, teamwork and compromise as the three cornerstones necessary to achieve conjunctive family and academic success.
Communication is pivotal during Year 11 and 12. It is important to ensure that all members of your VCE team, whoever this may involve, remain on the same page. Miscommunication is a messy way to disrupt a streamlined VCE journey – continuous and multi-way communication allows you to take positive steps towards your child receiving the most stress-free experience. To adopt this approach within your own family:
It is easy to forget the purpose of VCE given the mayhem of it all. It is crucial to reassure your child that you are present as a support network and that you hold a stake in their journey. Rather than present their results as a source of positivity or negativity, create the perception that a healthy and committed approach to VCE is of the highest importance. If your child knows that your role is centred around their happiness and success, they will be more relaxed and willing to share their journey with you.
VCE is a long, tough effort. It is two years of high expectations and insurmountable workload which culminates in the endgame of a four-digit number. For a student undergoing VCE, it is difficult to remove yourself from this mindset. As a parent, remember to appreciate the small successes and the baby steps towards a more recognisable achievement. Even a little acknowledgement, such as praising consistent grades or offering a “Good work!” can remind your child that they are on the right track and that you are aware – and proud – of this.
VCE is often described as a rollercoaster. This is a metaphor which accurately summarises the highs and lows that are bound to accompany such an important stage of a young person’s life. It may be tricky to understand why your child may come home one day in seemingly ‘meh’ spirits and so forth. Regardless, these actions (or lack thereof) are designed to subtly inform you of their headspace and mindset at a particular time. If you can form a limited understanding of these cues, they will enable you to provide relevant solutions and/or support. For example, if your child is repeatedly answering to you with curt or brief responses, this may indicate that their mind is elsewhere, and they would appreciate the opportunity to study in quiet for some time. On the other hand, if work progress seems to slow down, a distraction and time-out from study may be necessary. Sometimes, just a brief chat about their day will make a significant difference to motivation levels.
Communication should flow freely between the classroom and your home. Remaining aware of how your child is progressing at school will give you the best ability to support them in a relevant and sustainable way, while also drawing attention to areas of improvement or growth and enabling you to respond to these developments appropriately. Parent-Teacher Interviews are a great way to keep in touch. Alternatively, a brief email every so often will inform your child’s teacher that you are committed to their progress and want consistent updates.
At the end of the day, VCE is a team effort! Without a doubt, your child’s work and dedication is the driving force, yet the role of parents, teachers, friends and others provides a crucial support network. It is important to maintain this vision and to acknowledge your place within this team. To implement this strategy yourself:
Basic, genuine attempts to form some understanding of what your child is learning will assure them of your stake within their academic journey. This discussion does not have to be profound – if your child is studying Biology, do not think it is essential for you to gain a strong understanding of the metabolic processes performed by animals, for example. It will never be necessary for you to be an expert at any VCE subject. Rather, simply encouraging your child to share their knowledge with you will contribute to their learning. Carrying on with the example of Biology, you can ask your child to briefly explain the stages of photosynthesis. This technique will result in a number of benefits; your child will be challenged to demonstrate their knowledge and thereby increase their own understanding, and you will find a source of discussion which fosters growth (both academically and emotionally) between yourself and your child.
It is easy for VCE students to attain a tunnel vision and lean towards route learning during the crunch point of their studies. Articulating your intrigue to learn about their studies will boost student engagement and remind your child that subjects can be extended beyond the classroom. Simply asking natural questions and/or clarifying content will demonstrate your stake in their progress and exemplify the team mindset which promotes cohesive growth. Just discussing your child’s English text with them will position him/her to articulate their ideas and, in turn, contribute to the level of analysis they are able to perform when writing an essay.
A tutor performs the unique role of a mentor, friend and teacher who has the exclusive ability to provide one-on-one support. A tutor can further your child’s skills in a focused and familiar environment, sustaining growth throughout the year and tackling gaps in understanding as soon as these concerns arise. Ultimately, a tutor is an invaluable addition to your child’s VCE team! Lisa's Study Guides provides a one-of-a-kind, specialised tutoring service which offers a wealth of curated resources, 24/7 support and lessons with the state’s most high-performing recent graduates. To find out more about what Lisa's Study Guides can do for you, click here.
VCE is a period of significant change and it is important to remain flexible. By acknowledging the importance of focused study time, you can adjust your family’s schedule to meet the requirements of each individual. Encouraging your child to demonstrate two-way communication and positive habits, such as informing you of upcoming commitments, will ensure that compromise can occur in a swift and agreeable fashion. The following advice will contribute to healthy negotiation within your home:
It is inevitable that Year 11 and 12 are going to require intense focus and a dedication, on your child’s part, to his/her studies. Designating specific study blocks is a good way to ensure that you highlight the importance of routine and consistent study. Despite this fact, it can be difficult to come to terms with the reality of such change. During VCE, it is unlikely that your child will have the ability to sustainably divide their time in a way which is familiar to you. This shift may be significant or subtle depending on the consistency of your child’s study habits, their non-scholarly commitments and a range of other factors. Regardless, it is important to remain adaptable and understand that your child’s response to VCE is a natural reaction to the major change involved.
VCE is often unpredictable and assignments can arise out of the blue. Workloads may be relatively easy-going one moment, before three new assessments come up the next school day and suddenly extra work is required. While it is helpful to theoretically organise family time or outings, it may eventuate that these plans are not always compatible with your child’s schedule. Try postponing events where necessary and approach the situation with a neutral attitude – reassuring your child that Thursday is as good as Tuesday to catch the latest Marvel flick will buoy their spirits and link these events to positive emotions.
Settling for an option which disgruntles yourself, your Year 11/12 student or other members of your family is an unsustainable way to manage family expectations during VCE. While it may not be ideal to find a day of the week which is suitable for everyone, or if it looks like cancelling is the easier option, keep in mind the potential repercussions that these decisions may have. Due to its limited nature, time spent as a family is especially precious when a child is undergoing VCE. Reaching mutually agreeable solutions is the best way to meet both family and school needs and will have a significant impact on morale in the long term.
It may be useful to organise your family’s priorities and represent these ideals in an accessible timetable. Doing so will ensure that your needs as a family are met without the potential for certain elements to be overlooked and inform family members in advance of upcoming plans. Organise your standard week by priority and create a tangible, week-to-week routine like illustrated:
VCE is an undoubtedly testing stage for a student and their family – yet, it does not have to be overwhelming. Successful navigation through Year 11 and 12 will occur as the result of a cohesive relationship between a student and his/her support network. As a parent, your role is centred around support. Offering your child the confidence of your time, patience and effort will make a world of difference to their morale and, in turn, results. Simple family adjustments, as listed above, will contribute to the sustained growth between yourself and your child. Implementing these strategies and anchoring your focus on the themes of communication, teamwork and compromise will ensure that your family’s VCE experience occurs smoothly.
Although clarity in expression takes priority, employing sophisticated vocabulary will win you major points with the examiner. Essays with a (healthy) level of adornment tend to demonstrate greater control of language and insight, giving the piece a perceptive and erudite aspect. Nevertheless, trying to employ new vocabulary seamlessly in your essay can be tough- rather than swapping random words in and out of your essay post-mortem, adapting your vocabulary bank to your own writing style can make the process a lot less jarring.
Finding the right bank for you
The conditions of your vocabulary bank should be suited to your specific needs. A focus on a need or theme enables more visible connections within the vocabulary bank. Having those connections will make it easier to 'memorise' new terms. Instead of compiling a dense 20-page glossary, try breaking your vocabulary bank up into smaller, specific sections.
For example, if you're hoping to find new verbs to express the author's intention:
The author argues
The author shows
The author criticises
The author supports
contends, asserts, posits, proffers…
Branch off 'shows' (Neutral tone):
demonstrates, exposes, elucidates, delineates, explicates…
Branch off 'criticises' (Negative tone):
condemns, denigrates, lampoons, parodies…
Branch off 'supports' (Positive tone):
praises, endorses, exalts, lauds…
From storage to use
After clarifying their definitions, try using some of your new words in a sentence or a paragraph, relating to either your texts or language analysis. You can also extend your vocabulary bank by adapting the words to different sentence structures:
The author criticises the superficiality of our consumerist culture.
The author condemns the superficiality of our consumerist culture.
In a condemnatory tone, the author delineates the ostentation of our consumerist culture.
The author argues that gender is an arbitrary concept.
The author asserts that gender is an arbitrary concept.
Asserting that gender is an arbitrary concept, the author explicates the categorist nature of human understanding.
Using convoluted expressions can be fun or exasperating! Whilst demonstrating extensive vocabulary may raise your mark, the key is to ensure harmony between your words and your understanding.
So…you’ve just begun the school year and you’re feeling pretty excited about English. You’re determined to put aside all distractions this year and to only focus on studying, studying and studying. But…the minute you sit down at your desk, you find that your mind goes completely blank and that you are left only with one dreadful question: What now?
If this sounds all too familiar to you, you are definitely not alone. English can often make you feel like you don’t even know where to start. So, here is a quick guide that can help you to plan out your year, to break free from procrastination and to find some sparks of motivation when you feel like there is simply no road ahead.
This may seem like the most obvious step, but it can make all the difference when done thoughtfully and thoroughly. One thing that VCAA English examiners always look for when reading text responses is in-depth knowledge and understanding of the text, and the best way to develop and gain this knowledge is to read, read, and read again! Try to treat your text like a blank map, full of unexplored territories and winding roads that are there for you to uncover each time you read the text.
When you read your text for the first time, look out for the major roads and landmarks; the setting and premise, the plot, the characters, the broad ideas, the authorial voice and style etc. Once you’ve gotten a good grasp of the major elements of your text, read it again, and focus on adding more detail to your map; fleshing out characters, understanding their motives, understanding the author’s purpose, and underlining key quotations and particular passages that encompass a broader idea. If you’re a forgetful person like me, you might find it helpful to note down some key observations as you go and to create a summary you can always refer back to throughout the year.
While reading and rereading your text will definitely help you to know your text in and out, in order to fully tick the box of knowledge and understanding, it is also important to read around the text; to understand the context of when and why the text was written, for whom it was written, and the impact the text has had on both its original audience and its audience today. Especially for texts that are rooted in history, like The Women of Troy or Rear Window, understanding context and background information is essential in understanding the text itself. After all, Rear Window just wouldn’t be Rear Window if it weren’t for the McCarthyistic attitudes that were so prevalent at the time, and The Women of Troy would have been a far more different play had it not been written during wartime. Each text is a product of both its creator and its time, so make the effort to research the writer, playwright or filmmaker, and the historical, cultural, social and political context of your text.
When doing your research, it can be helpful to use a set of questions like the one below as a guideline, to ensure that the information you’re finding is always relevant.
Here’s where it gets a bit more difficult. Now that you’ve drawn out your map, and dotted it with various landmarks, rivers and roads, it is time to actually use your map to go somewhere; to make use of all the knowledge and background information you have gathered so that you can begin to analyse and dissect your text in greater detail. Studying a subject with as large of a cohort as VCE English can oftentimes mean that ideas are recycled and exams are repetitive, so in order to distinguish yourself from the pack, try to look for ways to craft your own original path; a view of the text that is distinctly your own, instead of following others. The best way to do this is to do a bit of thinking at home; to create your own original set of notes and observations and to spend time analysing each section of your text in greater detail than you may have done in class.
Constructing a notes table like the one below can help you greatly in sorting and fleshing out your ideas, and, when done consistently throughout the year, can save a lot of time and effort when it comes to studying for the exam!
So...you’ve made it all the way to your SAC. You may be feeling nervous at this point, even a little burnt out, but there is no need to worry. Studying for your SAC simply requires a bit of adjusting to your normal studying routine; changing it up so that instead of simply brainstorming ideas, you’re actually using these ideas in topic sentences, and instead of collating a list of quotes, you’re embedding these quotes into a practice paragraph. These are all examples of targeted study: taking all the information you’ve gathered on your text, all the notes you’ve made, and all the work you’ve done in class, and putting it into practice.
As an example, I've unpacked an essay prompt below using 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.
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
‘I ask you not to hate me. With the greatest reluctance / I must tell you the news…’
Euripides softens the brutality of the Greeks’ behaviour through his characterisation of Talthybius.
Unpack the keywords in the topic:
Contention: While Talthybius is used by Euripides to evoke some sympathy for the Greeks, ultimately, he serves to exacerbate the cruelty of the Greeks’ actions and the devastating consequences of their fall from a civilised, sacred people to a bestial, impulse-driven group of men.
Paragraph 1: Certainly, amongst his peers which are excoriated by Euripides for their cruel, unfeeling behaviour, Talthybius is depicted to be the most humane of the Greeks due to his conflicted nature, evoking sympathy amongst the audience, and reinstating some humanity to the Greeks’ otherwise sullied reputation.
We can also use the ABC steps here. For example:
'Like the mother bird to her plundered nest, my song has become a scream'
Demonstrates the dehumanisation of the Trojan women, and the heinous, beastly actions of the Greek men, who, like their 'war machine' description, have subverted all that is natural to become violent, and all that is beautiful to become grotesque
Embed the quote into a sentence, e.g.:
Euripides’ description of Hecuba as a 'mother bird' at her 'plundered nest' demonstrates the innately maternal nature of her character through animal imagery, while also emphasising the vulnerability of the Trojan women, who have been reduced to defenceless prey as a result of the Greeks’ predatory and beastly behaviour.
Planning essays and breaking down prompts/quotes are extremely time-efficient ways to approach your texts and SACs. Rather than slaving away for hours and hours writing full essays, these simpler forms of targeted study can and will save you the burnout and will get you feeling confident faster.
Only move on to writing a full practice essay or some practice paragraphs once you feel you have a good in-depth understanding of how to plan an essay and once you have already naturally memorised some important quotes that you can use in your essay (learn how to embed your quotes like a boss here). Remember, quality over quantity, so spend your time before your SAC revising thoughtfully and carefully, targeting your revision, and taking things slowly, rather than robotically churning out essay after essay.
The end of every VCE English journey is the highly anticipated, dreaded and feared English exam. Now, while you may be reading those words with a horror movie soundtrack playing in your mind, the English exam, despite being a gruelling 3 hours of essay-writing, really isn’t as horrific as it sounds. Preparing for it is also much less intense than you might think it to be, because essentially, from the very first time you read your text, you will have already begun preparing for the exam. All that is left to do before the English exam is to polish up on some of your weaknesses identified in your SACs, to look over all the notes and information you have gathered throughout the year, to freshen up on essay writing and essay planning, and to do a couple of practices, so that you can feel as ready as you can for the real thing.
In particular, I found that in the leadup to my English exam, studying with my friends and peers was not only a welcome stress reliever, but a really good way to expand my own knowledge by helping others and being helped myself. Having your peers review your essays and helping to give feedback on theirs is always an excellent way to improve your own essay-writing skills, and, a great way to provide good constructive criticism is to follow the GIQ rule (I’m not sure if this is a real rule…but it works!)
Hopefully, these tips will be able to help you out throughout the year in staying motivated and feeling okay about English! Remember, this is just here as a guide to help you, and not a strict regimen to follow, because everyone studies differently, and has different goals in English.
However, now that you have a clearer pathway and plan for learning your texts in-depth, what’s next? Well, it’s pretty important that you learn about the different areas of study so that you understand how you’ll actually apply all of your new-found text knowledge to each of your SACs and the exam. Our Ultimate Guide to Text Response and Ultimate Guide to Comparative give you a full rundown of what is required in these two areas of study (where you will have to learn specific texts) so I would highly recommend having a read!
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