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July 31, 2016
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We all know that to be successful at English we need to have decent vocabulary. Any essay can risk sounding bland and monotonous if you can only express your ideas using a limited span of words. Mixing up your essay with some interesting words will:
1. improve your expression,
2. capture your marker’s interest, and
3. impress your marker.
However, a word of caution – don’t be too determined to drown your essay with vocabulary, since you – get ready for this – risk your essay resonating utterly verbose and obstructing readability for the adjudicator (or in normal terms, you risk your essay sounding overly wordy which will therefore decrease the ease and flow when reading your essay). Remember that simple is best, but sprinkling with some vocabulary will definitely spice up your essay!
How do you go about obtaining a better vocabulary?
Although it's important to improve your vocabulary, students often get the wrong impression. You're not improving your vocabulary to sound smarter, but to optimise your ability to use the right word to express your ideas clearly. Find out more about this in the blog post - Why big words can make you look dumber.
You really don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with your examiners. Minor irritations such as misspellings and poor handwriting can put the examiner in a negative frame of mind and affect your overall grade, even if your essay content is solid. You want to give yourself every chance of getting top marks. I’m sure you’ve heard this kind of thing a million times before. Teachers stress the importance of good handwriting and spelling over and over again. There is one particular issue I’d like to address here that is not quite as easy to fix: vocabulary and expression. In the following paragraphs I will discuss common problems with expression, focusing on the use of long, supposedly more ‘sophisticated’ words.
A strong vocabulary can certainly help to improve your writing. The use of sophisticated vocabulary – in the right situations – showcases your eloquence and knowledge. However, there is a fine line between good expression and excessive, over-the-top attempts at sophistication. There are four points I’d like to make on this subject.
1. Don’t force it – Students can sometimes attempt to throw all sorts of fancy-sounding words into their essays. I don’t know why. Maybe they think it’ll make their essay sound more intelligent. Maybe they are trying to adopt a more ‘scholarly’ voice. Whatever the reason, this kind of thing can actually get the examiner in a bad mood and hurt your grade. If you’re going out of your way to throw big words into your essay, chances are it’s going to sound forced. I don’t mean to say that you should cut out all that sophisticated vocabulary. When used correctly, those big words will certainly strengthen your expression and help you to communicate complex ideas. However, it’s usually quite obvious to the examiner when you’re forcing these words in where they don’t belong. Excessive use of complicated vocabulary is likely to distract from the points you’re making. It can disrupt the flow of your piece. Remember that you’re trying to effectively communicate your ideas to the reader. Try to keep that point in mind as you write.
2. Be comfortable with your vocabulary – This is immensely important! I’ve said that you shouldn’t force sophisticated words into your writing. You can overcome this by having a sound knowledge of a word’s meaning and its typical context of use. In those essays that force the sophisticated vocabulary, it often sounds as though the writer has simply gone through the dictionary and picked out a bunch of words. Do not do this! You need to be comfortable with a new word before you can start using it effectively in essays. The best way to get comfortable is to read widely. This will give you as much exposure as possible to new vocabulary, and its use in context. You can also try out some new vocabulary in your practice essays. Get feedback from your teacher or tutor, ask them to focus on your vocabulary choices and see if there’s anything you need to work on. It takes time to get comfortable with new vocabulary, so get reading! Learn more on how you can improve your vocabulary here.
3. Less is more – Basic vocabulary can often be much more effective in communicating your message clearly. Why use a ten dollar word when an everyday word will do? Short, sharp sentences with clear and unambiguous expression can be a whole lot more impressive than long, winding sentences filled with long, confusing words. I will stress the point again here; aim for clear and effective communication! When you get to university, you’re going to have to read academic papers that are chock-full of extremely long sentences and pretentious scholarly rhetoric. It’s a nightmare trying to make sense of some of these papers. Sometimes it’ll feel like they’re actually trying as hard as possible to hide the message of their writing. I’ve never really understood why. If you get to try your hand at writing a thesis or dissertation, there are a number of conventions that must be followed and your writing must be a lot more scientific. A lecturer once said to me that you’re doing ‘academic style’ right if it feels like you’re losing a bit of your soul with every sentence that you write. That’s definitely how I felt. There’s not much room to show off your own linguistic flair and expression – at least until you’ve mastered academic writing. You have a fantastic chance in VCE English to show off your writing ability and be creative. So try to make the most it! Just don’t think that good writing has to resemble that dry academic style, with long sentences and fancy words. Impress your examiner by showing clear, unambiguous writing. Impress them with writing that flows and conveys your own personal style. Which brings us to my final point:
4. Be yourself – Don’t try to be someone else in your writing. The most engaging essays are those that can show something unique. As mentioned in earlier blog posts, examiners are marking hundreds of essays on the exact same topics. Your personal writing style can spice up an essay and distinguish you from other students. It’s important to stick to the required formal writing style, with correct grammar, spelling, punctuation and so on. However, you can play with your sentence structure and vocabulary. Add your own flair to leave your signature on your essays. Your expression will only improve through practice, so write as often as you can! If you have truly engaged with the subject matter and have something interesting to say about it, let that enthusiasm shine through in your prose.
I hope that it’s clear from the paragraphs above that it’s perfectly fine to use sophisticated vocabulary – in fact, it’s encouraged! Just make sure that you fully understand the words that you’re using. Don’t use fancy words just for the sake of it. Make sure that your word choice actually improves your essay and adds clarity to the points you are making. Use your sophisticated words alongside your more basic vocabulary. Find a balance that makes your writing entertaining and engaging, while still maintaining effective and clear expression. Let your engagement with the text shine through in writing that is coloured with your own personal style. Be creative and, most importantly, have fun!
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!
Have you ever come out of an exam or test and felt like you’ve nailed it? I’m guessing after you come out of that exam room, you and your friends crowd around the building screaming out the answers you got for each question or the types of ideas you came up with from the prompt given. But then results day arrive…and you’re sitting at your desk anxiously waiting for the teacher to hand you your paper. As soon as they place the test paper on your desk, you remain sitting there just staring at it, deciding whether or not to flip it around and see your score. Get it over and done with you think in your head, but your arms don’t move an inch. You just sit there for some time staring at it, and praying a little on the inside that it’s the score you want. Finally, you build enough courage to turn around the paper and BAM! It hits you. The score was way below the expectations you set for yourself, or maybe even the standards others have set for you.
What is it that you usually do when you come across such a situation?
From my observations and experiences, there are generally 4 main types of reactions people have – the complainer (the person who’s never satisfied with anything), the one who has no care in the world, the silent sufferer (the person who is disappointed with the score but does nothing to change it) and the calm one (the ideal level we all aspire to reach).
So here I give you 8 tips/suggestions to help you get you through what you may call ‘failure’:
DON’T ALLOW THE SCORE TO DEFINE YOU! I’m sure you’ve heard so many people tell you that you are more than just one score. And let me tell you that they’re absolutely right! That one test score won’t make so much of a difference in the long run. It may trigger some unsettling emotions throughout the day, but it’s not going to matter in a year.
Look at the score you got and then just put it at the back of your mind. Just don’t think too much about it in class. It may stress you out even more, cause you to divide your attention between what the teacher is saying and your own thoughts. Dwelling on what you cannot change, especially if it concerns the past is the worse idea and a better option would be to distract yourself with happy thoughts (obviously not while you’re supposed to be listening to your teacher).
Talk to your teacher and ask them why you have attained this particular score. By having a one-on-one conversation with them you can tell them why you thought you did better or where you believe you’ve missed marks. I’m sure they’ll be willing to help you out. If not, you could sit down and chat with another teacher about the test and get their feedback on it. Collecting feedback from various teachers (or even friends, tutors, etc.) can be useful in knowing which areas you need to improve on most.
Try to consider the concept of failure as your ‘First Attempt In Learning.’ Learn from your mistakes by re-evaluating your previous approach to the question, or the ideas and evidence you put out there. Look at where you lost the marks and redo the test if possible. Get it remarked by your teacher or even a friend. Keep going and don’t give up!
Avoid talking to those ‘stuck up’ students. You should most definitely distance yourself from people who make you feel uncomfortable or lower your self-esteem. It may seem tough at first, especially since you may be confined together in the same school or even classroom, but it’s to the benefit of your mental health. To do this, you could not sit next to them class or just let them know that you’re not comfortable with sharing your scores with them and would rather talk about other topics.
Make more friends! (just exclude those who were mentioned previously). Create study groups and revise together before a test or exam. Ask them about how they study for the specific subject or area of study and if you can read some of their work to get an idea of to how approach specific questions.
Be flexible and adaptable! Once you know that you’ve made a mistake, don’t make it again. Change up specific parts of your answer where you lost marks or just change the entire answer completely to fulfil the criteria. For example, when it comes to English, examiners are always advising students to not go into the exam with memorised responses. By going into the exam with memorised responses, you’re not going to be able to modify or mould your response to fit the specific prompt in front of you, costing you the marks you want. Just have ideas and evidence in mind that you know you can use when relevant rather than spilling unnecessary quotes here and there.
Balance is key. Wise advice that I received from one of my teachers in year 12 was to study a bit of every subject on the days you plan to study. Don’t cram and only focus on one subject a week before the SAC. If having a structured routine doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to ditch the timetable you have created yourself and just go with the flow. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just know when you should study
Finally, my last message to you all is to just take it easy, stay on a pace that works for you. Don’t stress too much about a score that’s not going to matter in the long run, and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to those around you. ☺
Quotations, better known by their abbreviation ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, and provides solid evidence for your arguments. The discussion on quotations in this study guide can be applied to all three areas of study in the VCAA English course which have been explained in detail in our Ultimate Guides to VCE Text Response, Comparative and Language Analysis.
A quotation is the repetition of a group of words taken from a text by someone other than the original author. The punctuation mark used to indicate a repetition of another author’s work is presented through quotation marks. These quotation marks are illustrated by inverted commas, either single inverted commas (‘ ’) or double inverted commas (“ ”). There is no general rule in Australia regarding which type of inverted comma you must use for quotations. Single inverted commas are preferred in Australia as they follow the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either style, just be consistent in your essays.
The usage of quotations in essays demonstrates:
However, quotations must be used correctly, otherwise you risk (and these frequent mistakes will be discussed in detail later):
How You Integrate a Quote into an Essay Depends on Three Factors:
As you discuss ideas in a paragraph, quotes should be added to develop these ideas further. A quote should add insight into your argument; therefore, it is imperative that the quote you choose relates intrinsically to your discussion. This is dependent on which aspect of the text you are discussing, for example:
Never quote just for the sake of quoting. Quotations can be irrelevant if a student merely adds in quotes as ‘sentence fillers’. Throwing in quotations just to make your essay appear more sophisticated will only be more damaging if the quotation does not adequately reinforce or expand on your contention. Conversely, an essay with no quotations will not achieve many marks either.
A quotation should never tell the story for you. Quotations are a ‘support’ system, much like a back up for your ideas and arguments. Thus, you must be selective in how much you want to quote. Generally speaking, the absolute minimum is three quotes per paragraph but you should not overload your paragraphs either. Overcrowding your essay with too many quotations will lead to failure to develop your ideas, as well as your work appearing too convoluted for your assessor. Remember that the essay is your piece of work and should consist mainly of your own ideas and thoughts.
The word ‘evaporates’, used to characterise money and happiness intends to instill the idea that happiness as a result of money is only temporary. (VCAA ‘Can Money Buy Happiness’ Language Analysis)
Single worded quotations can often leave the largest impression on the assessor. This is because you are able to demonstrate that you can focus on one word and develop an entire idea around it.
Sunil Badami ‘still found it hard to tie my Indian appearance to my Australian feeling', showing that for Sunil, his culture was not Indian, but Australian due to his upbringing. (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
A phrase quotation is the most common quotation length you will use in essays.
The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening, I felt the press of their ghosts. I realised then that I had begun to step small and carry myself all hunched, keeping my arms at my sides and my elbows tucked, as if to leave room for them.’ (Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)
Long quotations comprise of more than one sentence – avoid using them as evidence. Your assessor will not mark you highly if the bulk of your paragraphs consists of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations to less than 2 lines on an A4 writing page. If you have a long quotation you wish to use, be selective. Choose only the important phrases or key words, and remove the remaining sentence by replacing it with an ellipsis (…).
Here is the same example again, with the student using ellipsis:
The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as she felt ‘the press of their ghosts…[and] begun to step small and carry myself all hunched…as if to leave room for them.’ (Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)
In this case, we have deleted: ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening’ and ‘I realised then that I had’ by using an ellipsis – a part of the quotation that is not missed because it does not represent the essence of the student’s argument. You would have noticed that a square bracket ([ ]) was used. This will be discussed in detail under Blending Quotes.
You must never take the original author’s words and use them in your essay without inserting them in quotation marks. Failure to do so leads to ‘plagiarism’ or cheating. Plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. You must make sure that you use quotation marks whenever you use evidence from your text.
The following is plagiarism:
Even a single flicker of the eyes could be mistaken for the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime. (1984, George Orwell)
Using quotation marks however, avoids plagiarism:
Even ‘a single flicker of the eyes’ could be mistaken for ‘the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.’ (1984, George Orwell)
There are serious consequences for plagiarism. VCAA will penalise students for plagiarism. VCAA uses statistical analysis to compare a student’s work with their General Achievement Test (GAT), and if the cross-referencing indicates that the student is achieving unexpectedly high results with their schoolwork, the student’s school will be notified and consequential actions will be taken.
Plagiarism should not be confused with:
You should always aim to interweave quotations into your sentences in order to achieve good flow and enhanced readability of your essay. Below is a good example of blending in quotations:
John Proctor deals with his own inner conflict as he is burdened with guilt and shame of his past adulterous actions. Yet during the climatic ending of the play, Proctor honours his principles as he rejects signing a false confession. This situation where Proctor is confronted to ‘sign [himself] to lies’ is a stark epiphany, for he finally acknowledges that he does have ‘some shred of goodness.’ (The Crucible, Arthur Miller)
There are three main methods in how you can blend quotations into an essay:
Broken sentences are a common mistake made when students aim to integrate quotations into their sentences. Below are examples of broken sentences due to poor integration of a quotation:
‘Solitary as an oyster’. Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Never write a sentence consisting of only a quotation. This does not add insight into your argument, nor does it achieve good flow or readability.
Scrooge, ‘solitary as an oyster’, is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
This example is better, however the sentence is still difficult to read. In order to blend quotations into your sentences, try adding in words that will help merge the quotation and your own words together:
Described as being as ‘solitary as an oyster’, Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Scrooge is depicted as a person who is ‘solitary as an oyster’, illustrating that he is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Tip: If you remove the quotation marks, the sentence should still make sense.
These are used when you need to modify the original writer’s words so that the quotation will blend into your essay. This is usually done to:
Authors sometimes write in past (looked), present (look) or future tense (will look). Depending on how you approach your essay, you may choose to write with one of the three tenses. Since your tense may not always match the author’s, you will need to alter particular words.
Original sentence: ‘…puts his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’ (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
Upon seeing Lewis upset, Roy attempts to cheer him up by ‘put[ting] his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’. (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
The author may write in a first (I, we), second (you) or third person (he, she, they) narrative. Since you will usually write from an outsider’s point of view, you will refer to characters in third person. Thus, it is necessary to replace first and second person pronouns with third person pronouns. Alternatively, you can replace first and second person pronouns with the character’s name.
The original sentence: ‘Only now can I recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that I, through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept…’ (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)
When Keller was finally ready to share his brutal past with Paul, the latter disregarded the maestro, as he was too immersed in his own adolescent interests. However, upon reflection, Paul realises that ‘only now can [he] recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that [he], through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept’. (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)
Sometimes, it may be necessary to insert your own words in square brackets so that the quotation will be coherent when incorporated into your sentences.
The original sentence: ‘His heels glow.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)
Achilles, like Priam, feels a sense of refreshment as highlighted by ‘his heels [which] glow.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)
It is important to maintain proper grammar while weaving in quotations. The question is: does the punctuation go inside or outside the final quotation mark?
The rule is: If the quoted words end with a full stop (or comma), then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks.
Original sentence: 'Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres’. (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
When including the title of the text in an essay, use single quotation marks.
Directed by Elia Kazan, ‘On The Waterfront’ unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. (On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)
Alternatively, you can underline the title of the text instead of using single quotation marks. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.
When you quote the author who is quoting someone else, then you will need to switch between single and double quotation marks. You firstly need to enclose the author’s words in single quotation marks, and then enclose the words they quote in double quotation marks. If you're following the American standard, you'll need to do this the opposite way - that is, using double quotation marks for the author's words and and then single quotation marks for the quote. We recommend sticking to the preferred Australian style though, which is single and then double.
Original sentence: ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
Sunil’s unusual name leads him to believe that it is ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
As you can see, the student has quoted the author’s words in single quotation marks. The dialogue used by the author is surrounded by double quotation marks. This demonstrates that the dialogue used in the text still belongs to the author.
When you wish to express irony, you use quotation marks to illustrate that the implied meaning of the actual word or phrase is different to the normal meaning.
As a young girl, Elaine is a victim of Mrs Smeath and her so called ‘friends’. Her father’s interest in insects and her mother’s lack of housework presents Elaine as an easy bullying target for other girls her age who are fit to fulfill Toronto’s social norms. (Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood)
In this case, ‘friends’ is written in inverted commas to indicate that Elaine’s peers are not truly her friends but are in fact, bullies.
1. Does the quote blend into my sentence?
2. Does my sentence still make sense?
3. Is it too convoluted for my readers to understand?
4. Did I use the correct grammar?
Tip One: Do not go onto Google and type in 'Good quotes for X text', because this is not going to work. These type of quotes are generally the most famous and the most popular quotes because, yes they are good quotes, but does that necessarily mean that it's going to be a good quote in your essay? Probably not. But why? Well, it's because these quotes are the most likely to be overused by students - absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. You want to be unique and original. So, how are you going to find those 'good quotes'? Recognise which quotes are constantly being used and blacklist them. Quotes are constantly used in study guides are generally the ones that will be overused by students. Once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the more popular or famous ones.
Tip Two: Re-read the book. There is nothing wrong with you going ahead and finding your own quotes. You don't need to find quotes that already exist online or in study guides. Go and find whatever gels with you and whatever you feel like has a lot of meaning to it. I had a friend back in high school who was studying a book by Charles Dickens. I haven't read the book myself, but there was a character who couldn't pronounce the letter S, or he had a lisp of some sort. What my friend did was he found this one word where, throughout the entire book, the guy with the lisp only ever said the S one time and that was a massive thing. So, he used that. This is something that is really unique and original. So, go ahead and try to find your own quotes.
Tip Three: Realise that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. Yes, the main character does often have good quotes associated with whatever they're saying, but just know that you do have minor characters who can say something really relevant and have a really good point too. Their quote is going to be just as strong in your essay as a main character's quote, which will probably be overused and overdone by so many other students.
Tip Four: Develop a new interpretation of a famous or popular quote. Most of the time, the really popular quotes are analysed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or offer a different interpretation, then this is automatically going to create a really good quote that's going to offer a refreshing point of view.
For example, if we look at The Great Gatsby, one of the most famous quotes that is constantly being used is, 'He found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.' What most people will do is they will analyse the part about the 'grotesque thing a rose', because that's the most significant part of the quote that stands out. But what you could do instead, is focus on a section of that quote, for example the 'raw'. Why is the word raw being used? How does the word raw contribute extra meaning to this particular quote? This way you're honing in on a particular section of the quote and really trying to offer something new. This automatically allows you to investigate the quote in a new light.
Tip Five: Just remember that the best quotes do not have to be one sentence long. Some of the best quotes tend to be really short phrases or even just one particular word. Teachers actually love it when you can get rid of the excess words that are unnecessary in the sentence, and just hone in on a particular phrase or a particular word to offer an analysis. And also, that way, when you spend so much time analysing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the text and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point.
Those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts!
Need more help with quotes? Learn about 5 Ways You're Using Quotes Wrong.
Resources for texts mentioned/referenced in this blog post:
Burn out. According to my good friend Wikipedia, ‘burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.’ It’s a phase that most of us are used to hearing throughout our VCE years, especially as workload intensifies in the lead up to the VCAA examinations. Today I will be sharing something much more personal on VCE Study Guides, because I want you to avoid the same mistakes that I made when I was in VCE. Even though I was quite successful with my ATAR score, there are some study habits that I look back upon and I think to myself, ‘why didn’t I do that differently?’.
I suffered from severe burnout in the last month prior to my VCE exams.
Here’s the primary reason why I burnt out: I was too hard on myself. My exam study plan was rather ridiculous and unattainable. My target was to do at least one essay per day from the start of Term 4. In fact, in my September holidays I did not just one essay a day, but often two or three! Sheesh! No wonder I burnt out. I found that over the next few weeks, I started to repeat a lot of similar essay prompts, I would write the same phrases or quotes over and over again, and I personally think that this hindered my development because I was starting to regurgitate everything I had done so far, rather than pushing forward and writing with new ideas and thoughts.
And it wasn’t just English. I was lucky (or was it perhaps unluckiness in disguise?) enough to get my hands on all past sample exams produced by VCAA and other VCE companies for Mathematical Methods, Specialist Maths and Chemistry. And when I say all, I mean I had exams dating back from 1997. Yeah. I made it a mission to do one exam everyday for these subjects and boy did that take its toll on me. You might be thinking – ‘this girl is crazy!’ or ‘how can anyone do that?’. And if you have developed an intense exam study plan just like this but are doing just fine, then I applaud you. I really do! Because I know that for a lot of people, it’s simply way too draining and exhausting. I felt like I had to complete all my resources but in the end, it was simply counterproductive for me.
I ended up hardly touching English during the final 2 weeks before exams because I simply had enough. I felt as though I had hit a brick wall and no matter how much more writing I did, I probably wouldn’t improve any further. Some of you (especially the Psychology students) may know of the ‘plateau effect’. I had basically hit this point (or should I say, flat period?) and I’m sure that many of you reading this will understand or have even reached this plateau yourselves. Below I have quoted James Hayton, a PhD and thesis writing coach on what it means to plateau:
…you can’t improve without practicing- but not all practice is equally effective in improving your writing skill and simply engaging in the activity of writing on a frequent basis is not enough.
If you started playing tennis every day, you would probably improve quite quickly in the first few weeks. But if you continued to play every day without adapting your training, your rate of improvement would slow to the point where you are no longer improving with practice.
The same is true of many skills. You can drive a car every day without becoming a better driver, you can go to the gym every day without becoming stronger and you can write every day without becoming a better writer.
The relationship between practice and skill is not linear. You may experience a rapid improvement early, but this improvement slows and your skill level reaches a plateau. This is known as the learning curve.
Sometimes your skill level can even decline with practice, so it’s important to understand how to practice well. To read more click here.
As you can see, studying more or studying harder does not equal more success or a better ATAR score.
When you organise a study plan, be smart about it. So my biggest tip is this: don’t feel compelled to write one or more essays everyday. This is so not the way to go. Strategically, I think the best approach is be time-efficient. In the last week before the exam, I simply stopped doing any essay writing and just wrote plans for prompts I hadn’t seen before.Work on topics that you haven’t dealt with before, because at least then you can apply your skills. Try not to do too much repetition. Repetition is good for drilling ideas into your head, but it can be problematic if it becomes rote-learning (this applies to other subjects too). Some of my most successful students did just two essays a week, and on other days they would write plans, or simply broke their essay up and wrote a paragraph a day. If you can’t even do that, and you feel like you’ve really hit that brick wall and can’t go any further then take a break. It might seem like you’re wasting time, but if you spend a day off in the sun, or even just going out to eat lunch with family or friends, you will notice the difference as you come back to study with a more refreshed mind and positive attitude.
If you didn't already know, I have a YouTube channel. Here's a video below where I talk about 'burn out' a little more...
I hope through sharing my experience I’ve been able to help you feel less ‘guilty’ if you haven’t done as much English study as you would like today. Remember to study smarter, not harder. Good luck for your exams!
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