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VCE Study Tips
July 31, 2016
Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.
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In regards to changing subjects once the school year has started: I've done a bit of research and it appears as though the deadline to change from one subject to another is determined by your individual school. Some schools have a deadline of only a couple weeks whereas others stretch it out a little further. Ask your school for exact dates if this is something you’re considering!
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...
Do you usually do this when you come across such a situation?
From my observations and experiences, there are generally 4 main types of reactions people have:
1. the complainer (the person who’s never satisfied with anything),
2. the one who has no care in the world,
3. the silent sufferer (the person who is disappointed with the score but does nothing to change it)
4. and the calm one (the ideal level we all aspire to reach).
1. 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.
2. 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).
3. 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.
4. 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!
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
It’s around that time of the year when you start to contemplate which one of two texts you’ll most likely use in the Text Response component of the exam. And it’s not necessarily an easy choice to make! There are several factors worth considering, and you should definitely take your time deciding which text is best for you – after all, it can make a massive difference in your studying habits leading up to the exam and also how well you perform in the final exam. I’ll share with you a few of the common remarks made by students in regards to the exam and how things generally aren’t as straightforward as they seem!
1. ‘I’ll just spend all my time on one text because I’m not that great with the other one.’
Whoa! Stop right there! The first thing you should keep in mind is that you have 2 texts to choose from for a reason. The moment you decide to stick with one text, you have essentially put all your eggs into one basket. The negative side is exactly that – if you’ve placed all your chances of doing well into that one text, what if things don’t go as planned? Like two incredibly difficult exam prompts that you’ve never come across, a massive freak out I-just-realised-I-know-a-lot-less-than-I-thought leading up to the exam, or worse, that last-minute decision to switch texts for the exam. When eliminating the other option, you’ve basically got no backup. I’m sure you, like myself, have been told to back up your work on the computer and at some point, you didn’t and what happened? Of course, your computer crashed and you lost all your work. If you’re willing to take the risk, then of course go for it. Having a backup or at least having two text options ready provides you with a safety net. Even with two texts at hand, it’s completely natural for you to lean towards one text than the other. The best option, which I believe most of you would agree on, would be to focus more time on one text, but still have the other one at your disposal.
2. ‘I’ll select the text that scores the highest marks in past exams.’
Having a look at past exam marks can give you a good indication of the number of students that select a particular text and also the average mark scored by those students. The table below shows what VCAA used to produce in their Assessment Reports:
As you can see, the novel Year of Wonders has received the highest average mark. This by no means indicates that examiners are any more lenient on this text, nor do they favour it. What it really means is that it just so happened that the percentage of students who decided to write on this text were higher-than-average English students. Since 2013, VCAA has published a much more realistic table that gives us a better indication of what type of students were writing on these texts:
VCAA then stated:
From this table it can be seen that students achieved the highest scores on average for Henry IV, Part I. However, it can also be seen that on average this same set of students achieved well in the other sections of the English examination. Conversely, students who selected Così had the lowest average score in Section A, but also had low scores in Sections B and C.
UPDATE: It's 2017, so I thought I'd show you last year's examination report just below.
So what’s the take home message here? Don’t simply choose your text because it seemed to score well in recent years.
3. ‘I’ll do the film because it’s easier.’
Don’t be fooled! Films does not equal easy! Perhaps reviewing the film will be quicker than re-reading a text but films have so many layers of intricacy that you’d be silly to think that you’re automatically going to do better in the exam. It’s very hard to be successful just by writing about dialogue and plot. You have to analyse the film techniques, especially those that aren’t going to be mentioned by majority of students in the exam in order to stand out!
4. ‘I won’t do a text because it’s the first year it’s being assessed and I don’t know what to expect.’
Well hey, this is fair enough. But you can probably see it as an advantage. Although you don’t know what to expect, keep in mind that the examiners themselves probably won’t know what to expect from VCE students either. It goes both ways! If you don’t know what to expect, adequately prepare yourself. Collect and practice as many essay prompts as you can, read whatever notes or study guides you can get your hands on, and seek out your teacher and ask them if they have any thoughts on the exam!
5. “I’ll select the text that is newer to the syllabus as many students will not pick this and I will be able to get a better mark.”
The thing is, you really can’t tell how many students will choose a certain text. At the end of the day, examiners cross-mark several different texts which means that one text isn’t going to score better simply because less students choose it. A particular text may appear to receive higher scores because it’s less popular but really it means that the people who chose to write on it were higher-than-average English students (just refer to the tables shown above from VCAA Assessment Reports)!
With all these common remarks from students mentioned above, it comes down to one simple point, but often a point that needs to be reiterated – choose the text that you’re most familar and most comfortable with. Afterall, it’s going to be your writing that speaks out to the examiner. You can be strategic as you like, but choosing the text you’re best at is definitely the best strategy of all! Hope this helps any of you who have been contemplating some of these questions. Keep it up everyone!
Quotations, better known though their abbreviation as ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, as well as providing 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 Guide 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 it follows the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either styles, 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):
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 for the sake of quoting. Quotations can 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.
Single word quotations
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)
This 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 consist of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations 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 to 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:
Paraphrasing – to reword or rephrase the author’s words.Summarising – to give a brief statement the author’s main points.Quoting – to directly copy the author’s words with an indication (via quotation marks) that it is not your original work.
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:
1. Adding words
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.
2. Square Brackets ([ ])
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 (look), present (looking) 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)
Change narrative perspective
The author may write in 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)
Insert missing words
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)
1. Title of text
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, underline the title of the text. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.
Directed by Elia Kazan, On The Waterfront unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. (On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)
2. Quotation within a quotation
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 (or, use double quotation marks and then single quotation marks, depending on which you prefer).
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 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.
3. Using quotations to express irony
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.
Questions you must ask yourself when weaving quotes into sentences:
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?
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Lisa's Study Guides, and if you want one of my subscribers, then you probably would have realized how I haven't been filming on my couch lately, and I've just been filming against that white backdrop here against my wall. And that's because, to be honest, I'm a little bit sick of my couch. If you guys prefer this, I mean just let me know. I don't know, I feel like when I stand up, I can give more of my energy to you guys and it just makes the filming a lot more fun for me as well. So yeah, I'm thinking of putting up some posters with puns in the background or famous quotes from authors, things like that. So yeah, if you're keen then let me know. If you don't care, then let me know too. Whatever. Let's get into how to find good quotes.
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 Lisa? Because these quotes are most likely to be overused by students, by absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. So you want to be unique and original. So how are you going to find those "good quotes"? Recognize 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. So once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the most 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 are already existent 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 word S, or he had a lisp of some sort, and apparently what my friend did was he found this one word about the whole book, where this guy with the lisp, only one time ever said S, and apparently that was a massive thing. So he used that, and see this is something that is really unique and original. So go ahead and try to find your own quotes.
Tip three. Realize that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. The main character, yes often does 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, and that is just going to be as strong in your essay, than 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 analyzed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or 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 analyze 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 only 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 analyzing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the texts and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point.
So those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts. If you liked this video, then please give me a thumbs up, so I know I should do more of these quote based videos. If you have any questions and feel free to comment below and request whatever you want me to cover next.
Check out last week's video over there, where I discussed the three different English subjects that available for VCE students. And even if you're not studying in Victoria, Australia, you can still check it out, especially if you're divided in between different English subjects that are available for you when you're choosing your particular subjects at school.
I hope you all have a lovely week, and if you subscribe below there, then I will see you next week, Monday after school. Bye!
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!
We'd all love to hear and learn from those who have been our VCE shoes before, especially when you've cut out some hours of your sleep to study, or had your head stuck in your books for over 3 hours at a time - getting some real advice would give you that buzz of inspiration and motivation right?! Well, that's exactly what we've done for you in our latest YouTube video release. Enjoy this interview with three of VCE Study Guides' brightest tutors - you can get to know them better, and also hear the advice they have for you, from regrets to study techniques. Some of your budding questions may be answered as they were asked typical questions students usually have for past high achievers!
If you are interested in tutoring with us, you are welcome to discover more on our tutoring mantra here. Gone are the days where you would sit down with an outdated tutor for a bland hour of tutoring. At VCE Study Guides, we take pride in our innovative and interactive teaching approach. We possess the unique skill of transforming VCE tutoring into an engaging and fun learning space (as strange and incomprehensible as it may seem!) with a great vibe so that even our students feel excited and keen to learn!
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