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VCE Study Tips
July 31, 2016
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Let’s be honest. Life is crazy right now; everything we know has been completely flipped due to COVID-19 and there’s no denying it. Students studying Station Eleven must be feeling a little creeped out! Everything is changing so quickly as decisions are being made on a daily basis, but as of right this moment, we are in lockdown: schools are shut, gatherings are banned and most of our parents are working from home. Most of us are wondering: how will we be able to reach our teachers? What about my friends? How can I study effectively without being in class? Here are some things to remember whilst enduring the pandemic...
First of all, we are all in the same boat. Nobody in the state will be going to school until at least 13th of April, and between you and me, it’ll probably be longer. You are not alone and certainly we will all get through this together.
For those who are doubting how school will function without physical attendance, remember how far our society has come with technology! Schools across the state are finding ways to optimise your learning. From Zoom to Microsoft Teams and Skype, schools are utilising fantastic platforms to help you learn. All you need is an internet connection and a willingness to learn and you’re all set. Furthermore, teachers are usually available over email and if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly reaching out to teachers for help — and I highly recommend it! Ask for help, ask for more resources, ask for advice and guidance.
Finally, if you feel like you need some extra help, private tuition is also a great way to make sure you’re on the right track and moving towards your dream results. LSG has a great private tuition program where you’ll find amazing help online from dedicated and tech-savvy high achievers. They’ll be your tutor, motivator and mentor all in one! Just because there’s no actual school, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to learn effectively.
If you'd like to learn more about LSG's Private Tutoring program, head over here — we'd love to chat!
I know it’s easy to think,
“I can’t study at home, I always get distracted by my sibling, my cat, my parents, YouTube, games and food I just procrastinate too much!”
For me, Year 12 was full of bursts of intense focus and longer bursts of procrastination. I tried so hard to focus but sometimes, Netflix was just too tempting! However, there are a few tips that kept me in check (especially during the holidays) and helped me to do well in the end. Hopefully, they can help you too!
Looking for some advice to score 50 in VCE English? Here's what 50 study scoring LSG tutor Elli recommends!
It’s so important to have a consistent routine. This will help you direct your focus to what matters and form consistent study habits. You can even follow your school timetable if that helps! This will integrate study times for certain subjects and also appropriate break times.
Routines also help with stress. You can wake up every day and not have to think about what you are going to do that day — just follow your routine! This will work wonders in helping you to manage all your subjects, homework and socialising needs.
When building a routine, start small and build your way up. Start your day by waking up at a certain time, or scheduling when you’ll eat or even deciding when you’ll do exercise. Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I know this is a while, but if you can stick with one or two small routine changes in your life, it will make a huge difference!
There are a few things to remember when creating your own routine!
• Don’t plan out every second of every day. This will make you feel like a robot with no freedom and you’ll get bored very quickly.
• Have a basic routine that can be adapted to everyday needs! This kind of links back to the previous point, if you plan every second, you won’t be able to be adaptable and spontaneous
• Have break time, downtime and exercise time!
For some more advice on work/study/life balance, check out Lisa's interview with LSG Content Manager Matt here.
If you create a list to get done everyday, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will both motivate you to study harder and to stay focussed to reach your goals! This also ensures that you are staying on track and that you’re on top of all subjects and homework. By keeping track of what needs to be done and when, your stress levels will be reduced because everything is written down — so, when you have some time to relax, you can actually relax. Your to-do list will act as your ‘second brain’ that you can return to when you’re refreshed and ready to study.
Ensure that your to-do lists are specific. Rather than writing “study for English”, which really doesn’t tell you anything, write tasks like, “quote sheet for English” and “summary book for circular function for Methods”. Then, you know what each task expects of you and what it will look like when it’s finished.
If you’re following your school timetable, make sure that in your scheduled time to study a particular subject you have a list of things to do, otherwise, you’ll be sitting at your desk thinking about what you should be doing instead of actually studying!
There are hundreds of apps that help with productivity, organisation and procrastination. Here are a list of some of my personal favourites:
• Forest grows trees when you aren’t using your phone, and everytime you open it, a tree dies. This helps to prevent you from dawdling on social media too much.
• Just turn it on before you start studying and you’ll feel a little grief every time you open your phone because trees will die.
• Todoist helps create to do lists and alerts you with tasks you need to get done. There are plenty of apps that do this, so have a look and find one that suits you and your needs best.
• Mindly helps organise your internal thoughts! You can do pretty much anything from structuring thoughts, explore ideas, plan a speech and take notes!
• This particularly works well for subjects like English and Lit that requires a lot of idea generation
This may sound like a strange piece of advice, but it’s so tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day and lounge around. But, if you don’t change, you’ll constantly feel like you’re ready to sleep. Getting dressed in proper clothes helps change your mindset and make you feel ready for the day ahead: conquering every task that you set yourself! It sounds silly, but try it — it actually works.
Not to mention, the little things in life right now are the ones that matter the most. If you can’t do the little things, imagine tackling the bigger tasks in the world. So, start your day off well by doing the things you would normally do when preparing to leave the house.
It’s easy to become a sloth when you’re forced to stay home all day and just eat junk food all day, but remember: a healthy body = a healthy mind. It’s so important to take a break from intense studying period and get moving again. Whether that is doing some yoga, going for a run or just playing with your sibling/pet, it’s up to you. All of this is integral in maintaining your ability to concentrate and prevents burnout!
Doing exercise isn’t easy so if you have a particular routine where you schedule it in, you’ll build a great habit. If that’s not enough to get you up and moving, try incentivising yourself with a particular treat like an episode of your favourite TV show or a snack (a healthy one)! Do exercise that you enjoy.
Eating healthily doesn't always mean eating clean 24/7. Rather, it means simply maintaining a balanced diet. Eat chocolate when you crave chocolate — but don’t go overboard. Try the 80/20 rule, 80% of the time you eat as healthily as possible and the other 20% of the time, you can treat yourself. If you eat healthily, you’ll feel great and be ready to tackle the day's work!
With all this talk of social distancing in the media, it’s hard to remember that this really means physical distancing. Please don’t forget to communicate with your friends and family. Use technology to your advantage! Facetime your friends and come up with activities you guys can do together virtually. Gaming is a great idea but as I’m not a gamer myself, my friends and I had a virtual baking challenge (not to brag but I definitely won!) Keep in virtual contact! This will help keep you sane in such crazy times.
Whilst you might not have the in-person classroom interaction, you can still generate discussion with your friends online and even ask them for help. Remember that a group of minds will always be better than just one. Everyone is trying to stay on top of their learning anyway, so why not do it together?
Hopefully these tips will help you learn to be the best student you can be in this rough time! Remember to stay safe, stay home and stay dedicated to being the best version of yourself.
To quote a professor from one of the most famous schools ever:
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore
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!
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!
Dear my past VCE English Student self,
Before embarking on your Year 12 English journey, I believe there are some wise words from your future and possibly wiser self that would benefit you throughout this challenging, yet rewarding year.
1. Keep perspective
Yes, Year 12 is important. Yes English is important. Yes, doing well in SACs is important. But so is breathing, maintaining a balanced lifestyle and spending time with your friends and family. Throughout the year you are going to waste time calculating minor details, worrying over completed SACs and thinking ‘I’m doomed!’
I’m telling you now, remember the big picture. The year really is a marathon (not a sprint), and the exam should not only be seen as the finish line, but also the finals. (Where yes, your SAC marks/past results matter, but it is like the Olympics. If you train hard, like other athletes, you have the opportunity to challenge Usain Bolt and do a personal best!)
2. Have Confidence
Obviously over confidence can manifest into complacency. But because you will be a bundle of nerdy anxiety, you will have done the work. If you have done all in your power to prepare for the SAC/exam - the rest is beyond your control. It is important to know that if a SAC does not go the way you hoped, it is not the end of the world. Don’t let it knock your confidence down and spread to the next area of study. It is important to isolate your disappointments. Back yourself when walking into the SAC/exam by imagining yourself, calmly sitting down and showing off out your knowledge. English rewards thinkers. So even if you are not the best at spelling, grammar and expression - think big (but spelling, grammar and expression all matter too!).
3. Be Curious
This may seem like a tagline to Britney Spear’s perfume marketing campaign, but I believe this will be an important ingredient to your success in the year ahead. Inquisitiveness has the power to seep into all your subjects. Inquisitiveness that compels you to pursue your ideas, gather information and question what and how you are learning. This not only enriches your ideas, but it means you are expanding your mind. Come to class with questions to pick your classmates or teachers brains with - ask them and be ready with an open mind.
There are going to be many times throughout the year that you will wish you could do anything but finish an essay. You will attempt to procrastinate by watching the Bachelorette, taking Buzzfeed quizzes and spiral yourself into a YouTube hole. However, looking back, it is easy to see that teasing out your convoluted ideas, thoughts and errors, is a very beneficial process - far more than pumping out mindless essays.
You’re going to find the first few essays you write for texts the hardest (and probably the worst)! But it is an important step in the result. Don’t be afraid to be imperfect!
5. Run your own race
At the beginning of the year, you are going to spend time comparing yourself to others and secretly cataloguing their SAC marks in your mind (just a head up: That is not only a waste of time, but incredibly pointless!). Regardless of whether English is your strength or just because it is a requirement - competing against your peers is a waste of energy. Furthermore, when it comes to the exam, you and your cohort should work together. As for you to do well, you all must do well.
At the beginning of the year you’re going to read sample essay responses and think ‘Is this English?! What do these words mean?!’ However, if you begin a little note on your computer or phone that you slowly add interesting and diverse words to, then when it comes to writing responses you have a greater pool to draw from. Once you use them a few times, they will become engrained in your mind and pave the way for vocabulary mastery!
2. Study group
Find friends that are at a similar level and that have different teachers to yours - and 2 weeks out from a SAC, get together to make some mind maps and share ideas. It is important that you all contribute equally and all gain from the time you spend! (Advice: Do not do this in the weeks leading up to formal as conversation will likely go off topic.)
Be organized with your notes! Make sure you begin this at the start of the year, and make them easy and clean to understand. Often it is good to make multiple copies as you progress, gradually refining and shedding excess notes for when you arrive at the exam! I also suggest emailing a copy to yourself or regularly backing it up on a hard drive, as you will hear the horror stories of students losing all their notes. Often Unit 4 wraps up quite quickly, and the time between this and exams is often scattered with ‘final day’ activities, valedictories and formal assemblies as you farewell school. Even though you do have time to commit your knowledge, having well formatted notes heading into the exam will put you ahead of the game.
4. The texts
Always read the texts, not just the study guide. Even though these resources are often highly informative, it is important to use them to build your understanding, rather than creating it. Knowing your texts back to front, is also big secret to success! As often most students will know the key passages and plot developments, but if you can tease out obscure and small moments within the text in your essays - this will help your work to stand out.
This may seem old fashioned - but I’m not just talking about the physical newspaper! Reading articles online, researching authors, reviews and scholarly reports about your texts are highly valuable. Not only are they great to nab vocabulary from, but they keep your mind rolling and constantly developing your ideas!
There you go ‘past’ Anna! You’re going to have one of the best years of your life - even though you’ll cry, fall asleep on the floor and be perennially triggered by the library - You’re going to stand on the other side and say it was worth it. Year 12 not only is going to break you, but make you.
Enjoy the ride!
P.S: Don’t wear those shoes to Year 12 formal - they will kill your feet!
VCE English (or any one of the 4 Englishes) can be one of the most daunting and difficult subjects to study. On top of that, as students of the VCE, we are plagued daily by distractions that seemingly inhibit our ability to maximize the time to fulfil our best potential. Feeling anxious about what seems to be such little time before the exam in October, we face mind blanks and find ourselves in a constant battle against feelings of doubt and anxiety.
However, these feelings only trick us into thinking that we are not good enough to achieve and consequently diminish our much needed motivation. Thoughts about having to write three 1000-word essays in three hours by October translate into doubt about our skills, generating to thoughts saying “I don’t know what to do!” when attempting to start, or whilst writing an essay. Amidst this, our mind is inundated with thoughts about competition: “what are other students in the state studying?” “How do other students tackle the tasks so easily whilst I’m here still figuring out how to start?” However, the more we align ourselves with such anxious thoughts, the more we convince ourselves that “I can’t do it”, and we unknowingly retreat to procrastination. Despite this, time mercilessly continues to move forward and October will eventually and inevitably arrive!
To overcome this negative mentality, therefore, we must reconstruct our perception about what VCE English is really about and what it entails. To most of us, English simply involves the repetitive 1000-word essay involving an introduction-body-conclusion, discussing the themes of a novel, play or film which appear not to have any relevance for our future. But believe me; English can be far more exciting!
Put simply, we must start thinking: collaboration, not competition. English is one of the more exciting subjects because it provides us with a platform on which we can debate and share ideas. It also grants us an opportunity to express, in our own style, the ideas we construct thus granting us freedom for creativity and a space where all ideas are worth sharing! Hence, rather than perceiving your peers as competitors, embrace them as your allies. They too are most likely undergoing the same doubts and stresses. Whilst being willing to share your opinions, make sure that you engage with students who enjoy debating and sharing theirs – VCE is not something that you can do on your own!
Considering this, there are a few things you must keep in mind when studying English. A blank piece of paper or a blank word document on your computer screen appears scary, especially if you are unsure of what to write about, let alone how to start an essay. The important thing that all students must remember, therefore, is to just put something down on paper first. It doesn’t matter how well you write or express yourself (at first). Remember: all ideas are worth sharing. If you are unsure of what to write, write exactly what you think! Prioritise your ideas over your writing style! Assessors care more about seeing a mind at work and do not reward superfluous writing. A talented writer is worse off if he or she does not discuss complex ideas!
Next, it is crucial that you don’t take subsequent criticism from teachers as a message that you can’t do it. Criticism is inevitable and it is a good thing. It means that your teacher really wants to help! Just remember that year 12 is not the end. It is often easy to think that once you finish school, your writing skill doesn’t improve. But this is incorrect. Even the best writers on this planet will always continue to strive to improve!
Essentially, it is important that you write often. The more you write the greater chance there is of improving. In light of this, your writing does not have to be focussed merely on what you study in English – spending time writing about anything you want in any style is a worthwhile mental exercise (it is the perfect substitute over jumping online on Facebook or YouTube when you feel like procrastinating)! Any concerns about writing within one hour should fade away naturally as you write more frequently – this is something you shouldn’t have to worry about.
Ultimately, English can be exciting when you are prepared to share your ideas and listen to the ideas of other students. See it not as a torturous race to scribble out three 1000-word essays in 3 hours, but more rather an opportunity to explore complex ideas that are challenging yet interesting at the same time. Just remember that ideas are the primary concern, and the final piece – the writing – is merely the polish. It is okay to inspire yourself too! Don’t get hung up on appearing modest. Everyone has a viewpoint and an opinion to share and the more you collaborate, the less you will be tricked into believing you can’t. Instead, you will be constantly reminded that you can.
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