English & EAL

Recipe for SUCCESS - 5 ingredients to improve your Text Response essay

September 7, 2017

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Let’s get real - nobody likes pancakes without any toppings, or a hamburger without the bun. Well, it’s the exact same for Text Response essays. For that deeply-desired ‘A+’ written on your SAC, you’ll need a holistic interpretation of your text; including some ingredients that are so commonly pushed to the periphery. There are several components that assist in making your essay ‘stand out’ against fellow students, and each should be addressed to convey comprehensive knowledge of your text. Along with the points below, don't forget to also read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.


  • Background research 
  • Quotes 
  • Vocabulary 
  • Collaborating with friends 
  • Practice writing essays 


  1. Gather your resources; it’s time for a background check! Researching the context of your text is imperative for understanding its nuances. This is particularly necessary when investigating the author’s life, and the social, cultural and historical influences of the text. This may also answer those burning questions that you can never quite understand by just reading the text. Borrowing a book from a library, talking to your teacher, looking up queries on Google - is all it takes to have that deeper understanding to bolster your confidence … and potentially your grades!
  2. Ever been stuck in the middle of your essay, just trying to remember what quote it was you wanted to write? It’s scientifically proven that how you memorise your material impacts its retrieval rate! Remembering items that are similar to each other improves the likelihood of recall in the long term and means that you won’t have to waste any time during your SAC with the sensation of knowing the quote, but not being able to retrieve it from memory. Therefore, organising your quotes in terms of themes, locations, settings or characters (and memorising them in the order of their category) can improve your ability to remember the information! 
  3. I think we’ve all had that ‘Oh my God’ moment when you read someone’s essay and see a frightening number of long and complex words appearing in each sentence. Well, you can rest easy in knowing your sophistication and vocabulary isn’t the only indicator of a SAC’s worth. In fact, consider your vocabulary as sprinkles on a cupcake - too much is overload, but you do need to include some to compete with other students. If vocabulary is a particularly weak point for you, take your time once a day to look up a new word in the dictionary, or better yet, subscribe to an online dictionary to be emailed one new word’s definition per day.  
  4. The best tip to doing well in English is passion! You may be thinking ‘well yeah, but I have none…” and this is something that is easily adaptable. The predecessor to passion is always interest! Creating a study group with friends, or even just talking to classmates before, during and after class to open discussion can provide you with a broader outlook on the text and get you asking questions such as ‘how?’ and ‘why?’. Everyone has different opinions, and so by hearing others it encourages you to share your viewpoint. 
  5. The final step to any revision is practice, practice, practice! Just remember, writing essays should never be the first thing you do after studying your text, but should be the product of weeks of hard work. At this stage of the process you should have ideas shared from your friends, vocabulary relevant to the text, multiple quotes to embed and background knowledge! It makes the learning process so much simpler and easier to learn - relieving you from a tonne of stress as you approach your SAC date! 

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

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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"You're not answering the prompt"

"You're going off topic"

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