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September 4, 2018
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Hey there! Welcome to the subject of English Language, probably the most inconveniently placed exam there is in VCE, and one of your compulsory VCE subject 'top fours'. So if you're a science/maths-y sort of person, English language is probably your last exam (right after your good old methods + spesh + chemistry + physics + just kill me now exams), and if you're a humanity/language-y sort of person, English language is probably your first/one of your middle exams (legal studies + revs + global + language + why do I even bother exams). Feeling disadvantaged compared to the mainstream English students yet?!
I UNDERSTAND! So, in order to help you prepare for your exams and SWOTVAC, here's a blog post about how to plan your life and tips for you during the examination period!
SWOTVAC, what is it? In Australia, SWOTVAC stands for Study Without Teaching Vacation. So yes, studying is involved. How do we plan for SWOTVAC? The common misconception between students is that VCE is just us chilling and relaxing throughout the year then CRAMMING a whole year's worth of study into the few weeks before your first exam. However tempting this is, PLEASE DO NOT try this. Not only will this end up with you being exhausted and reliant on coffee, it will also negatively affect your sleeping schedule. So, before SWOTVAC, keep a constant pace of studying throughout the year, whether it's 15 minutes after school, or an hour every day. Doing this will ensure that you are reviewing concepts you have gone through during class, reinforcing information you are not familiar with, or even seeing gaps in your knowledge, that you can ask your mates/teachers the next day.
You may not realise it, but you have an abundance of resources available to you for the preparation of your exams. For effective studying during SWOTVAC, you cannot rely on yourself. I'm sure that becoming a hermit at home in PJs all day attempting practice exams may sound super fun (??????), but your teachers and peers are crucial during this time. As most of us know, your study scores are dependent on how your cohort scores. And now that it's SWOTVAC, and SACs have finished, it's time to really start spending time studying with your study group you've neglected since week 2 term 1. Studying with a study group can allow each member to see how other members work and attempt exams, or even share examination techniques they have learnt from older students, friends, or tutors. Doing exams together, bringing out past SACs and marking them together, can also help everyone discuss potential ways to stop making mistakes. Explaining concepts to others is the best way to reinforce your own knowledge! Other than your in-school mates, you've also got your mates from other schools doing the same subjects as you. Asking to share SACs and school resources also allow you to be more exposed to different types of questions, and potentially what else could pop up in your exams. Exposure is key. Lastly, you've got your teachers and tutors. Your teachers will always be there to help you, whether it's an easy concept you can't seem to get, or you'd like extra work or work to be marked. Same goes for your tutors, we're all here to help you out, so never feel like you're doing this alone!
That's right, you need to plan rests and social days during SWOTVAC. Plan days where you go out and grab a bite with friends, go to the gym or the beach. You need to know your limits. Studying after you’re already tired is not going to get you anywhere, taking a walk to refresh your mind will help you focus. VCE is all about working hard and playing hard.
Remember to work hard and not procrastinate when you are working, but not talk about work whilst you are out having fun!
Studying is important during SWOTVAC, but planning your study allows for efficiency! Last year in 2016, I did the subjects Specialist Maths, Chemistry, English Language, and Global politics, exams in that order. My exams were not very spaced out, with Spesh, Chem, and EngLang exams being pretty much days apart. So, unlike other students, I didn't get the luxury of studying between exams. This may be the case for many of us, so here's a tip for you: When walking into exams that are pretty much back-to-back, make sure you are already 99% ready for each exam. This applies especially for English, seeing as how it is a compulsory top 4. So, don't anticipate many studies the night after an exam, for an exam the day after. Exams are tiring! So, rest as much as you can after exams, and read about your next exam lightly the night before, sleep early, then read lightly about your next exam the day after.
Good luck for VCE and the future. Remember, you are more than your ATAR :)
It’s getting closer to the Literature exam and you’re probably starting to get more serious about avoiding dropping too many SAC marks! Depending on which order your school does Literature SACs in, you may be currently facing the often feared ‘Creative Response’. Whether you feel beyond excited to finally bring some creative flair to Literature, or you’re totally scared at the thought of creating something new, I wanted to use this blog post to help you achieve at least ten of the marks in this section. That is through the reflective commentary, which you can totally score full marks on if you put in the effort.
The VCAA Literature Study Design determines that students must submit ‘a reflective commentary establishing connections with the original text’. This aspect of the assessment counts for 10 of the 60 marks available for the Creative Response outcome. The study design further denotes that students must
‘reflect critically upon their own responses as they relate to the text, and discuss the purpose context of their creations’.
This allows your schools and teachers to direct in a relatively broad way on how you should form your reflective commentary, and may mean your friends at other schools write theirs in a very different way. In this blog post I will leave you with a suggestion of how I best believe a reflective commentary could be structured to include all important aspects, as well as tips on how to include all of what the study design asks. As I said, these are ten marks that can easily be snatched with just a little bit of hard work and attention to detail, so why not snatch them?
To induce the things needed to be included in the reflective commentary, we can look to the key knowledge and key skills points outlined in the study design:
- the point of view, context and form of the original text,
- the ways the central ideas of the original text are represented,
- the features of the original text including ideas, images characters and situations, and the language in which these are expressed,
- techniques used to create, recreate or adapt a text and how they represent particular concerns or attitudes.
- identify elements of construction, context, point of view and form particular to the text, and apply understanding of these in a creative response
- choose stylistically appropriate features including characterisation, setting, narrative, tone and style
- critically reflect on how language choices and literary features from the original text are used in the adaptation
What you’re really trying to do in your reflective commentary is prove to your teacher that you are hitting all these key knowledge and key skills points. As you write, ensure you are discussing how the author uses point of view, context, form, elements of construction and stylistic features in their text. It is than imperative that you describe how you have similarly used such device in your creative response. Ensure that you also discuss how you are involving the ideas and themes of the text in your creative piece, and how you are discussing them further, or exploring them in greater depth. Obviously only talk about those that are relevant to your creative response!
Having scored a 10/10 in my own reflective commentary, I will provide a structure that can be used to ensure you are including everything you need. I discussed my own reactions to the original text, and described how I wanted to rouse similar reactions in the reader of my creative response.
In your reflective commentary, it can be easier to put everything under subheadings. These are the ones that I used:
-Literary features (here I chose 7 particular literary features used in my text and discussed how I emulated them)
Under each of these paragraphs, I analysed how the author used such features to create and convey meaning, and discussed how I, in my own piece, drew on her use of them and expanded on her ideas. Here is an example of my ‘Purpose’ paragraph, which will hopefully give you an idea on how you might write your own commentary! My text was Cate Kennedy’s Dark Roots, in particular the short story ‘What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved’.
In my piece, I ultimately attempted to lead the reader to a place of discomfort, faced with a situation that they wish never to be faced with. When I first read What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved (Dark Roots, Cate Kennedy), I simply wished never to be in Rebecca’s position, as I was sobered by the sadness of her demise as she watched her lover fade away. I sought to elicit the same response from the reader, as I aimed to convey the deterioration that both lovers suffer, as well as the loss of communication between them. I also attempted to allow the reader to question the humanity in keep people alive by machines and drugs, and whether it is fair to force people to live an unnatural life. I have sought to explore this even further than What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved bringing in the question of euthanasia and whether we have a right to die as Kyle begs of Max to “kill me” at the end of the piece, and Max concedes that “[he] would if [he] could”. The themes of my piece seeks to explore are the ways of coping with grief, guilt at causing the illness of a loved one, a life with a lack of substance, and the loss of communication due to illness.
Hopefully you’re feeling better about how you might go about completing your creative response, and getting that 10/10 on your reflective commentary!
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:
Comparing: Stasiland and 1984 Study Guide
A Killer Text Guide: Cosi (ebook)
Cosi By Louis Nowra Study Guide
Growing Up Asian in Australia Study Guide
A Killer Text Guide: On the Waterfront (ebook)
A Killer Text Guide: Ransom (ebook)
The Crucible by Arthur Miller Study Guide
A Killer Text Guide: The Crucible (ebook)
The Crucible and Year of Wonders Prompts
Comparing: The Crucible and Year of Wonders Study Guide
A Killer Text Guide: The Secret River (ebook)
Regardless of whether you’re writing a Text Response, Comparative, or even an Argument Analysis essay, it is easy to see the introduction as something inconsequential, that won’t change your overall mark. And as a result, far too many students view the intro as a mere convention of writing that simply needs to ‘tick off’ certain criteria before they get into the ‘meat’ of the essay. But, from my experiences in VCE English, I’ve found taking some time to write a concise, yet original, considered, and insightful intro (with a bit of flair when appropriate) can be hugely beneficial.
Everyone has heard it before:
You can’t win/lose marks in an introduction or conclusion
I’ll be the first to admit that in some ways, this is true. The purpose of a Text Response essay is to show an understanding of a text through analysis. So, it is natural that your essay is marked based on the quality of your analysis of the text. And, because very little of this analysis occurs in the introduction, it’s easy to think that an intro can’t influence or change your final mark. While this may be true in theory, the reality is that your introduction serves as a foundation for your analysis...and just like a house, without a solid foundation coming first the rest of your essay is more liable to be weak and fragile. In my mind, the introduction provides a basis for everything that you’re going to analyse in your body-paragraphs which can build upon the assertions you have made regarding the topic in your intro. In other words, the introduction sets the direction for your essay, which overall acts as a backbone allowing for a cogent argument to be presented in your piece.
Now that we have established how an introduction helps contribute to the overall cohesiveness of an essay, let’s have a look at how an intro can help you while you’re writing. Especially when writing under timed conditions, it can be difficult to produce a detailed plan which lays out the structure of an essay. Here's where your intro can be of great help. When considered carefully, your introduction can set the parameters within which your essay will be contained. In other words, your intro can define the scope of your essay, outlining which themes and characters you are going to explore, and most importantly what arguments you are going to posit throughout your script. This means that if you get lost, or go blank trying to figure out what you should write next you can refer back to your intro to find a sense of direction and regain a foothold in your essay and. In this way, the intro not only acts as a foundation for your body-paragraphs but also provides a blueprint for them which can guide you from point to point.
At the same time, although an introduction cannot explicitly earn you marks, I would argue that a quality introduction can help position your assessor to immediately categorise your essay as belonging in a higher mark bracket. At the end of the year, exam assessors have hundreds of scripts to mark. And the truth is, they will not dedicate more than a couple of minutes to read your essay. As such, if you can impress your assessor with a powerful opening, they are more likely to see your piece as one that should earn a high mark. The reality is that assessors can often tell a lot about an essay based on the quality of its introduction. Therefore, if you can write a 9-10/10 introduction, your assessor will already be leaning towards awarding you a mark in that range without even having read your body-paragraphs yet.
If there’s one thing English teachers and assessors hate, it’s reading essays that have been memorised and recited (though, if you absolutely insist, then here's a middle-ground option where you could use' templates'). What is crucial, then, is that from the very first line of your introduction you are responding directly and unswervingly to the topic. I would suggest trying to avoid starting with a cliche contextual statement in favour of a bold response to the topic.
For example, in response to the topic ‘Shakespeare’s Vienna is a world devoid of balance.’ I would try to avoid starting my introduction with a vague and easily memorisable statement such as...
‘Shakespeare’s Jacobean tragicomedy Measure for Measure explores the concept of balance in his extremest characters.’
Instead, a bold opening statement is preferable...
‘Whether it is in Vienna’s abject lasciviousness, Angelo’s ascetic self-governance, or even Isabella’s hyper-rectitude, Shakespeare’s conception of Vienna in Measure for Measure is one laced with problematic extremism.’
Consider opening with a quote which captures your take on the topic. In the Comparative task, most definitely try to avoid staring with the word ‘Both’, and instead consider shedding light on a theme or concept common to both texts.
Whether it is between African and Afrikaner or Trojan and Achaean, the capacity for human understanding is upheld as paramount to overcome societal fissures. After you have put forward a broad response to the topic in your opening sentence, your introduction can then proceed to ‘zoom in’ and offer more specific arguments. These specific ideas should essentially signpost the distinct arguments you are going to present in each of your body paragraphs.
And, as suggested in the 2019 VCAA Exam Report:
‘One characteristic of high-scoring essays was recognition of the ways in which the ideas the student intended to discuss were connected.’
This means that the ideas you flag for discussion in your intro, should be logically connected to both the prompt and each other, and you should aim to outline these connections.
The specific ideas which you offer set the parameters for the rest of your essay, so it is a good idea to ensure that these insights take into consideration the implications of the key-terms of the topic, and attempt to take the topic further. This allows you to consider the text in a sophisticated and conceptual way while maintaining rock-solid links to the topic.
After you have ‘zoomed into’ the specific arguments you will be mounting in your essay, the final step is to ‘zoom back out’ and offer an incisive, and powerful overall contention which responds explicitly to the terms of the topic. We talk about this 'zoom in' and 'zoom out' technique in How To Write A Killer Text Response.
Ultimately, the introduction provides you with a great opportunity to show off to your assessors that you can write incisively, fluently, and with confidence.
How To Write an A+ Language Analysis Introduction
Introductions for EAL Language Analysis, To Write or Not To Write?
VCE Literature Close Analysis: Introduction
5 Tips For A Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion
The Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative
The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response
The Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis
The Ultimate Guide to VCE Literature
2022 Update: Check out our TikTok and YouTube channel for the latest GAT updates and how you can succeed even without study!
If you're not entirely sure what the GAT is, head on over to this blog to find out more about it and why it's important!
[Modified Video Transcription]
What's up?! I got 10/10 on my GAT, so I'm going to tell you how I got perfect marks in Task One of the GAT. I'm also going to share with you my essay so that you know exactly what you need to do when it comes to doing your GAT.
Here's a bit of information you need to know going into Task One, which is basically a Creative piece. Now, I've done a GAT video in the past, which I highly recommend you go and watch, because in that video I teach you essentially what you should be doing for the writing tasks and how you should organise your time in order for you to get the best possible marks in the GAT. No, you don't have to study for the GAT, but if you can do well in it, then you might as well because...you don't know….COVID might come back, you might need a derived score...you know what I mean? You just don't know what's going to happen so you might as well try to do your best and if this video helps you out with that, if you're willing to spend a few minutes doing it and yet bump up your marks heaps, it's definitely going to be worth it for you!
I learned all of my skills from my tutor at the time, who was a VCAA examiner, so this information comes directly to you from an examiner, so, you know, it's legit!
A lot of people get really confused when it comes to Task One because they think that it's just a whole bunch of information that's put in front of them and what they're supposed to do is just regurgitate the information that's there and package it into an essay somehow. But, as I've talked about in my previous video, the way that you do this is to write a Creative piece using the information that's in front of you - just trust me on this.
I know there's a lot of talk back and forth out there about how you should be doing Task One, but you can see (in the comment section of my other video) people who followed through with this Creative method and have done really well. Another reason I like this Creative approach is because it makes things easier for you. In the instructions, it says:
'Develop a piece of writing, presenting the main information in the material. You should not present an argument.’
So really what's left is (if it's not going to be persuasive) it either has to be an Expository, which is just like a normal Text Response essay, or it can be a Creative. A normal Text Response essay is going to be so boring for everyone out there - do a Creative instead! Why?! Because:
‘Your piece will be judged on:
So, what this means is if you're going to do a Text Response version of the information that's in front of you, the only way you can really do that is by regurgitating and just wrapping up similar pieces of information in one paragraph together. I don't know how you would do an Expository well, but if you take a Creative approach, it not only tests your organisational skills but also tests your understanding of the material as well.
What I mean by Creative piece is you can write a letter to the editor, you can write a diary entry, you can write an advertisement, you can write a brochure. There are just so many different types of Creative pieces you could use - the world is your oyster essentially. I'm going to talk you through how I did it for my particular GAT.
This one here is actually a trial GAT. We had an examiner come in and grade our marks for us so it's not my actual GAT, which I don't think you can get back, but it's the closest thing to it, so, we'll work with that.
We did a really old GAT. This is the 2004 (which is ages ago) General Achievement Test. Some of you might've been born around this time! That is nuts!! Anyway, the GAT has not changed over the past 10 or so years, or the past 20 years even, so don't feel like this is information that's not going to be helpful, because every single year it's the same type of instructions with a similar type of information that's given.
Here you can see that I've got an island and there are just bits of information. There's a legend, there's a scale, there are facilities, there is a temperature and a bird's eye view of the island itself.
If you look at this, how are you going to write a Text Response on this? It's going to be boring. So instead, what I did was I said:
'Dear Diary: We arrived in Amaroo Island this afternoon and the view of this place from the plane was amazing!'
When I was in the GAT itself, I would cross out the section (in this case the photo of the island) that I had covered just to see how much information I was able to pack into my piece and know that I wouldn't need to touch it again.
'Magnificent blue water sea, sandy white coast and huge amounts of great green trees! From the airport, we travelled by bus to our hotel where we will be staying for two nights. On the way, we stopped at a historical ruins site. One of the tour guides whom we bumped into told us the ruins have been found to be from 1854! We stayed there for an hour, then caught the bus back again to our hotel. We were extremely excited to explore the hotel and its surroundings, so Dad, Mum, George and I quickly unpacked our luggage and changed for the night. We decided to have dinner at a restaurant which turned out to serve delicious food. After dinner, we explored a shopping centre, galleries and even a museum which is called ‘Maritime Museum’. So many facilities in just one place! That took most of the night and we were all tired from a long day. Tomorrow we will be going swimming and camping outdoors for the night. I'm excited!'
You can see just in this one paragraph I've tried to pack in as much information as I can, but in a way that makes it interesting and fun. You'll notice that with my vocabulary it's not like I am this 50 study score achiever who’s writing exceptionally beautiful language and, I don't know, making this GAT piece something that it's not. I'm just giving them information, having fun with it, making it creative and as a result, I did well!
Alright, let's keep going.
'Dear Diary: Our second day began with the sunshine pouring into our rooms.'
That's just a nod to the temperature. It's not an explicit nod, it's more of an indirect nod.
‘George and I were very eager to go swimming and were pleased to find that the weather for the day was 28°C!'
There's the explicit inclusion of the information.
'I'm glad we came here in January rather than July when we were initially planning to holiday.'
Adding more information without just forcing it down the examiner’s throat.
'Our travel guide booklet states that it’s only a maximum temperature of 15°C! degrees in July! We wouldn't have gone swimming then, that's for sure. Mum and Dad decided that even though there was a safe swimming area near Gali in Gali Bay, we should go to Dolphin Bay and then to Marlin Bay to stay for the night.'
Here I'm just including Gali Bay because I wanted to, but I wanted to also talk about the other bays as well. I'm just trying to be creative in how to include this information. It's all embedded within my storyline so it doesn't feel like I'm spoon feeding my examiner piece after piece of information.
'We caught the bus again to Dolphin Bay and there were many families as there was a caravan park situated right by the bay! How convenient is that! When we were swimming, we could even see the Cape Dolphin lighthouse in the distance. Afterwards, we travelled to Marlin Bay via bus. Marlin Bay is right next to Amaroo National Park, and we've seen some kangaroos and koalas amidst the trees but we're not allowed into the park as it's a marine reserve boundary. Tomorrow we're heading back to Gali Hotel, playing some golf and going riding along the coast!'
I'm pretty much almost done! You see that my essay wasn't actually that long. It was only a page and a half (of handwriting), and yet I still got 10/10. I think it just goes to show how many people out there just don't know how to do a GAT, so you only need to do a fraction better in order for you to do exceptionally well in your GAT scores. To finish off my story:
'Dear Diary: Our final day at Amaroo! We woke up early, had breakfast which Mum cooked up and then headed back home.'
Here I'm also adding in pieces of information that aren't necessarily on the page that's been given to us. I just thought it'd be a nice touch to say this, you know, we woke up early, we had breakfast which Mum made - it just adds to the storytelling.
'We didn't do much during that morning, just had lunch at the Gali restaurant. Afterwards, however, we did lots! We hired bikes from the shopping centre and rode along Gali Bay to Moonlight Bay. It was tiring but the scenery was amazing! We spent most of the afternoon riding but got back to Gali at 4 o'clock and Dad headed out for some golf. George and I decided not to because we were drained from all our exercise already. This is our last night in Gali, I'll be sad to leave Amaroo Island.'
That's it! If you guys want to see how I got 10/10 in my second task. Make sure you leave a comment for me over on Youtube, like the video and I'll get another video/blog out for you guys. Thanks so much for watching (or reading) and I wish you guys all the best for the GAT.
We arrived in Amaroo Island this afternoon and the view of this place from the plane was amazing! Magnificent blue water sea, sandy white coast and huge amounts of great green trees! From the airport, we travelled by bus to our hotel where we will be staying for two nights. On the way, we stopped at a historical ruins site. One of the tour guides whom we bumped into told us the ruins have been found to be from 1854! We stayed there for an hour, then caught the bus back again to our hotel. We were extremely excited to explore the hotel and its surroundings, so Dad, Mum, George and I quickly unpacked our luggage and changed for the night. We decided to have dinner at a restaurant which turned out to serve delicious food. After dinner, we explored a shopping centre, galleries and even a museum which is called ‘Maritime Museum’. So many facilities in just one place! That took most of the night and we were all tired from a long day. Tomorrow we will be going swimming and camping outdoors for the night. I'm excited!
Our second day began with the sunshine pouring into our rooms. George and I were very eager to go swimming and were pleased to find that the weather for the day was 28°C! I'm glad we came here in January rather than July when we were initially planning to holiday. Our travel guide booklet states that it’s only a maximum temperature of 15°C! degrees in July! We wouldn't have gone swimming then, that's for sure. Mum and Dad decided that even though there was a safe swimming area near Gali in Gali Bay, we should go to Dolphin Bay and then to Marlin Bay to stay for the night. We caught the bus again to Dolphin Bay and there were many families as there was a caravan park situated right by the bay! How convenient is that! When we were swimming, we could even see the Cape Dolphin lighthouse in the distance. Afterwards, we travelled to Marlin Bay via bus. Marlin Bay is right next to Amaroo National Park, and we've seen some kangaroos and koalas amidst the trees but we're not allowed into the park as it's a marine reserve boundary. Tomorrow we're heading back to Gali Hotel, playing some golf and going riding along the coast!
Our final day at Amaroo! We woke up early, had breakfast which Mum cooked up and then headed back home. We didn't do much during that morning, just had lunch at the Gali restaurant. Afterwards, however, we did lots! We hired bikes from the shopping centre and rode along Gali Bay to Moonlight Bay. It was tiring but the scenery was amazing! We spent most of the afternoon riding but got back to Gali at 4 o'clock and Dad headed out for some golf. George and I decided not to because we were drained from all our exercise already. This is our last night in Gali, I'll be sad to leave Amaroo Island.
If you'd like more help, check out Why the GAT Matters and How To Use It To Your Advantage. It walks you though what's involved, why the GAT matters, the different tasks you'll need to complete and more!
Ok, let’s be honest here. I’m not one to be easily motivated to do things. I’m what you call a part-time-verging-on-full-time procrastinator. Hell, if procrastinating was a career, I’d be rich by now!
But alas, there’s no time left in these last critical months of high school to sit back while you put even the smallest of tasks off because you can’t be stuffed. There’s always that one project, that one piece of writing, that one homework task that you just can’t bring yourself to sit down and do. That’s when you soon discover that you’ve got to find a teensy-tiny ounce of hope and drive in you to complete the unwanted task. Oh, what’s that called again? Ah yes!
So how does one find that motivation to plough through lists of work, practice SACs and exam papers, and write yet another language analysis without going insane?
Well, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’ve always thought admirably of those top 99+ ATAR achievers in my school, the students that score 50s in each subject and the brightest kids in the state that appear on the front of newspapers come mid-December each year. It baffled me for so long that they appeared SO motivated to do all this work! How do they keep pushing themselves? How do they not lose confidence along the way? How do they stay focused for the entire Year 12? And I’ll let you in on a little secret… you can be one of them! Just find the motivation technique that empowers and energises YOU!
Motivation is SUCH a personal matter. It is 110% crucial if you plan on doing well for your final years of school, and once you discover what gets your engine roaring, it’s an invaluable tool you’ll need and keep for life.
Perhaps the most ‘obvious’ motivation for doing well in Year 12 is to get acceptance into your preferred University course, TAFE course, or other career or study pathway. But that’s not enough, in my humble opinion. Plenty of students start off Year 12 with such a great mind frame for the first few weeks or months, and then struggle to keep up the good work. You need to keep your goal as close to mind as possible. Don’t just have a 4-digit figure in the back of your mind or glued onto a pin board. Visualise what it looks like when you’re walking into your dream course, discovering your passion, meeting new people that feel as passionate about what they’re learning as you. Where will your dreams take you? Hold on to those images in your mind. They are pure gold.
If you feel like everything in Year 12 isn’t worth the stress and the effort, think of the holiday that greets you after finishing high school. For some, you might be trekking off overseas for 4 months or even spending a few days at Schoolies! Imagine where you could be in only a few months’ time. What will you be doing, where will you be relaxing, who will you be socialising with, how far will you be travelling? If you give your final year all you got, that break will feel even more rewarding.
Another technique I tried isn’t for everyone, and those that exercise it should do so with caution… but I motivated myself using the big fat F-word: FAILURE. I was emotionally invested in my subjects, so that if I felt that I wasn’t improving my scales, my oral comprehension, or my writing to the standard that I desired, then I would feel like I had failed my teachers. I respected them not only for their expertise, but for their faith and constant encouragement they showed for their students. A healthy dose of nerves and stress is okay, as it can spur you on even more to work harder, persevere and impress.
Year 12 is not a sprint, it is truly a marathon. The best part is, you’re almost there! But if you keep your eyes on the prize and let your friends, family and teachers hand you those water bottles and towels, you can take each part as it comes. It’s not going to be easy, but if you stick to a plan and give it all you’ve got with no regrets, reaching that finish line will be the best feeling in the world!
Check out How To Recharge Your Motivation Over the School Holidays for more!!
Ahhh school holidays. The perfect two weeks to catch up on homework and forget about the stresses of school. Now, this scenario isn’t what the majority of our school holidays actually look like. For some, school holidays present a challenge whereby we don’t have direct access to our teachers to ask for help and we ultimately find ourselves in a bit of a ‘motivation downslide’.
Personally, the school holidays were a great time for me to go through all the concepts that I found tricky during the term. Yet, I always found myself running into a bit of trouble with what I like to call ‘the procrastination jungle’, especially with English. So, here are a few tips that can help you find some sparks of motivation for when you feel like there is simply no road ahead.
Often the best way to figure out how you’re travelling through the year is to pause, breathe and reflect back (cue Disney’s Mulan, Reflection) on what was a busy and hectic term.
I always found it useful to revisit some of my previous goals that I had set for myself and tick them off if I had accomplished them. For instance, a goal that I had for the start of Term 2 was to ask my teachers more questions about concepts that I was still unsure of. When it came to the Term 2 holidays, I revisited this goal and was able to tick it off which gave me an incredible sense of achievement and reassured me that I was on track to finish the year off with a score that I was going to be super proud of in the end.
You might be asking, ‘what if I haven’t written down any goals throughout the year?’ Not to worry! It is never too late to start contemplating what your objectives are for the year. In fact, use this time now during the start of your holidays as a stepping stone to building up a habit of doing just this. This will help you tremendously in defining your journey towards accomplishing your aspirations and offer you perspective on any improvement areas you may need to address in your subjects.
But, how exactly are you supposed to make goals? Some may say that this process is somewhat ‘tedious’, but I’m here to help take the guesswork out of making, revisiting and addressing your goals using the ‘SMART’ technique:
‘My goal before the end of Term 3 is to have written one English Essay for all of my novels every week and have it marked by my teacher’.
Notice how to the point this is? I’ve mentioned exactly what it is that I want to see completed, by when and the frequency - ‘one essay per week’.
‘My goal before the end of term is to read all four of my novels three times a week, write 10 essays for each novel every week and complete a three-hour practice exam every second day of every week’
Now I know what you’re thinking, anything is possible if you put your mind to it, but writing 10 essays for each novel and completing a three-hour practice exam every week?! Not only is this goal simply not realistic, but what relevance is this goal going to have when you’ll inevitably feel burnt out and tired from writing all those essays!
Pinpointing what you still need to go through and what you’ve already mastered is guaranteed to save you time and effort studying when it comes to SACs and eventually the exam. By doing this, you’ll feel a sense of control and direction when you begin another term, without experiencing the often icky feeling of being lost and unsure.
The way that I went about this was to:
1) Source the study design for each of your subjects (you can do this by going to the VCAA website) and either print them or have them saved onto your desktop.
2) Read through the study design and start to familiarise yourself with the dot points and what you have already covered in class.
3) Go through the study design and, using highlighters or coloured pens, come up with a colour coordinating system. I personally opted for:
4) Link your existing notes to the study design dot points and if you haven’t already covered a particular dot point in your notes, take the time to study and add these in.
If you didn’t believe in magic before then you definitely will with the Pomodoro Technique. I used this method religiously back in Year 12 and still do at University. It involves breaking up your study into bite-size chunks whereby you complete intervals of 50 minutes of study followed by a 10-minute break. After every 3-4 cycles, add in a 20-minute break.
Let’s have a look at an example of my typical morning back in Year 12:
What I love about this is that it enables you to break up the work into manageable pieces so that you focus solely on one task before taking a well-deserved break. This ensures that you don’t burn out from constantly studying without scheduling time for relaxation, recovery and recharge.
How you use your break time is completely up to you. Do anything to take your mind off your work for a few minutes before diving back into your studies!
While it may feel productive to be studying and revisiting content covered in previous terms, there is no understating the importance of taking the time to practice good habits that improve your mental and physical health.
Consider taking your dog for a walk while listening to a few songs along the way, or going to your local swimming pool and doing a few laps! Anything to get your body moving will help to ensure that you break your routine up a little bit and experience something different to the often mundane task of studying and completing work. Maybe also get your friends involved too! You can try organising a volleyball game or whatever activity you are all keen on!
Everyone is sitting somewhere different on the motivation scale. Some may be extremely motivated to reread their texts, write up essay plans, write timed essays, etc. and others may find it difficult to achieve consistent motivation all the time, and that’s okay. To feel motivated all the time is failing to step back and reflect on how far you’ve come as a person in your personal journey.
Often it is when we compare ourselves to others and say ‘but look at how motivated they are’ or ‘they’ve already done so many practice exams and are going to get a really good study score’ that we fall into this trap of finding ‘flaws’ within ourselves. Comparing your diligence and beliefs in terms of your studies to others is only ever going to do you harm. Focus on your own journey and know that it is absolutely necessary to not expect to be motivated to study all the time. It’s simply not realistic.
The powerful verse ‘this too shall pass’ is something I had to always remind myself of back when I was in Year 12. Months and months of SACs, practice exams and feeling burnt out felt like an eternity and it started to impact my own sense of willingness to continue my personal academic journey. If it gives you any reassurance, however, know that one day you’ll look back on this chapter of your life with nothing but memories and perhaps even have a laugh or two at how young you were in your school photos!
1 May 2020, 12:05pm
In Victoria, VCAA are starting to update us on which SACs (particularly practical tasks) need to be completed on-site. No English subjects are really affected by this, mostly subjects with folios or labs, as well as environmental sciences—check here for details (under ‘School-based Assessments’ > ‘Unit 3 Practical Assessments’). The general advice for any of these is that they “must be completed in the school environment that adheres to current social-distancing advice.”
Study designs have also been adjusted for English Language, as well as Biology and all streams of Maths—same link, with info under ‘2020 Adjusted Study Designs’.
In Victoria, schools remain closed, and current distancing restrictions will remain in place until May/11 for certain, even as other states begin lifting their restrictions. This is ahead of a national cabinet meeting on May/8 which will make a call on whether or not to keep going with shutdown. It’ll also take into consideration how many people have downloaded the CovidSafe app, which has spawned its own set of controversies about privacy and government access to our data. It might seem invasive, but consider:
In Victoria, three new cases were recorded overnight. Around the country, even better—for example, SA and WA are reporting zero new cases, and the ACT currently has no active cases at all.
I wouldn’t necessarily say this means the end is in sight—just a shift into the next phase, which seems to revolve around the app. What a cheery thought, I know.
One last controversy to leave you with—the Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr. Annaliese van Diemen made a tweet on her day off which compared COVID-19 to the British colonisation of Australia:
Conservative politicians have been champing at the bit to jump in with “well, actually…” comments (e.g. “well, actually Cook only charted the East Coast”) and call for her resignation, while the Labor state government has defended her right to make this tweet and express her opinion. Premier Andrews has said: “I've got no comment to make on any member of the public health team other than thank you for the work you are doing because it is making a massive difference.” And so it is.
Maybe this tweet is relevant to the current pandemic, maybe not, but let’s not be defensive about it. Instead, let’s just keep in mind that most of us are in fact not the first Australians who’ve faced something scary and foreign which has completely changed how we live, because most of us aren’t First Australians. Definitely at least food for thought.
1 May 2020, 11:20am
And a very similar kind of chaos happened there as well, with some degree of conflicting state and federal advice; NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has implemented complete remote learning until at least May 11 in spite of the federal government’s insistence on reopening.
That said, their start of term 2 has also seen some new issues arise—now, more so than a fortnight ago, people are starting to feel the situation stabilise. The number of new COVID-19 cases is falling and the humdrum of home schooling is starting to get old, which is tempting parents to send kids (especially younger kids) back to school earlier.
This is also complicated by the federal government, which has since adjusted its approach based on initial tensions with Victoria. They are now simply offering private and Catholic schools financial incentives to reopen—in particular a 25% advance on next year’s funding if they have half their students back in classrooms by June 1. There are thousands of eligible schools around the country.
Those who are more adamant about distance learning—including Premier Berejiklian, Premier Palaszczuk of Queensland and Premier Andrews of Victoria—suggest that schools will struggle to cope with more students at the moment. Teachers will be more at risk, and the delivery of at-home learning may be compromised. Also, it would be much harder to shut schools again once reopened, than to just keep them closed until we’re sure.
NSW schools are contemplating staggered returns to school, based on things like alphabets, postcodes, year groups etc. or with limited days of the week delivered in person.
At home, VCAA is running webinars to provide advice for teachers and principals, which ran on April 30 and May 1. As April comes to a close (already—it honestly felt so short), the possibility of reopening schools as well as other sectors soon is feeling within reach, though not without some element of risk.
24 April 2020, 7:40pm
VCAA has spelled out some of the changes that will be happening to Unit 3 of the VCE. Firstly, it has recommended schools delay the end of Unit 3 until Jun/26. This should give more time for everyone to figure out exactly how SACs will be administered or modified, and whether any must be completed on-site. The deadline for schools to submit Unit 3 results has also been pushed back to Oct/12.
As for Unit 4, there is currently a review of whether or not SACs can be reduced.
VCAL dates are also set to change so that it takes place in parallel with VCE, though there won’t be changes to content or assessment.
VCAA has also changed the last day for official enrolment in or withdrawal from VCE Units 3–4 to Jun/8, and from VCE Units 1–2 to Nov/9. This means that Year 11 students will have more flexibility to pick up and change subjects in Semester 2.
In terms of technological support, the Victorian government will be lending out computers and SIM cards via schools, so speaking to school administration is the first port of call. You can also seek assistance from State Schools’ Relief.
Finally, VCAA is also trying to support teachers by opening up new communication channels where they can seek more focused and detailed information from experts. I’m not too clear what information is being made available, but this is what they’ve written about it:
“F–10 and senior secondary teachers may access two new interactive communication channels from 27 April 2020. These will enable teachers to ask questions and receive answers in real time from our subject matter experts across the organisation.”
23 April 2020, 10:51am
At this stage, Victorian schools do seem to be operating remotely by default. There was some confusion earlier in the week among teachers and parents, but things seem to be settling down for now. Bearing in mind that many teachers spent the holidays adjusting and reworking lessons for online learning, their frustration is probably understandable in this light.
There still isn’t a consistent national framework for how schools should operate in the medium- to long-term though. For example, Queensland schools are only mandating 5 weeks of remote learning for now, though also making sure that essential workers’ kids can still attend school in-person and making SIM cards and laptops available for students who need them.
The Victorian Department of Education has provided learning from home advice for students and parents, translated into a number of languages. One new tidbit in there is that small groups of students who need to gather and complete learning requirements on-site will be permitted to do so. I can’t imagine a lot of requirements falling under this umbrella, but this will be up to individual schools to provide.
17 April 2020, 10:12am
If you're curious about what tutoring with LSG entails, and would like to get to know a tutor a little bit better, this video is for you! Lisa recently sat down with Sarah, one of LSG's amazing tutors, and they spoke about the life of a tutor, various tutoring experiences, and even what it's like to conduct tutoring online.
11 April 2020, 10:41am
There’s been a bit of conflicting advice from higher up, unfortunately. While state government has indicated that government schools will shift to remote learning in Term 2, the federal (national) government has other ideas.
On Apr/9, education minister Dan Tehan asked that independent and Catholic schools keep classroom learning available at the risk of losing federal funding. This is especially confusing for Victorians, as the state government has been decisive in implementing a remote Term 2 for government schools.
It’s a tricky scenario because the federal government funds independent and Catholic schools, while the state government runs government schools.
It’s definitely ok to feel frustrated by this—Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green has described this as an “impossible situation…caught between conflicting advice from state and federal authorities.”
The federal government reasons that children of essential frontline workers need a classroom option, and they may not have any other choice because of their parents’ employment. However, the Prime Minister has also said that it is up to states and territories to make those decisions about what exactly will happen in schools.
We expect more clarification on this over the long weekend and the days to follow.
10 April 2020, 8:50pm
So what exactly is going on with this right now?
Schools are reopening after Easter but they will operate remotely for Term 2. It will be announced later if this extends to Term 3 or not.
Year 12 students will receive an ATAR for work completed in 2020. The GAT will be held in October or November instead of June; exams are postponed to December at the earliest. Exams may be modified or shortened, but nothing has been announced for certain yet. There are Plan-Bs to either delay exams further if needed, or derive ATARs from your GAT.
However, entry to tertiary study shouldn’t be affected—there’s usually a big window between VCE exams and the start of uni anyway, and government is in dialogue with universities about pushing back the start of 2021 if needed. Admissions processes may look different depending on the extent to which exams are affected, but universities are committed to being fair, consistent and transparent. There may also be catch-up, foundation or bridging classes in your first year.
If you don’t have the technology to learn remotely, the government will be loaning out 4,000 SIM cards and 6,000 laptops. They will also be working with Food Bank to make sure students who need breakfast clubs and lunches get it. Transportation services (school buses, disability transport and metro) will run as usual.
I’m feeling really iffy about some of this…
You’re not alone. Many people, students among them, are encountering all kinds of challenges with the changes that have been happening, and there is no shame in feeling powerless or in need of some extra resources in this time.
If you or your family are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible for Youth Allowance or JobKeeper payments. There are also support grants for artists and creatives, as well as rental protections if you or your family are renters.
If you are experiencing family issues, Legal Aid Victoria has resources available.
If your mental health has been affected, you can contact:
1300 224 636
1800 650 890
1800 551 800
If you need any support for VCE or schoolwork, we’ll have plenty of content on our blog and YouTube channel to help you address any concerns. We also have a team of experienced tutors available for online tutoring.
Maybe that covers all the bases, but chances are it doesn’t—individual circumstances are really different right now, and circumstances across society are constantly in flux.
Beyond your personal circumstances, you might also be feeling a little iffy about the increased policing, or the exclusion of migrant workers from wage protection.
Could there be any alternatives to policing, maybe some sort of community-based delivery service to ensure that society’s most vulnerable remain well-resourced? And is the government obliged to protect the wages of not only Australian citizens, but Australian taxpayers as well (anybody who lives in Australia is an Australian taxpayer).
A lot to think about if you haven’t done your Oral Presentation yet…
10 April 2020, 11:20am
Across the state, students and teachers are transitioning to learning remotely — and it hasn't been exactly easy. There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your education isn't compromised and remains at a high standard. To hear more about these strategies, check out the blog post created by my fellow tutor, Angie, here.
Learning remotely means that many students of all ages are worried about how they'll be able to access tailored support from teachers busy with adapting their teaching methods and lesson plans who are often unable to give students the one-on-one attention they deserve due to this pandemic. Well, Lisa's Study Guides' online private tutoring service connects students with experienced tutors who scored in the top 9% or better in their recent completion of VCE. To learn more about how we can work with you to empower you to take control of your learning, head over to our information page here.
Lisa has also created a video talking about what online tutoring entails. Be sure to check it out below to learn more!
10 April 2020, 9:26am
You might’ve heard the term ‘economic stimulus package’ being tossed around. This refers to when the government borrows money (i.e. increases government debt) and essentially gives it to people so that ‘business as usual’ isn’t disrupted, even when our jobs and our social lives might be. Even if you no longer have a source of income, government payments can now be spent on supplies which keep you alive, keep those businesses afloat, and keep their workers employed. Without any stimulus, the economic consequences of COVID-19 would be far more widespread.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put in place a range of economic stimuli which play a big part in flattening the curve. This has included wage guarantees (JobSeeker/JobKeeper payments) that look a lot like universal basic income—everyone* who is now out of work receives an equal, regular payment from the government that covers their basic needs.
Policies like this allow everyone*, no matter their income level beforehand, to get by and stay at home without needing to find a new job while it’s dangerous (and illegal) to go outside.
Australia has adopted similar policies before—the then-Labor government introduced economic stimuli during the financial crisis of 2009—but Scott Morrison was a vocal critic back then.
Finally, even though Australia’s response to COVID-19 appears to be working well, there are two big challenges coming up. One is Easter, a long weekend where people traditionally go out. This time, they’re being warned to stay home.
Another is the start of Term 2, when over a million Victorian students would usually be on the move. The transition to remote learning will prevent this in a bid to continue flattening the COVID-19 curve.
*everyone who is eligible—which currently doesn’t include temporary visa holders, many casual workers, people in arts and entertainment, charities etc.
8 April 2020, 1:45pm
As of Wednesday April 8, we’ve seen 5,844 cases of COVID-19 across the country, with 1,212 of those in Victoria, where 60,000 tests have been administered. Among these:
• 12 have passed away
• 45 are in hospital, including 12 in intensive care
• 101 seem to be the result of community transmission
• 736 have recovered
In order to control the rate of the outbreak, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has introduced a range of regulations which promote social distancing. These have been increasingly restrictive, from closing down non-essential businesses and limiting the size of public gatherings to stay-at-home rules that are now enforceable—you might’ve heard of these as “stage 3 restrictions”.
As part of these restrictions, you may only legally leave the house for four reasons:
• Getting food and supplies
• Seeking medical care
• Exercise (that doesn’t involve groups of more than 2 people)
• Work and study (where remote options are unavailable)
There are also on-the-spot fines of $1,652 for anyone caught in breach of these restrictions, and as many as 114 such fines have been issued in a single day. Since March 21, Victorian police have conducted 16,039 spot checks in homes and non-essential businesses. People have been fined for having mates over for dinner parties, a cheeky video game sesh, even hanging out in the park.
At this stage though, there are signs that these restrictions may be paying off, and that Australia is ‘flattening the curve’ compared to other countries, especially other Western democracies such as the US (which now leads the world in COVID-19 cases) and the UK (where the Prime Minister has contracted the virus). ‘Flattening the curve’ basically means new cases are growing at a slower rate (a ‘flat’ increase) rather than at an exponential rate (a sharper increase).
7 April 2020, 5:35pm
Right now, there's so much uncertainty and everyone has the right to be anxious. For the VCE, this is no different – it's ok for us to be unsure and worried about what'll happen with our study scores and ATARs. So, to put your minds at ease, Lisa (the founder of Lisa's Study Guides) recently created a video talking about what the coronavirus means for the VCE in 2020. Check it out below...
7 April 2020, 12:00pm
You’ve heard of Love in the Time of Cholera; now get ready for VCE in the time of coronavirus. As far as we know, the VCE is indeed still on, and if you’re currently in Year 12, it looks like you’ll be on track to graduate at the end of 2020 as per usual.
Yep. VCAA has allowed schools to administer SACs either remotely, or delay them to whenever in-person classes resume. Your school will make its own decisions on how you’ll actually be taking SACs—if you have personal access requirements or need for special provisions, speaking to them would be the best avenue. Same goes for how schools actually deliver the content—it’s all pretty flexible at the moment.
On the one hand, VCAA seems to be raising the option of delaying SACs until school resumes pretty strongly. On the other, they’re suggesting that online SACs should be delivered as normally as possible if schools can’t accommodate a delay. This means that, just like on a real SAC, there’ll be limited time and potentially limited access to resources as well.
They’re also reminding us that even if SACs go online, your actual, numerical results are less important than your “correct ranking”. To determine this, individual schools are being advised to ‘validate’ remote SAC results with classroom-based assessments when they return. You may well get the best of both worlds.
In general though, everyone is in the same boat for now, and concerns around this are widespread (and valid!). Do the best you can, and your effort will be reflected in your ranking at the end of it all. Don’t forget that SAC scores also get moderated by VCAA at the end of the year.
Yes, and they’ll still be calculated the same way (from assessments, statistical moderation, and study scores). Remember that study scores and ATARs are also rankings, and everyone is going through this together; everyone is doing/can only do the best they can under the circumstances.
As things change, VCAA will also keep everyone updated on whether or not key dates change. This may include things like:
They will also be “provid[ing] advice for schools every Monday from the start of Term 2”, so everyone will move at the same pace in these strange and difficult times.
COVID-19 is certainly unprecedented. The necessity of social distancing brings its fair share of challenges, and we’re all adapting as much as we can. At Lisa’s Study Guides, we’re doing our part by moving all our lessons online; it’s been an option that our tutors have worked with for years, and it’s just become a necessity now to minimise risk across the community.
There’ll still be online resources available though, both with your teachers and with us—please reach out if you need anything.
And there’ll be other challenges too, like having your co-curriculars and general social life going under for a little while. Make time for your hobbies where you can, and keep in touch with your friends as much as possible.
That’s a really great question—2020 is barely happening as it is, so it’s definitely normal to be anxious about the future, and whether or not you’ll feel prepared to return to life again in 2021 while also navigating the whole new world of university.
To be honest, we think you’ll be more prepared than most. University challenges most students to be more independent and self-reliant than they’ve ever been before—it’s a place where you have to choose to turn up, and actively stay on top of everything with less contact and support. You’ll come out of 2020 already having faced many of these challenges (and this’ll prepare you for life beyond uni too!).
And who knows how this will shape education going forward! It’s given everyone—not just you, but also your teachers, parents and principals—a bit of an awakening with regard to technology. Classrooms may never look the same again, even when we do go back.
For now, take it one day at a time. Stay at home when required, build routine in when possible, and do the best you can. If you need to access support services, try the following:
HELPLINE: 1300 22 4636
HELPLINE: 1800 650 890
HELPLINE: 1800 551 800
More information on VCAA and how VCE will proceed can be found at these links. Expect them to be updated periodically.
VCAA - latest news on Novel Coronavirus
Education Department - Coronavirus
6 April 2020, 12:40pm
Hello! My name’s Mark, and I’ve been a tutor and content creator with LSG for about 3 years now. Because of the highly volatile nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a couple of changes to how we operate. One of those is this newsfeed, which I’ll be using to provide regular updates on any changes to VCE, education or the state of the virus more broadly.
We’ll also be implementing a chatbot on Facebook Messenger where you can ask for help more directly. This follows a broader movement across the education sector towards remote learning, which all of our tutors are currently practicing.
The coronavirus has undoubtedly impacted VCE and secondary education. What we know so far:
• The VCE is going ahead this year, though not without major changes. Year 12 students will receive an ATAR for study undertaken in 2020.
• Schools are free to either delay SACs until in-person classes resume, or administer them remotely in the meantime. VCAA’s official advice either way has been that SACs should be administered as ‘normally’ as possible, with restrictions on time and access to resources even if you get to do the SAC at home. Schools are encouraged to keep up regular assessments even if delays are being considered.
• Schools also have the option of ‘validating’ SACs conducted remotely with more in-person assessments when classes resume.
• The commencement of term 2 for government schools has been pushed back to April 15.
• However, all of term 2 will be administered remotely (unless this is absolutely not possible).
• The General Achievement Test (GAT) will be delayed until October or November. Year 12 exams will also be delayed, most likely to December.
Watch this space for more details on these changes, as well as any new updates as they develop. In the meantime, if you’re feeling stressed and want some tips on how to manage remote learning, check out our earlier blog post here, or video 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!
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