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September 4, 2018
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.
Click below to get your own copy today!
For an overview of English Language, the study design, what’s involved in the exam and more, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to English Language.
Essays in English Language require contemporary examples of language being used in Australia, in order to justify your response to the topic. English Language essays are often said to only be as good as the examples that are used, so it follows that your essays will only be as good and interesting as the examples that you find. It’s a really good idea to start collecting examples, or evidence, in a “bank” from day one, and throughout the year as you prepare for essay SACs and the final exam. Great examples not only lead your discussion, but also make your essay more interesting and therefore stand out.
Primarily you want your evidence to comprise examples of how language is being used within a specific context in contemporary Australia. For instance, you might explore how leaders in Australia use overtly prestigious language with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ use of the formal vocative phrase 'my fellow Victorians' at a press briefing. You may not always be able to find a specific instance of a particular language feature being used, which can be especially true for language that is not frequently used in public contexts, such as slang and ethnolects. It is okay to just have general examples that you discuss in these instances; perhaps the ellipsis (omission of understood words) of auxiliary verbs in varieties such as Greek Australian English. What is important is that the majority of your examples are actually instances of language features being used, and not simply a quote of someone else’s analysis of language, such as a linguist’s quote. Such quotes can be used in essays, but should complement your own discussion of your own examples.
Good examples must also be 'contemporary', as per the majority of essay prompts. As a general rule of thumb, ask yourself if the example you have is older than two years, and if so you may want to think of something newer. This does not mean you can never employ an older example. For instance, you may want to discuss language change in an essay, which sometimes necessitates discussing the historical context of certain language features.
Many students find it highly beneficial to create a table or list of examples that they will practice and get comfortable with – you cannot bring this into the exam of course, but it is a very effective tool for preparation. In your table or list, consider including the following:
An example is given below:
These examples do not necessarily have to be something that you put a huge effort into going out and finding, so long as you make sure that you write down interesting language features that you come across in your day-to-day life. Keep an eye on places like the news, social media (including emojis and text speak), and any Australian television, radio, podcasts you watch or listen to. You will of course also discuss different examples of contemporary language use in class too, so make sure to add them as well.
Getting evidence is only step one of preparing for essay writing in English Language, but is the most important step for writing interesting and engaging essays. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a solo activity; collaborating with classmates and group discussions, especially as you prepare for the exam can be a great way to make evidence collection fun. Be sure to check out our other blog, What Is an English Language Essay? for other tips and tricks to make your essays stand out.
Over the years I have seen many exceptional essays. What has really surprised me in the past is when I compare high-scoring essays. In one instance, I read one English student's essay (raw study score of 50) after another student's (raw study score of 46). What do you think contrasts between a student who achieves 50 and a student who achieves 46 (bearing in mind of course, that these two scores are already amazing!)? For me, I had assumed that a major contributor to the perfect score of 50 must be better vocabulary. You would think so too right?
NO! In fact, the student of 46 had embedded heaps of complex and amazing-sounding words in her essay - much more than those used by the student who obtained a 50. Oddly, the perfect scorer had hardly any complex vocabulary in her piece. But this ironically, was the strength of her essay. Because she wasted little time on trying to throw in lots of fancy vocabulary, she was able to focus on exploring complex ideas in her essay instead. This is what examiners are after. So if you're struggling with vocabulary, don't worry - not all hope is lost!
One of the biggest struggles is to 'improve vocabulary' in VCE. So many students are caught up trying to improve their vocabulary or using 'big words' that they don't realise the worst thing yet: using bigger words can actually hurt your essay. Yes, you read it right. Even research has actually found that using complex or big words in an essay can backfire for the student!
1. Obstructs clarity of ideas.
Readability is the ease with which a written text can be understood by the reader. In other words, how easy it is to read an essay and how enjoyable that read is. I'm sure you've read a novel in the past that was quite difficult to read because of its extensive vocabulary. On the other hand, you will find a book much more enjoyable to read when you're not struggling your whole way through deciphering words. The same applies to essays. Examiners focus heavily on your exploration and interpretation of ideas. If you have great ideas, only to overload with vocabulary just look to make yourself look smarter, it's only going to make it harder for your examiner. Just like if you had simplistic ideas and filled your essay with fancy vocabulary, it's not going to make the idea seem any more insightful. See the example below:
Student 1: 'In a plethora of elements gender inequalities prevail over the women of Nigeria.'
Student 2: 'Gender inequalities prevail over women's lives in Nigeria.'
The 'plethora of elements' is just another way of saying 'several aspects'. By trying to use nice vocabulary, this student actually reduced the meaning of their sentence, making it harder for the teacher to understand the student's idea. Remember to keep your essays straightforward, don't drown them with vocabulary that's unnecessary.
2. You seem dumber.
No offence. Writing with bigger words doesn't mean you're smarter. It is very easy to pick up when a student is simply using a thesaurus to find synonyms - because your sentence will look like this: basic basic basic COMPLEX basic basic COMPLEX basic basic. There is a clear discrepancy! Don't use 'utilise' when you can just write 'use'. You seem pompous (no offence, again!). Write clearly and simply if you can, and you’ll be more likely to be thought of as intelligent! This meme below sums up the point very well:
3. You're using it wrong.
Using a similar word is not always the RIGHT word. Let's take the word 'persuade' as an example. We're always trying to find new synonyms for 'persuade' in Language Analysis (and I do have a list for you here). The word 'entice' is by no means similar to the word 'coerce' because of the different connotations they are both associated to. To entice is to persuade through attraction or tempting the reader by offering an advantage, whereas to coerce is to persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats. Be wise when you choose synonyms, because they do not carry the exact same meaning as the original word you intended to use!
The conditions of your vocabulary bank should be suited to your specific needs. A focus on a need or theme enables more visible connections within the vocabulary bank. Having those connections will make it easier to 'memorise' new terms. Instead of compiling a dense 20-page glossary, try breaking your vocabulary bank up into smaller, specific sections like 'new verbs'.
Now, let's find new verbs instead of the typical bolded words below to express the author's intention:
- Branch off 'argue' (Fervent tone): contends, asserts, posits, proffers…
- Branch off 'shows' (Neutral tone): demonstrates, exposes, elucidates, delineates, explicates…
- Branch off 'criticises' (Negative tone): condemns, denigrates, lampoons, parodies…
- Branch off 'supports' (Positive tone): praises, endorses, exalts, lauds…
Next, take your new vocabulary from storage to use:
After clarifying their definitions, try using some of your new words in a sentence or a paragraph, relating to either your texts or analysing argument. You can also extend your vocabulary bank by adapting the words to different sentence structures:
Original sentence: The author criticises the superficiality of our consumerist culture.
Substitution:Theauthor condemns the superficiality of our consumerist culture.
Adaptation: In a condemnatory tone, the author delineates the ostentation of our consumerist culture.
Original sentence: The author argues that gender is an arbitrary concept.
Substitution: The author asserts that gender is an arbitrary concept.
Adaptation: Asserting that gender is an arbitrary concept, the author explicates the categorist nature of human understanding.
Using convoluted expressions can be fun or exasperating! Whilst demonstrating extensive vocabulary may raise your mark, the key is to ensure harmony between your words and your understanding.
Remember: Do not use big words, do not use small words, use the RIGHT words.
The second half of this blog post was written by Joyce Ling.
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.
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.
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, the 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.
‘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.
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