The life of an English teacher during assessment time is miserable. This is great for us! If you know how to use their misery to your advantage.
Hello, I am here to teach you how you can claim some easy English points off these poor, poor, professors. Let’s begin 😊
1. Engage with the historical context
This should be a baseline expectation! Yet, if I had a dollar for every student I see launching into an essay not even considering the socio-cultural context in which their book was written, I’d have enough to purchase the VCAA institution and have historical context made mandatory with the punishment being immediate expulsion from VCE.
Just put some historical context into your introduction, it’ll make it beefier and add some spice to your essay. Historical context generally entails listing the form (novella, play, etc…) of your text; the time period in which it was written (Victorian, 20th century, etc…), its genre (Gothic, biographical, etc…), and finally, any of the relevant literary titles it could be classed under (Romantic, Feminist, post-colonial, etc…)
For example: “Mary Shelley’s Victorian Gothic Romantic novella Frankenstein…”
Bonus points if you can actively engage in a set of philosophical ideas that were present at the time, eg: “Age of Enlightenment values”, or the “Feminist movement”.
2. Write a strong introduction
You must impress an assessor within two minutes. With this in mind, what do you think looks better: a little five-line intro vaguely outlining your points and just barely tickling on the structure and context of the texts; or a sprawling introduction which hits the historical context on the head and articulates beautifully the direction your essay is going and how it plans to get there. It’s a simple Virgin vs Chad dichotomy, be a chad, write a strong introduction.
3. Clear and concise topic sentences
Your topic sentences NEED to be easy to read and easy to follow. Apply the K.I.S.S rule here (Keep it Simple, Stupid). State the point of your paragraph with clarity, there should be nothing too complex or vague about it. For example: “The architecture of Frankenstein enables the story to act as a cautionary tale”. If you feel you cannot encapsulate your topic within a single sentence, then I suggest dialling back the complexity of your paragraph topic. Remember, text response is a process of stating a concept, then proving it – nothing more, nothing less.
You know ‘Grammar Nazis’? Well English assessors are Grammar Hitler’s. Make sure your expression is on point. Avoid run on sentences, break them up with full stops, a comma is not a substitute for a period.
5. Understand language
I’m hoping we all know what verbs, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, conjunctions and etcetera are here? This kind of rather basic English knowledge can seriously pepper up your analysis once you understand how language works. Begin by simply noting how an adjective modifies a verb within a sentence and what affect that has. Once you master this, you can move onto actually classifying the language under specific tones; for example: a pejorative verb, or a superlative adjective of degree. I’ll throw a few free ones your way! A pejorative verb is a doing word with negative connotations, such as: “penetrate” or “molest”. Whilst a superlative adjective is a describing word of the highest degree, for example: “grandest” or “calmest” (as opposed to simply “grand” or “calm”. Although this language seems complex, it’s deceivingly simple once you understand some basic English rules.
6. Write about structure
Structure is the ‘secret high scoring English students don’t want you to know!!’ If you aren’t writing about structure, then you are missing out on an absolute gold mine of analysis. If you understand how structure works within a text and can write it out coherently you’re essentially guaranteed a 40+. Y’all may call that an exaggeration, but knowing how to write about structure in an essay is like crossing the threshold, your eyes become open – you attain nirvana. Structure is the Bifrost which separates the land of Gods from the land of mortals. Some good ways to begin thinking about structure include: pondering how the text begins and ends, does it begin as a jovial and upbeat story and end as a depressing mess, why might the author have structured the text this way? Or, think about which characters we follow throughout the text and what journey they undergo, are their multiple narrators? Why might this be relevant or what may the author be trying to emphasise? Another great one is just looking for recurring themes and motifs across the text, such as a repeated phrase or similarities between characters. The key to writing on structure is understanding how the text has been structured, and then connecting that to a meaning or using it to support your contention.
7. Structure your essays
PSYCHE I’M STILL
NOT DONE TALKING ABOUT STRUCTURE.
Structure. Your. Essays.
I cannot stress this enough, use TEEL (topic sentence, evidence, elaboration, link), use whatever your teacher taught, but use it! This one is especially important in language analysis, legit, lang anal essays are almost 100% structure, just WHW (what, how, why) your way through that essay. Once you understand how to structure an essay, everything else improves. So, structure your essays!!
8. Write about allusions
Now we’re getting into the big boy material. An allusion is any reference within a text to another text. So when Peter Griffin from Family Guy pokes fun at the Simpsons, he is making an allusion to the Simpsons. Or when your protagonist happens across a bible verse, that is a biblical allusion. Whenever I hear a student mention a literary allusion, my day improves and so does their mark. Most every text has allusions in it somewhere, do your research. Frankenstein has Rime of the Ancient Mariner, about half the books on the planet have biblical allusions, just ask your teacher or research online and you’re bound to come up with some excellent analysis material. Bonus points for allusions to classic texts such as: the Faust mythos, Greek/Roman tales such as Prometheus, the Bible, Paradise Lost, etc…
9. Reference influential philosophical ideas
This one is eating from the tree of knowledge. Including a philosophical concept in your essay immediately places you in the upper echelons. It separates plebs from patricians. You’ll have to do a bit of research here, but it is well worth it. Once you can mention that an idea is “characteristic of the Romantic period”, or that a concept is “Lockean (referring to John Locke)”, you’re balling, you’ll be hustling A+s in no time. Bonus points for philosophical ideas that were relevant to the time period (historical context, remember).
10. Authorial Agenda
Referencing the authorial agenda is just minty fresh, it demonstrates a clear understanding of concepts even beyond just the text itself. Guaranteed to put a sparkle in your teachers’ eye. Although adding authorial agenda augments your essay extraordinary, don’t overdo it.
If you made it to the end of this then great work! Proud of you <3. Including these tips in your essays is a surefire way to push them to the next level. For sticking through, I’ll give you a few quick bonus tips. Have pre-prepared zingers: you should write out and memorise a few bits of analysis that are intensely high quality, (do it in your own writing) this not only helps with ironing out your language, it also ensures you’ll have some mic drops in your essays. Analyse all included images and titles: this one’s just for language analysis, but you should analyse everything, including logos! And finally… RESPOND TO THE ESSAY QUESTION, this should be a given but there are hordes of people just spewing out words which are absolutely irrelevant to the actual essay topic.
Thanks again for getting this far, unless you just scrolled to the bottom hoping for a TLDR. I wish you all best of luck in your VCE and the exam season, try to make it enjoyable 😊