Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...
To stand out, it’s important to have a voice. In writing, it’s the expression of your thoughts, beliefs and emotions on the page that gives the reader insight into your own personal opinions and ideas on a topic. Your writer’s voice is unique to you and therefore presents your work as original amongst the multitude of essays examiners receive. In order to find your unique voice, it’s important to pinpoint the ideas that interest you that would allow you to write in the most authentic manner. Your distinctive style of writing and the concepts you present will allow you to stand out amongst your peers and thus, will ensure you reach your optimum standard of work.
Read and Explore
In order to expand your knowledge of a certain text, explore articles and videos that present alternate views. This allows you to not only expand the depth of your ideas but additionally, the opportunity to find opinions that you relate to or those that interest you. The more you explore the ideas that exist, the more you will obtain an inclination about what concepts you’d be willing to write about.
Understand the Characters in Text Response
Although it may be difficult to decipher the motives behind characters or the emotions they are feeling at a certain point in the text, insight into the minds of characters provides you with the opportunity to move beyond a black or white perception of them. Hence, you’ll be more inclined to pinpoint certain aspects of the character that you identify with and in turn, feel more confident in writing and presenting a unique perspective on them that distances you from the expected responses.
Themes of a Text
Within a text, there are an abundance of themes and it’s up to you to choose which interest you and which you’d be able to write the most about in order to showcase the depth of your understanding. You may relate to subjects within a text such as grief or betrayal and therefore, when you explore the text focusing on these themes, your writing will reflect your beliefs in an individual way that separates your ideas from your cohorts.
Whilst language analysis relies on presenting an objective essay on the intention of the author, your voice will be shown more clearly by your chosen techniques and analysis. By pinpointing words or phrases within an article that you feel stand out or interest you within the context of the piece, you’ll be more likely to write an in-depth analysis on how the author has used the words or phrases to encourage consideration or prompt guilt as examples rather than provide a short summary of what they have said.
Amongst the thousands of students completing VCE English, it’s important to set yourself apart and demonstrate that you’ve got creative and original ideas that bring a new perspective to the text whilst allowing you to enjoy and find interest in Year 12 English.
Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide
Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.
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.
Why Do I Need To Do Well in the 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!
GAT Advice From a VCAA Examiner
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.
Approaching the GAT Creatively
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:
how well you organise and present your understanding of the material.
your ability to communicate the information effectively’
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.
How a Creative Approach Got Me a 10/10 in My Trial 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.
The Full Essay
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.
2022 Update: Check out our TikTok and YouTube channel for the latest GAT updates and how you can succeed even without study!
Part 1: Why the GAT Matters and How To Use It to Your Advantage
The General Achievement Test (GAT) is a 3 hour assessment based on your general knowledge ranging from English, mathematics and humanity topics. The general vibe seen from the majority of VCE students is that they aren’t really too sure why they have to take part in this ‘exam’ and as a result, most have little care for it. However, the GAT is an important component in the VCE assessment process. Let’s see why:
1. Standardising how teachers grade your SACs between different schools
Have you ever talked to your friend from another school and realised how unfair it was that their SAC length for the same assessment was twice the amount of time you had for your SAC? Or that perhaps they received the English prompt a week prior to the SAC, rather than during the SAC like you did? Well, this type of this discrepancy can be compensated by the GAT as it helps to eliminate any biases from school to school. This means that ultimately, when SAC marks contribute to your overall study score, you can be sure that your grades have been fairly compared to all other VCE students across the state. This also means that as a whole cohort, the students undertaking VCE at your school should all try to do their best because a better outcome will reflect better on the school’s grading system.
2. Ensuring that your exam marks at the end of year reflect your level and skills
All end-of-year papers are checked twice by two different assessors who independently give you a score for your exam. Now if they both give you a similar score then great, your exam has been marked. If not, a third assessor will then look at your exam in order to reach an agreement. Then, there is a last check against your GAT mark. If it so happens that your exam mark is much lower than what your GAT mark anticipated you to obtain – in other words, if you received a high GAT mark which demonstrates your strong skills in English, mathematics, science or humanities depending on the subject in question, then the paper will be reassessed again. So, if you do well in the GAT and receive an excellent score and for some reason you under-perform in the exam, then the GAT mark can help lift up your score. If your GAT mark is relatively low, then it probably can’t help you, despite you receiving an unexpected low exam grade. Thus, the GAT mark will only ever help you, it can never bring your mark down. That’s another reason why you should try to do well.
3. Derived Examination Score (DES)
Some students apply for a DES when they experience hardship during their VCE exam period such as personal trauma or an accident. In such situations, the GAT is compared with their exam mark to see whether or not the student demonstrated their full potential or if they under-performed because of their current situation. Again, if the student received a lower exam mark but has a high GAT score, it can mean that perhaps the student didn’t do as well as they could have, and thus, their grade may be boosted upwards. Many students believe that they are immune to anything happening to them before or during the exams, but you never know. You may as well take advantage of what VCAA is offering you – basically a ticket to a better ATAR if you’re ever in need.
Now knowing all this, it is often said that there is no preparation required for the GAT. Of course, if you are the type who would like to fit in some practice before the real thing, then have a look at the GAT archive available on the VCAA website. While you may not need to ‘study’ for the GAT, it is definitely worth knowing how you can best approach the examination in order to maximise your score outcome.
Part 2: How To Perform Well in the GAT (Without Study)
In Part 1 above we discussed why it’s important to aim for your best in the GAT, so now we’ll discuss how you can actually go about doing this. As you know, there are two writing components in the GAT – Writing Tasks 1 and 2, as well as 70 multiple choice questions (MCQ). This post will break down both the writing components and offer you handy tips on how you should approach these tasks in order to maximise your GAT score and potentially increase your overall ATAR.
Organising your time:
VCAA suggests 30 minutes for both Writing Tasks 1 and 2 leaving the remainder of your time for 70 multiple choice questions. If you are happy with this approach then by all means go for it. However, considering that English is definitely in your top 4 subjects that contribute significantly to your ATAR, it is worth investing more of your time on the Writing Tasks. Generally, most students spend around 1 minute per multiple choice question which should therefore, only take around 70 minutes to complete the MCQ section. If we bear in mind that some MCQs will be more complex than others, say we dedicate an extra 20 minutes for MCQ, meaning that you should complete the whole MCQ section in around the 90 minutes mark. This means that you can spare an extra 45 minutes for both Writing Tasks, which is definitely worth the investment since you’ll have the chance to write more thoughtful and lengthy pieces. Strategically, this is a good approach for any student studying an English subject – which is well, everyone.
Writing Task 1:
What is it?
Writing Task 1 usually presents you with one or several images along with an abundance of information about a particular topic – don’t be surprised if you don’t know much or anything in regards to the topic chosen either. Over the past few years, content that has popped up in the GAT includes Mt. Everest, wolves, the ocean and more. Below is an image of what you should expect:
Instructions for Writing Task 1:
'Consider the information on these two pages. Develop a piece of writing presenting the main information in the material. You should not present an argument. Your piece will be judged on:
• how well you organise and present your understanding of the material,
• your ability to communicate the information effectively, and
• how clearly you express yourself.'
What is it really asking you to do?
To write a creative piece utilising the information available in Writing Task 1. When students read the instructions, they find that it is rather vague and therefore, they aren’t too sure on how to tackle the writing piece. The worst thing to do, which unfortunately a lot of students fall into the trap of doing, is to simply write a long-winded essay literally regurgitating the information from the GAT sheet. Instead, in order to demonstrate fantastic organisational skills and ‘communicate the information effectively’, you should aim to create something unique and interesting – for example, for the 2013 GAT on the topic of radios, you could take on a radio host persona or perhaps the persona of someone working behind the scenes at the radio station. This will be an excellent way of executing your writing piece.
Writing Task 2 consists of four statements on a contentious issue. Some of the issues raised in the past have included: are the elderly wiser than the young?, Who are our heroes?, Whether or not material possessions leads to happiness and more. Below is an example from the 2013 GAT:
Instructions from Writing Task 2:
'Consider the statements below. Based on one or more of the statements, develop a piece of writing presenting your point of view. Your piece of writing will be judged on:
• the extent to which you develop your point of view in a reasonable and convincing way, and
• how effectively you express yourself.'
What is it really asking you to do?
To write a persuasive piece debating the topic using one or more of the statements to support your opinion. This means that you can either choose to focus on one of the statements and base your entire contention on that one statement, or alternatively, choose two or more statements as a basis for different arguments (if you wanted to write from a more balanced point of view). Options on how to present the piece include: opinion article, speech, blog post, etc. Remember to include language techniques such as rhetorical questions and inclusive language, as this is expected in a persuasive piece. It’s also a good idea to include examples from current affairs, events or people in history, or even your own personal experiences to add some extra flavour to your piece.
Remember that the GAT can only help you improve your VCE mark, it can never bring you down – so make the effort and try your best! Good luck!
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.
1: Write Down/Outline/Revisit Your Goals
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:
Be specific (S) and measurable(M) with your goal → Maybe your aim is to get a 90+ ATAR by the end of Year 12 or maybe your goal is to improve your grade average from 80% to 85%. No matter what your goal is, be sure to make note of what needs to be accomplished and what steps need to be taken to achieve it. Let’s have a look at an example:
‘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’.
Is your goal going to be achievable (A) and is it going to be relevant (R)? → While goal setting might encourage you to be ambitious, sometimes we need to take a step back and think to ourselves, is this goal realistic and is it relevant to what you personally want to achieve at the end of an academic year? Let’s have a look at another example:
‘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!
And last but not least, when will your goal be completed? This point stresses the importance of ensuring that your goal is realistic and attainable so that you can achieve it within a given time frame (T). We’ve been specifying in our examples that we would like to complete our goals by the end of the term but feel free to critically consider how long your goal may take in reality. Is the goal of wanting to improve your Language Analysis skills really going to be achieved within a matter of days?
2: Look for Gaps in Your Understanding
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:
Red = areas that you’re still unsure about and need further improvement
Green = areas of mastery
Orange = areas of the study design where you’re in the middle and could do with some polishing up
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.
3: Pomodoro Technique
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:
11:50am -12:10pm: An extended break! Make some lunch and play with my dog
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!
4: Prioritise Your Mental and Physical Health
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!
5: Don’t Compare Your Motivation Levels to Others
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.
6: Remind Yourself That This Won’t Go on Forever
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!
Hey guys. So previously I've done a video where I talked about how to write a thousand word, a thousand, a thousand-worded essay, and one hour. And so that segues into this particular video where I'm talking about writing three essays in three hours. So if you haven't watched that video, then I'll pop it up in the comment. I'll pop it up in the card up above. I would recommend you go watch that first before you watch this, because pretty much all of the concepts that I talk about in that video, uh, I just expected details that you should know for this video. So instead of actually breaking down the essays as I did in the previous video, what I'm going to do this time is talk more so about, you know, how to actually write three essays in three hours and just not get burnt out and not die, basically. Yeah, it's that serious. So I've got a few tips for you guys, but I'll keep this short. First thing is that yes, you do want to practice at least one time writing three essays in three hours. And the reason why I say that is because inevitably there will come times where one essay will kind of overlap into another hour. And you just want to ensure that you can know how to handle those situations when we're practicing in one hour blocks. I think it's fantastic to make sure that we can do that, but then kind of like three hours and three essays is another ballgame altogether. So I would recommend at least practicing once sitting down somewhere and just smashing out the three hours worth of work, just so that you know exactly what it's going to feel like when you go into the exam. Now, most schools will actually offer a, like a mock exam for you to do so that literally could be your one practice that you just need.
But if you were like me, you might want to do it twice. So in your own time, kind of print off your own exam paper and go ahead and just set aside three hours and just do it that way. The second thing is I heavily emphasized doing reading time. So reading time is pretty much your mental thinking game going strong. And this is where a lot of your pre-work will be done before we actually go into the essays themselves. So make sure you practice reading time. It's 15 minutes before the actual exam, but in that 15 minutes, you can plan three of your essays and you can look up in your dictionary, any key words that you might want to define, or you could even look up the dictionary and try to find synonyms for particular keywords. So what I mean by that is when you open up a dictionary and you look up that word inside the dictionary, often the definition for it will have synonyms for it.
So that's like my little hack that I had when I was at school. And then the last thing I would say is just make sure you know what to do if you go over time. So, like I mentioned before, there may be situations where, you know, worst case scenario, you don't finish your essay in time. And that could be because of many reasons. But first thing for you to remember is if you're running over time, sacrifice your conclusion first, do not sacrifice your third body paragraph. I think mostly what happens is students will kind of be somewhere in the third body paragraph for that essay, but rather than skipping that and just do it a little bit of a mess to finish it up and then going into the conclusion, finish off your third body paragraph. And then just forget about the conclusion. The reason why I say that is because a conclusion is basically just the summary of what your entire essay is about.
It's not really supposed to be, to add in any new information where as your third body paragraph. You're still explaining your ideas. You're still elaborating and discussing the prompt itself. So that is way more important to get you the marks that you need than a conclusion. The next thing I would do if you're running behind is save a proofreading until very last. So in the last video I talked about doing proofreading last five minutes of every essay. But if you do not have time for that later, leave all your proofreading until the very end and, and you might find that you only have five minutes, it's true proofread all of your essays, but at least you kind of have that reassurance was that you made yourself more time to write beforehand. And so if you literally find yourself writing right up until the last minute and you can't perforate fine sacrifice that too. Now last thing is, let's just say that you have sacrificed your conclusion and you're still writing your third body paragraph right up until the very last minute. You still have at least half a paragraph to go, but you know, the first hour is over and you need to move onto your second essay. I feel like you can either approach this two ways. The first way is just finish it off, but then move on to the next one as quick as possible. And obviously your hope there is that you will finish the second essay in time within that hour. So that by the time you get to your thing, essay, you are on track again. Right? But in the other alternative that you could do, and probably one that I via towards a little bit more is just stop your third paragraph. Okay? You still have maybe five more sentences you still want to write, but just move onto your next one. I think that's kind of important because what happens is once we start running into the next hour, you will find that with your first essay, you'll run maybe five minutes into your second hour, but then you might find that you run 10 minutes into the third hour with your second essay leaving only 15 minutes to finish your third essay. And that might not be like what you want. And you might know that you just won't be able to achieve that because the third essay is maybe the hardest one that you left to last. And that's the one that usually takes you the longest. So yeah, like these are just thoughts and considerations for you guys to take away with whatever you guys do. I think just be strategic. Think about these things beforehand, because they are things that could trip you up when you are in the exam, you're stressed, you're anxious, you're under time pressure and you just need to get things done.
It might kind of make you do like bad decisions or you might do something out of the ordinary that you normally wouldn't do. But if you think about these things beforehand and think about, okay, this is what I'm going to do. If this situation occurs, then at least you kind of have some control over what's happening. And that gives you a little bit of reassurance. That is it from me. I wanted to let you guys know that because we are approaching the end of year. And I know that you guys might not need English help from me very shortly, especially when you're in year 12. I wanted to let you guys know that I do have a personal YouTube channel as well. So that's just linked up above for you. And also in the description box below. If you're interested in following me there, then go ahead and subscribe. I would really love to see you guys there and just be able to still have the connection with you guys. You know, it'd be nice to not only just have you guys on board with me for a year, and then you guys kind of disappear and do your own thing, I'd still really love to stay in contact and be able to hear how you guys are going to once you finish school. So I will see you guys next time. Bye!
If you, like me, grew up Asian in Australia, you might think you already know a thing or two about, well, growing up Asian in Australia. Our stories can be pretty similar—just have a scroll through the ‘subtle asian traits’ Facebook group, or have a conversation with literally any Asian Australian about their parents.
At the same time, it’s also important to recognise that everyone’s experiences are diverse, especially given how broad an identity ‘Asian’ can be. Also important is to recognise how broad and intersectional identity can be in general—intersectional meaning that race isn’t the only thing that defines any one of us. Things like gender, socio-economic status, ability, sexual orientation and religion can also be really central, for example. Each of these things can impact the way we navigate the world.
Covering a broad range of these stories is Alice Pung’s anthology, Growing Up Asian In Australia. Some of the contributors in this volume include Sunil Badami, Matt Huynh, Bon-Wai Chou, Diana Nguyen, Michelle and Benjamin Law, and Shaun Tan, and already this cross-section is fairly diverse in nature. You can also click on their names to find out a bit more about each of their work. I think this is worth a few minutes, just to get acquainted with the sheer range of Asian-Australian creatives who are represented in this book, and to locate their work within the themes they write about—in other words, having a think about the ways that cultural heritage, or experiences with family, or economic hardship permeate their work, both in the anthology and in their lives outside it.
The anthology is (perhaps quite helpfully) divided into sections which revolve around key themes, which is also going to inform the structure of this guide. I’ll be using this guide to go through an exercise that I found really helpful when learning the text, which involves:
taking two stories per section and drawing up some dot-point similarities and differences
translating two of those points into paragraphs, a bit like a ‘mini-essay’
We’ll go through some an example of what this might look like, and why it’s a helpful exercise to try.
Strine is what’s called a syncope, a shortened way of pronouncing Australian (a bit like ‘Straya’)—it refers to Australian English as it’s spoken by locals. This section of the book is all about language, and about the difficulties of juggling two languages growing up, and Badami and Tseng’s stories are great examples of this.
1. Similarity: connections to one’s mother tongue fade over time. Tseng recounts how, one by one, she and her sisters stopped learning Chinese as they progressed through their Australian education. Badami on the other hand compromises his name which stood out as too Indian when he “just wanted to fit in.”
2. Similarity: for ‘third-culture kids’, losing knowledge of their language also strains their relationship with their forebears. Badami’s mother is shocked to hear the anglicisation of his name despite the significance it carrie for her (“she spat my unreal new name out like something bitter and stringy”), and Tseng describes the experience of communicating with her father in “Chinglish” so that they can both understand each other.
3. Difference: language can be an internalised, personal experience, or a highly exposed and interpersonal one. While Tseng feels her loss of her language as a “sense of shame, a vague unease”, Badami is almost bullied into changing his name, “Sunil? Like banana peel?”
The Clan (Law & Chau)
This section delves into the complex ties that hold migrant families together. Chau’s poems are starkly different to Law’s story, so it’ll be interesting to compare how these different narrative forms work to explore those ideas.
1. Similarity: it can take at least one generation for migrant families to dig their roots into their new home. While Law’s parents are proud tourists at Queensland theme parks, he and his siblings “groan” at their comportment. Chau’s poem ‘The Firstborn’ traces his ancestry forward until he arrived, “an ABC” and his son “by amniotic sea”, both of them born into Australia.
2. Similarity: family dynamics are still traditional and therefore gendered. Law notes how his mother’s health suffered when divorcing his father, and Chau notes that the women members of his family were “cast off” the family tree “as if they were never born.
3. Difference: family history and heritage can vary in importance. Chau’s family traces back “twenty-eight generations” of history, whereas Law’s family very much lives in the present, the only tie to older generations being his “Ma-Ma”, or grandma.
4. Difference: families show their love in different ways. Whether it’s dedicating a poem to his son about his life as one of “ten thousand rivers” of Chinese diaspora into the Australian sea, or taking the kids to theme parks on weekends, all sorts of affection can hold families together.
Putting it together
So I’ve tried to choose two sections (and four stories) that are all a bit different to try and mix it up and get some rich comparative discussion out of these. You might be studying this text alone, but even as one text, remember that there’s a lot of diverse experiences being represented in it, so discussing how stories connect, compare and contrast is just as important as discussing the content of individual stories themselves.
If we do a mini-essay, we might as well go about it properly and pick some sort of contention. Without a fixed prompt though, it might be easier to start with those dot points and pick which ones we want to write out and string together. Let’s pick two—connections to mother tongue fading over time (Strine similarity 1) and digging roots into Australia over time (The Clan similarity 1). A contention covering these points might look like:
While second generation migrants may struggle with loss of culture, they also constitute a unique and significant part of the diaspora.
Many migrants lose connections to their heritage over time, and these connections are often in the form of language. Particularly for Asian migrants, there is not as strong a need to preserve their mother tongue in the English-speaking Australia, and as such their knowledge of those languages can be easily lost. Ivy Tseng, for instance, recalls how she was never able to “grasp the significance” of learning Chinese as a child, and eventually she and her sisters would prioritise “study” and other academic pursuits over learning Chinese. Because tertiary study and education as an institution generally carry a lot of weight in migrant cultures, there is often a compromise made at the expense of heritage and language. These compromises can come from other factors as well, particularly the group dynamics of being in white-dominated Australia. Bullying is a frequent culprit, and Badami for example is indeed peer-pressured into resenting—and ultimately anglicising—his name, “Sunil? Like banana peel?” More generally speaking, a sense of shame for one’s difference is a common part of the migrant experience—Law experiences it as well at theme parks, where he and his siblings attempt to “set [them]selves apart” from the faux-pas of their parents. Not always an intentional goal, but a general willingness to compromise connections to heritage underscores many Asian Australian migrant stories, particularly of second-generation migrants.
However, the extent to which migrants feel socially integrated in society shifts generationally and over time as well. Second generation migrants are thus unique in that they have the closest connection to their heritage while also initiating this process of integration. Law and his siblings exemplify this, with their “Australian accents” and “proper grammar and syntax.” While some loss of their native Cantonese takes place, they are also the first in their family to sound Australian, one step closer to being Australian. They constitute part of the distinct, third culture of “ABC”—Australian-born Chinese—to which Chau alludes in his poem, ‘The Firstborn’. Distinct from first-generation migrants, ABCs are a product of diaspora and spend their formative years immersed in the Australian way of life. Chau’s poem goes on to highlight how sizeable this demographic now is—“the sea is awash with the unfathomable Chinese sons.” Thus, we can see how ABCs, or second generation Asian migrants, represent a unique and significant social group exemplified by great compromise, but also great change.
Why is this useful?/How can I apply this?
I like this exercise because it gets you thinking creatively about the key implications of the stories. Within a section or theme, you want to identify similarities in how both stories contribute to our understanding of that theme. You also want to identify differences to explore how stories can be unique and nuanced, which will provide your essay with more depth when you ultimately need it. Then, putting it all together helps you synthesise new connections between themes.
For an analytical study of this text, you’d flesh out those ideas until they become paragraphs, introducing relevant evidence and mixing it up with explanatory sentences as you go. Explanatory sentences keep you analysing rather than story-telling, and they usually don’t have any quotes—an example from above might be “because tertiary study and education as an institution generally carry a lot of weight in migrant cultures, there is often a compromise made at the expense of heritage and language.”
For a creative study, you’d take away those ideas and look at how else you might explore them in other stories. Feel free to challenge yourself for this; I remember falling back on more personal writing when studying this creatively, but don’t neglect other genres or forms! If second generation migrants are in fact more on their way to belonging, write a speculative story about how an apocalypse tests those connections to white Australians. I dunno, but don’t be afraid to really push the boundaries here and test the implications you draw from the stories.
Give it a go
Try it for some of these:
UnAustralian? (Loewald & Law) and Leaving Home (Diana Nguyen & Paul Nguyen)
Battlers (Dac & Law/Huynh) and Mates (Phommavanh & Ahmed)
The Folks (Lazaroo & Tran) and Homecoming (Beeby & Larkin)
Growing Up Asian in Australia Essay Prompt Breakdown
The essay topic we’ll be looking at today is short and sweet;
To belong is to sacrifice. Discuss.
The key terms are evidently “to belong” and “to sacrifice”, so these are the words and definitions that we’ll have to interrogate.
Belonging is a feeling of being accepted by someone or being a member of something, so we’d have to ask who is doing the accepting, and what are the writers seeking to be members of. On the other hand, sacrifice is loss, it’s giving something up—it’s implied that seeking belonging means you may have to navigate compromises to what you have, how you live, or maybe, who you are. Have a think about what sacrifices are made by whom, and why.
With that in mind, let’s brainstorm a contention. We usually want to avoid going fully agree or fully disagree to create a bit more ‘grit’ for the essay—and in this case, the prompt is pretty deterministic or absolute; it’s saying that belonging is all about sacrifice.
I’d probably argue that belonging is sometimes about sacrifice, and for migrant children they often give up some of their culture or heritage for Western lifestyle or values. That being said, belonging in these cases is probably more about synthesis than sacrifice—it’s about being able to negotiate and bring heritage into increasingly Australian ways of life.
The brainstorming section of writing a killer essay is where my THINK and EXECUTE strategy comes in. If you haven’t heard of it before, essentially, it’s a method of essay writing that emphasises the importance of really thinking about all aspects of a prompt and exploring all the different avenues you can go down. To be able to EXECUTE a well-reasoned, coherent and articulate essay that contains enough nitty-gritty analysis, you have to do enough THINKing to get some meat on the essay’s skeleton, so to speak. To learn more, check out my top selling eBook, How To Write A Killer Text Response.
In paragraphs, we could start by looking at some of the sacrifices people make in order to belong. The poem, ’Be Good, Little Migrants’ has a more of a cynical take on this, suggesting that migrant groups are expected to sacrifice economic mobility and even personal dignity in order to gain favour with locals: “give us your faithful service”, “display your gratitude but don’t be heard, don’t be seen.”
Economic sacrifices are seen across many stories, from the working class “decent enough income” in ‘Family Life’ to the failing business in ‘ABC Supermarket’. Other forms of sacrifice might be less material—for example Benjamin Law’s sacrifice of his Mariah Carey cassettes in an attempt to fit in at school from the story ‘Towards Manhood’. This example is interesting because it isn’t a cultural sacrifice, but a gendered one—it’s a good reminder that identity is always multi-layered.
For migrant children though, the sacrifices usually revolve around their race and culture. Diana Nguyen for example notes language as a key sacrifice: she quits Vietnamese school because she didn’t feel like she belonged with the grade ones in her class, and her ultimate “lack of interest in learning [Vietnamese] created a lasting barrier” between her mother and her. In Sunil Badami’s story, ‘Sticks and Stones and Such-Like’, the sacrifice is his name, as he Anglicises it to Neil. When his mother finds out, “she spat my unreal new name out like something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow.” The common denominator here is that Asians growing up in Australia often have to navigate sacrificing some of their heritage in order to belong in western society.
However, the challenges faced by the Asian diaspora growing up abroad are more complex and more nuanced than just sacrifice. More often than not, they’re required to synthesise a ‘third culture’ identity that balances their heritage with western values and lifestyles.
Diana Nguyen goes on to discuss her career trajectory in becoming a “working actor” in Melbourne’s entertainment industry, carving out a path for herself in spite of her parents’ disapproval, and going on to represent a new generation of Asian Australians in the media. The story ‘Wei-Lei and Me’ also points to this shifting demographic in Australia, as Gouvernel and her best friend stave off a racist primary school bully only to see their home change for the better as they grew up, with new restaurants from their home cuisines opening up. At the same time, they “had become what [they] thought [they] could never be: Australian,” describing a way of life in Canberra that is unmistakably Australian.
So, belonging isn’t necessarily all about sacrifice—it doesn’t mean you can’t pursue your passions or become ‘Australian’. Sure, sometimes sacrifice is necessary, but ‘third culture kids’ synthesise conflicting identities in order to belong.
Having arrived at the contention, let’s just have another think about the takeaway message - being able to bring other themes into an essay topic that only really raises one theme. To answer this topic fully, a good essay wouldn’t just discuss belonging and sacrifice, but it would also bring in discussion about family, friends, careers and cultures, just to name a few. Hopefully this is something you can translate into your own future work!
Growing Up Asian In Australia is an anthology with a lot to unpack, but there are plenty of unique stories with plenty of interesting links to be made. However you’re learning this text, being able to draw conclusions from stories and extrapolate them into your writing is a really important skill.
As you go, ask yourself about the implications: ‘so what?’ and ‘why?’. These sorts of questions will help you get richer insights and write about the anthology in a more interesting way.
Written Explanation (also known as Statement of Intention, SOE, and various other names throughout different schools) is a short introductory piece to your essay. The Written Explanation is intended to explore the reasons behind why you made particular writing decisions. This is done via FLAPC:
Form, Language, Audience, Purpose, Context
2. Creative Response-Based Written Explanations
The following is taken from the VCAA study design for Creative Response-Based Written Explanations:
'a written explanation of creative decisions and how these demonstrate understanding of the text.'
Most assessors are quite lenient with how you want to approach the Written Explanation – there is no rigid structure that you need to abide by. As we will discuss below, this allows you to consider which aspects of form, language, audience, purpose and context you wish to include. Each of the points should establish why you have written your piece. They are considered as part of your SAC and thus, are marked accordingly. They are not examinable during the English exam.
There are traditionally three forms of writing accepted in assessments: expository, creative or persuasive essay.
‘I chose to write in an expository style, employing conventions of format and style of a traditional essay. This allows me to express my ideas in a logical order while adopting a sophisticated tone.’
When writing, you choose particular words and phrases to illustrate your ideas. Think about what type of language have you used and why. Perhaps your piece is formal or informal, sophisticated or simple, or from a first or third person perspective. All these factors are important in shaping your Context piece. Also consider language techniques you may have incorporated such as repetition, rhetorical questions, metaphors, symbolism and more.
‘I have chosen to write from a first person perspective to shed light on the inner workings of Gardiner from The Lieutenant.'
You must select a targeted audience for your essay. Your choice can be adults to young children, or even to your future self. Make sure your target audience is suitable for your essay – select a group that would realistically be interested in your work.
‘My piece is to be published in an anthology for those who have had difficulty assimilating into a new group or culture. As they have familiarity with the concepts I discuss, I intend for readers to depart with a greater understanding and appreciation of the ideas in my written piece.’
The purpose section is where you discuss the message you would like to send to your audience. Here you discuss your contention or arguments; whether you completely agree, disagree or a bit of both in regards to your prompt.
‘The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that there can be different outcomes from encountering conflict: firstly, that conflicts can change many people through growth in understanding or a sense of self-development and secondly, that there are times when people remain unaffected by conflict and thus, unchanged.’
Since your essay is based on your studied text, you should provide a brief discussion of the basic ideas behind the Context. You can do this prior to your Purpose section since it is a good lead-in.
‘In this essay, I explored the idea that ‘Conflict inevitably changes people’; a concept heavily explored in The Lieutenant. Every person encounters conflict. It drives individuals to challenge themselves, and deal with new experiences.'
Different schools will set different word limits for Written Explanations. These can range from 300 – 350 words based on the VCAA study design. With such a small word limit, be succinct and choose wisely what you will discuss in order to score the maximum marks allocated to Written Explanations.
3. Oral Presentation-Based Written Explanations
The VCAA study design requests students write:
'a written statement of intention to accompany the student’s own oral presentation, articulating the intention of decisions made in the planning process, and how these demonstrate understanding of argument and persuasive language.'
Using the topic, 'Why we need to stop crying "cultural appropriation" when cultural exchange is far more important', let's see how this can be done with FLAPC with some examples below (if you need help selecting a topic, check out our 2020 Oral Presentation topics to get those brain juices flowing):
‘I chose to adopt the conventions of a persuasive speech, where I use a structure of presenting my main ideas by rebutting arguments made by the opposition. Throughout my speech, I embed persuasive tactics in an effort to firstly, encourage engagement from the audience and secondly, sway them to readily accept my point of view.
‘Since I am an Asian-Australian, I have purposefully forgone the opportunity to adopt a persona and instead, have chosen to write from a first person perspective as I can uniquely shed light on my own experiences towards cultural exchange and how that has directly impacted me. My speech heavily focuses on delivering tangible examples, such as anecdotes and social media usage, as I aim to heighten the topic’s relevancy and relatability for my audience. Moreover, as my focus is to reinforce positive attitudes towards cultural exchange, I have adopted a light-hearted approach with humour through the first portion of my speech, then moving into an urgent tone towards the end to highlight the importance of this issue.'
'I have opted to target young Australian adults since we are the generation of the future, and have a major role to play in positively shaping the Australian society’s views and attitudes towards cultural exchange.
'I aim to convince my audience that it is too easy to cry 'cultural appropriation' by being overly sensitive, and instead, we need to consider the benefits of cultural exchange. Cultural exchange itself, has shaped the world as we know it today – it has an important role in globalisation, understanding foreign cultures and the development of Australian society.'
'Australia is known to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world. However, recent media has drawn attention to cries of 'cultural appropriation' towards Indigenous Australians and other cultures, claiming that we fail to appreciate and respect cultural values when we take others' culture for our own (whether it be fashion, music, food or otherwise).'
Sample FLAPC compiled and rearranged for flow and fluency:
Australia is known to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world. However, recent media has drawn attention to cries of 'cultural appropriation' towards Indigenous Australians and other cultures, claiming that we fail to appreciate and respect cultural values when we take others' culture for our own (whether it be fashion, music, food or otherwise). I aim to convince my audience that it is too easy to cry 'cultural appropriation' by being overly sensitive, and instead, we need to consider the benefits of cultural exchange. Cultural exchange itself, has shaped the world as we know it today – it has an important role in globalisation, understanding foreign cultures and the development of Australian society. I chose to adopt the conventions of a persuasive speech, where I use a structure of presenting my main ideas by rebutting arguments made by the opposition. Throughout my speech, I embed persuasive tactics in an effort to firstly, encourage engagement from the audience and secondly, sway them to readily accept my point of view. Since I am an Asian-Australian, I have purposefully forgone the opportunity to adopt a persona and instead, have chosen to write from a first person perspective as I can uniquely shed light on my own experiences towards cultural exchange and how that has directly impacted me. This also has an additional persuasive effect as I invite my audience to relate to my opinions through their own similar experiences as young Australian adults. I have opted to target this audience since we are the generation of the future, and have a major role to play in positively shaping the Australian society’s views and attitudes towards cultural exchange. My speech heavily focuses on delivering tangible examples, such as anecdotes and social media usage, as I aim to heighten the topic’s relevance and relatability for my audience. Moreover, as my focus is to reinforce positive attitudes towards cultural exchange, I have adopted a light-hearted approach with humour through the first portion of my speech, then moving into an urgent tone towards the end to highlight the importance of this issue.
'Without mortality and fallibility, humility cannot exist.' Compare how the two texts explore the importance of humility.
Compare the ways the two texts explore the efficacy of different leadership types.
"In a world that is also subject to chance." (Ransom) "Under the bludgeonings of chance; My head is bloody, but unbow'd." (Invictus). Compare how chance influences lives and societies in these texts.
Compare how these texts examine the societal consequences of conformation and rebellion.
Compare how Invictus and Ransom explore resistance to change.
'Forgiveness can correct any miscarriage of justice committed.' Compare how this idea is demonstrated in these texts.
'Leadership and sacrifice are never mutually exclusive.' Compare the connections between leadership and sacrifice in Invictus and Ransom.
Compare the ways the two texts explore the power of shared experiences.
'...let his name, from now on, be Priam, the price paid" (Ransom) Compare how Invictus and Ransom show the roles of the past in determining one's future.
"But the women's presence is stronger than [Achilles']. This is their world." (Ransom) Compare what these texts say about the power of women in societies focused on masculinity and male experiences.
'Family can have many interpretations and meanings.' Compare the ways family is perceived in these texts.
Compare how the two texts explore intergenerational relations and their importance.
Compare how, in Invictus and Ransom, the aftermath of forgiveness is both redeeming and transient.
"Words are powerful. They too can be the agents of what is new, of what is conceivable and can be thought and let loose upon the world." (Ransom) "Just words. But they helped me to stand when all I wanted was to lie down." (Invictus) Compare how words shape one's hope for change is explored in both texts.
'Stories hold unseen truth and potential.' Compare how the two texts explore the importance of storytelling.
Ransom and Invictus is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing). For a detailed guide on Comparative, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.
Photograph 51 & The Penelopiad are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of our most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out ourUltimate Guide to VCEComparative.
We've explored themes, characters and literary devices amongst other things over on our Comparing The Penelopiad and Photograph 51blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text pair, I highly recommend checking it out!
Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:
Step 1: Analyse
Step 2: Brainstorm
Step 3: Create a Plan
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
‘You heard what you wanted to hear.’ (Photograph 51)
‘Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.’ (The Penelopiad)
Compare the ways in which both texts suggest there is power in storytelling.
Step 1: Analyse
The first step is to deduce what type(s) the essay question is (for a refresher on the 5 types of essay prompts, check out this blog). I usually find that a process of elimination is the easiest way to determine this. The prompt doesn’t explicitly include the keyword ‘How’, so it isn’t how-based. There are also no characters mentioned in the prompt, so we can rule out character-based. There’s no metalanguage included, so it isn’t metalanguage-based either. However, the prompt does mention the themes of ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’, so yes, it is theme-based. There are also two quotes (one from each text) included as part of the prompt, so it’s also quote-based.
Now that we’ve determined what types of essay prompt are relevant here, the next step is to identify its keywords: ‘the ways’, ‘both texts’, ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’.
The inclusion of ‘the ways’ tells us that we must consider different examples from ‘both texts’ where Ziegler and Atwood show us there is ‘power in storytelling’. The thematic words ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’ are especially important in your selection of evidence and also your three distinct paragraph ideas, as singling out the thematic keywords will make sure you do not go off-topic.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Let’s look at the common themes of ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’ that are central to the essay topic, and more specifically, how there is power WITHIN storytelling. In the case of Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad, a common representation of storytelling that is present in both texts is that truthful storytelling is subjective. This means that both Atwood and Ziegler posit that those in power throughout history have been afforded the ability to shape the historical narrative to best fit their interests. Both texts are also set within patriarchal societies - 1950s Britain and Ancient Greece. Therefore, our overall contention in response to this topic can be:
Both texts suggest that the ability to control the subjective nature of storytelling is a power that has predominantly been afforded to men throughout history.
This opening line addresses ‘power in storytelling’ in a specific way that brings in the contexts of both texts. Each of your paragraphs should fall somewhere under this umbrella of thought - exploring the dynamics of the patriarchal systems within both texts in relation to storytelling. Who tells the story? How does it benefit them? Why not others?
Step 3: Create a Plan
It is now time to develop the three main ideas that will form your essay structure. It is important to remember that each paragraph should include a discussion of converging and diverging ideas. Try to only use one or two examples from each text in a paragraph, as this way, you will have more time and space in your paragraphs to analyse your literary techniques and quotes. As the old saying goes, show don’t tell!
P1: Both texts give women a voice through the retelling of their stories from a different perspective.
Photograph 51 serves as a correction to the history of the discovery of the helix structure.
The Penelopiad inserts the female perspective into the famous myth of The Odyssey, giving reasoning and depth to the female voice.
Rosalind’s story is primarily told by the male scientists as the play retells the events, injected with commentary from the male scientists.
The Penelopiad is a first-person recount from Penelope herself, therefore she is given more agency and control of the narrative.
P2: However, women still lack authority in the shaping of their own narratives as their subjective truth and perspective is often undermined.
Predominantly, the narration is told from the male perspective as male scientists narrate Rosalind’s life. Her story is still subject to male opinion.
The Maids interrupt Penelope’s first-person narrative through the 10 interludes from the maids’ perspective. In doing so, they cast doubt on Penelope’s retelling of the narrative and offer a more truthful perspective.
Rosalind’s story is often interrupted by other male scientists, therefore more directly illustrating that men have more control over the subjective truth. Despite Rosalind’s story being central to the novel, Ziegler still demonstrates the difficulty women face in being believed and accredited for their contribution to history.
Penelope’s story is not interrupted by men like Rosalind’s is. Therefore, there is a lack of male dominance in this aspect of the tale. However, the theme of patriarchal dominance is instead illustrated through the lack of authority that the maids have. Despite their account of the events in the tale being the most accurate, their low social status limits the power of their voice in a patriarchal society.
P3: In patriarchal societies, the men ultimately control their own narrative and how they are remembered, amplifying their own greatness by omitting the potential blemishes on their character.
The male scientists deflect the blame for discrediting Rosalind by instead blaming her cold personality instead of their own deception and inability to cooperate with a woman.
The execution of the maids is dismissed in the trial of Odysseus as Odysseus’ actions are justified in the patriarchal society of Ancient Greece.
The male scientists’ reputations remain untarnished at the conclusion of the narrative, aside from personal guilt and shame. They achieved the scientific success they set out to achieve and were remembered as heroes.
Unlike the untarnished reputation of the male scientists, the maids curse Odysseus at the conclusion of the narrative.
The ability to control the subjective nature of storytelling is a power that has predominantly been afforded to men throughout the retelling of history (1).This is a result of the dominance of patriarchal systems, which inherently give men more agency in society to dictate the narrative for the next generations to remember (2).Both Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Ziegler’s Photograph 51 criticise this power imbalance in historical storytelling and deliver the female perspective in two different eras of history. Each text recognises that the lack of voice women are granted in society undermines and suppresses their contribution to history (3). Ultimately, both authors question the objectivity of the legacies that men have left behind, casting doubt on the narratives that they have shaped by introducing the underrepresented female perspective (4).
Annotations (1) A ‘universal truth’ or broad thematic statement is a great way to start an essay. This is your overall contention that does not mention the specifics of the texts - it purely deals with the themes of the topic.
(2) As seen here, your second sentence can be used to back up the universal truth in a way that is more specific to the texts and the ideas you’re going to discuss. In my second sentence, I’ve included more information about the societal power structures that are present within the texts and how men have more power to dictate historical narratives.
(3) Then, you signpost the three ideas that you’re going to discuss within your essay in a clear, precise and summarised way. Here is where you can mention textual details such as the titles, authors, forms and setting (i.e. 1950s Britain and Ancient Greece).
(4) I have finished off my introduction with an ‘Ultimately’ sentence that discusses the authorial intent of both authors. This offers a broader in-depth look at the topic as a whole, as it acknowledges the author’s intentional decisions about the text.
By writing narratives that focus on the female perspective in history, both texts afford the female protagonists power through the representation of their voice. Atwood and Ziegler address the imbalance of female input in history and aim to rectify that through representing the contributions women made in both narratives. Photograph 51, through the form of a play that retrospectively reenacts the events leading up to the discovery of the helix structure, cements Rosalind Franklin as the true genius behind the 'secret of life'. This honour has been credited to Watson and Crick solely throughout history, with them being given recognition of the 'Nobel' and having their names 'in textbooks'. Ziegler firmly details how the key to their success is the 'photograph she took of B', which Watson exploits to eventually win the race to construct the model. Similarly, The Penelopiad is also a societal correction to the lack of female representation in the narratives presented (4). Written as a first-person narration, Penelope’s aim as a narrator is to be given the opportunity 'to do a little story-making' in this retrospective novel, inserting her perspective into the well-known myth of Odysseus and The Odyssey(5). The characterisation of Penelope is subverted in Penelope’s retelling, as the generalisation of her character being only recognised for her 'smart[s]', '[her] weaving', and '[her] devotion to [her] husband' is challenged. Atwood contends that Penelope is also determined, self-sufficient and tactile through the narrative voice she grants Penelope as the main protagonist of the text. Rosalind in Photograph 51 is not the narrator of her story, which limits her agency in the telling of her truth in comparison to Penelope, who is able to shape her story the way she wishes (6). Underpinning both of these texts is Atwood and Ziegler’s authorial intention to contend that there is an underrepresentation of female contribution to history, and therefore utilise their texts to give power to female characters in patriarchal systems (7).
Annotations (4) The transitional sentence between texts can be less jarring and clunky if you introduce your example from Text B in a similar vein to the discussion of Text A. As seen here, I have used my discussion of how Ziegler represents Rosalind in a manner that is seen as a historical correction to then transition into how Penelope also serves the same purpose.
(5) The explicit stating of the first-person narration style in The Penelopiad directly addresses the keywords of 'the ways' from the essay question. By incorporating different textual examples like narration and characterisation (as seen in the following sentence), I’m able to analyse multiple ways that the authors suggest there is power in storytelling.
(6) It makes it easier to discuss your divergent idea if it is directly linked to the converging ideas you’ve already mentioned, just as I have here in pointing out the difference in protagonists and narration. This means you don’t have to waste time re-explaining things from the texts!
(7) I conclude with a more broad statement that references the authors’ intentions in order to finish with a more in-depth exploration, just like the end of the introduction.
Women still lack authority in the shaping of their own narratives as their version of the truth is often undermined. Despite the main motivator for the texts being to empower the women by giving them a voice, both texts also recognise the limitations of a patriarchal society by illustrating the challenges the protagonists face in having their voices heard. By viewing the past through a retrospective lens in The Penelopiad, Penelope is finally able to deliver her perspective, encapsulated in the opening line of 'now that I’m dead I know everything'. (8) The notion that Penelope had to be dead and free of the restraints placed on her voice whilst she was alive in patriarchal Ancient Greece demonstrates the complete lack of authority the voices of women have in establishing themselves in history. This is echoed in the same retrospective retelling of Rosalind’s story in Photograph 51, as the play begins with Rosalind stating that 'this is what it was like', establishing that the events that follow this initial line are a snapshot into the limitations she had to face as a woman in the male-dominated scientific field. It also references that the interjections of the male scientists as they commentate on her life were 'what it was like', as male opinion majorly shaped the suppression of Rosalind’s success throughout the play. On the contrary, (9) Penelope’s recount of the story is less interrupted by interjections of other characters, specifically those from men. However, the maids deliver ten interludes throughout The Penelopiad. These interludes are another example of female voice being represented in the text, but often being dismissed due to their crudeness or sarcastic nature in their casting of doubt over both Penelope and Odysseus, as they taunt Penelope’s decision to 'blame it on the [...] poxy little sluts!' and blemish Odysseus’ name by characterising him as the 'artfullest dodger' or 'blithe lodger', in reference to his infidelity. Despite the maids being the most authoritative in terms of true Greek theatre, (10) as they deliver the truest and most objective judgement of events, they are 'forgotten' and are not served true justice as a result of their low social status and gender that limits their voice in a patriarchal society. The female perspectives in the texts are truer representations of history in both contexts, yet because of limitations regarding their gender in the two patriarchal systems, they are overshadowed by the male recounts of history.
Annotations (8) To strengthen your essay, it is important to also use evidence that is not strictly dialogue or themes from inside the text. In this line, I use a literary device - retrospective storytelling - to back up the analysis I am talking about.
(9) Starting your discussion of the divergent ideas is easy with the use of phrases such as ‘on the contrary’, ‘unlike this…’ and ‘however’. You don’t want to spend unnecessary time on filler sentences. Be efficient!
(10) By further strengthening my analysis with a range of examples (e.g. mentioning the historical importance of genre, such as Greek theatre in this instance), I’m able to demonstrate a deeper knowledge of not only the texts and their context.
In patriarchal societies, the men ultimately have more control over their own narratives and shape them for their own personal glorification of character. The omission of immorality and emphasis on male achievement by the men narrating the story is a clear indication that despite the selfish choices they make, men are still able to shape their legacies in their favour. Watson and Crick in Photograph 51 are depicted as 'arrogant' and duplicitous as they extort their 'old friend[ship]' with Wilkins for personal gain, pressuring him into 'talking about his work' to further progress towards notoriety. The conclusion of the play, with Watson and Crick accepting the honour of the Nobel Prize and claiming it as the 'finest moment' of their lives, illustrates that the motivation of personal success justifies the immoral actions of men as they are remembered fondly as scientific heroes without the blemishes of their characters. Similarly in The Penelopiad, Odysseus is revered as a hero through the intertextual reference of The Odyssey, a myth detailing the legend of Odysseus and his 'cleverness'. Penelope’s recounting of the 'myth of Penelope and Odysseus' sheds light on her ingenuity in the tales of Odysseus, showing that she 'set the whole thing up on purpose', referring to the deceiving plan that Odysseus had been awarded all the credit for in the original retelling of their story. Additionally, in the 'trial of Odysseus', Odysseus’ character is evaluated in the setting of a court, as the maids have demanded justice for Odysseus’ unjust execution of them. However, the judge overturns this decision as it would serve as a 'blot on an otherwise exceedingly distinguished career', encapsulating the idea that men in a patriarchal society will omit personal errors in favour of presenting themselves and other men as heroes of their narratives. However, unlike the untarnished male success of Photograph 51, the maids curse Odysseus so he would 'never be at rest' in the conclusion of the narrative, as Atwood makes the final statement that men throughout history should be held accountable for the immoral actions they make (11).
Annotations (11) By concluding with a specific reference to the authorial intent of this specific idea explored throughout the paragraph, you ‘zoom’ back out and show your reader the bigger picture.
At the end of each text it is evident that, regardless of the representation and voice that is given to the female characters, the deeply entrenched patriarchal systems in both timelines negate this power in favour of the male voice (12). Ziegler’s play asserts that Rosalind’s 'groundbreaking work' should 'cement her place in history', and aims to give her recognition from a relatively more progressive, feminist society. Atwood’s conclusion also is representative of giving women more recognition for their achievements, like giving credit for Penelope’s 'intelligence' as an esteemed character trait in contemporary society. Both characters cast doubt over the previously revered male heroes in both texts, and further criticise the lack of female representation in those heroic stories. In conveying both Penelope and Rosalind’s stories, the authors call for a further critique of past and future accounts of human achievement.
Annotations (12) In this conclusion, I have chosen to focus on comparing the authorial intentions of Atwood and Ziegler in relation to the topic. In doing so, it can summarise my contention that I introduced earlier in the essay. By starting my conclusion with an overall statement regarding the ending of the two texts, I draw on the readers’ preexisting ideas of how they felt at the end of each narrative.
If you’re studying Photograph 51 and My Brilliant Career, check out our Killer Comparative Guide to learn everything you need to know to ace this assessment.
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