Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...
In regards to changing subjects once the school year has started: I've done a bit of research and it appears as though the deadline to change from one subject to another is determined by your individual school. Some schools have a deadline of only a couple weeks whereas others stretch it out a little further. Ask your school for exact dates if this is something you’re considering!
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So there’s approximately a month to go before the Literature exam. Nervous? Confident? Over it?! You might be thinking that they best way to study up until the exam is to just churn out essays after essays after essays. This is a common misconception, and may even hurt your chances for the exam. You want your essays to be ‘fresh’ with original insight, not stale pieces that sound like you’ve written this a hundred times and you’re getting bored. Here are a few tips on how to study for the exam while still keeping your mind activated about Literature!
Critique critical commentary
Google critical commentary on your text. You might pick up a new insight or perspective that you’ve never thought of. These can help you inform your own original and individual interpretation of the text. It is important to note that while reading critical commentary is incredibly useful in providing ‘clever’ interpretations, examiners are really looking for your own interpretation – not a regurgitated version of other people’s analyses. Rather than passively reading critical commentary, critique it yourself! Acknowledge and file away its good points, but also form your own stance with whether you agree or disagree with that point of view. Ask yourself why that is your perspective. Developing this critical analysis skill is extremely valuable, and will put you in the mindset for the exam to provide your own original interpretation that pushes the boundaries and the envelope.
Choose random passages and annotate
Close your eyes and pick a random a couple of passages from your text. Photocopy them, print them, however you like, but the most important thing is to spend time annotating them in as much detail as possible. Focus on analysing the language for how the author constructs the text to create meaning. Note sentences that can link to the wider text. This really forces you to analyse the most random passage in the text in extreme detail, which you might have skipped over in class or in your own reading, because it might not have seemed important at the time. Who knows, the exam could throw in a surprise passage that students might not have thought to study in great detail, and you have because you’ve been analysing passages at random – not just the major key events!
Examiner reports and word bank
Look through VCAA examiner reports for sample excerpts from high scoring responses. Highlight words and phrases that sound ‘good’ – and adapt them to use yourself! There’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration (stealing) from the examiner reports essays… after all they’re there for you to learn from. Key: you’re drawing inspiration from words, not ideas or sentences – otherwise that’s just plagiarism and won’t help at all. Create a word bank of vocabulary that suit your texts, which can be a great prompter when you’re struggling to think of a word that accurately expresses on paper what you want to say in your mind.
The biggest issue with every literature student in the exam is timing. There’s always so many things you want to write and include, that it is simply not possible to include everything. Time yourself. Practice writing in timed conditions. Be disciplined with your time – going over time for the first essay to include maybe one more good point, is to sacrifice finishing your second essay.
Exams are without a doubt a stressful period of time for all VCE students, and it can be easy to get caught up and overwhelmed with expectations, wanting to prove yourself and balancing the workload of your other exams. Find time to do small things to benefit yourself for the exam without compromising your mental power (after a very long marathon). Good luck and believe in yourself!
Understanding the Syntax Subsystem for English Language
One of the most common areas of difficulty and confusion in English Language is the syntax subsystem, so you are not alone if you find this difficult. You will already have an intuitive understanding of how syntax in English works (you speak the language after all), but being able to effectively analyse and parse sentences and utterances can be tricky. It is important that you understand what the following word classes (aka parts of speech) are, and what their role is in a sentence, you may need to revise them from Unit 1/2.
There are innumerable online and physical resources, such as Sara Thorne’s fantastic Mastering Advanced English Language, which you can look at to revise these word classes. These are the fundamental building blocks that we have at our disposal when building up a sentence and are vital for understanding syntax. Syntax is how we arrange these building blocks into phrases, which we combine to form clauses, which in turn create sentences.
What Is a Phrase?
Phrases are words or groups of words that function together in a clause. Often we class phrases in terms of what role they are playing: we might have a noun phrase, a verb phrase, or an adverbial phrase, for example. Look at the example below to get a feel for what is meant by a phrase.
Authorised Officers are here to help keep your public transport running smoothly and make sure everyone is paying their way.
The main phrases are:
'Authorised Officers', 'your public transport', 'everyone', 'their way' (noun phrases)
'are', 'to help keep…running', 'make sure', 'is paying' (verb phrases)
'here’, 'smoothly' (adverbial phrases)
’and’ (coordination conjunction)
What Is a Clause?
Clauses can be entire sentences or be one of several parts of a sentence. At a minimum, standard clauses must contain a subject and a verb, but usually have other components too. To help us understand what makes up a clause, it is important to re-familiarise yourself with the five clause elements:
Clauses must contain a verb, or else we class them as fragments. The following is a clause:
They watched the sunset together.
But this is a fragment:
What a sunset!
Note that the clause above contains a subject (They), verb (watched), object (the sunset) and adverbial (together), whereas it is not entirely clear how to classify the elements of the fragment, because there is no verb telling us how the words relate to each other.
There are two types of clauses we need to be concerned about: independent (main) clauses and dependent (subordinate) clauses. An independent clause can stand by itself as a simple sentence, whereas a dependent clause sits inside another clause and usually adds extra or supporting information.
Now for one of the key skills that is assessed in short answer questions and analytical commentaries: understanding how we combine clauses to create different structures.
Simple Sentences & Utterances
The first sentence structure is the simple sentence, which contains only one clause. Often these are seen as “short” sentences, but this is not always the case. For instance below is an example of a simple sentence:
All the school children, their families and their teachers were at the carnival for a day of fun and competition.
Compound Sentences & Utterances
Compound sentences consist of at least two independent clauses (ones that have a subject, a verb and form a complete idea on their own), joined by a comma, semicolon or a coordinating conjunction. Take for example the following compound sentence comprised of three clauses:
She swam and she surfed, but her thoughts inevitably returned to the dangers of the sea.
Complex Sentences & Utterances
Complex sentences, on the other hand, contain one independent or “main” clause, as well as one or several subordinate clauses. To identify a subordinate clause, you need to think about whether the clause you have identified stands as a complete thought, or whether it relies on the rest of the sentence to make sense. An example is included below, where only the main clause is bolded.
Now, if you turn to your right, you’ll see the gallery, which was constructed in 1968.
Compound-Complex Sentences & Utterances
Compound-complex sentences, exactly as one would expect, are a combination of several independent and subordinate clauses, to form what is most often quite a long sentence. If you know how to identify compound and complex sentences, this one should not pose much difficulty. Here is an example, where only the dependent clause is bolded.
Now it wouldn’t matter how fast he ran, he would never make it there in time, nor would he have anyone to blame but himself.
Give me a ring if you’re coming, or tell Max on his way home from work.
Sentence Fragments (Minor Sentences)
It may occur to you that not every sentence or bit of language that you ever come across fits neatly into one of the above categories, especially if there is not any identifiable independent clause. These we class as sentence fragments, and they are often found in informal spontaneous discourses.
Too easy mate, good on ya, etc.
Like any skill in English Language, getting good at syntax takes practice. To build your confidence, try parsing any of the texts you come across in school, or even texts you see in a magazine or newspaper. Check with a teacher, friend or tutor to see if you got it right, and where you might still need a little bit of work. And, come back to this blog post anytime you need a refresher!
To the Lit kids out there, you already know that VCE Literature is a whole different ball game – You’re part of a small cohort, competing against some of the best English students in the state and spots in the 40+ range are fairly limited. So how can you ensure that it’s your essay catches the assessor’s eye? Here are some tips which will hopefully give you an edge.
Constantly refer back to the language of the passages
Embed quotes from the passages into both your introduction and conclusion and of course, throughout the essay. Don’t leave any room for doubt that you are writing on the passages right in front of you rather than regurgitating a memorized essay. A good essay evokes the language of the passages so well that the examiner should barely need to refer back to the passages.
Here’s part of a sample conclusion to illustrate what I mean:
In comparison to Caesar, who sees lands, the “’stablishment of Egypt,” as the epitome of all triumphs, the lovers see such gains, “realms and islands,” as “plates dropp’d from his pocket.” It is dispensable and transient like cheap coins, mere “dungy earth” and “kingdoms of clay.” This grand world of heroic virtue is set in the past tense, where the lover once “bestrid the ocean,” once “crested the world,” but it is the world which will arguably endure in our hearts.
So, you can see that analysis of the language does not stop even in the conclusion and yet it still ties into the overall interpretation of the text that I have presented throughout the essay.
If appropriate, include quotes from the author of the text
A good way to incorporate views and values of the author in your writing is to quote things they have said themselves. This may work better for some texts than others but if you find a particularly poetic quote that ties in well with the interpretation you are presenting, then make sure to slip it in. It shows that you know your stuff and is an impressive way to show off your knowledge of the author’s views and values.
Here’s a sample from an introduction on Adrienne Rich poetry which includes a quote from her essay, “When We Dead Awaken.”
Adrienne Rich’s poetry is the process of discovering a “new psychic geography” (When We Dead Awaken) with a language that is “refuse[d], ben[t] and torque[d]” not to subjugate but as an instrument for “connection rather than apartheid.”
Memorise quotes throughout the text
Yes, there are passages right in front of you, but don’t fall into the trap of not memorizing significant quotes from the text as a whole. Dropping a relevant quote in from another section of the text demonstrates that you understand the text as a whole.
The originality of your ideas and the quality of your writing come first and foremost, but these are little ways in which you can add a little extra something to your essay.
Ever since literary perspectives have been introduced into the VCE Literature study design in 2017, there’s been a hell of a lot of confusion surrounding what they actually are, and what students are supposed to do with them. Due to the incredibly subjective nature of English, and especially Literature, as a subject, there is no single correct answer as to how to go about it. However, I hope to shed some light for you on how to go about this elusive component of VCE Literature.
So, what are they?
Firstly, what actually are perspectives? Well, they can be compared to a lens which you use to colour or filter your analysis of the text. You use the ideas and schools of thought that are specific to each perspective to shape, influence and guide your writing. There are a whole bunch of these perspectives, including psychoanalytical, Marxist, feminist and postcolonial. For your SAC during the year, you are going to need to use two different perspectives in your essay, whilst you will only use one in the end of year exam. Personally, while studying Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘North and South’, I used Marxist and feminist in my SAC and narrowed it down to Marxist for the exam.
How do I begin?
The best place to start, after having read the text of course, is to read up on what other people have to say about the book. Perspectives are closely intertwined with literary criticisms; that is, other people’s analysis and interpretation of the texts. For Literature, this needs to go into a bit more depth than someone telling you whether or not they liked the text. Some people like to include excerpts of other critics’ writing in their perspectives essays. Whilst this is not wrong, it isn’t the only way to go about it either. My class simply used these critics as a way of finding inspiration for our own ideas.
I was fortunate enough to be given a whole bunch of scholarly readings and critiques of ‘North and South’ by my teacher; however, if you aren’t as lucky, scholar.google.com and the State Library of Victoria’s online database are both amazing sources for such information. You can simply search up the title of your text, and maybe the author’s name to narrow down results, and you’re provided with scores of articles. I’d recommend reading as many of these as possible, and maybe even jotting down some key points or ideas that stand out to you as important or useful as you go along.
How do I choose which perspective to use?
With all those different perspectives out there, it can become difficult to narrow all the options down to two, and then one. Whilst some texts definitely lend themselves to certain perspectives more than others, the idea is that you can use whichever perspective you want for whichever text if you try hard enough. Sure, it may be hard to find evidence to support them all, but it is expected that, as a Literature student, you are able to read deep enough into the texts that you could find what you need to write on any of them.
My advice is to choose the perspective that initially jumps out at you. When you read the text for the first, second and even third time, there will be certain plot points and themes that present themselves to you. By analysing these, you’ll be able to see what connects them, and most likely be able to relate them to a particular perspective.
How do I write a perspectives essay? As I mentioned earlier, there is no stock standard formula that all perspectives essays must follow. But there are a few basic guidelines that can help you get the ball rolling.
Perspectives essays have the same basic structure as a normal English essay, but differ in the sense that they are more focused on a particular school of thought.
Be sure to build up an inventory of useful words or phrases unique to your chosen perspective that will help clue the examiner in to what approach you’re taking. For example, when I was exploring a Marxist perspective, I would include phrases like “bourgeoisie”, “interclass relations” and “social hierarchy”. That being said, there is no need to explicitly state, “From a Marxist perspective…” in your essay. By including those subtle, little expressions unique to your chosen perspective, you should be able to signpost to the examiner what your perspective is without making your essay seem basic. As you spend more time exploring your chosen perspective, you will become more familiar and comfortable with a range of these specific expressions.
Help! I can’t decide which perspective to choose! What do I do?
If you find yourself, like I did, stuck when choosing which perspective you want to use, there are a couple of different things to can do to try and get yourself out of this funk.
To start off, Literature is an extremely collaborative subject. It naturally opens itself to a discussion between you and your classmates. In fact, this is a great way to build more ideas and strengthen the ones you already have for all parts of the Literature study design, not only this one. I’d recommend you have a chat with the other people in your class and talk through all your options and the evidence that you could use to support them. I find that by talking in this way, my jumbled ideas tend to become a bit clearer in my head, and I’m often exposed to new ideas as well.
Secondly, your Literature teacher is, of course, another port of call. You literally pay them to teach you Literature and make sure you walk into your SAC and exam as prepared as possible, so why wouldn’t you take full advantage of their expertise? Explain to them your problem and your thoughts up until this point, and I’m sure they’ll be able to, if not provide you with, point you in the right direction towards finding some clarification.
Lastly, you need to remember that you are ultimately the one who needs to make the decision. As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, just listen to what your gut tells you. Your first thoughts are usually the best ones, so just go with your instinct and see where it tells you to go!
1. Don't focus just on ideas and avoid language engagement.
Language engagement is every bit as important as ideas. Sometimes, when you get stuck in philosophical musings, you might find yourself in a place where you're spouting on and on about solipsism or the intrinsic desire for independence in the 19th century Norwegian working class. Literature essays are all about finding balance, and here, that balance means language engagement. Whether you are writing about literary criticism or a passage analysis, you have to be able to support your interpretations with textual evidence.
Often, this requires some creative thinking. You can have a lot of fun with it and the examiners like you to pick up on small details and connect it to a grander scope.
Here's an example from Jane Eyre.
“my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount of fruition, and borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple.”
“I was not surprised...to feel...the breathing of a fresh and fragrant breeze...The rooks cawed, and blither birds sang; but nothing was so merry or so musical as my own rejoicing heart.”
In this passage, Jane is rejoicing over her marriage proposal, but readers are led to understand that this may be a false, idealistic dream of hers. Note the patterns of alliteration – the fricative 'f' shifting to the plosive 'b' in “fount of fruition” and “borrowed beams” then again from “fresh and fragrant breeze” to “blither birds”. What could it possibly mean?
Fricatives tend to indicate freedom, whereas plosives tend to indicate an abruptness – a harsh change. Perhaps, Jane's wild, free joy is immediately followed by plosive alliteration so as to illustrate how her happiness is cut short and her dream is a false one – she will attempt to achieve freedom through this romance, but she will be abruptly and unceremoniously prevented from attaining it.
Regardless, in any passage, there are always things to talk about and little language quirks to exploit to figure out an interpretation. Start from these little details, and build out and out until you tackle your big ideas. All of these ideas should be rooted in language.
2. Don't prioritise complicated language over ideas.
Often, when you think that expressive, complicated writing takes priority over ideas in Literature, you tend to end up with flowery material that becomes more convoluted than it is effective. If you are one of those people (I know it's hard) but kill your darlings. Focus on coming up with original ideas, and express them clearly. Cut out redundancies. Be expressive in a way that is natural and in a way where you know that first and foremost, your language is accurate. Don't go around using metaphors purely for the sake of sounding intellectual when you can express something equally eloquently and beautifully with simpler, fluent text.
Remember: this is not to say that you shouldn't be expressive in Literature. In fact, writing style and the ability to write well is a fundamental component to doing well in this subject. It is just vital that you strike the right balance. This is a good lesson to learn sooner rather than later - and you'll be steering into prime territory for the exam.
3. Don't treat Literature like an English essay. Be free!
Good Literature essays generally tend to be more lively and expressive than English essays. Why? Because Literature just doesn't operate under the same criteria, and it shouldn't be treated as such.
Don't feel like putting in an introduction/conclusion? No need! Don't feel like sticking to a TEEL structure? No problem!
Your focus is creating writing that moves along at a natural, expressive pace, moving through textual evidence to broader ideas. You don't have a structure. You don't have a paragraph quota. You have free reign over a lot of how you write your Literature essays – so find out what works for you.
4. Come up with original interpretations and don't stick with popular readings.
Literature is one of very few subjects in the entirety of VCE that rewards original thinking. You don't need to go with the crowd consensus on how to read your text: as long as you have the evidence to support your reading! The examiners will reward complex, creative, and unique ideas. Every passage analysis you write should be approached with a fresh perspective – base your interpretation around the text in front of you, and not a dogmatic set of ideas that you bring with you.
5. Let the text before you provide you with the ideas, don't force your ideas into the text.
By reading literary criticism and expanding the scope of your ideas, you can apply original readings to each set of passages you have. Your essays stand out when they cover new, uncharted territory.
Literature is all about balance. If you can find it in you to balance language engagement, interpretation, and writing style, I'd say you have yourself a pretty good essay.
Remember not to fall into any of the common traps of the subject, and you'll have put yourself on solid footing to become a true literati.
Language has many uses which go beyond simple communication. Language can be used to entertain, to convey abstract ideas and to mold one’s perspective. A strong understanding of linguistic features, of words and their connotations can allow one to manipulate their language in order to convey certain ideas and thoughts. This brings us to the topic of face needs. One’s face need is the sense of social value that is experienced during social interactions. There are two types of face needs; positive face needs and negative face needs. Positive face refers to the need to feel accepted and liked by others while negative face describes the will to do what one wants to do with freedom and independence.
In daily conversations and in media, language is used to either appeal to face needs or to avoid meeting face needs. Basic politeness markers are frequently used to appeal to face needs, often subconsciously. Imagine a teacher asks you to pass them the pencil they just dropped. Most likely, they will ask something along the lines of, “are you able to pass me that pencil please?” The teacher’s relationship with you is that of an authoritative nature. Therefore, when asked to pick up the pen, you will almost certainly oblige unless there is a compelling reason not to. While the teacher has technically posed a request or a question, it is a in fact a command in disguise. The teacher has an expectation that you will pick up the pen, however, by framing this command as a question, it appears as though you are being given a choice. This appeals to your negative face needs as you are not being imposed upon to pick up the pen, but are given a choice should you wish to “pick it up”. In situations where interlocutors do not have a very close social distance, linguistic features such are politeness markers, rising intonation and interrogative sentences are used to appeal to negative face needs. If this same situation occurred with a friend, they might say something along the lines of ‘oi, chuck us that pen.’ This is a blatant disregard for negative face needs, but due to the close social distance between you and your close friend, appealing to negative face needs for such small things is unnecessary.
Appealing to negative face is most commonly observed in interactions with strangers or with those who do not have a strongly established relationship. However, appeals to negative face needs can also be observed with close individuals, particularly used to further the relationship by extending its boundary. For example, when asking a big favour from a relatively new friend one will most likely use methods to appeal to negative face needs, using phrases such as, ‘do you mind if,’ ‘would it be possible if,’ ‘could I please ask you a huge favour’. Such phrases do not impose of the individual, allowing them to “choose” whether or not to oblige. Appealing to the negative face demonstrates that one recognizes the other’s freedom and wish to do as they wish.
Appealing to positive face needs occurs through slightly different linguistic and paralinguistic techniques. Compliments, minimal response, eye contact, politeness markers and the use of interrogatives are all ways in which one can appeal to another’s positive face needs. These techniques are very often employed in radio and television interviews. It is the duty of the host to make their guest feel welcome and wanted on the show. Television hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen often introduce their celebrity guests by mentioning their achievements, thus making them feel special. They frequently employ interrogatives to display avid interest in their guests. Furthermore, back-channeling and vocal effects such as laughter allow the guests to feel that their presence is welcome and appreciated. Think of this from the perspective host and their social purpose. They want to make their guests feel appreciated to promote their viewership and build solidarity with the guests so they may return on the show.
This is interview is an example of positive face needs where interviewer Rajeev Masand compliments Stanger Things actors Milly Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp at the beginning of the interview for their show.
Tom Holland on Ellen:
In this example both Tom Holland and Ellen meet one another’s positive face needs. Politically correct language and euphemisms are also another example of appeals to positive face needs. Calling people ‘differently abled’ is done in attempt to avoid discrimination and allow individuals of different abilities to feel equally accepted and welcome. However, this does not always come across as intended. Often politically correct labels are not embraced by the given community as they feel that such labels further alienate them from society. Politically correct labels can act as reminders to such groups that they are considered minority or, they may feel that these labels are a feeble attempt to push aside previous, conflicting history. This is important to note as it demonstrates that appealing to face needs can sometimes be a hit or miss. In everyday conversation, people use cues in attempt to understand the individual they are conversing with and hence alter their language accordingly. They will use these cues to understand how to use language to appeal to the face needs of the other individual. In a context with school friends, there is likely to be less use of politeness markers and politically correct language as the pre-established relationship means there is a mutual understanding the one does not wish to offend. In contrast, the use of language is likely to be very different in transactional conversations, interviews and conversations with an authoritative relationship.
Techniques used to appeal to face needs always come back to the social purpose of the interlocutors and the contextual factors. By understanding the link between these elements, you can form a holistic analysis of face needs. Therefore, when writing about face needs in your exam and sacs, it is vital to be considerate of the context as this impacts how face needs are approached.
Here are some other examples of celebrity interviews where there is evidence of appeals to positive face needs. Watch them carefully and you’ll notice the specific linguistic features used in these interviews to build solidarity with the guests and create engagement with the show. The hosts compliment their guests and frequently employ minimal response to allow the conversation to progress smoothly. There are minimal overlaps as the hosts are cautious not to talk over their guests. You will notice that in certain interviews, when the host and guest are known to one another, appeals to face needs are not adhered, allowing them to strengthen their bond and further audience engagement.
Malala Yousafzai on Ellen:
Eddie Redmayne interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:
Over the years I have seen many exceptional essays. What has really surprised me in the past is when I compare high-scoring essays. In one instance, I read one English student's essay (raw study score of 50) after another student's (raw study score of 46). What do you think contrasts between a student who achieves 50 and a student who achieves 46 (bearing in mind of course, that these two scores are already amazing!)? For me, I had assumed that a major contributor to the perfect score of 50 must be better vocabulary. You would think so too right?
NO! In fact, the student of 46 had embedded heaps of complex and amazing-sounding words in her essay - much more than those used by the student who obtained a 50. Oddly, the perfect scorer had hardly any complex vocabulary in her piece. But this ironically, was the strength of her essay. Because she wasted little time on trying to throw in lots of fancy vocabulary, she was able to focus on exploring complex ideas in her essay instead. This is what examiners are after. So if you're struggling with vocabulary, don't worry - not all hope is lost!
One of the biggest struggles is to 'improve vocabulary' in VCE. So many students are caught up trying to improve their vocabulary or using 'big words' that they don't realise the worst thing yet: using bigger words can actually hurt your essay. Yes, you read it right. Even research has actually found that using complex or big words in an essay can backfire for the student!
Reasons why using big words can worsen your essay:
1. Obstructs clarity of ideas.
Readability is the ease with which a written text can be understood by the reader. In other words, how easy it is to read an essay and how enjoyable that read is. I'm sure you've read a novel in the past that was quite difficult to read because of its extensive vocabulary. On the other hand, you will find a book much more enjoyable to read when you're not struggling your whole way through deciphering words. The same applies to essays. Examiners focus heavily on your exploration and interpretation of ideas. If you have great ideas, only to overload with vocabulary just look to make yourself look smarter, it's only going to make it harder for your examiner. Just like if you had simplistic ideas and filled your essay with fancy vocabulary, it's not going to make the idea seem any more insightful. See the example below:
Student 1: 'In a plethora of elements gender inequalities prevail over the women of Nigeria.'
Student 2: 'Gender inequalities prevail over women's lives in Nigeria.'
The 'plethora of elements' is just another way of saying 'several aspects'. By trying to use nice vocabulary, this student actually reduced the meaning of their sentence, making it harder for the teacher to understand the student's idea. Remember to keep your essays straightforward, don't drown them with vocabulary that's unnecessary.
2. You seem dumber.
No offence. Writing with bigger words doesn't mean you're smarter. It is very easy to pick up when a student is simply using a thesaurus to find synonyms - because your sentence will look like this: basic basic basic COMPLEX basic basic COMPLEX basic basic. There is a clear discrepancy! Don't use 'utilise' when you can just write 'use'. You seem pompous (no offence, again!). Write clearly and simply if you can, and you’ll be more likely to be thought of as intelligent! This meme below sums up the point very well:
3. You're using it wrong.
Using a similar word is not always the RIGHT word. Let's take the word 'persuade' as an example. We're always trying to find new synonyms for 'persuade' in Language Analysis (and I do have a list for you here). The word 'entice' is by no means similar to the word 'coerce' because of the different connotations they are both associated to. To entice is to persuade through attraction or tempting the reader by offering an advantage, whereas to coerce is to persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats. Be wise when you choose synonyms, because they do not carry the exact same meaning as the original word you intended to use!
KEY TIP: Do not use big words, do not use small words, use the RIGHT words.
So, how do you find the right word bank for you?
The conditions of your vocabulary bank should be suited to your specific needs. A focus on a need or theme enables more visible connections within the vocabulary bank. Having those connections will make it easier to 'memorise' new terms. Instead of compiling a dense 20-page glossary, try breaking your vocabulary bank up into smaller, specific sections like 'new verbs'.
Now, let's find new verbs instead of the typical bolded words below to express the author's intention:
The author argues
The author shows
The author criticises
The author supports
- Branch off 'argue' (Fervent tone): contends, asserts, posits, proffers…
- Branch off 'criticises' (Negative tone): condemns, denigrates, lampoons, parodies…
- Branch off 'supports' (Positive tone): praises, endorses, exalts, lauds…
Next, take your new vocabulary from storage to use:
After clarifying their definitions, try using some of your new words in a sentence or a paragraph, relating to either your texts or analysing argument. You can also extend your vocabulary bank by adapting the words to different sentence structures:
Original sentence: The author criticises the superficiality of our consumerist culture.
Substitution:Theauthor condemns the superficiality of our consumerist culture.
Adaptation: In a condemnatory tone, the author delineates the ostentation of our consumerist culture.
Original sentence: The author argues that gender is an arbitrary concept.
Substitution: The author asserts that gender is an arbitrary concept.
Adaptation: Asserting that gender is an arbitrary concept, the author explicates the categorist nature of human understanding.
Using convoluted expressions can be fun or exasperating! Whilst demonstrating extensive vocabulary may raise your mark, the key is to ensure harmony between your words and your understanding.
Remember: Do not use big words, do not use small words, use the RIGHT words.
The second half of this blog post was written by Joyce Ling.
Ok, let’s be honest here. I’m not one to be easily motivated to do things. I’m what you call a part-time-verging-on-full-time procrastinator. Hell, if procrastinating was a career, I’d be rich by now!
But alas, there’s no time left in these last critical months of high school to sit back while you put even the smallest of tasks off because you can’t be stuffed. There’s always that one project, that one piece of writing, that one homework task that you just can’t bring yourself to sit down and do. That’s when you soon discover that you’ve got to find a teensy-tiny ounce of hope and drive in you to complete the unwanted task. Oh, what’s that called again? Ah yes!
So how does one find that motivation to plough through lists of work, practice SACs and exam papers, and write yet another language analysis without going insane?
Well, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’ve always thought admirably of those top 99+ ATAR achievers in my school, the students that score 50s in each subject and the brightest kids in the state that appear on the front of newspapers come mid-December each year. It baffled me for so long that they appeared SO motivated to do all this work! How do they keep pushing themselves? How do they not lose confidence along the way? How do they stay focused for the entire Year 12? And I’ll let you in on a little secret… you can be one of them! Just find the motivation technique that empowers and energises YOU!
Motivation is SUCH a personal matter. It is 110% crucial if you plan on doing well for your final years of school, and once you discover what gets your engine roaring, it’s an invaluable tool you’ll need and keep for life.
Perhaps the most ‘obvious’ motivation for doing well in Year 12 is to get acceptance into your preferred University course, TAFE course, or other career or study pathway. But that’s not enough, in my humble opinion. Plenty of students start off Year 12 with such a great mind frame for the first few weeks or months, and then struggle to keep up the good work. You need to keep your goal as close to mind as possible. Don’t just have a 4-digit figure in the back of your mind or glued onto a pin board. Visualise what it looks like when you’re walking into your dream course, discovering your passion, meeting new people that feel as passionate about what they’re learning as you. Where will your dreams take you? Hold on to those images in your mind. They are pure gold.
If you feel like everything in Year 12 isn’t worth the stress and the effort, think of the holiday that greets you after finishing high school. For some, you might be trekking off overseas for 4 months or even spending a few days at Schoolies! Imagine where you could be in only a few months’ time. What will you be doing, where will you be relaxing, who will you be socialising with, how far will you be travelling? If you give your final year all you got, that break will feel even more rewarding.
Another technique I tried isn’t for everyone, and those that exercise it should do so with caution… but I motivated myself using the big fat F-word: FAILURE. I was emotionally invested in my subjects, so that if I felt that I wasn’t improving my scales, my oral comprehension, or my writing to the standard that I desired, then I would feel like I had failed my teachers. I respected them not only for their expertise, but for their faith and constant encouragement they showed for their students. A healthy dose of nerves and stress is okay, as it can spur you on even more to work harder, persevere and impress.
Year 12 is not a sprint, it is truly a marathon. The best part is, you’re almost there! But if you keep your eyes on the prize and let your friends, family and teachers hand you those water bottles and towels, you can take each part as it comes. It’s not going to be easy, but if you stick to a plan and give it all you’ve got with no regrets, reaching that finish line will be the best feeling in the world!
Regardless of whether you’re writing a Text Response, Comparative, or even an Argument Analysis essay, it is easy to see the introduction as something inconsequential, that won’t change your overall mark. And as a result, far too many students view the intro as a mere convention of writing that simply needs to ‘tick off’ certain criteria before they get into the ‘meat’ of the essay. But, from my experiences in VCE English, I’ve found taking some time to write a concise, yet original, considered, and insightful intro (with a bit of flair when appropriate) can be hugely beneficial.
Why Your Teacher Says You Can’t Earn Any Marks in an Introduction
Everyone has heard it before:
You can’t win/lose marks in an introduction or conclusion
I’ll be the first to admit that in some ways, this is true. The purpose of a Text Response essay is to show an understanding of a text through analysis. So, it is natural that your essay is marked based on the quality of your analysis of the text. And, because very little of this analysis occurs in the introduction, it’s easy to think that an intro can’t influence or change your final mark. While this may be true in theory, the reality is that your introduction serves as a foundation for your analysis...and just like a house, without a solid foundation coming first the rest of your essay is more liable to be weak and fragile. In my mind, the introduction provides a basis for everything that you’re going to analyse in your body-paragraphs which can build upon the assertions you have made regarding the topic in your intro. In other words, the introduction sets the direction for your essay, which overall acts as a backbone allowing for a cogent argument to be presented in your piece.
How an Introduction Can Help You
Now that we have established how an introduction helps contribute to the overall cohesiveness of an essay, let’s have a look at how an intro can help you while you’re writing. Especially when writing under timed conditions, it can be difficult to produce a detailed plan which lays out the structure of an essay. Here's where your intro can be of great help. When considered carefully, your introduction can set the parameters within which your essay will be contained. In other words, your intro can define the scope of your essay, outlining which themes and characters you are going to explore, and most importantly what arguments you are going to posit throughout your script. This means that if you get lost, or go blank trying to figure out what you should write next you can refer back to your intro to find a sense of direction and regain a foothold in your essay and. In this way, the intro not only acts as a foundation for your body-paragraphs but also provides a blueprint for them which can guide you from point to point.
At the same time, although an introduction cannot explicitly earn you marks, I would argue that a quality introduction can help position your assessor to immediately categorise your essay as belonging in a higher mark bracket. At the end of the year, exam assessors have hundreds of scripts to mark. And the truth is, they will not dedicate more than a couple of minutes to read your essay. As such, if you can impress your assessor with a powerful opening, they are more likely to see your piece as one that should earn a high mark. The reality is that assessors can often tell a lot about an essay based on the quality of its introduction. Therefore, if you can write a 9-10/10 introduction, your assessor will already be leaning towards awarding you a mark in that range without even having read your body-paragraphs yet.
So, How Can You Write an Original Introduction That Doesn’t Sound Like Everyone Else's?
If there’s one thing English teachers and assessors hate, it’s reading essays that have been memorised and recited (though, if you absolutely insist, then here's a middle-ground option where you could use' templates'). What is crucial, then, is that from the very first line of your introduction you are responding directly and unswervingly to the topic. I would suggest trying to avoid starting with a cliche contextual statement in favour of a bold response to the topic.
For example, in response to the topic ‘Shakespeare’s Vienna is a world devoid of balance.’ I would try to avoid starting my introduction with a vague and easily memorisable statement such as...
‘Shakespeare’s Jacobean tragicomedy Measure for Measure explores the concept of balance in his extremest characters.’
Instead, a bold opening statement is preferable...
‘Whether it is in Vienna’s abject lasciviousness, Angelo’s ascetic self-governance, or even Isabella’s hyper-rectitude, Shakespeare’s conception of Vienna in Measure for Measure is one laced with problematic extremism.’
Consider opening with a quote which captures your take on the topic. In the Comparative task, most definitely try to avoid staring with the word ‘Both’, and instead consider shedding light on a theme or concept common to both texts.
For example, in response to the topic ‘Both Invictus and Ransom suggest empathy is key to creating unity.’...
Whether it is between African and Afrikaner or Trojan and Achaean, the capacity for human understanding is upheld as paramount to overcome societal fissures. After you have put forward a broad response to the topic in your opening sentence, your introduction can then proceed to ‘zoom in’ and offer more specific arguments. These specific ideas should essentially signpost the distinct arguments you are going to present in each of your body paragraphs.
‘One characteristic of high-scoring essays was recognition of the ways in which the ideas the student intended to discuss were connected.’
This means that the ideas you flag for discussion in your intro, should be logically connected to both the prompt and each other, and you should aim to outline these connections.
The specific ideas which you offer set the parameters for the rest of your essay, so it is a good idea to ensure that these insights take into consideration the implications of the key-terms of the topic, and attempt to take the topic further. This allows you to consider the text in a sophisticated and conceptual way while maintaining rock-solid links to the topic.
After you have ‘zoomed into’ the specific arguments you will be mounting in your essay, the final step is to ‘zoom back out’ and offer an incisive, and powerful overall contention which responds explicitly to the terms of the topic. We talk about this 'zoom in' and 'zoom out' technique in How To Write A Killer Text Response.
Ultimately, the introduction provides you with a great opportunity to show off to your assessors that you can write incisively, fluently, and with confidence.
In Victoria, VCAA are starting to update us on which SACs (particularly practical tasks) need to be completed on-site. No English subjects are really affected by this, mostly subjects with folios or labs, as well as environmental sciences—check here for details (under ‘School-based Assessments’ > ‘Unit 3 Practical Assessments’). The general advice for any of these is that they “must be completed in the school environment that adheres to current social-distancing advice.”
Study designs have also been adjusted for English Language, as well as Biology and all streams of Maths—same link, with info under ‘2020 Adjusted Study Designs’.
In Victoria, schools remain closed, and current distancing restrictions will remain in place until May/11 for certain, even as other states begin lifting their restrictions. This is ahead of a national cabinet meeting on May/8 which will make a call on whether or not to keep going with shutdown. It’ll also take into consideration how many people have downloaded the CovidSafe app, which has spawned its own set of controversies about privacy and government access to our data. It might seem invasive, but consider:
In Victoria, three new cases were recorded overnight. Around the country, even better—for example, SA and WA are reporting zero new cases, and the ACT currently has no active cases at all.
I wouldn’t necessarily say this means the end is in sight—just a shift into the next phase, which seems to revolve around the app. What a cheery thought, I know.
One last controversy to leave you with—the Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr. Annaliese van Diemen made a tweet on her day off which compared COVID-19 to the British colonisation of Australia:
Conservative politicians have been champing at the bit to jump in with “well, actually…” comments (e.g. “well, actually Cook only charted the East Coast”) and call for her resignation, while the Labor state government has defended her right to make this tweet and express her opinion. Premier Andrews has said: “I've got no comment to make on any member of the public health team other than thank you for the work you are doing because it is making a massive difference.” And so it is.
Maybe this tweet is relevant to the current pandemic, maybe not, but let’s not be defensive about it. Instead, let’s just keep in mind that most of us are in fact not the first Australians who’ve faced something scary and foreign which has completely changed how we live, because most of us aren’t First Australians. Definitely at least food for thought.
NSW also back to school this week
1 May 2020, 11:20am
And a very similar kind of chaos happened there as well, with some degree of conflicting state and federal advice; NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has implemented complete remote learning until at least May 11 in spite of the federal government’s insistence on reopening.
That said, their start of term 2 has also seen some new issues arise—now, more so than a fortnight ago, people are starting to feel the situation stabilise. The number of new COVID-19 cases is falling and the humdrum of home schooling is starting to get old, which is tempting parents to send kids (especially younger kids) back to school earlier.
This is also complicated by the federal government, which has since adjusted its approach based on initial tensions with Victoria. They are now simply offering private and Catholic schools financial incentives to reopen—in particular a 25% advance on next year’s funding if they have half their students back in classrooms by June 1. There are thousands of eligible schools around the country.
Those who are more adamant about distance learning—including Premier Berejiklian, Premier Palaszczuk of Queensland and Premier Andrews of Victoria—suggest that schools will struggle to cope with more students at the moment. Teachers will be more at risk, and the delivery of at-home learning may be compromised. Also, it would be much harder to shut schools again once reopened, than to just keep them closed until we’re sure.
NSW schools are contemplating staggered returns to school, based on things like alphabets, postcodes, year groups etc. or with limited days of the week delivered in person.
At home, VCAA is running webinars to provide advice for teachers and principals, which ran on April 30 and May 1. As April comes to a close (already—it honestly felt so short), the possibility of reopening schools as well as other sectors soon is feeling within reach, though not without some element of risk.
Key changes to Units 3 and 4
24 April 2020, 7:40pm
VCAA has spelled out some of the changes that will be happening to Unit 3 of the VCE. Firstly, it has recommended schools delay the end of Unit 3 until Jun/26. This should give more time for everyone to figure out exactly how SACs will be administered or modified, and whether any must be completed on-site. The deadline for schools to submit Unit 3 results has also been pushed back to Oct/12.
As for Unit 4, there is currently a review of whether or not SACs can be reduced.
VCAL dates are also set to change so that it takes place in parallel with VCE, though there won’t be changes to content or assessment.
VCAA has also changed the last day for official enrolment in or withdrawal from VCE Units 3–4 to Jun/8, and from VCE Units 1–2 to Nov/9. This means that Year 11 students will have more flexibility to pick up and change subjects in Semester 2.
In terms of technological support, the Victorian government will be lending out computers and SIM cards via schools, so speaking to school administration is the first port of call. You can also seek assistance from State Schools’ Relief.
Finally, VCAA is also trying to support teachers by opening up new communication channels where they can seek more focused and detailed information from experts. I’m not too clear what information is being made available, but this is what they’ve written about it:
“F–10 and senior secondary teachers may access two new interactive communication channels from 27 April 2020. These will enable teachers to ask questions and receive answers in real time from our subject matter experts across the organisation.”
What Term 2 looks like so far
23 April 2020, 10:51am
At this stage, Victorian schools do seem to be operating remotely by default. There was some confusion earlier in the week among teachers and parents, but things seem to be settling down for now. Bearing in mind that many teachers spent the holidays adjusting and reworking lessons for online learning, their frustration is probably understandable in this light.
There still isn’t a consistent national framework for how schools should operate in the medium- to long-term though. For example, Queensland schools are only mandating 5 weeks of remote learning for now, though also making sure that essential workers’ kids can still attend school in-person and making SIM cards and laptops available for students who need them.
The Victorian Department of Education has provided learning from home advice for students and parents, translated into a number of languages. One new tidbit in there is that small groups of students who need to gather and complete learning requirements on-site will be permitted to do so. I can’t imagine a lot of requirements falling under this umbrella, but this will be up to individual schools to provide.
Hear from 47 English and Literature 40 scoring tutor, Sarah about her experiences tutoring
17 April 2020, 10:12am
If you're curious about what tutoring with LSG entails, and would like to get to know a tutor a little bit better, this video is for you! Lisa recently sat down with Sarah, one of LSG's amazing tutors, and they spoke about the life of a tutor, various tutoring experiences, and even what it's like to conduct tutoring online.
Conflicting advice from the federal education minister
11 April 2020, 10:41am
There’s been a bit of conflicting advice from higher up, unfortunately. While state government has indicated that government schools will shift to remote learning in Term 2, the federal (national) government has other ideas.
On Apr/9, education minister Dan Tehan asked that independent and Catholic schools keep classroom learning available at the risk of losing federal funding. This is especially confusing for Victorians, as the state government has been decisive in implementing a remote Term 2 for government schools.
It’s a tricky scenario because the federal government funds independent and Catholic schools, while the state government runs government schools.
It’s definitely ok to feel frustrated by this—Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green has described this as an “impossible situation…caught between conflicting advice from state and federal authorities.”
The federal government reasons that children of essential frontline workers need a classroom option, and they may not have any other choice because of their parents’ employment. However, the Prime Minister has also said that it is up to states and territories to make those decisions about what exactly will happen in schools.
We expect more clarification on this over the long weekend and the days to follow.
Latest changes to VCE
10 April 2020, 8:50pm
So what exactly is going on with this right now?
Schools are reopening after Easter but they will operate remotely for Term 2. It will be announced later if this extends to Term 3 or not.
Year 12 students will receive an ATAR for work completed in 2020. The GAT will be held in October or November instead of June; exams are postponed to December at the earliest. Exams may be modified or shortened, but nothing has been announced for certain yet. There are Plan-Bs to either delay exams further if needed, or derive ATARs from your GAT.
However, entry to tertiary study shouldn’t be affected—there’s usually a big window between VCE exams and the start of uni anyway, and government is in dialogue with universities about pushing back the start of 2021 if needed. Admissions processes may look different depending on the extent to which exams are affected, but universities are committed tobeing fair, consistent and transparent. There may also be catch-up, foundation or bridging classes in your first year.
If you don’t have the technology to learn remotely, the government will be loaning out 4,000 SIM cards and 6,000 laptops. They will also be working with Food Bank to make sure students who need breakfast clubs and lunches get it. Transportation services (school buses, disability transport and metro) will run as usual.
I’m feeling really iffy about some of this…
You’re not alone. Many people, students among them, are encountering all kinds of challenges with the changes that have been happening, and there is no shame in feeling powerless or in need of some extra resources in this time.
If you need any support for VCE or schoolwork, we’ll have plenty of content on ourblog andYouTube channel to help you address any concerns. We also have a team of experienced tutors available for online tutoring.
Maybe that covers all the bases, but chances are it doesn’t—individual circumstances are really different right now, and circumstances across society are constantly in flux.
Beyond your personal circumstances, you might also be feeling a little iffy about the increased policing, or the exclusion of migrant workers from wage protection.
Could there be any alternatives to policing, maybe some sort of community-based delivery service to ensure that society’s most vulnerable remain well-resourced? And is the government obliged to protect the wages of not only Australian citizens, but Australian taxpayers as well (anybody who lives in Australia is an Australian taxpayer).
A lot to think about if you haven’t done your Oral Presentation yet…
Learning remotely is difficult – how can you ensure that you keep up your marks?
10 April 2020, 11:20am
Across the state, students and teachers are transitioning to learning remotely — and it hasn't been exactly easy. There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your education isn't compromised and remains at a high standard. To hear more about these strategies, check out the blog post created by my fellow tutor, Angie, here.
Learning remotely means that many students of all ages are worried about how they'll be able to access tailored support from teachers busy with adapting their teaching methods and lesson plans who are often unable to give students the one-on-one attention they deserve due to this pandemic. Well, Lisa's Study Guides' online private tutoring service connects students with experienced tutors who scored in the top 9% or better in their recent completion of VCE. To learn more about how we can work with you to empower you to take control of your learning, head over to our information page here.
Lisa has also created a video talking about what online tutoring entails. Be sure to check it out below to learn more!
What’s the federal government doing?
10 April 2020, 9:26am
You might’ve heard the term ‘economic stimulus package’ being tossed around. This refers to when the government borrows money (i.e. increases government debt) and essentially gives it to people so that ‘business as usual’ isn’t disrupted, even when our jobs and our social lives might be. Even if you no longer have a source of income, government payments can now be spent on supplies which keep you alive, keep those businesses afloat, and keep their workers employed. Without any stimulus, the economic consequences of COVID-19 would be far more widespread.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put in place a range of economic stimuli which play a big part in flattening the curve. This has included wage guarantees (JobSeeker/JobKeeper payments) that look a lot like universal basic income—everyone* who is now out of work receives an equal, regular payment from the government that covers their basic needs.
Policies like this allow everyone*, no matter their income level beforehand, to get by and stay at home without needing to find a new job while it’s dangerous (and illegal) to go outside.
Australia has adopted similar policies before—the then-Labor government introduced economic stimuli during the financial crisis of 2009—but Scott Morrison was a vocal critic back then.
Finally, even though Australia’s response to COVID-19 appears to be working well, there are two big challenges coming up. One is Easter, a long weekend where people traditionally go out. This time, they’re being warned to stay home.
Another is the start of Term 2, when over a million Victorian students would usually be on the move. The transition to remote learning will prevent this in a bid to continue flattening the COVID-19 curve.
*everyone who is eligible—which currently doesn’t include temporary visa holders, many casual workers, people in arts and entertainment, charities etc.
By the numbers: the state of the virus
8 April 2020, 1:45pm
As of Wednesday April 8, we’ve seen 5,844 cases of COVID-19 across the country, with 1,212 of those in Victoria, where 60,000 tests have been administered. Among these:
• 12 have passed away
• 45 are in hospital, including 12 in intensive care
• 101 seem to be the result of community transmission
• 736 have recovered
In order to control the rate of the outbreak, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has introduced a range of regulations which promote social distancing. These have been increasingly restrictive, from closing down non-essential businesses and limiting the size of public gatherings to stay-at-home rules that are now enforceable—you might’ve heard of these as “stage 3 restrictions”.
As part of these restrictions, you may only legally leave the house for four reasons:
• Getting food and supplies
• Seeking medical care
• Exercise (that doesn’t involve groups of more than 2 people)
• Work and study (where remote options are unavailable)
There are also on-the-spot fines of $1,652 for anyone caught in breach of these restrictions, and as many as 114 such fines have been issued in a single day. Since March 21, Victorian police have conducted 16,039 spot checks in homes and non-essential businesses. People have been fined for having mates over for dinner parties, a cheeky video game sesh, even hanging out in the park.
At this stage though, there are signs that these restrictions may be paying off, and that Australia is ‘flattening the curve’ compared to other countries, especially other Western democracies such as the US (which now leads the world in COVID-19 cases) and the UK (where the Prime Minister has contracted the virus). ‘Flattening the curve’ basically means new cases are growing at a slower rate (a ‘flat’ increase) rather than at an exponential rate (a sharper increase).
What the coronavirus means for VCE
7 April 2020, 5:35pm
Right now, there's so much uncertainty and everyone has the right to be anxious. For the VCE, this is no different – it's ok for us to be unsure and worried about what'll happen with our study scores and ATARs. So, to put your minds at ease, Lisa (the founder of Lisa's Study Guides) recently created a video talking about what the coronavirus means for the VCE in 2020. Check it out below...
‘Will I finish VCE?’ and other COVID-19 questions, answered
7 April 2020, 12:00pm
You’ve heard of Love in the Time of Cholera; now get ready for VCE in the time of coronavirus. As far as we know, the VCE is indeed still on, and if you’re currently in Year 12, it looks like you’ll be on track to graduate at the end of 2020 as per usual.
So we’ll still have to do SACs and exams?
Yep. VCAA has allowed schools to administer SACs either remotely, or delay them to whenever in-person classes resume. Your school will make its own decisions on how you’ll actually be taking SACs—if you have personal access requirements or need for special provisions, speaking to them would be the best avenue. Same goes for how schools actually deliver the content—it’s all pretty flexible at the moment.
What if I’m afraid I’ll do worse on an online SAC?
On the one hand, VCAA seems to be raising the option of delaying SACs until school resumes pretty strongly. On the other, they’re suggesting that online SACs should be delivered as normally as possible if schools can’t accommodate a delay. This means that, just like on a real SAC, there’ll be limited time and potentially limited access to resources as well.
They’re also reminding us that even if SACs go online, your actual, numerical results are less important than your “correct ranking”. To determine this, individual schools are being advised to ‘validate’ remote SAC results with classroom-based assessments when they return. You may well get the best of both worlds.
In general though, everyone is in the same boat for now, and concerns around this are widespread (and valid!). Do the best you can, and your effort will be reflected in your ranking at the end of it all. Don’t forget that SAC scores also get moderated by VCAA at the end of the year.
Will I still get an ATAR?
Yes, and they’ll still be calculated the same way (from assessments, statistical moderation, and study scores). Remember that study scores and ATARs are also rankings, and everyone is going through this together; everyone is doing/can only do the best they can under the circumstances.
As things change, VCAA will also keep everyone updated on whether or not key dates change. This may include things like:
The start of Term 2 (Apr/15)
The deadline to enrol in/withdraw from the VCE (Apr/27)
The General Achievement Test (Jun/10)
They will also be “provid[ing] advice for schools every Monday from the start of Term 2”, so everyone will move at the same pace in these strange and difficult times.
COVID-19 is certainly unprecedented. The necessity of social distancing brings its fair share of challenges, and we’re all adapting as much as we can. At Lisa’s Study Guides, we’re doing our part by moving all our lessons online; it’s been an option that our tutors have worked with for years, and it’s just become a necessity now to minimise risk across the community.
There’ll still be online resources available though, both with your teachers and with us—please reach out if you need anything.
And there’ll be other challenges too, like having your co-curriculars and general social life going under for a little while. Make time for your hobbies where you can, and keep in touch with your friends as much as possible.
But where will all of this leave me when I graduate?
That’s a really great question—2020 is barely happening as it is, so it’s definitely normal to be anxious about the future, and whether or not you’ll feel prepared to return to life again in 2021 while also navigating the whole new world of university.
To be honest, we think you’ll be more prepared than most. University challenges most students to be more independent and self-reliant than they’ve ever been before—it’s a place where you have to choose to turn up, and actively stay on top of everything with less contact and support. You’ll come out of 2020 already having faced many of these challenges (and this’ll prepare you for life beyond uni too!).
And who knows how this will shape education going forward! It’s given everyone—not just you, but also your teachers, parents and principals—a bit of an awakening with regard to technology. Classrooms may never look the same again, even when we do go back.
For now, take it one day at a time. Stay at home when required, build routine in when possible, and do the best you can. If you need to access support services, try the following:
Hello! My name’s Mark, and I’ve been a tutor and content creator with LSG for about 3 years now. Because of the highly volatile nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a couple of changes to how we operate. One of those is this newsfeed, which I’ll be using to provide regular updates on any changes to VCE, education or the state of the virus more broadly.
We’ll also be implementing a chatbot on Facebook Messenger where you can ask for help more directly. This follows a broader movement across the education sector towards remote learning, which all of our tutors are currently practicing.
• The VCE is going ahead this year, though not without major changes. Year 12 students will receive an ATAR for study undertaken in 2020.
• Schools are free to either delay SACs until in-person classes resume, or administer them remotely in the meantime. VCAA’s official advice either way has been that SACs should be administered as ‘normally’ as possible, with restrictions on time and access to resources even if you get to do the SAC at home. Schools are encouraged to keep up regular assessments even if delays are being considered.
• Schools also have the option of ‘validating’ SACs conducted remotely with more in-person assessments when classes resume.
• The commencement of term 2 for government schools has been pushed back to April 15.
• However, all of term 2 will be administered remotely (unless this is absolutely not possible).
• The General Achievement Test (GAT) will be delayed until October or November. Year 12 exams will also be delayed, most likely to December.
Watch this space for more details on these changes, as well as any new updates as they develop. In the meantime, if you’re feeling stressed and want some tips on how to manage remote learning, check out our earlier blog post here, or video here.
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!
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