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If you are a VCE student, chances are you’ve heard phrases like “Too bad English can’t be bottom two” or “It’s just English, you can just bullshit it” all too often. These phrases, though seemingly innocuous, are like an undetectable poison to the hopeful VCE high achiever. The more you hear them, the more likely you are to believe them. And before you know it results come out, and you’re scratching your head, wondering where it all went wrong.
That’s where I can help.
There are two main misconceptions about English that you must never be tempted into believing.
“English is easy, you don’t need to spend that much time on it!”. This mentality stems from the fact that English is incredibly subjective, and as such students think that the subject requires no concrete studying to triumph in.
“Studying gets you nowhere in English, some people are good at English and some aren’t”. Once again, the lack of structure in VCE English causes students to be frustrated that their (often ineffective) attempts at studying are not met with the A+ they were hoping for. In this predicament, they are led to believe that English ability is innate, and cannot be improved with study!
It’s an easy trap to fall into; how can you possibly study for a subject if you don’t know what to study? Though be warned, subscribing to misguided and complacent ways of thinking could seriously limit your potential in English.
English can definitely be studied for. In fact, studying for English is necessary to thrive in the subject. What many students fail to recognise is that studying for VCE English is a vastly different experience to studying for any other subjects. With a subject like Chemistry, it is easy to split up a large topic into its constituent sub-topics and study them all in one sitting. Studying for English is different in every way. Instead of making concepts smaller while studying, I’ve found that it is advantageous to club smaller subtopics into larger concepts and conduct your study thematically. For example, in Language Analysis it is always more powerful to analyse persuasive techniques in relation to the writer’s larger agenda, than analysing them alone.
Again, in stark contrast to other subjects where one topic can be studied for over a set period of time (e.g. A day, week etc.). I’ve come to learn that VCE English study must become a part of your everyday life. Essential VCE English study tactics such as reading the newspaper daily and analysing its articles, can become a part of your life, as I made it a part of mine. In this way, not only does studying for English become possible, it becomes accessible and easy to do too. Weaving English study into your everyday life will also cause you to feel accomplished and satisfied. These feelings, unfortunately, are rarely felt in a hectic, fast paced VCE environment and therefore act as an incentive to maintain VCE English study throughout the year.
Failing to adapt your study patterns (or failing to study at all for that matter) leads to a negative spiral of disillusionment and disappointment, causing the once enthusiastic English student to disregard the subject completely. Since the VCE system ensures that a high English score directly correlates to a high ATAR, abandoning English can prove fatal. These are just some of the many lessons I’ve learnt as both a VCE English student and tutor.