Getting ready for the VCE English exam in 2023 can seem overwhelming. However, with some focused effort, dedicated time management, and strategic planning, you can make the process much less stressful. Here's a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for the exam and achieve your best score.
Understand the Format
The first and foremost step in your preparation should be understanding the format of the exam. Familiarize yourself with the different sections and types of questions you'll face. Look at past exams to understand the structure and read examiner reports to get a sense of what markers are looking for.
The Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) English exam consists of three sections and is written in a task book. All three sections carry equal weight, contributing one-third of the total examination score each, amounting to 60 marks in total. Students write their responses in an answer book.
Section A – Analytical interpretation of a text (20 marks):In this section, students need to write an analytical interpretation of one of two texts studied from List 1 of the VCE English and English as an Additional Language (EAL) Text List. Two topics will be provided for each of the 20 texts in List 1. The student's response should be backed by a close reference to the text. If the text is a collection of poetry or short stories, students may either write on several poems or stories, or at least two in close detail.
Section B – Comparative analysis of texts (20 marks):Students are required to perform a detailed comparative analysis of one pair of texts studied from List 2 of the VCE English and EAL Text List. Two topics will be provided for each of the eight pairs of texts in List 2. The student's response should be supported by close reference to both texts in the pair, and the ideas and issues they present. The comparison may consider connections, similarities, differences, or a combination of these.
Section C – Argument and persuasive language (20 marks):This section requires students to write an analysis of how argument and language are used in an unseen text(s) to persuade others to share the expressed point(s) of view. The language referred to includes written, spoken, and visual language.
Students who write on a multimodal text (e.g., a film or graphic novel) for Section A must not write on a text pair that includes a multimodal text in Section B.
Set a Study Schedule
An organised study schedule will help keep your preparation on track. Break down your study time into manageable chunks and try to study a little bit each day. Remember to make time for relaxation too! Balance is the key to avoiding burnout.
Here is an example of a study schedule (during the term):
Monday to Friday
- 8:00 am - 9:00 am: Morning routine (includes breakfast, getting ready for school)
- 9:00 am - 3:10 pm: School (including lunch break)
- 3:10 pm - 4:00 pm: Afternoon break (includes snack, rest)
- 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Review of schoolwork, complete assignments
- 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: Free time / extracurricular activities
- 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Dinner and clean-up
- 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm: Focus subject study session (e.g., VCE English alternating between texts, essay practice, close reading, etc.)
- 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm: Other subjects study time
- 9:00 pm - 10:00 pm: Relaxation and wind-down for bed
Saturday / Sunday
- 9:00 am - 10:00 am: Morning routine
- 10:00 am - 11:30 am: Subject 1 Study Time
- 11:30 am - 12:30 pm: Break (includes lunch)
- 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm: Subject 2 Study Time
- 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: Break
- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm: Subject 3 Study Time
- 4:30 pm - Evening: Free time, family time, relaxation
Be kind to yourself and take a quality over quantity approach.
Brush Up on Your Texts
In-depth knowledge of the texts is crucial. Ensure you understand the plot, themes, characters, and key quotes for each of your texts. Think about the different ways you can interpret these elements. Make sure you have a good grasp of the shared ideas and issues of the paired texts for Section B. Here are a few methods that can be used to help you refine your knowledge of the texts:
- Drawing mind maps
- Creating flashcards / quizlets
- Study groups and book clubs
- Refine your notes
Practice Writing Essays
The VCE English exam requires you to write essays, so make sure you practice writing under timed conditions. This will help you understand how to manage your time during the actual exam. Seek feedback on your practice essays from your teachers or tutors.
Every high achieving student can attest to how important it is to practice under timed conditions. This is why we offer:
- Weekly supervised practice exams at our office from September onwards
- Our partner's platform Wrise (app.wrise.ai) is available for students to access unlimited feedback after writing essays and paragraphs under timed condition within the platform.
Please contact me (Lindsey Dang) at firstname.lastname@example.org or our team at email@example.com if you think these would hep!
Understanding the Prompts
Practice understanding and responding to the prompts. Each topic is carefully worded to guide your analysis. Make sure you understand all the words in a topic and respond to the prompt as a whole, rather than focusing on just one keyword or phrase.
Legal Pad Exercise: I believe the more exposure you have to different essay prompts, from easy to extremely hard, the better you will perform in the exams. Two months before the exams, I grabbed myself a yellow legal pad from OfficeWorks, and every free period, I will use one page, time myself 15 minutes, and break down an essay prompt. I will do so until I can mentally plan essays within 5 minutes - it's like training for a marathon, you just need the practice.
Don't Rely on Pre-Learned Essays
While it might be tempting to memorise essays, this strategy is not effective for the VCE English exam. Examiners are looking for evidence of your understanding, analytical skills, and ability to respond to the specific exam topics, so try to avoid relying on pre-learned essays.
However, you can do the following to make sure you remember all key ideas:
- Memorise "blocks of knowledge" - bite-sized pre-written passages that focus on one specific idea that can be adapted to different prompts
- Memorise, not quotes, but "contextualised and embedded" quotes so it's more natural
- Memorise "thematic paragraphs" - I think this is the last resort, but can at times work if you are great at adapting paragraphs to different prompts.
Finally, remember to look after yourself. Make sure you're eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and taking time to relax and do things you enjoy. Your mental health is just as important as your studies.
In summary, the VCE English exam requires thorough preparation, a good understanding of your texts, and the ability to analyse and write about these texts in a thoughtful and informed manner. With a dedicated and strategic study plan, you can make the most of your preparation time and go into the exam feeling confident and ready. Good luck!
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