Jessica Lieng graduated in 2016 with an ATAR of 99.85 and an English study score of 48. If you have VCE English questions that you want answered, ask away in this entirely free, 24/7 English Q&A thread!

In Year 11, I hated English. I had no motivation for it, I wasn’t good at it, and I knew that I wasn’t going to do well in it.

In Year 12, I received an English study score of 48.

This is my English journey – and I’m going to tell you precisely how you can nail English, too. No matter where you are right now, you can succeed in English. You are capable.



I’m your typical math-geek; I’d always found math way more fun than English. In English 1/2, I refused to read my books, I didn’t concentrate in classes, and I resorted to rote learning Stasiland study guides. I kid you not: my vocabulary and ideas were like those of an eighth grader (no offence to any eighth graders reading, of course).

I got back my first language analysis essay: 11/20 (55%). By the end of the year, my highest mark was 16/20 – pretty good, but not outstanding for a maximum result. Like a lot of people, I took one glance at my exam scores and immediately threw them away.


By now I’d come to the conclusion that I simply did not understand VCE English. And I never would.

Basically, I started Year 12 aiming for a raw study score of 30-35, with somewhere from 25-29 a very high possibility. I expected English to be my “bludge” subject – strategically not necessarily a smart decision, but one that I’d resigned myself to.


For context, this is almost exactly one year ago. It’s Term 1 of Year 12, and I’m still not feelin’ the whole English thing. If you’re reading this and thinking, “yep, I can 100% relate with this,” then this article is absolutely for you. Let me make this clear: irrespective of your position right now, it is not too late to get a 40+ in VCE English.

The first thing I’d do? Get yourself familiar with the study design. This breakdown is a grouse place to start.


Unit 3 was over. I’d had two mediocre SAC scores, which were discouraging, but I didn’t give up. I didn’t let my scores affect my mindset; I decided to just work harder.

My final SAC for Unit 3: 30 out of 30.


Results day. English study score: 48. That seems pretty absurd, right? But that’s precisely what happened, and it demonstrates how important it is not to give up. If you want to improve at VCE English, I have three easy tips for you.




It’s simple, really: I promise.

When you start to really understand the task, and are confident in your own abilities, English becomes an art. Contrary to the beliefs of many, success in VCE English isn’t just about natural writing skill; it’s about the right mindset. It’s about persistence. And it’s about dedication to your goals. (In fact, this discussion on how to survive VCE English may be of interest.)

These are the vital steps you need to follow. And if you do… English prowess evolves!


“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

A tutor introduced this quote to me, and it changed my life forever. (Okay, that’s a tad hyperbolic, but the quote did change my mindset. And that’s the important thing: it’s never too late to change your mindset.)

What’s the take home message, here? Believe in yourself. You could think, “I can’t”, and accept defeat at the tyrannical hands of VCE English. But equally, you could think, “I can!”, and absolutely nail VCE English this year.

Think you can, and you will.


I guess there’s no secret to getting a 40+ in any subject. But if there were one, this would definitely be it.

Speaking physiologically, it takes about six weeks of consistent fitness training to have a noticeable effect on fitness or physique. Many novice athletes will train for a month, notice no results, and give up. But if they’d trained for just two more weeks, the signs would have started to develop.

It’s the same sort of thing with VCE English.

Essentially, too many students give up too early. This is the power of persistence, and also where you can get ahead of the game.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it’s definitely going to take six weeks of consistent studying before you make noticeable improvements. For some people, it will take longer. And for some people, it won’t take that long. The point is this: don’t give up, because you will get there.


This bit is difficult, because it requires hard work and grinding.

Procrastination and laziness will get you nowhere. Thinking of putting off that Medea essay again to watch Game of Thrones? Nup. That’s not going to fly.

The golden rule is to write an essay a week. If you ask me, ~35 essays over the entire year is a decent price to pay for a potential 40+ study score. Mint writing skills will not magically arise from cramming. I can vouch for this: I could put all of my practice essays in chronological order, and quite literally see almost-linear improvement. It also helps to build vocabulary; for more on tips, this thread gives some pretty slick advice.

Ask for feedback. How else will you know what you’re doing well, and how you can improve? So build this into your one essay per week schtick. Write the essay, get the essay marked, improve on the essay. Simples! It’s a chain reaction, really:

Study your texts – even if you hate them. Especially when you hate them. The more you study it, the more likely you are to appreciate it – and that makes writing on it a whole lot easier.

Make mind maps. Mind maps are also excellent tools for connecting ideas in preparation for SACs and the end-of-year exam. You know when you’re brainstorming and come up with an epiphany – and then realise how smart your brain actually is? It’s one of the coolest feelings in the world – am I right? Moral of the story: mind maps are cool, and you should use them.

Take initiative. Ask lots of questions. Fill in your knowledge gaps one-by-one.



It all starts with baby steps. But basically, work hard, see yourself improve, listen to feedback, and feel yourself starting to (at least somewhat) enjoy VCE English. Rinse and repeat.

I never really intended to love English. In some ways, it still feels a bit dirty. But I decided one day that I had to at least try to fully commit to it – and golly, I’m sure glad I did.

Failing in Year 11. 48 study score in Year 12. You can do this.


How did you go from hating English in Year 11 to achieving a study score of 48 in Year 12?

My transformation in English from Year 11 to Year 12 was a journey marked by dedication, persistence, and a shift in mindset. Despite struggling initially and receiving mediocre marks, I refused to give up. Instead, I committed myself to improving and adopting a positive attitude towards the subject. Through consistent effort and hard work, I was able to see significant improvement and ultimately achieve a study score of 48. 

How can I apply these strategies to improve my own English skills?

You can start by adopting a positive mindset and believing in your abilities. Understand that improvement takes time and persistence, so don't be discouraged by initial setbacks. Dedicate yourself to regular practice, whether it's writing essays, studying texts, or seeking feedback from teachers or peers. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and remain committed to your goals.

What advice do you have for students struggling with English?

My advice is to not give up and to approach English with a growth mindset. Believe that you can improve and be willing to put in the effort. Seek support from teachers, peers, or online resources if needed, and actively engage with the subject matter. Remember that progress may be gradual, but with dedication and persistence, you can overcome challenges and succeed in English. 

How can I start enjoying English more?

Finding enjoyment in English often comes from understanding and appreciating the subject matter. Try to engage with texts on a deeper level by analysing themes, characters, and literary devices. Explore different genres and authors to discover what resonates with you. Experiment with creative writing or expressing your own thoughts and ideas through essays or reflections. By actively participating and immersing yourself in the subject, you may find that your appreciation for English grows over time.

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