Linda Le graduated with a perfect 50 raw study score in English. Impressive as. If you have VCE English questions you want answered, ask them here!

This is the fifth in a series of articles looking at how to score a 50 raw. It’s quite a feat, but certainly doable! In this article, we’re speaking with Linda, who nailed English. If you want to request a certain article or series, let us know here!

Hiya, Linda! A lot of people would be struggling through English at the moment. What do you think the difference is between a 30 raw, a 40 raw, and a 50 raw?

I think that a 50 raw (or anything close to that) is typical of students who can successfully demonstrate a close reading of the text, and explore complexities and implications that 40 raw students may have only alluded to and 30 raw students will have omitted to consider entirely. A 50 raw student would then be able to apply this reading and exploration to develop a response that is cohesive, eloquent and well-substantiated, whereas a 30 raw or even a 40 raw student may not be as well-substantiated or eloquent in their response.

Did you do things differently to other students during Year 12?

A lot of what I did was targeted at consistent English in small, manageable bites, whether that meant sticky noting the house with English quotes, acting out key scenes with my brothers for my English texts or doing practice prompts in the car on the way to school. I was also a really big fan of marking essays throughout Year 12 – marking high-range and mid-range essays of past students and comparing it to the teacher feedback that they actually got, and marking my friends’ essays. I liked to put myself into the shoes of an assessor because I found it helped me understand where I was going wrong in my own writing. So things like the Analysing Argument Club I found really helpful.

Did you expect a 50 raw during the year?

No. At the start of the year, when I was plugging numbers into ATAR Calc to work out how feasible my goals were, I can vividly remember thinking: “I’m probably getting a ~40 study score but let’s aim higher and go for a 45.” Shoot for the moon and land amongst the stars, and all that. So I was majorly surprised when I managed to bypass the moon and get a 50 raw.

You also did very well in Lit, Methods, Physics, Chem and Legal. Was Year 12 completely hectic for you? How much did you study?

To be honest, I haven’t the foggiest idea how much study I did per night. Basically what I did was when I got home from school, I would take some time to eat and unwind from the day. After that, I would go and do homework until dinner. I’d then have dinner (idk why but dinner is always like an hour-long affair in my household), after which I’d go back to my desk and shoot an email or two (I was the difficult person who decided to actually delete Facebook (not even deactivate – I went from regularly using Facebook to deleting it entirely and going cold turkey for a year), which meant my friends had to resort to emailing me). Then I’d sit down and get some study done (maybe have a snack halfway through) before going to bed.

So… 50 raw… did you do other things with your life?

I went for runs and swims. (Most days I like to pretend that I’m allergic to the gym, so going for runs and swims was me attempting to stay healthy without going anywhere near the gym.) I ate way more chocolate than I probably should have. I dragged my brothers shopping (well I shopped, they dragged their feet and questioned why they let me rope them into it as often as I did – they love me, I swear). I decorated my house in sticky notes of English quotes to properly immerse myself in the text. And I went away over the Term 2 and 3 holidays because you only live once and all that jazz (like I didn’t do anything but just getting away from it all and taking a break did wonders for my health).

I actually had a great time and did do other things with my life during Year 12. Like at the time, it didn’t feel like I did an awful lot but looking back, I realise now that I did do a fair bit and managed to strike a balance between studying and life that worked for me.

Okay, let’s cut to the chase: what are your top three tips for absolutely nailing English?

  1. Study buddies!

What’s better than suffering alone? Suffering with friends.

I had an English study buddy throughout Year 12 and we did everything from go over essays to rant about English together. Honestly, I can’t imagine my VCE without my English study buddy; he’s honestly like one of my closest friends now. I can’t even count the number of times the poor guy listened to me freak out over an upcoming SAC or stress about being fairly sure that I’d done atrociously in a SAC and how I could’ve done X, Y or Z if only I’d had more time. I feel like sometimes, it’s so so so easy to get lost in the competition that is VCE (especially VCE English) that it becomes so easy to forget that you aren’t the only one suffering, and your friends are there to support you. Just having someone there who knows you and is suffering right alongside you who can add a different perspective to everything (and imply you’re an idiot whenever you stress about failing for the millionth time) made all the difference for me.

  1. Be familiar with your texts!

Right before any exam, I get super chatty (it’s how I deal with my own stress and calm down), and I can vividly remember talking to a friend on the phone on the way to the exam. The friend confessed that she hadn’t read the texts (excluding when we’d read it in class which was at the veryyyyy start of the year because it had been a Unit 3 text), and had just Wikipedia’d it the night before. Don’t be that friend. Like yes, Google is good when you’re just starting out and trying to wrap your head around what is going on in the text, but it’s not enough if you want to smash English; you miss out on the important nuances and complexities that you only pick up if you’re familiar with your texts.

  1. DON’T write essay after essay after essay!

You aren’t going to write 100 practice exams before your final exam. It’s ridiculous to expect that you will because that’s a lot of practice essays to be writing. And, as per the law of diminishing marginal product, the more essays you write, the less and less you gain from them until eventually you plateau and there is no further improvement (that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve plateaued at a high range essay level, though – so don’t think that the law of diminishing marginal product is a great study method).

There are more productive ways of preparing for the exam than trying to see if your arm will fall off if you write too many essays. Things you could do instead:

  • Target your improvement with every essay you do write instead of just blindly shooting into the dark.

  • Do essay plans. Practise breaking down prompts, asking yourself ‘what is the prompt really asking?’

  • Consider how you would tackle completely weird prompts and what evidence you’d use.

  • Read your texts! (Can’t stress this one enough – you need to be familiar with your actual texts, not just the text summary you Googled.)

  • Learn a variety of quotations from the text.

  • Take note of important scenes and specific themes – they’ll help when you’re writing those essays!

  • Do some essays BUT ONLY UNDER TIMED CONDITIONS. It’s different writing an essay in 5 hours compared to 1 hour and it doesn’t matter how amazing that 5 hour essay is unless you can reproduce something of that same caliber in your exam.

  • Read examiners’ reports! They’re there for you to exploit and see what students sitting the exam in that year did right and what they did wrong. You might as well use them.

Any final words?

My Year 10 English teacher told me once to look at my exams as a photograph of who I was on the day, rather than an indication of what I knew, what I was capable of and who I was as a person. As VCE students (this coming from a former VCE student who’s been there and done that), we put so much pressure on ourselves and this subject. Because we must have an English subject as one of our Primary 4, and we spend so much time building up to this one exam, it’s so easy to allow this one subject to define you as a person, but guess what? It doesn’t. The nightmare’s almost over, so just do the best that you can and trust that twenty years from now, you probably won’t even remember whether ‘the middle way’ was a key theme from Medea or whether Eve ever did gain the satisfaction she sought to bring about through her machinations.

Thanks Linda!

Linda will be answering English questions on the ATAR Notes Forums, and you can also ask questions on The VCE Discussion Group. If you think about it, a question unasked is simply wasted potential for improvement.

NOTE: Following all of this advice by no means guarantees a high study score or ATAR – but hey, it worked for Linda!

Want more English resources? Get around ATAR Notes’ Complete Course Notes!