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Three Weeks Before the EAL Exam – How to Prepare

By Saran Kim in Study
11th of October 2017

Saran Kim graduated in 2016 with an ATAR of 99.80, and a raw study score of 46 in EAL.
If you have EAL questions you want answered, ask them here!


I undertook the EAL exam last year, and I remember this time of year being the toughest and most nervous time.

If you are not 100% confident with the EAL exam, don’t worry – you still have three weeks!

This article is for those who are having difficulty preparing for the EAL exam, as well as for those who just want to try out different ways of studying. Here are a few tips for preparing and practising for the EAL exam you might find useful.

(Since the study design changed this year, in this article I will focus on text response and the language analysis section, but not the listening section and short answer section.)

 

1. READ EXAM CRITERIA, AND KNOW YOUR WRITING STYLE

Prior to the exam, there are two things you need to be aware of: the exam criteria, and your writing style.

Just like other SACs or SATs, the EAL exam has its own criteria for marking your work. I would definitely recommend having a look so you understand what they are looking for. It is always best to make assessors’ lives easier by clearly showing your understanding of what they want to see on your essays.

(They don’t spend a lot of time on each piece, since they have a lot to go through!)

For the EAL exam, you have two long pieces to write, and you are asked to write them in different styles.

Whatever you do, always remember that your pieces have your arguments or statements supported by evidence or examples. Your task is to justify your view and convince assessors that you know what you are talking about.

For example, the basic structure for an essay paragraph I used for text response and language analysis in the EAL exam was:

1 | First sentence: Argument that you want to talk about in this paragraph.
2 | Second sentence: Explain a bit more about the argument (elaborate).
3 | Following 3-4 sentences: Present an example/evidence.
4 | Explain how the example supports your argument.
5 | Repeat steps 3 and 4 if necessary.
6 | Wrap up your paragraph by re-wording the first sentence.

 

Of course, you don’t need to follow this structure. But I found it so simple and straightforward; I didn’t need to waste time thinking, “I have no idea what to write next…”

It is important that you find the writing styles that you feel comfortable with, so you have a clear path to follow in the most stressful three hours.

 

2. UNDERSTAND WHAT IS REQUIRED – READ QUESTIONS CAREFULLY!

I know you have been told this so many times, but I can’t stress enough how important it is.

When you are practising writing pieces, always think about the questions and whether your pieces respond to the questions logically.

It is very easy to go off track, or simply misunderstand the question. Even I had a miserable moment when I found out that I completed only one note form for the question asking two notes for the language analysis in the exam. So make sure you have a highlighter to pick up key terms of the question, and remind yourself throughout writing time!

 

3. BREAK IT DOWN

I guess we can all agree that practising writing pieces and getting them corrected harshly by teachers is very daunting.

We often tend to spend excessive amounts of time to complete half of what we want to write. It is because we try to perfect that single piece, but this approach only makes you feel mentally exhausted.

I was feeling the same way around this time last year. What changed my attitude was to break the work into smaller pieces. It’s like eating a large cake; you can’t eat it all at once, but you can eat it if you eat small bits at a time!

I organised a few ways to practice (do in order):

1 | Write only the essay plan. Read and highlight key terms of all the questions, list 3-4 strong arguments based on the question, and write down a couple of strong examples/evidence for each argument. Only write in dot points to develop the skill for unpacking questions.
2 | Write only the introduction. Base this on arguments you developed from the question in step 1, and practise how to start a piece. Think of the template for the opening of the introduction – it will make it so much easier to begin writing in the real exam!
3 | Write only a paragraph. Only focus on one argument, and explore how to structure a paragraph. Refer to the question all the time, and check whether you are on track throughout the paragraph.
4 | Conclusion? Yes, you can practise writing it, but think of it as a paraphrased introduction – don’t try to introduce new ideas!

 

Breaking up the essay in this way has multiple benefits: it allows you to be more conscious of fine details of the piece, to be aware of limited available time, and it gives you a sense of satisfaction.

You may not be able to spend 2-3 hours every day to write entire pieces, but you can find a spare 10 minutes for writing a plan, 5-8 minutes for an introduction, and 15 minutes for a paragraph.

 

4. MAKE A LOT OF MISTAKES NOW

The only way you can improve your essays it to ask your English teachers, tutors, librarians or friends to read and correct your pieces. Don’t be satisfied by how much you wrote or how much time you spent studying for your exam.

But be proud of yourself for how you identified your weaknesses and made improvements in a short period of time.

Improvements may simply be correcting grammatical errors, but can also be finding better expressions, more sophisticated vocabulary, or even new perspectives into approaching the questions.

For my text response piece, I really struggled to support arguments using examples from the text. So, I decided to take every single paragraph I wrote to my teacher for feedback in order to create a list of key examples I could interpret and utilise for almost any essay questions.

I wouldn’t have been able to do so without the great support of my English teachers, and I am sure they would be more than happy to give you feedback.

It is the time you make as many mistakes as possible; it will definitely give you confidence that you can actually finish the entire exam within three hours – and make you feel that you did everything you could have done after the exam.

I’m sure this article is a lot to take in. But I hope that these tips gave some food for thought. Remember: what you do right now can really make a huge difference in your essays and your mental state in the exam.

I wish you good luck!


If you have EAL questions you want answered, ask them here!

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