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December 06, 2021, 02:27:14 pm

Author Topic: English FAQs: READ THIS FIRST BEFORE ASKING ANY QUESTIONS  (Read 12006 times)  Share 

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EvangelionZeta

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English FAQs: READ THIS FIRST BEFORE ASKING ANY QUESTIONS
« on: January 30, 2012, 01:25:45 am »
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What does it take to be able to do well in English?
Examiners have a set of criteria which they look at for their exam marking, so that's always a good place to start.  Fundamentally though, what examiners are really looking for is a. good ideas and b. good writing. 

I have no idea what to do in general?  I'm absolutely clueless!  Help!

If you're (for whatever reason) floundering, and it's the start of year 12 or something, there is still a lot of hope for you.  Thankfully, there are a bazillion resources floating around for English, and even more thankfully, a lot of them are cheap and accessible.

To begin with, if you just don't know what to do with essay writing, exam preparation, writing, etc., check the English Guides Thread, which includes a number of guides to help students who would like some extra extra assistance.

If essay structures or essay writing skills are what you are struggling with, getting a tutor (or working a lot with your teacher/s) is probably the best choice.  Josh Yuvaraj and I have also published a 45,000 word guide (sample essays included et al) for ConnectEducation, which is effectively a scientific explanation for how essays should be structured across all of the different forms - this guide can be purchased for $20 from the ConnectEducation website.  The ATARNotes Study Guide series also includes a similar sort of guide, written by the very experienced tutor Shinny, and edited by yours truly - a sample and purchasing details can be found here.

If you need help with textual analysis, wait for class to start, because in-class discussion is generally the best way to learn in this aspect.  If class isn't enough, invest in study guides, tutoring, or just ask the folk on this forum some questions (without it being something like "EXPLAIN XYZ TEXT FOR ME").  Also, read essays written by other people on texts; this is a really easy and really effective way of improving.

Can I do English 3/4 without doing English 1/2?  Can I do well in such circumstances?
Short answer: Yes.  Long answer: Yes, because the VCE English course really isn't all that difficult conceptually.  From experience, you can learn rough essay structures for all of the different assessment tasks (text response, context, and language analysis) in a couple of hours with a tutor, and being able to articulate the right ideas literally depends on your ability to think and what you'll learn in-class in year 12.  Everything leading up to year 12 is pretty much just making you a good writer and getting you to think more. 

If you want statistical evidence, I know people who have gotten 45+ who didn't do English at all in year 11.  For those curious, doing well in Literature/English Language without the 1/2 is in a similar vein; there are more than a fair share of success stories (45-50 study scores) for students who didn't do the 1/2.

How do I study for English?
Write lots of essays.  Easiest way to improve, basically.  Also, read a lot (both fiction and non-fiction) and discuss your texts with your friends/teachers/parents/tutors/dog/onlinestalkers/whatever as much as possible. 

Re: Getting a 50 in English and Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!  are also very good posts about some key tips for English.  I will add more such posts to this answer if people respond with something relevant within this topic.

Do I need a tutor for English?
This is a very broad question with different answers for different people.  Tutors are good in that they work with you one-on-one, and can give personalised feedback about what you're doing right or wrong.  If you're a weaker student, this is immensely helpful, in that your school teacher probably doesn't have the time to work with you to the extent that a private tutor can.  If you're a top-end student, a tutor who knows what they're doing can give you the extra tips and tricks which may or may not ensure top marks.  Obviously everything in-between can benefit from both sides of this as well.

The only thing I will add regarding tutors is that their utility diminishes significantly if your school's English department in general is very strong and very nurturing.  With just one good teacher, it may be the case that a tutor can provide a valuable second opinion; when your school is filled with good teachers, however, you've pretty much good a whole set of "valuable second opinions" for free, so long as your school's teachers are nice and open to extra helping.

How important is length in exam essays?

Length in and of itself isn't directly important; instead, what actually does come into play are the consequences of length.  Simply put, longer pieces will have more room to explore more ideas.  Especially at the top end (I'm talking 10/10 and 9/10 marks here), students will often have four or five body paragraphs' worth of material to cover (obv. more in language analysis); to discuss this much adequately, one really needs to get into the range of around 1000 words, or more. 

Longer essays also have an advantage in that they often subconsciously put you in good stead with the examiners.  Examiners are only human; if they see an essay that is only two pages long, they may dismiss it as being too short, whereas an essay which goes for about five pages will more likely make them think "wow, this is probably a higher end student".

With that said, remember that quality should always come before quantity.  Don't just write more for the sake of writing more; do it if you have legitimate points to make.  Also remember that being concise and to the point is vital in English: an 800 word essay which covers the same material as a 1000 word essay, except more concisely, will do better than the latter, and will certainly do better than a 1400 word essay which doesn't really cover much at all.

Following all contributed by Burbs

How do I improve my vocabulary?

Read! Read other people's essays, read academic pieces on your text and read for pleasure! This is a great way of adding terms to your vocab specific to the text you are studying. For example, if you are doing Ransom, it wouldn't hurt to read some literary essays on The Iliad or interviews by Malouf.

If this isn't your style, use google.

Should we memorise a piece for Section B?

No. If you want, and your teacher agrees, having a flexible idea of what you will write will help. Don't go into the exam with your essay already done because there is a good chance the prompt won't work. I had a piece which was flexible and I adapted to heaps of prompts.

This really depends on your confidence and ability. Don't make up your mind yet.

How important are SACs?

Pretty important. They make 50% of your grade and people with the same exam score can get completely different study scores because of SACs. It's similar to any other subject where SACs make half the grade.

Do we lose marks for bad spelling/poor handwriting?

Not really. I mean if your piece was littered with poro splleling adn it mdea it hrad 2 raed, you will probably lose marks for flow but it depends on the severity. Generally, I'd doubt it unless it ruined the flow - a couple of misspelt words shouldn't lose marks as examiners see where they can GIVE you marks, not take. In terms of US v UK spelling - just be consistent. Don't swap between -ize and -ise. 

Poor handwriting is the same for any subject: no, but it always helps if your examiner doesn't have to strain their eyes and get out the Rosetta Stone to read your introduction. I've quoted one of my teachers maybe 1000000 times now, but:

Quote
When it's 1am and you're on your 10th cup of coffee and your wife is mad because you shoved her out of the study, what do you want to see? Legible, clean writing or chicken scrawl?

EZ Contribution: Burbs is mostly correct.  The only thing to add is that bad handwriting/spelling can indirectly lose you marks, in that it may just leave a really bad impression on the examiner.  Remember that examiners are human; you want to do pretty much anything to win them over to your side, and this includes not having bad spelling.

MORE QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES WILL BE ADDED LATER - THIS IS CURRENTLY A WORK IN PROGRESS.

FEEL FREE TO SUGGEST QUESTIONS WHICH YOU FEEL SHOULD BE RESPONDED TO, OR TO SUGGEST AMENDMENTS/ADDITIONS TO THESE ANSWERS


Moderator action (VegemitePi): Updated book details and links
« Last Edit: August 10, 2012, 07:11:00 pm by VegemitePi »
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burbs

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Re: English FAQs: READ THIS FIRST BEFORE ASKING ANY QUESTIONS
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 02:08:07 am »
+3
Thought I'd add a few...

How do I improve my vocabulary?

Read! Read other people's essays, read academic pieces on your text and read for pleasure! This is a great way of adding terms to your vocab specific to the text you are studying. For example, if you are doing Ransom, it wouldn't hurt to read some literary essays on The Iliad or interviews by Malouf.

If this isn't your style, use google.

Should we memorise a piece for Section B?

No. If you want, and your teacher agrees, having a flexible idea of what you will write will help. Don't go into the exam with your essay already done because there is a good chance the prompt won't work. I had a piece which was flexible and I adapted to heaps of prompts.

This really depends on your confidence and ability. Don't make up your mind yet.

How important are SACs?

Pretty important. They make 50% of your grade and people with the same exam score can get completely different study scores because of SACs. It's similar to any other subject where SACs make half the grade.

Do we lose marks for bad spelling/poor handwriting?

Not really. I mean if your piece was littered with poro splleling adn it mdea it hrad 2 raed, you may lose marks for flow but it depends on the severity. Generally, I'd doubt it unless it ruined the flow - a couple of misspelt words shouldn't lose marks as examiners see where they can GIVE you marks, not take. In terms of US v UK spelling - just be consistent. Don't swap between -ize and -ise. 

Poor handwriting is the same for any subject: no, but it always helps if your examiner doesn't have to strain their eyes and get out the Rosetta Stone to read your introduction. I've quoted one of my teachers maybe 1000000 times now, but:

Quote
When it's 1am and you're on your 10th cup of coffee and your wife is mad because you shoved her out of the study, what do you want to see? Legible, clean writing or chicken scrawl?

EvangelionZeta

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Re: English FAQs: READ THIS FIRST BEFORE ASKING ANY QUESTIONS
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 11:43:25 am »
0
Added some more stuff.  Thanks to burbs!
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VivaTequila

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Re: English FAQs: READ THIS FIRST BEFORE ASKING ANY QUESTIONS
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2012, 10:04:48 pm »
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Quote
Should we memorise a piece for Section B?

No. If you want, and your teacher agrees, having a flexible idea of what you will write will help. Don't go into the exam with your essay already done because there is a good chance the prompt won't work. I had a piece which was flexible and I adapted to heaps of prompts.

This really depends on your confidence and ability. Don't make up your mind yet.

I disagree - I think there's merits to be had for both sides as per this thread.

Specifically;

I don't think it's so much about memorising entire paragraphs or essays so much as writing so much that the ideas and specific phrasing of those ideas become like second nature to you. After you've done enough writing you'll find that you're just writing the same things over and over again without even thinking about it, albeit in more complexity and depth each time.

At least, that's my own philosophy. Personally I abhor the idea of prepared responses and am yet to meet an elite elite English student (upwards of 46) who has used that tactic.

Meet me.

There's merits to be had for both approaches. A guy who got 49 at my school also pre-prepared for Section A pieces.

Did you honestly just regurgitate a pre-prepared essay verbatim on the exam? Which section was it, A or B?

I did too LOL (section B)

At least, that's my own philosophy. Personally I abhor the idea of prepared responses and am yet to meet an elite elite English student (upwards of 46) who has used that tactic.

Haha, the MHS dux of 2009 (50 english) memorised for section B too :P I think the dux of 2011 did the same as well.

It's actually a LOT more common that you think :)

I don't think it should be concrete up there - it should say that both methods can work, and perhaps what the pros and cons of each might be. Up to your discretion tho.