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Author Topic: Calling All High Scoring English Students!  (Read 8197 times)  Share 

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TheFedExpress

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Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« on: June 18, 2012, 05:30:57 pm »
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Hi Everyone,

I am interested to hear from past VCE students who have achieved high Study Scores in English, or current year 12's who feel they will achieve mid 40's + at the end of the year.

In my Methods and Physics, getting a high score is simple in theory, (get the correct numbers!), but I feel English is a bit subjective so am struggling a bit. I can feel i have written a great essay, but my English teacher had a crap commute to work that day, so is in a shit mood and decides to give me an equally crap score.

The english teachers at my school are inexperienced and i don't fully trust them when it comes to exam preparation.

I was just wondering what extra notes books, practice drills etc. you guys did (and are doing) to prepare for the exam.
Those of you who have had exam assessors for teachers, what do they look for in pieces?

Any help is much appreciated
Tom

P.S Best revision lectures? TSFX and NEAP i will probably go to. Thoughts?
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djsandals

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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2012, 05:46:36 pm »
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Well I find if you keep writing as many essays as you can and ask teachers for direct feedback, then slowly but surely you will improve.  My marks went from Bs and Cs at the start of last year to no marks dropped so far this year, purely because I kept working at it, and even though it was really tedious that year, it has certainly paid off.

I think the biggest thing is if you can get the structure of essays down/how to write them properly and ask/listen to your teachers for little things you can throw in your essays that make it sound sophisticated/make examiners smile that helps a lot.  Also don't go on rants and try to remember that you're expanding on the answer you give to the question/prompt in your introduction.  I wrote only a 600-700 word essay and got full marks because it was structured well and always linked back to the contention.  And lastly, make sure you know your texts well, the quotes you should be looking for, I found, are ones that sum up what happens at key points in the story that relate to underlying themes.  It took me a while to realise this but once I did I found it was easy to work in quotes.

Just my thoughts, apologies if it's not helpful, good luck with your studies :)
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Yendall

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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2012, 06:06:12 pm »
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Well I find if you keep writing as many essays as you can and ask teachers for direct feedback, then slowly but surely you will improve.  My marks went from Bs and Cs at the start of last year to no marks dropped so far this year, purely because I kept working at it, and even though it was really tedious that year, it has certainly paid off.

I think the biggest thing is if you can get the structure of essays down/how to write them properly and ask/listen to your teachers for little things you can throw in your essays that make it sound sophisticated/make examiners smile that helps a lot.  Also don't go on rants and try to remember that you're expanding on the answer you give to the question/prompt in your introduction.  I wrote only a 600-700 word essay and got full marks because it was structured well and always linked back to the contention.  And lastly, make sure you know your texts well, the quotes you should be looking for, I found, are ones that sum up what happens at key points in the story that relate to underlying themes.  It took me a while to realise this but once I did I found it was easy to work in quotes.

Just my thoughts, apologies if it's not helpful, good luck with your studies :)
Pretty much reiterating this. Write drafts, but don't over-write. Ask you teacher for feedback and keep giving them work, it not only shows your determined to score highly, it shows your interest in the subject and your will to improve.
Re-read your texts!
Use study guides, memorise quotations, study essay structures, venture away from Expository and Text-Response; attempt creative writing.
Study the complexities of the English language, the more sophistication you show, the more the examiners will appreciate your efforts and intelligence.
Always relate back to the prompt/question!Don't ramble.
Keep your writing between 800 - 1100 words when required. You don't want to write too much information or else you will start to ramble.
As for study guides, I use notes on this website and notes my teacher gives me. Just ask questions if you're unsure.
There are several study guides you can purchase online or in stores, which do give quite a nice insight to the texts. However, a lot of your notes should be self-made as you read and study the texts throughout the year.

Hope that helped a little.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 06:09:07 pm by Yendall »
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pi

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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2012, 06:11:54 pm »
+12
Hi, I got 44 raw last year, here's my advice:

English is a subject that comes down to practice and persistence imo. Simply reading the texts or reading past essays as procrastination is simply not enough, as English needs to be learnt actively through actually writing (with and without timing conditions).


Language analysis
Read and analyse as much as you can as often as you can. You don't have to write a lot of analyses to become good at this, but writing them will help you develop a formula that will help enormously in the exam, it is after all very formulaic.

Try and nail a basic structure for your intro as having a very solid one will impress any examiner early on to leave a good impression. After that, make sure your body paragraphs are organised. Focus them properly and don't over-do one by adding many "techniques" to one para, usually try and focus on one para per "technique" or argument (I prefer the later, but many students did the former with success too) per paragraph.

Whilst preparing to analyse, annotating is essential. But having said that, don't overdo it, save the details for the part that is marked, ie. you actual essay. Highlight/underline key sections that you'd like to tackle and keep it organised (again!). You don't have to go through the piece chronologically if you don't want to either.

Practice writing on cartoons/images too as they can be really tricky if you're not used to them, especially for the SACs.

Where to get practice? Newspapers are NOT the only source! Last year VCAA used a blog (of sorts), so ensure that you use a variety of sources including: newspaper articles (including editorials), newsletter pieces, blogs, letters, etc.


Text response
Three things: reading the texts (and other relevant sources like study guides, past essays, etc.), annotating the texts, and writing essays on the texts :)

For preparation, I'd recommend these readings for your texts in this order:
1) For fun - ideally in the summer break to get the storyline down, don't even think about deeper meanings unless it's obvious
2) When studying it in school - you can also read study guides in conjunction here and make sure you annotate your book
3) Before the SAC (one week before) - read the texts and your annotations, try and remember vital passages (quotes - maybe highlight as you go), make more annotations as you think deeper into the novel
4) Before the exam (one or even two full readings) - read the text and all annotations, don't read study guides at all (!!!! important !!!) as you want to use your original ideas for the exam not some from a study guide

Other readings are up to you, but I'd say those four are the essential ones.

Quoting: the arch-nemesis for VCE students for years. My tip is to have a list of the ones you highlighted in stage 3) of readings and simply rote-learn them. It's tedious, but when you are confident with quotes, you will feel comfortable with the text too. In essays, keep the quoting to a maximum of 20 quotes for an essay (around 15 is good if used effectively). Having said that, I'd recommend you know at least 40 quotes (ideally 50) for the text you plan to write on for the exam.

Ideally, you'd want to be writing essays during stages 3) and 4) of those reads, don't write any essays during stage 1), it's pointless. Make sure you get all your essays marked as you go on, as feedback is very valuable in refining your technique and skills. Practice in this regard also means practice with a variety. Tackle tough prompts as well as the easier ones.

Finally, please do not totally neglect your other text. Know it well enough to be able to write a 7/10 essay if need be because you'll never know what VCAA might throw at you for your primary text, so having some familiarity with another text will just ease the mind and help a lot if VCAA is tough on the day. Don't go over-the-top, maybe know ~30 quotes and do 2-3 essays for it before the exam (whilst you do 7+ essays for your primary text).


Context
Context is all about using your text and external resources to produce something captivating and original. But as a student, it's also about planning and getting a handful of adaptable pieces made and written to perfection before the exam. I say that last part because it is very difficult to think of something so original during the pressure of the 3hr allocation that is the dreaded English exam.

So how to prepare? I had two pieces (both adaptable) ready and written prior to each SAC, and therefore, four adaptable pieces ready for the exam. It is important to decide what type/form of piece you are suited to early on int the year, so you can proceed to work on those for the rest of the year. The three main forms are creative, expository and persuasive and hybrids of the three are also valid possibilities. Personally, I found creative/expository hybrid to be the best option for me. It is also important to decide on a format. For example, I chose to write all my pieces as interviews, other options include journal articles (probably the most popular), newspaper articles, plain essays (not recommended by me), stories, letters (may be a few letters), etc. There are literally limitless options for format, just make sure you decide on your format and form early on.

With all my pieces, I used both external and internal material where internal refers to inter-textual references and external refers to material that is relevant to the prompt but has been drawn from sources other than the prescribed text. It's vital that you incorporate both, with your piece having slightly more internal references than external ones (maybe a 40-60 split).

With the internal references (ie textual), there is no need to follow the method that I outlines for the text response texts, as your goal is to only "draw" from the texts rather than write on them in the exam. So, only one or two readings are needed for the year, it may be useful to make a list of the general ideas (thematic ideas) and useful quotes (all thematic).

For external resources, surf the internet, it's the easiest and probably the best source for such references. Look for interviews (as video clips or transcripts), other videos, news stories on your theme, philosophical ideas, quotes for famous people, etc. It's also worth checking out scientific journals and reading/watching the other texts for your context for ideas.


Revision
As for revision lectures: I wouldn't. In the summer break, I went to the TSFX lectures which were honestly horrible and a waste of time. I also went to a summer program run by KL_tutor, which was excellent (although that was a one-off program run by him). I also watched the Texts in the City - The Wheeler Centre videos (free) for my texts, which was alright for revision. I'd recommend the AN English guide too, written by shinny and EZ (very helpful and skilled users from here), it's an amazing resource that I wished I had in my year.

Make sure you've had a good read of the relevant parts of these too, very helpful:
English Work Examples Directory
English FAQs: READ THIS FIRST BEFORE ASKING ANY QUESTIONS
Essay Topics Megathread
EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam

Also utilise the AN English Essay Submission sub-forum, I used it to get valuable feedback on a few of my pieces. Most of revision is just reading and writing tbh. Practice makes perfect, as anecdotal evidence, I raised my B's and B+'s in yr11 to consistent A+s in yr12 :)

Good luck!
« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 06:54:52 pm by VegemitePi »

leroy

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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2012, 06:15:42 pm »
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I feel English is a bit subjective so am struggling a bit. I can feel i have written a great essay, but my English teacher had a crap commute to work that day, so is in a shit mood and decides to give me an equally crap score.

Ask for some form of moderation from within the english teachers at your school, to rule out things like that happening?

Just do is do as many drafts to improve fluency, accuracy and quality of your writing - and get as many people to look over them as you can so (hopefully) each piece of criticism will offer a slightly different view on where you can improve!




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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2012, 06:18:13 pm »
0
I feel that to improve in English you should:
1. Write essays regularly<--- This is the main way to improve, i'm trying to do 1-2 a week.
2. Read stuff that's related to your texts, such as study guides, people's essays etc
3. Have a word bank/phrases. When i come across a word or phrase that i think i can use in my essays, i write it down on my list of words.
4. Do regular brainstorms, so that you have many ideas available on the exam day

English revision lectures are useless and a waste of money. That's all i can say about English lectures.

« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 06:20:31 pm by soccerboi »
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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2012, 06:29:28 pm »
0
Hi, I got 44 raw last year, here's my advice:

English is a subject that comes down to practice and persistence imo. Simply reading the texts or reading past essays as procrastination is simply not enough, as English needs to be learn actively through actually writing (with and without timing conditions).


Language analysis
Read and analyse as much as you can as often as you can. You don't have to write a lot of analyses to become good at this, but writing them will help you develop a formula that will help enormously in the exam, it is after all very formulaic.

Try and nail a basic structure for your intro as having a very solid one will impress any examiner. After that, make sure your body paragraphs are organised. Focus them properly and don't over-do one by adding many "techniques" to one para, usually try and focus on one para per "technique" or argument (I prefer the later, but many students did the former with success too).

Practice writing on cartoons/images too as they can be really tricky if you're not used to them, especially for the SACs.

Where to get practice? Newspapers are NOT the only source! Last year VCAA used a blog (of sorts), so ensure that you use a variety of sources including: newspaper articles (including editorials), newsletter pieces, blogs, letters, etc.


Text response
Three things: reading the texts (and other relevant sources like study guides, past essays, etc.), annotating the texts, and writing essays on the texts :)

For preparation, I'd recommend these readings for your texts in this order:
1) For fun - ideally in the summer break to get the storyline down, don't even think about deeper meanings unless it's obvious
2) When studying it in school - you can also read study guides in conjunction here and make sure you annotate your book
3) Before the SAC (one week before) - read the texts and your annotations, try and remember vital passages (quotes - maybe highlight as you go), make more annotations as you think deeper into the novel
4) Before the exam (one or even two full readings) - read the text and all annotations, don't read study guides at all (!!!! important !!!) as you want to use your original ideas for the exam not some from a study guide

Ideally, you'd want to be writing essays during stages 3) and 4) of those reads, don't write any essays during stage 1), it's pointless.


Context
Context is all about using your text and external resources to produce something captivating and original. But as a student, it's also about planning and getting a handful of adaptable pieces made and written to perfection before the exam. I say that last part because it is very difficult to think of something so original during the pressure of the 3hr allocation that is the dreaded English exam.

So how to prepare? I had two pieces (both adaptable) ready and written prior to each SAC, and therefore, four ready for the exam. It is important to decide what type/form of piece you are suited to early on int the year, so you can proceed to work on those for the rest of the year. The three main forms are creative, expository and persuasive and hybrids of the three are also valid possibilities. Personally, I found creative/expository hybrid to be the best option for me. It is also important to decide on a format. For example, I chose to write all my pieces as interviews, other options include journal articles (probably the most popular), newspaper articles, plain essays (not recommended by me), stories, letters (may be a few letters), etc. There are literally limitless options for format, just make sure you decide on your format and form early on.

With all my pieces, I used both external and internal material where internal refers to inter-textual references and external refers to material that is relevant to the prompt but has been drawn from sources other than the prescribed text. It's vital that you incorporate both, with your piece having slightly more internal references than external ones (maybe a 40-60 split).

With the internal references (ie textual), there is no need to follow the method that I outlines for the text response texts, as your goal is to only "draw" from the texts rather than write on them in the exam. So, only one or two readings are needed for the year, it may be useful to make a list of the general ideas (thematic ideas) and useful quotes (all thematic).

For external resources, surf the internet, it's the easiest and probably the best source for such references. Look for interviews (as video clips or transcripts), other videos, news stories on your theme, philosophical ideas, quotes for famous people, etc. It's also worth checking out scientific journals and reading/watching the other texts for your context for ideas.


Revision
As for revision lectures: I wouldn't. In the summer break, I went to the TSFX lectures which were honestly horrible and a waste of time. I also went to a summer program run by KL_tutor, which was excellent (although that was a one-off program run by him). I also watched the Texts in the City - The Wheeler Centre videos (free) for my texts, which was alright for revision. Most of revision is just reading and writing tbh. Practice makes perfect. I'd recommend the AN English guide too, written by shinny and EZ (very helpful and skilled users from here), it;s an amazing resource that I wished I had in my year.

This basically. However, I'd save your time listening to the "Texts in the City". I went live and it was a waste of time IMO.

I got 44 raw in English as well, so here's an expansion on VegemitePi's advice:

LA:

PRACTICE. You should have done literally 20+ LAs come exam time. Post them on AN and get other members to critique. They'll usually give great advice and help you polish your technique heaps.

TR:

KNOW YOUR TEXT. Before the exam, pick ONE text and study the hell out of it. Approach it from ever angle and do multiple different questions. Come exam time, chances are you'll see a question very similar/identical to one you've already tackled.

CONTEXT:

Go into the exam with 4-5 different text structures that you can mould to fit a variety of prompts. This way, you won't have to go to the trouble of thinking up an entirely new story in the stress that is the VCE English exam.



I didn't attend any revision lectures, but I did write a ridiculous amount of practice essays.
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Surgeon

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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2012, 06:54:42 pm »
+2
I am currently in year 12 so I thought I'd share some of my tips, for what they are worth.

In my opinion, the best way to improve as a writer and add to the sophistication, elegance and quality of your pieces is to write as many practice exams as possible. I try to write an essay every  one or two days whether it's text response, context or language analysis.

Teachers at your school are crap or inconsistent?

That's fine! We're lucky enough to have access to a forum like this where there is a large number of successful past students, and current students such as myself that are willing to share advice or thoughts.

Feel free to very politely ask people on here whether they would mind having a read of your piece whenever they can and take on and constructive criticism (at your discretion).

There are also threads in the English section where people post their essays so you could definitely have a read through some of them for inspiration. English Work Examples Directory

Best of luck :)
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Eriny

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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2012, 09:23:19 am »
+2
Improving your writing skills is such a holistic thing. You should read lots and widely and take note of what is effective and what's not (reading the paper is good for this). It's also important to expose yourself to different ideas which you can use to add depth to your analysis. Obviously practice essays are helpful and will get you to recognise the major themes and develop your major points you can bring into the exam. However, just writing more in general (eg blogging, journaling) will make the right words come faster. You may also be less inclined to lose motivation if you're actually interested in the topics you write about.

I'd encourage you to go beyond study guides if you can. Read critical articles, reviews, go to a university library and pull out books and journal articles. They are usually much more insightful and well-written than study guides.

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Re: Calling All High Scoring English Students!
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2012, 10:54:35 am »
+2
My first tip is to get the belief that English is subjective out of your head as quickly as possible, no English is not subjective, it is as subjective as explaining the role of a split-ring commutator in Physics. It's about answering the question, answering it well and answering it in a well structured essay. Examiners mark to a very specific criteria and don't give out marks based on what they feel, they will have specific criteria which need to be met in order to attain a specific score, just like with any other subjects.

It's not easy, but I think this is the first change you have to make in order to start doing well in English.

Everything else I have to say has been mentioned and oh, btw, go to Connect Education lectures, they're great apparently, I think you get Josh and Vincent for English, who are awesome, according to what I've heard.