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October 16, 2021, 08:23:35 pm

Author Topic: How I went from a 40% student, to a 40 raw student in 6 months  (Read 7028 times)  Share 

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spectroscopy

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I tutor some kids for english, help out some friends with their sac prep, and I have been pressured by them to post up what happened with me in VCE English, onto atarnotes. It has worked for others so I figured, this probably wont help many people but it might and I feel like putting it out there. This one is for you ATARnotes, if it werent for the selflessness of others contributing information over the years, I never would have gotten into my dream course. I may not have as much to offer as some of the greats on here, and I surely didn't get the highest score for English, but this is the best I've got.

Firstly I want to express that in VCE English, there is no one right way to approach the subject. There is a general consensus that the high scoring students on ATARnotes have, and there are some really weird and out there strategies. I went to a selective entry high school, with one of the most competitive group of kids to the point where it became almost malicious, and I have seen it ALL when it comes to study techniques. You really have to find out what works for you.

As the title of the post says, I am going to write out what I did, step by step, to go from the 40% range in the first couple English sacs, to getting a 40, and how I couldve done better because I made one or two very crucial mistakes. So if you're losing hope and are already doing what ATARnotes and your teachers have said to do, and you did it correctly but it hasn't worked, you could try what I did. The way I approached English texts starts off interesting and enlightening, but as you get closer to SAC time your brain will melt from the boredom of my method. Though it worked for me (LOL) people might look at it and shake their head, and I totally get it, I had English tutors drop me and teachers give up on me when they realised what I was doing, but it worked in the end. A lot of our school teachers had been examiners in the past, and one was a current examiner, and they admitted to marking us very harshly. At the end of the day all of our sac marks scaled up HEAPS so it was okay.


I didn't do English in year 11. I did both Literature and English Language, I really wanted a balance between both and that is what English is I guess. I did heaps of prep over the summer, doing all of the tricks and following all the wisdom I had accumulated from atarnotes over the years. I even went to the famous “KL_Tutor”s (dux of MHS in his year) summer English workshop. When the sacs started I was very confident and working the hardest I had worked in my life (up to that point), but I was actually not getting very good grades (like in the 40%s for English), which was super weird for me.
At one point before the last sac in unit 3 I was desperate, and knew my ATAR goal was in jeopardy, so I decided to throw all of the conventional wisdom out the window, because it wasn't working for me, and I did my own thing. At the end of the day my raw Unit 3 sacs ended up in the 70’s with a few 40%s and a high 90s, and my Unit 4 sacs ended up in the upper-mid 90s raw(I think 97), scaled to 98/100. I dropped a mark or two across text and context in the exam, and bombed language analysis completely getting a score around 10/20 or something (darn comparative essay) which severely screwed up my mark.

This is more or less what I ended up doing. The process would start as soon as a new text would start for English, and the whole process would start IMMEDIATELY after the previous English sac was out of the way. This "strategy" for studying is SUPER DUPER TIME SENSITIVE. You NEED to have a fair bit of time immediately before the English sac to dedicate to English. If you have other sacs in the same week which is inevitable, you must study for them earlier than you normally would, so that you are pretty much ready to take the test a week before it happens, the reason will become clear later on.
Also, this is not for people who do not have much time on their hands. It is for the desperate who have dropped their social lives and extra curricular activities because they absolutely need to lift their grades, and have no more time for "studying smart not studying hard". It’s for people who are prepared to do both. This is a position you don't want to be in, but I found myself in it, and I'm sure others have too.

Text Response
STEP 1: When a new book was introduced, I would read the whole thing again, with my eye open to find 4 or 5 key scenes that you could spin or apply to pretty much any prompt. What you are looking for is really juicy scenes with lots of symbolism, and lots of smart wordplay by the author in the sense that words have subtle meanings and there are quite well written implications in the authors choice of words. This will be the foundation on which you will prepare your essay.

I usually made a point of them being the scenes of the text that were not studied in class much if at all, but still super juicy with symbolism and cheeky word play, and they were generally very short (2-4 pages or so).
In Ransom for example, I had memorised that early scene where they are recounting Achilles dead adoptive brothers accidental killing of some kid while playing a game, that led to him moving in with Achilles. Its a super small part of the book, that teachers so often overlook, but its ripe with things to analyse. These really small scenes that many kids read on autopilot and may not really get are THE scenes that you want to learn well. When you really try to deeply analyse a couple pages of a book, you can really see why some authors are so heavily praised. It's in these scenes where you'll find  something that might fly over your head the first time you read it. Something as simple as "the cicadas shut off mid shriek as blah blah blah". But when you really look into it, you can think to yourself “hang on, what do cicadas represent, what does them going quiet mid shriek tell you about the importance of whats going on, did they have a particular importance in ancient Greece?” etc. I would spend a week or two using the study time I had allocated for english just really over-analysing things like that so that I could REALLY understand what was happening in a scene.

STEP 2: The next step that I would spend the next week or two(usually two), firstly involved writing out a massive essay with a SUPER generic prompt, including every bit of the above analysis I could squeeze out of those scenes. This would usually just be an evening where im really not feeling much work, and I just open up a word doc and start spitting out the ideas.
The point of this first draft wasn't really to get my essay technique down pat, but mostly just so I would know how to articulate the analyses and ideas I had accumulated onto paper. This first draft super essay would usually end up being in the vicinity of 2.5-3k words (stupid I know). but when you get excited about a book and you start to see the beautiful craftsmanship in a well written book, it kind of writes itself. This step is pretty good as a sort of first stage selection barrier where you realise some scenes or ideas are stupid and that some are alot better than previously thought.

Once I've got the ideas hammered out, I would find another super generic prompt and write a proper practice essay to it, ADHERING to the word limit, though usually UNTIMED, and TYPED (dont worry we will get to timed written practice later). I would restrict myself to using these scenes I had super-analysed (usually only like 3 of them per essay). I would then get this marked so that I would begin to be able to learn how to have good essay structure and technique. This stage is also really good because you find that some of the scenes arent that juicy or versatile.
Versatility was the main thing I was looking for, because you can in depth analyse pretty much any bit of the text, but if it wasnt versatile, and its lack of versatility became apparent only in the second essay with a super generic topic, I would throw that scene in the garbage and find a new one.


STEP 3: We should be about 3 weeks out of the SAC at this point, and if you have other sacs during the week of the English sac, begin studying for them now and LET THEM take over some of the time you have allocated to study for english. You want to be prepared for your other sacs this far out, because the week of the English sac and ESPECIALLY the weekend before, you really want to be able to have ALOT of your study time dedicated to english.

Once I've done the above steps, I would get someone to find me the weirdest prompt they could on the text. I would look at it for the first time at home, ready to write, and then I would TYPE an essay on the prompt, untimed, again restricting myself to the 4 or 5 scenes that we have become masters of by now. I would use a weird prompt at this point because we cant risk having un-versatile scenes in our armory, and we need to get rid of the 1 or 2 scenes that we want to work but just wont.
Usually youll find a scene or two out of the 4 or 5 that made it past the two generic essays that might not work at the end of the day.
After I would recouperate my loss from saying goodbye to that one scene I loved, or cutting another that I didn't really like in the first place but had already invested so much research into it, it was time to do another 2 essays with super weird prompts. At this stage, I'd have about 4 scenes I could write on for ages, about any topic, be it power, the role of gender, the role of luck, fate, the gods, stigmas in the 50s, anything. This is what we did all that culling of ideas for.
The idea is to have about 4 scenes that you could write literally any essay topic on.

STEP 4: 14 days out from the sac you are going to have to write off an evening or afternoon for this bit. What I did was I would find another generic prompt. One that the school hadn't had a sac on, and that the classes could generally answer well. The type of topic that might come up on a sac. Go home and spend the evening typing up an untimed essay using the final scenes youve decided on. Do your absolute best to perfect this essay in this night.
Print it out, take it to school, and get it marked by your english teacher. I dont care if you have to lose a lunch time, or wait for 2 hours after school to get some time with them, you must flag your teacher down (or your tutor if you have one), and get them to correct this essay before the sac is 7 days away. Worst case you can send it to some people on ATARnotes or post it up here for feedback. This stage is the stage where we are getting the actual essay structure down pat.
The next bit is one that is important: do not re-write the entire essay unless it is completely screwed up. I repeat, do not re-write the whole essay it after it gets marked. Theres no time for that now, and that isnt the point. Open up the word doc of the essay, and APPLY THE CORRECTIONS AND CHANGES to the essay. DO NOT REWRITE THE WHOLE THING IF THERE ARE ONLY A FEW MINOR ERRORS OR YOU ORDERED YOUR ARGUMENTS POORLY or something small. This is why you typed this draft, and why you had to keep saying to your teachers "dont worry sir, I’ll get handwriting practice later, please just mark it".
The very day on which you received essay feedback, you must apply those changes and listen to the feedback that very same evening, and re-hand it in for submission the next day, doing whatever it takes to get your teachers to mark it. REPEAT this until your teacher/tutor says "What is infront of me right now is a 10/10 essay". I found it usually took about 3 drafts. Hence why this starts about 14 days from the sac, because you cant get 1 day turn around on essays (god bless your school if you can). In the down time between when an essay is getting corrected and getting it back, study for your other subjects. You can't do anything til you get those corrected essays back.

FINAL STEP: warning: prepare to shoot yourself
 ideally this is the weekend before the sac, or the thursday/friday night before the sac if its early in the week You see that 10/10 essay that you have been given by your teacher on that good prompt that wasnt too weird, and wasnt too generic, and seemed just about right for the sac? notice how all the drafts have been typed at this stage? notice how I made sure that we are ready for all other sacs in the week of the english sac, 7 days before that sac was actually due to happen?
This is why, and please if you've read this far, keep reading, and hear my justifications:
At this point, I would write out that entire 10/10 perfected essay, by hand, in timed conditions, a minimum of 5 times before the sac.
Thats right folks, I would memorise an essay. As you can tell if you have read up to this point, this is not just the good ol' "im gonna memorise a 10/10 sample essay by reading over it 4 times lol!!" you are doing ALL of the conceptual study required to not need to memorise an essay. But you are desperate, and you really need to lift your grades, so you are coupling the "right" way to study, with memorising an essay that you actually UNDERSTAND and that you have CREATED yourself with ideas that you have internalised and gotten feedback on from the text. This is not someone elses essay, this is your essay. before you think or say anything, hear me out.  The main reason you are memorising the essay, is so that you know exactly how you will word and structure the evidence that you are going to pull out of the text. In the sac you may have to change the word "fate" to "societal constructs of ancient greece" and you may have to change "the author is illustrating x" to "the author is illustrating y", but when you have memorised this essay with the scenes you have in your memory that you have MADE SURE are so versatile that they will not fail you, you will be fine.

Memorising essays does not work 99% of the time for 99% of students because the essays they memorised are not like the essays you have written above. You have spent weeks analysing scenes, and culling the ones that just cant cut it for versatility. You have tested these scenes with the weirdest prompts you can find, and thrown out the ones that you cant spin to fit different prompts. These scenes are usually small and overlooked, but you will find that alot of the english 3/4 texts have some such scenes that are the absolute crux of the novel, incorporating all of the elements and themes of the story into a few pages/lines/seconds of film, and after going through that rigorous screening process, you are left with these gems of scenes. It is not just memorising essays. That does not work. It is the whole process of creating the best essay you can and then memorising that as a template to refer to in sac conditions. After youve written it out 5 times by hand, in its entirety, it is memorised, and come sac time, as soon as writing time begins, you can get cracking knowing what to write. You'll have to change some sentences and reword some things, or emphasise a different aspect of a scene at a different point in the paragraph, but the skills to do this shouldve been developed when you were going through those super weird prompts in step 3.
My english teacher in year 12 was super experienced, knew the course and the books back to front and had taught at schools from every end of the spectrum, and she said to us at the start of the year: "99% of memorised essays are either bad or average, most good and great essays are not memorised at all, but sometimes memorised essays can get full marks, if you know what you're memorising" This was like day 1 of year 12 and I did not really understand what she meant at the time, because I had spent years on atarnotes where memorising an essay was seen as a really bad thing to do. But after doing what I did, I understood what she meant.
My schools English teachers were very, very strict markers, and word got around to other select entry schools that my schools cohort was bad at English because we got low marks. As we found out at the end of the year, it turns out that the faculty are just stupidly harsh markers to the point where it is ridiculous, and our essays were indeed the select entry school calibre. The first text response sac I did this for was Ransom (Unit 4) and I got 48/50 for it. I lost marks for handwriting (mines really bad, almost illegible). This was a happy surprise after scraping a pass on the previous sac.

If you didn't like how I do text response then run away children because context was the same thing just on steroids.


Context
Much like how memorising text response essays either goes really well or rather poorly, the same applies for creative essays in context. Creative essays either do quite well and are well researched, or they are chosen by poor students who do not know the text well enough to do anything else. How I approached context is similar to text response.
STEP 1: 100% every context essay I did was creative, with the same tune as above in mind, the plan here is to find a creative story, inspired by the text, which has so many different little things going on, that relate to your context idea, that it can be applied to any prompt. I would always do a diary entry, set in the real world at the same point in time as the text studied. It would almost always be from the perspective of a prisoner, because I feel like there can be obvious plot progression with that (freedom/death) and you can put in the stories of other prisoners in there which can help add things that relate to the idea. The diary entries would always be from the perspective of a character who was similar to the main character of the novel in terms of age, gender, race, nationality. In the Life of Galileo for example, I wrote from the perspective of an actual(like he was a real person) scientist who was captured by the church in the same era that Galileo was around. The main thing you are looking for here, is a story that embodies your context idea (conflict for example) on every level. From interpersonal emotional conflicts to internal ones to actual fights. This way no matter what the prompt is, you can just spend a few extra sentences here and there, emphasising the ideas pertinent to the prompt. I would spend a couple nights just writing a story, with about three diary entries only, that would encompass every possible aspect of my context idea. So for each diary entry I had an obvious story progression, as well as certain ideas that would relay to most of the conceivable prompts. One prompt I had in a practice essay later on was “conflicts against those in power never end well” I kept my story exactly the same but in each diary entry I would add a few sentences on how the prisoner was fighting his death sentence against the church but they were squishing all of his evidence. That was it. A good way to encompass all the ideas you can is to have a diary entries that tell stories of what has happened to other people, that are really broad, and then modify those a little bit towards each new prompt. The idea at this point is to accumulate a whole bunch of prompts, and figure out ways to incorporate something that will relate to the prompt in each diary entry, however subtle.

STEP 2:  Once this has been brainstormed you should write it out with no prompt in mind. Just covering all the bases. Do it typed and untimed, focus on making it good. Hand it in to get it marked and you will hear “whats the prompt” and tell them to just focus on essay structure. Keep rehanding this promptless essay in (or if need be make up your own stupidly generic prompt just to satisfy the marker), until they once again tell you that the essay you have in front of them is 10/10. This should take a couple of reiterations as creative essays can be very hit or miss and sometimes you have to throw large chunks out just because one small bit doesn’t work. The idea is to perfect this very generic essay so your structure is good and your story is nice and its just well written. AIM FOR IT TO BE 15-20% UNDER THE WORD LIMIT FOR THE SAC, I will explain why in a sec. Anyway, by the end of this you should have this 10/10 essay in front of you typed up, though for each particular prompt its still a bit useless. One tip I will give is try to keep it as close to the real world as possible. For my galileo essay I literally had memorised the dates that certain prisoners were moved and the leadership structures of different prisons, and incorporated that into my essay. You don’t need to memorise these things but if you can get historically or currently accurate facts and put them in your essay, that would be great. Its a lot easier to model your creative essay after the real world than an entirely made up one.

STEP 3: should be a couple weeks from sac date now. much like in the text response stuff above, find a bunch of weird prompts, and write to them typed up and untimed, though limit yourself to one night per essay. The idea here is to basically copy your good generic essay into a new word doc, and try only to ADD sentences around your previous ones that nod to the prompt given (hence why you wanted it to be 15-20% under the word limit). Maybe get rid of some sentences when you find things are getting repeated with a better emphasis. For example, if its something about internal conflicts, in each of the three diary entries from a prisoner point of view, you would have at least a line already about the struggles of confinement and its toll on the prisoner already. Just add a few more sentences onto that and really highlight that notion. Keep the rest cos it makes for good story and helps paint a more well constructed creative world. Get each of these essays marked by a teacher/tutor and listen to the feedback. You might be under-acknowledging the prompt, or you might be sacrificing the details of the overall development of your story. You have to be careful in this sort of creative technique that you don’t repeat yourself too much and really try to find a bunch of different ways to incorporate the prompt into the plot. You should do like 5 essays on very different very weird prompts so that you have ironed out your techniques of modifying the original generic essay for each prompt. Feel free to go back and modify your generic template essay if you find better ideas that work really well. If you have accumulated a bunch of modifications to it then its probably worth resubmitting it to get marked. I know it sounds like heaps of stuff to get marked, but you really want to nail your prompt adaptation technique. Even if you just sit with a teacher for 15 minutes after school, or a tutor, that’s enough for them to read it and tell you “not enough of this” or “not enough of that” at the end of the day your template essay will be your basis, and this is about your technique in adapting to different prompts. I got to the point where I would make one of the English teachers that used to be a vcaa marker read my essays while they were on lunch duty, and it got to the point where it became a very blunt exchange where it would be read and I would be told “not enough of the prompt” “the story doesn’t sound as nice this time” “repeating yourself too much” “that’s just silly”. 15 minutes would be all it takes to get this part out of the way.

FINAL STEP: shouldn’t be further than 7 days before the sac and really shouldn’t be any sooner than 5 days before it. Get that 10/10 template essay at its most up to date marked form, and yep you guessed it. Re-write it, in its entirety, by hand, at least 5 times before the sac. Do the first attempt untimed but the rest timed. You are generally given a word limit guide for sacs though so its not like you can add heaps on if youre finishing way too quick and you cant take out much if youre taking way too long, you just have to write faster. Once again as above you shouldn’t have too many other subject commitments this week as you should have studied for them and prepared for them before this point knowing that this onslaught of essay writing was coming. By the time you have entirely re-written the essay at least 5 times timed, it should be memorised. Do it more times if you have the time to really solidify it. The idea in the sac is to know the generic template like the back of your hand, that same one you used for all those weird prompts, and just spit it out, and when you get to the points in it that are related to the prompt, you elaborate on that part of the story, so that it outweighs the rest, just as you did in the practice essays.
For my context sacs I wrote them on autopilot for the most part pretty much and it would hit a point where id write a sentence, and then be like “Oh hey that’s for this prompt” and then the next like 5 lines would just be hammering on that point and elaborating on it and making it more fruitful and just a more prominent part of the story. Then I’d turn autopilot back on. When I got to the general statements too at the start of diary entries or even paragraphs, I’d add in another sentence that was relevant to the prompt as well, then just wait again for the trigger sentences to come up. When you’ve really memorised an essay, its like having an itunes playlist you always listen to. When one song finishes, the next song starts playing in your head automatically. Its similar in memorising these essays but with sentences instead of songs. I dropped 1 mark on each of the context essays I did in school and they were both for handwriting.


Language Analysis
I cant help you here, and this is where I screwed up my chances of a higher score. I completely bombed the language analysis sac, and it was one of the first ones we did in year 12. I never bothered to learn how to do it properly after that as I was always worried about the next sac. I thought about going over it before exam time, but in our schoolwide practice exam in exam conditions, our exams got marked by a vcaa examiner and I got 9.5/10 for language analysis and I thought “huh guess I better not change anything”. That came back to haunt me when I got my marks at the end of the year. That’s where I stuffed up and could’ve gotten a higher mark.

Anyway, this was fun to write and did not take as long as you would think. People have already found it useful and though I might cop some flak for this, I may as well post it. Its just another resource to have. I wouldn’t recommend approaching English this way if you can avoid it, but if you are really desperate it worked for me and it has worked for others so far when I help them with it. Enjoy. There are spelling and grammatical errors in here Im sure but its so long I stopped worrying about it after a while.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2015, 12:25:20 pm by spectroscopy »

Rod

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Re: How I went from a 40% student, to a 40 raw student in 6 months
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2015, 11:03:01 pm »
+3
Awesome guide!! You're an inspiration :D :D :D. Love stories like this !! So motivating.
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spectroscopy

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Re: How I went from a 40% student, to a 40 raw student in 6 months
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2015, 12:27:04 am »
+4
bruh this is procrastination at its finest LOL

keep your head down and pass QM for me bro
i did it for atarnotes <3

HAHA dw though I'm still studying hard this swotvac, typing this up was my break  :P

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Re: How I went from a 40% student, to a 40 raw student in 6 months
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2015, 09:45:58 am »
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WARNING, WALL OF TEXT THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN




I tutor some kids for english, help out some friends with their sac prep, and I have been pressured by them to post up what happened with me in VCE English, onto atarnotes. It has worked for others so I figured, this probably wont help many people but it might and I feel like putting it out there. This one is for you ATARnotes, if it werent for the selflessness of others contributing information over the years, I never would have gotten into my dream course. I may not have as much to offer as some of the greats on here, and I surely didn't get the highest score for English, but this is the best I've got.

Firstly I want to express that in VCE English, there is no one right way to approach the subject. There is a general consensus that the high scoring students on ATARnotes have, and there are some really weird and out there strategies. I went to a selective entry high school, with one of the most competitive group of kids to the point where it became almost malicious, and I have seen it ALL when it comes to study techniques. You really have to find out what works for you.

As the title of the post says, I am going to write out what I did, step by step, to go from the 40% range in the first couple English sacs, to getting a 40, and how I couldve done better because I made one or two very crucial mistakes. So if you're losing hope and are already doing what ATARnotes and your teachers have said to do, and you did it correctly but it hasn't worked, you could try what I did. The way I approached English texts starts off interesting and enlightening, but as you get closer to SAC time your brain will melt from the boredom of my method. Though it worked for me (LOL) people might look at it and shake their head, and I totally get it, I had English tutors drop me and teachers give up on me when they realised what I was doing, but it worked in the end. A lot of our school teachers had been examiners in the past, and one was a current examiner, and they admitted to marking us very harshly. At the end of the day all of our sac marks scaled up HEAPS so it was okay.


I didn't do English in year 11. I did both Literature and English Language, I really wanted a balance between both and that is what English is I guess. I did heaps of prep over the summer, doing all of the tricks and following all the wisdom I had accumulated from atarnotes over the years. I even went to the famous “KL_Tutor”s (dux of MHS in his year) summer English workshop. When the sacs started I was very confident and working the hardest I had worked in my life (up to that point), but I was actually not getting very good grades (like in the 40%s for English), which was super weird for me.
At one point before the last sac in unit 3 I was desperate, and new my ATAR goal was in jeopardy, so I decided to throw all of the conventional wisdom out the window, because it wasn't working for me, and I did my own thing. At the end of the day my raw Unit 3 sacs ended up in the 70’s with a few 40%s and a high 90s, and my Unit 4 sacs ended up in the upper-mid 90s raw(I think 97), scaled to 98/100. I dropped a mark or two across text and context in the exam, and bombed language analysis completely getting a score around 10/20 or something (darn comparative essay) which severely screwed up my mark.

This is more or less what I ended up doing. The process would start as soon as a new text would start for English, and the whole process would start IMMEDIATELY after the previous English sac was out of the way. This "strategy" for studying is SUPER DUPER TIME SENSITIVE. You NEED to have a fair bit of time immediately before the English sac to dedicate to English. If you have other sacs in the same week which is inevitable, you must study for them earlier than you normally would, so that you are pretty much ready to take the test a week before it happens, the reason will become clear later on.
Also, this is not for people who do not have much time on their hands. It is for the desperate who have dropped their social lives and extra curricular activities because they absolutely need to lift their grades, and have no more time for "studying smart not studying hard". It’s for people who are prepared to do both. This is a position you don't want to be in, but I found myself in it, and I'm sure others have too.

Text Response
STEP 1: When a new book was introduced, I would read the whole thing again, with my eye open to find 4 or 5 key scenes that you could spin or apply to pretty much any prompt. What you are looking for is really juicy scenes with lots of symbolism, and lots of smart wordplay by the author in the sense that words have subtle meanings and there are quite well written implications in the authors choice of words. This will be the foundation on which you will prepare your essay.

I usually made a point of them being the scenes of the text that were not studied in class much if at all, but still super juicy with symbolism and cheeky word play, and they were generally very short (2-4 pages or so).
In Ransom for example, I had memorised that early scene where they are recounting Achilles dead adoptive brothers accidental killing of some kid while playing a game, that led to him moving in with Achilles. Its a super small part of the book, that teachers so often overlook, but its ripe with things to analyse. These really small scenes that many kids read on autopilot and may not really get are THE scenes that you want to learn well. When you really try to deeply analyse a couple pages of a book, you can really see why some authors are so heavily praised. It's in these scenes where you'll find  something that might fly over your head the first time you read it. Something as simple as "the cicadas shut off mid shriek as blah blah blah". But when you really look into it, you can think to yourself “hang on, what do cicadas represent, what does them going quiet mid shriek tell you about the importance of whats going on, did they have a particular importance in ancient Greece?” etc. I would spend a week or two using the study time I had allocated for english just really over-analysing things like that so that I could REALLY understand what was happening in a scene.

STEP 2: The next step that I would spend the next week or two(usually two), firstly involved writing out a massive essay with a SUPER generic prompt, including every bit of the above analysis I could squeeze out of those scenes. This would usually just be an evening where im really not feeling much work, and I just open up a word doc and start spitting out the ideas.
The point of this first draft wasn't really to get my essay technique down pat, but mostly just so I would know how to articulate the analyses and ideas I had accumulated onto paper. This first draft super essay would usually end up being in the vicinity of 2.5-3k words (stupid I know). but when you get excited about a book and you start to see the beautiful craftsmanship in a well written book, it kind of writes itself. This step is pretty good as a sort of first stage selection barrier where you realise some scenes or ideas are stupid and that some are alot better than previously thought.

Once I've got the ideas hammered out, I would find another super generic prompt and write a proper practice essay to it, ADHERING to the word limit, though usually UNTIMED, and TYPED (dont worry we will get to timed written practice later). I would restrict myself to using these scenes I had super-analysed (usually only like 3 of them per essay). I would then get this marked so that I would begin to be able to learn how to have good essay structure and technique. This stage is also really good because you find that some of the scenes arent that juicy or versatile.
Versatility was the main thing I was looking for, because you can in depth analyse pretty much any bit of the text, but if it wasnt versatile, and its lack of versatility became apparent only in the second essay with a super generic topic, I would throw that scene in the garbage and find a new one.


STEP 3: We should be about 3 weeks out of the SAC at this point, and if you have other sacs during the week of the English sac, begin studying for them now and LET THEM take over some of the time you have allocated to study for english. You want to be prepared for your other sacs this far out, because the week of the English sac and ESPECIALLY the weekend before, you really want to be able to have ALOT of your study time dedicated to english.

Once I've done the above steps, I would get someone to find me the weirdest prompt they could on the text. I would look at it for the first time at home, ready to write, and then I would TYPE an essay on the prompt, untimed, again restricting myself to the 4 or 5 scenes that we have become masters of by now. I would use a weird prompt at this point because we cant risk having un-versatile scenes in our armory, and we need to get rid of the 1 or 2 scenes that we want to work but just wont.
Usually youll find a scene or two out of the 4 or 5 that made it past the two generic essays that might not work at the end of the day.
After I would recouperate my loss from saying goodbye to that one scene I loved, or cutting another that I didn't really like in the first place but had already invested so much research into it, it was time to do another 2 essays with super weird prompts. At this stage, I'd have about 4 scenes I could write on for ages, about any topic, be it power, the role of gender, the role of luck, fate, the gods, stigmas in the 50s, anything. This is what we did all that culling of ideas for.
The idea is to have about 4 scenes that you could write literally any essay topic on.

STEP 4: 14 days out from the sac you are going to have to write off an evening or afternoon for this bit. What I did was I would find another generic prompt. One that the school hadn't had a sac on, and that the classes could generally answer well. The type of topic that might come up on a sac. Go home and spend the evening typing up an untimed essay using the final scenes youve decided on. Do your absolute best to perfect this essay in this night.
Print it out, take it to school, and get it marked by your english teacher. I dont care if you have to lose a lunch time, or wait for 2 hours after school to get some time with them, you must flag your teacher down (or your tutor if you have one), and get them to correct this essay before the sac is 7 days away. Worst case you can send it to some people on ATARnotes or post it up here for feedback. This stage is the stage where we are getting the actual essay structure down pat.
The next bit is one that is important: do not re-write the entire essay unless it is completely screwed up. I repeat, do not re-write the whole essay it after it gets marked. Theres no time for that now, and that isnt the point. Open up the word doc of the essay, and APPLY THE CORRECTIONS AND CHANGES to the essay. DO NOT REWRITE THE WHOLE THING IF THERE ARE ONLY A FEW MINOR ERRORS OR YOU ORDERED YOUR ARGUMENTS POORLY or something small. This is why you typed this draft, and why you had to keep saying to your teachers "dont worry sir, I’ll get handwriting practice later, please just mark it".
The very day on which you received essay feedback, you must apply those changes and listen to the feedback that very same evening, and re-hand it in for submission the next day, doing whatever it takes to get your teachers to mark it. REPEAT this until your teacher/tutor says "What is infront of me right now is a 10/10 essay". I found it usually took about 3 drafts. Hence why this starts about 14 days from the sac, because you cant get 1 day turn around on essays (god bless your school if you can). In the down time between when an essay is getting corrected and getting it back, study for your other subjects. You can't do anything til you get those corrected essays back.

FINAL STEP: warning: prepare to shoot yourself
 ideally this is the weekend before the sac, or the thursday/friday night before the sac if its early in the week You see that 10/10 essay that you have been given by your teacher on that good prompt that wasnt too weird, and wasnt too generic, and seemed just about right for the sac? notice how all the drafts have been typed at this stage? notice how I made sure that we are ready for all other sacs in the week of the english sac, 7 days before that sac was actually due to happen?
This is why, and please if you've read this far, keep reading, and hear my justifications:
At this point, I would write out that entire 10/10 perfected essay, by hand, in timed conditions, a minimum of 5 times before the sac.
Thats right folks, I would memorise an essay. As you can tell if you have read up to this point, this is not just the good ol' "im gonna memorise a 10/10 sample essay by reading over it 4 times lol!!" you are doing ALL of the conceptual study required to not need to memorise an essay. But you are desperate, and you really need to lift your grades, so you are coupling the "right" way to study, with memorising an essay that you actually UNDERSTAND and that you have CREATED yourself with ideas that you have internalised and gotten feedback on from the text. This is not someone elses essay, this is your essay. before you think or say anything, hear me out.  The main reason you are memorising the essay, is so that you know exactly how you will word and structure the evidence that you are going to pull out of the text. In the sac you may have to change the word "fate" to "societal constructs of ancient greece" and you may have to change "the author is illustrating x" to "the author is illustrating y", but when you have memorised this essay with the scenes you have in your memory that you have MADE SURE are so versatile that they will not fail you, you will be fine.

Memorising essays does not work 99% of the time for 99% of students because the essays they memorised are not like the essays you have written above. You have spent weeks analysing scenes, and culling the ones that just cant cut it for versatility. You have tested these scenes with the weirdest prompts you can find, and thrown out the ones that you cant spin to fit different prompts. These scenes are usually small and overlooked, but you will find that alot of the english 3/4 texts have some such scenes that are the absolute crux of the novel, incorporating all of the elements and themes of the story into a few pages/lines/seconds of film, and after going through that rigorous screening process, you are left with these gems of scenes. It is not just memorising essays. That does not work. It is the whole process of creating the best essay you can and then memorising that as a template to refer to in sac conditions. After youve written it out 5 times by hand, in its entirety, it is memorised, and come sac time, as soon as writing time begins, you can get cracking knowing what to write. You'll have to change some sentences and reword some things, or emphasise a different aspect of a scene at a different point in the paragraph, but the skills to do this shouldve been developed when you were going through those super weird prompts in step 3.
My english teacher in year 12 was super experienced, knew the course and the books back to front and had taught at schools from every end of the spectrum, and she said to us at the start of the year: "99% of memorised essays are either bad or average, most good and great essays are not memorised at all, but sometimes memorised essays can get full marks, if you know what you're memorising" This was like day 1 of year 12 and I did not really understand what she meant at the time, because I had spent years on atarnotes where memorising an essay was seen as a really bad thing to do. But after doing what I did, I understood what she meant.
My schools English teachers were very, very strict markers, and word got around to other select entry schools that my schools cohort was bad at English because we got low marks. As we found out at the end of the year, it turns out that the faculty are just stupidly harsh markers to the point where it is ridiculous, and our essays were indeed the select entry school calibre. The first text response sac I did this for was Ransom (Unit 4) and I got 48/50 for it. I lost marks for handwriting (mines really bad, almost illegible). This was a happy surprise after scraping a pass on the previous sac.

If you didn't like how I do text response then run away children because context was the same thing just on steroids.


Context
Much like how memorising text response essays either goes really well or rather poorly, the same applies for creative essays in context. Creative essays either do quite well and are well researched, or they are chosen by poor students who do not know the text well enough to do anything else. How I approached context is similar to text response.
STEP 1: 100% every context essay I did was creative, with the same tune as above in mind, the plan here is to find a creative story, inspired by the text, which has so many different little things going on, that relate to your context idea, that it can be applied to any prompt. I would always do a diary entry, set in the real world at the same point in time as the text studied. It would almost always be from the perspective of a prisoner, because I feel like there can be obvious plot progression with that (freedom/death) and you can put in the stories of other prisoners in there which can help add things that relate to the idea. The diary entries would always be from the perspective of a character who was similar to the main character of the novel in terms of age, gender, race, nationality. In the Life of Galileo for example, I wrote from the perspective of an actual(like he was a real person) scientist who was captured by the church in the same era that Galileo was around. The main thing you are looking for here, is a story that embodies your context idea (conflict for example) on every level. From interpersonal emotional conflicts to internal ones to actual fights. This way no matter what the prompt is, you can just spend a few extra sentences here and there, emphasising the ideas pertinent to the prompt. I would spend a couple nights just writing a story, with about three diary entries only, that would encompass every possible aspect of my context idea. So for each diary entry I had an obvious story progression, as well as certain ideas that would relay to most of the conceivable prompts. One prompt I had in a practice essay later on was “conflicts against those in power never end well” I kept my story exactly the same but in each diary entry I would add a few sentences on how the prisoner was fighting his death sentence against the church but they were squishing all of his evidence. That was it. A good way to encompass all the ideas you can is to have a diary entries that tell stories of what has happened to other people, that are really broad, and then modify those a little bit towards each new prompt. The idea at this point is to accumulate a whole bunch of prompts, and figure out ways to incorporate something that will relate to the prompt in each diary entry, however subtle.

STEP 2:  Once this has been brainstormed you should write it out with no prompt in mind. Just covering all the bases. Do it typed and untimed, focus on making it good. Hand it in to get it marked and you will hear “whats the prompt” and tell them to just focus on essay structure. Keep rehanding this promptless essay in (or if need be make up your own stupidly generic prompt just to satisfy the marker), until they once again tell you that the essay you have in front of them is 10/10. This should take a couple of reiterations as creative essays can be very hit or miss and sometimes you have to throw large chunks out just because one small bit doesn’t work. The idea is to perfect this very generic essay so your structure is good and your story is nice and its just well written. AIM FOR IT TO BE 15-20% UNDER THE WORD LIMIT FOR THE SAC, I will explain why in a sec. Anyway, by the end of this you should have this 10/10 essay in front of you typed up, though for each particular prompt its still a bit useless. One tip I will give is try to keep it as close to the real world as possible. For my galileo essay I literally had memorised the dates that certain prisoners were moved and the leadership structures of different prisons, and incorporated that into my essay. You don’t need to memorise these things but if you can get historically or currently accurate facts and put them in your essay, that would be great. Its a lot easier to model your creative essay after the real world than an entirely made up one.

STEP 3: should be a couple weeks from sac date now. much like in the text response stuff above, find a bunch of weird prompts, and write to them typed up and untimed, though limit yourself to one night per essay. The idea here is to basically copy your good generic essay into a new word doc, and try only to ADD sentences around your previous ones that nod to the prompt given (hence why you wanted it to be 15-20% under the word limit). Maybe get rid of some sentences when you find things are getting repeated with a better emphasis. For example, if its something about internal conflicts, in each of the three diary entries from a prisoner point of view, you would have at least a line already about the struggles of confinement and its toll on the prisoner already. Just add a few more sentences onto that and really highlight that notion. Keep the rest cos it makes for good story and helps paint a more well constructed creative world. Get each of these essays marked by a teacher/tutor and listen to the feedback. You might be under-acknowledging the prompt, or you might be sacrificing the details of the overall development of your story. You have to be careful in this sort of creative technique that you don’t repeat yourself too much and really try to find a bunch of different ways to incorporate the prompt into the plot. You should do like 5 essays on very different very weird prompts so that you have ironed out your techniques of modifying the original generic essay for each prompt. Feel free to go back and modify your generic template essay if you find better ideas that work really well. If you have accumulated a bunch of modifications to it then its probably worth resubmitting it to get marked. I know it sounds like heaps of stuff to get marked, but you really want to nail your prompt adaptation technique. Even if you just sit with a teacher for 15 minutes after school, or a tutor, that’s enough for them to read it and tell you “not enough of this” or “not enough of that” at the end of the day your template essay will be your basis, and this is about your technique in adapting to different prompts. I got to the point where I would make one of the English teachers that used to be a vcaa marker read my essays while they were on lunch duty, and it got to the point where it became a very blunt exchange where it would be read and I would be told “not enough of the prompt” “the story doesn’t sound as nice this time” “repeating yourself too much” “that’s just silly”. 15 minutes would be all it takes to get this part out of the way.

FINAL STEP: shouldn’t be further than 7 days before the sac and really shouldn’t be any sooner than 5 days before it. Get that 10/10 template essay at its most up to date marked form, and yep you guessed it. Re-write it, in its entirety, by hand, at least 5 times before the sac. Do the first attempt untimed but the rest timed. You are generally given a word limit guide for sacs though so its not like you can add heaps on if youre finishing way too quick and you cant take out much if youre taking way too long, you just have to write faster. Once again as above you shouldn’t have too many other subject commitments this week as you should have studied for them and prepared for them before this point knowing that this onslaught of essay writing was coming. By the time you have entirely re-written the essay at least 5 times timed, it should be memorised. Do it more times if you have the time to really solidify it. The idea in the sac is to know the generic template like the back of your hand, that same one you used for all those weird prompts, and just spit it out, and when you get to the points in it that are related to the prompt, you elaborate on that part of the story, so that it outweighs the rest, just as you did in the practice essays.
For my context sacs I wrote them on autopilot for the most part pretty much and it would hit a point where id write a sentence, and then be like “Oh hey that’s for this prompt” and then the next like 5 lines would just be hammering on that point and elaborating on it and making it more fruitful and just a more prominent part of the story. Then I’d turn autopilot back on. When I got to the general statements too at the start of diary entries or even paragraphs, I’d add in another sentence that was relevant to the prompt as well, then just wait again for the trigger sentences to come up. When you’ve really memorised an essay, its like having an itunes playlist you always listen to. When one song finishes, the next song starts playing in your head automatically. Its similar in memorising these essays but with sentences instead of songs. I dropped 1 mark on each of the context essays I did in school and they were both for handwriting.


Language Analysis
I cant help you here, and this is where I screwed up my chances of a higher score. I completely bombed the language analysis sac, and it was one of the first ones we did in year 12. I never bothered to learn how to do it properly after that as I was always worried about the next sac. I thought about going over it before exam time, but in our schoolwide practice exam in exam conditions, our exams got marked by a vcaa examiner and I got 9.5/10 for language analysis and I thought “huh guess I better not change anything”. That came back to haunt me when I got my marks at the end of the year. That’s where I stuffed up and could’ve gotten a higher mark.

Anyway, this was fun to write and did not take as long as you would think. People have already found it useful and though I might cop some flak for this, I may as well post it. Its just another resource to have. I wouldn’t recommend approaching English this way if you can avoid it, but if you are really desperate it worked for me and it has worked for others so far when I help them with it. Enjoy. There are spelling and grammatical errors in here Im sure but its so long I stopped worrying about it after a while.

Before the haters start (if they ever do), i'd just like to voice my support for a wall of text with controversial ideas, but also with ideas that are superbly backed up with logical reasoning and well thought out justification. These ideas are so well developed that I feel it's got quite a great chance of succeeding (as we've seen already) ^_^
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auds

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Re: How I went from a 40% student, to a 40 raw student in 6 months
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2015, 09:57:56 am »
0
Just wanted to confirm that this method does work. Personally I did something very similar for text and context, and I managed a 47 out of it :)
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keltingmeith

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Re: How I went from a 40% student, to a 40 raw student in 6 months
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2015, 02:48:02 pm »
+1
Alright, time to be the hater:

Does this method work? Of course it does - it's basically a "go hard or go home" way of learning about good writing.
Is this method a healthy method? Of course not - you need to attribute a large amount of time to just staring at one thing. You will get bored, you will have no life, you will hate it. As spectroscopy says, this is something you should *ONLY* even consider if you've tried everything else.

spectroscopy

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Re: How I went from a 40% student, to a 40 raw student in 6 months
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2015, 03:21:48 pm »
+1
Does this method work? Of course it does - it's basically a "go hard or go home" way of learning about good writing.
Is this method a healthy method? Of course not - you need to attribute a large amount of time to just staring at one thing. You will get bored, you will have no life, you will hate it. As spectroscopy says, this is something you should *ONLY* even consider if you've tried everything else.
yeah people should really keep this in mind before they try to do this for their next sac.
it should definitely be your last resort.

i think that most people who did english 1/2 wouldnt really even need to do this because you have that extra year to figure out what works for you and what doesnt, and you can avoid basically killing yourself with this methodology.

but if you have tried everything else, your grades are crap, and you really need to lift them to get into the course you want, then its up to you to decide whether this approach to english is worth the pain and throwing away some of your social life.

literally lauren

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Re: How I went from a 40% student, to a 40 raw student in 6 months
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2015, 04:42:39 pm »
+3
Alright, time to be the hater:

Does this method work? Of course it does - it's basically a "go hard or go home" way of learning about good writing.
Is this method a healthy method? Of course not - you need to attribute a large amount of time to just staring at one thing. You will get bored, you will have no life, you will hate it. As spectroscopy says, this is something you should *ONLY* even consider if you've tried everything else.

Absolutely. I know I have a reputation for shooting down rote-learners, but if you're at the end of your wits then it's only pragmatic to wrangle what you can by using and adapting flexible ideas.

Note that this should be fairly close to a last resort though; people who go into the year thinking 'imma memorise a few essays and churn out the most relevant one' will automatically limit their potential. Nonetheless, I'd encourage everybody to read the whole post. A lot of thought and planning has to go into this method in order to do it properly, and it's never as simple as memorising whichever essays scored highest and then replicating them verbatim in assessment.

Without casting too much drizzle over this parade, though: there are more efficient ways of studying, and for every person for whom memorising a piece pays off, there'll be tens of students who did exactly the same thing, but were just unlucky with prompts on the day.

I do believe there is a middle ground here. Going into the exam only willing to write what you've written before is obviously foolish, but so is going in thinking you're capable of responding with complete originality. There's a reason the exam isn't devised of completely unseen material like the GAT; you've read the books, you've written practice essays, and you're expected to put that prior understanding and expertise to good use. But you need a good grasp on the task in order to adapt your ideas properly.

I'd be lying if I said there weren't phrases/ sentences in my exam essays that I hadn't written before in some other practice piece. Hell, I think my Context intro and conclusion were damn near word for word.

I usually see it as the difference between walking into the exam room with four ideas per essay, and writing on those four no matter what, vs. having 20 ideas and being able to choose the four best ones. Arguably this can be just as much work, but it's a safer way to get a potentially bigger payoff.

Cheat the system however you see fit - just be aware of what you're doing... 'plan for the worst, hope for the best' as they say :)