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September 27, 2021, 07:31:52 am

Author Topic: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam  (Read 18124 times)  Share 

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EvangelionZeta

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EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« on: October 01, 2010, 11:22:53 am »
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As we approach D-Day, I've started to notice the same sorts of questions pop up repeatedly in threads.  As a result, I think it would be prudent to compile common concerns, and address them with one sticky topic - so here goes.

Dear EZ: What do I do?

One of the most common concerns of people is "How do I study for English?".  Fair enough.  Unlike maths or science, it doesn't seem like you can just jump straight into an exam, mark it yourself, and work out approximately what study score you'll get.  So where to begin?

Genesis: The Beginning

Initially, I would recommend you work out where you stand in regards to the three tasks required of you - language analysis, context, and text response.  The former is arguably the only one which can be approached in a science/maths sort of fashion, something which I will go into later.  For the context and the text part of the exam however, what you need to do is reflect upon how much you actually know - can you list all of the major scenes in your texts (for both context and text response) off the top of your head?  Do you remember quotes?  Can you pick out the major themes for the prompts you're going to get?  If no is the answer to these questions, it's time for some note-making to occur.

In terms of notes, English actually doesn't need to be that detailed, save for perhaps the quote sheet.  In my experience, it's easiest to start by looking at old/company exam prompts; some of the are horrendeous (for instance, the prompt "How do Richard's soliloquies influence the audience's response to the play?" in the Kilbaha 2009 exam is too narrow to come up unless the VCAA wants to screw you over), but on the whole you can probably glean from them the commonly occuring "themes" which occur.  In Whose Reality, for instance, you'll often find that topics relate to how our realities our formed (with a special focus on subjectivity, memory, illusion and relationships) and the results of differences occuring within our realities (usually conflict or misunderstanding).  

Language Analysis: The Unloved Child

I should point out before I get too detailed that language analysis is, first of all, probably the worst part of the English exam, and secondly, the easiest.  Everything from here onwards pretty much applies to language analysis (minus most of the notemaking part), but in less detail.  If you're not too good on language analysis terms, read one of the various guides on the forum - they're all great resources.  You won't need to spend as much time working on language analysis, but it's absolutely essential you start off by writing the essays with no constraints, so that you can perfect whichever "formula" you intend on using.  As soon as you have your "formula" perfected, go write a bunch of timed ones, until you can do a "perfected formula" response to time.  After that, write one every so often, but concentrate more on the other two tasks, since they're much more complicated and require more thought to succeed in.  Godspeed.

The Manipulator: Making the Notes

Moving on from that segue, after you've identified the common themes of the various prompts, the next stage is to work out exactly what kind of arguments you'll need, and what kind of evidence you'll need to support it.  To be honest, I'd recommend tackling a few of the easier looking essay prompts first before doing anything else - that way, you work out what kind of quotes are easy to use, and what kind of arguments flow most naturally when writing.  When you've done a handful of such essays (I usually moved on after three), I would then begin to compile a set of notes.  You can, of course, plagarise your own work - in fact, my quote sheet for Richard III was essentially just copy-pasting all the quotes I had used in three essays and a set of thirty comprehension/analysis questions which my teacher had set.  By the same token, note down points you've used before (especially in Context, where each text will only really lend itself to being used for half a dozen points at most if you're not doing Creative), and set them all out in a document, for easy reference.

Study Scores: Revenge of the Essays

With this process done, it's easiest to go back to writing more essays.  I would actually recommend against "memorising" anything until the final two or three weeks before the exam (in fact, I consciously tried to memorise my Classics quotes in the last week before the exam) - in the process of compiling notes and writing essays, you actually come to remember things, so it's unnecessary to try and remember things until you KNOW you need to work to remember them.  

Of course, there's more to it this time.  In the process of writing the essays following the note process, it's absolutely essential (even moreso than before) that you get your work marked, whether it be by your teacher or (failing that) somebody whom you know, like a tutor or even people on VCENotes.  This is because you want to "perfect" your work - I would allow for redrafting and spending unrealistic amounts of time writing, and at this stage I would definitely recommend avoiding writing to time.  The easiest way to explain why is by analogy: writing a lot of "dumb" essays at this stage is like sifting through a dark, smelly hole to find the light of camembert cheese.  Writing a lot of "perfected" essays is, in contrast, more akin to making the cheese yourself in the middle of a gourmet cheese kitchen (or wherever they make cheese).  Sure, you might randomly find some camembert one day wandering around (provided you don't die first from a lack of nourishment and sunlight), but growing the camembert yourself will allow you to replicate its process, until gradually, even in the middle of a dark, smelly hole, you can do it using the moulds which grow on cave walls or something.

Just an extra note that by "perfect", I don't mean that it has to be a 10/10.  Obviously, different people will "max out" at different numbers - what I mean is that you should get to a level where you feel satisfied, before you proceed to the next stage.

Time: The Next Frontier

Ignoring my almost pointless analogy, you should maintain your untimed essay writing until say, the end of the term 3 holidays (which, at the time of writing, is around now).  I'm not suggesting you should NEVER have written a timed essay by this point - I'd expect you to have done so in class, but if not, I guess do one or two earlier in the year to get the hang of it.  

Anyway, following your "perfecting" of your essays (and even if you aren't getting the scores you want by this stage), I would start to write to time.  Don't begin with the exact exam time - allow yourself maybe half an hour extra at the start if you REALLY need it, and gradually work your way up.  You don't want to throw yourself into the deep end too quickly - like a Pokemon, gradually build your skills from fighting level 20s, then levels 30s, instead of jumping right into the Elite Four.  Maybe try a practice exam with two or three weeks to go to see how you are with writing essays progressively.  This might be sounding like it's leaving it a bit late, but as long as you've had some practice beforehand, and as long as you've got "perfect" essays to work on, the speed-writing process should be made a bit faster, and hopefully, with three weeks to go, you can comfortably settle into the exam writing time.  My school has their practice exam two weeks before the actual one - this worked for me personally, but I would probably aim to do at least one three hour slogfest before the final two week run.  Don't overdo it though - to borrow my teacher's analogy, you don't want to train for a marathon by repeatedly running marathons.

Neon Genesis VCE English: The End of VCE English

By the last two or three weeks, you'll want to just keep practicing timing.  If it's really not working out (you're spending say, five-ten minutes more than you should), maybe cut back on your word count, but don't panic too much, since adrenaline in the exam will make you slightly faster (I went from finishing practice exams just in time in Classics to having about ten minutes leftover).  At the same time, try not to stress out to the point of figurative death - you don't want to work yourself up too hard before the big day, and in particular, you don't want to overwrite to the point where it all gets stale.

Once you feel fully confident (can't say when this will be for everyone, but for a couple of my friends it was around 10 timed essays in), it might be a better use of your time to write DETAILED plans instead of full essays.  This approach is actually quite useful, as it allows you to go through the same process as essay writing, with less emphasis on getting the writing done to time/quality (which you've already perfected) and more emphasis on mastering ideas.  The best way to go about this in my opinion is to write a full intro, topic sentences for every point, and then list the examples/quotes you're going to use under every point.  I know somebody who got 50 in the past, who wrote around 10-15 essays total, but something like 30 plans.  Crazy?  Perhaps.  Efficient?  Definitely.

The night before, just chill out, and don't stress too much.  It's time to start getting relaxed - you don't want to burn out right before the big three hours the next day.  Reread notes/essays/plans.  Memorise quotes.  Just don't stress, and don't write more essays.

On the day of the exam, take a deep breath and step in.  Calm yourself down beforehand and get a good night's sleep.  Make sure you use your reading time properly, and if you see an essay topic you've done/planned before, count yourself lucky, but don't get complacent.  Always make sure you work towards the nuances of what they are requiring of you.  The power is yours.

A Song of English and Concern: A Storm of Woes

What?  You want more?  Ok, here's a few miscellaneous comments to address common questions about the English exam.

To begin with, probably the most common (and controversial) query is how many words to write.  Personally, I would recommend 1000+ for all three (preferably 1200+ for Context and Text Response if you want the perfect 10s), but 800+ will probably suffice if you want to comfortably get an 8.  Something like a 9 or even a 10 is also doable (although 10s in particular are almost always of a considerable length) with such a number, but realistically, the longer an essay is, the more depth and content it can potentially have.  With that said, don't just write a lot for the sake of writing a lot - if you simply can't do it to time, or get 1000+ by padding out with pointless sentences, then you'd probably score better with less words.  

Second point, read the examiner's report, but remember that their samples are usually of the 8/10 level.  They might say that they're high scoring responses, but to get a 9 or a 10, you'll need to top what they provide you with.  Look at the work directory sticky to find essays written by people who have gotten in the mid-high 40s range - they are generally superior to what you will find on the VCAA website.

Thirdly, the issue of time may often be significant.  If you really feel concerned, start earlier than I have indicated.  Nevertheless, I stand by what I say in arguing that the best way to improve time is to write a lot of essays after having "perfected" what you are going to write.  Memorise if absolutely necessary.  Also, as an extra tip, I'd recommend not giving the same amount of time to your three essays - language analysis is generally accepted to be shorter, so ideally you'll spend only 50 or 55 minutes on it to allow for extra time with the other two.

Fourthly, this isn't really a query or even common, but I feel the need to vent.  Whilst you should take advantage of what is available on this forum, don't abuse it.  Exercise some independence in your studies - don't become clingy and annoying and entirely reliant on VCENotes.  I say this because I've had a few pms asking me specifically to mark work: whilst this is fine and dandy, don't abuse the kindness of others (ie. don't spam inboxes with requests...), but more importantly, be polite.  Personally, I for one am much more inclined to mark work from somebody who asks nicely, over somebody who is all "OMG MARK ME ESSAY PL0X".  

Finally, in regards to study guides and tutors, go for them by all means.  I would also highly recommend lynt.br, Shinny, costargh and Nick's guides, which are also stickied - all tfour are well written and contain pretty much everything you need to grapple with the course.  

Conclusion: 2000 Words Later

Remember, the VCE English Exam is not a monster.  It will not bite your head off.  You can conquer it through hard work, determination, and perhaps a bit of luck.  But also remember that it isn't really an indication of "real" English ability (well, I guess it sort of is), and that it's not the end of the world if you don't get an amazing score in it.  

Good luck.

"When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools." - King Lear, Act IV, Scene vi
« Last Edit: October 27, 2010, 07:38:49 pm by EvangelionZeta »
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vea

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2010, 11:28:52 am »
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+1, loved the headings!
This is going to be useful for my endeavours in english :)

EDIT: When I can karma again lol

EDIT2: [email protected] analogy, this guide is win in so many ways :p
« Last Edit: October 01, 2010, 11:38:32 am by vea »
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littlebecc

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2010, 12:06:09 pm »
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I...I think i love you.

shinny

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2010, 12:41:22 pm »
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Finally, in regards to study guides and tutors, go for them by all means.  I would also highly recommend Shinny, costargh and Nick's guides, which are also stickied - all three are well written and contain pretty much everything you need to grapple with the course. 

Thanks for mentioning mine but can't believe you forgot lynt.br's guide D: He writes with an almost identical structure to me so I'd definitely recommend it.
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Russ

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2010, 12:53:52 pm »
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Quote
A Song of English and Concern: A Storm of Woes

 :smitten:

Richiie

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2010, 12:56:59 pm »
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Very nice guide, hopefully now I can increase my chances of getting a high study score in English. =S
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EvangelionZeta

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2010, 06:46:43 pm »
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Finally, in regards to study guides and tutors, go for them by all means.  I would also highly recommend Shinny, costargh and Nick's guides, which are also stickied - all three are well written and contain pretty much everything you need to grapple with the course. 

Thanks for mentioning mine but can't believe you forgot lynt.br's guide D: He writes with an almost identical structure to me so I'd definitely recommend it.

Forgot!  I remember all of the sticky'd guides as being good, so I just listed the ones I saw.

-edits-
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jasonn93

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2010, 08:13:16 pm »
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great post, thank you!

tram

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2010, 09:15:47 pm »
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That made be laugh and feel ever more slight motivated (no mean feat given my rocky relationship with english)

Cheers EZ :)

Andiio

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2010, 09:29:20 pm »
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I love the Pokemon analogy.

The three starting pokemon could also be a metaphorical representation of each of the essays which need to be written in the exam - Lang Analysis, Context and Text. :) Levelling them up to level 100 = SS of 50.

Okay now I'm just rambling on -.-

In retrospect, a very well-written guide, very helpful. :)
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kakar0t

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2010, 09:31:44 pm »
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taiga

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2010, 09:33:11 pm »
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I'm one of the guys who always bugs EZ about marking my essays :D :D :D

MARK MY ESSAYS PL0X
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LachyMc

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2010, 11:53:32 pm »
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Awesome guide, cool titles and pokemon analogy, thanks for all the tips i will be sure to use them..cheers EZ

Also, taiga you really go 13 in geography last year?

8039

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2010, 02:00:11 am »
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How many essays should we realistically write?

EvangelionZeta

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Re: EvangelionZeta's Guide to Preparing for the English Exam
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2010, 11:16:49 pm »
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I'm aiming for about 20 overall!
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