Chinese SL Units 3/4 is a very difficult subject. You should only take this subject if you are interested or talented in this area, if you might use Chinese skills in your future life (e.g. for business or diplomatic reasons) or you absolutely must achieve direct scholarship entry into Medicine. Do not take this subject merely for the bonus scaling, especially if you find it boring. You will be subjecting yourself to one year of misery and frustration.

There is a rumour that Chinese SL is dominated by Australian-born students with a Chinese-speaking background who have spent the majority of their lives going to Chinese School every weekend. This rumour is surprisingly and disturbingly true. This means there is an enormous disadvantage for students without a Chinese background, especially since their competition can speak Chinese at home to their parents every day and gain practice effortlessly. This is a loophole that many Australian-born Chinese (or ABCs) have taken up, including myself. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when someone wanting to do Chinese asks me about this ‘rumour’. However, as long as this loophole is available, countless ABCs will take up the subject. If you do not feel confident competing against them, leave this subject and let them batter their brains out by competing against themselves; at least until this loophole is fixed.

Okay, now that I am done ranting, I will give you some tips in case you are doing this subject:


General Conversation – I recommend you type out all the potential questions (which your teacher will supply you) and all your prepared answers on computer. Typing on computer is actually much faster than writing it out once you get the hang of it.

Detailed Study – Same as the GC, type this out.

Use the computer to help you figure out the pinyin (how to pronounce characters or phrases). To do this, highlight the Chinese (Mandarin) characters in Microsoft Word and select Format –> Asian Layout –> Phonetic Guide. This will give you the pinyin for each character and the ‘tone’ that is required. I am not sure if you have to install Chinese on your computer first before you can do this, because I installed Chinese a very long time ago. Early on, I had a problem where the pinyin would not appear even if Chinese was installed. I found a helpful guide on a website called Pinyin Joe which fixed this problem.

For much of the year, you will be focussing on the Oral Exam. While this is important, remember that the Written Exam is just as important as the Oral (perhaps even more important, although I am not sure how it is weighted).

My teacher recommended that we mainly go for persuasive and evaluative pieces. This is logical because other pieces, such as an imaginary piece, give far more room for the assessors to disagree on. Memorise all the forms of essays and memorise typical introductions and conclusions.

In writing essays with a 250-character limit, my teacher recommended that we aim to write 240 characters. This gives us plenty of opportunity to express our thoughts, and also leaves a safety buffer in case we miscount our characters and we go over the limit. As soon as your essay reaches 250 characters, the assessor will stop reading. This means if you go over the limit, your essay will not be fully read and will be regarded as incomplete. My teacher also suggested placing commas and full stops in the same box as the preceding character.

Further Information

For more tips, see this VCE Chinese article on VCE Help.

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