Download my English Notes in zipped file format.
Included in these notes:
My speech for SAC 1
Language Analysis Notes
Sometimes Gladness Quotes
The Catcher in the Rye Quotes
Richard III Quotes
Richard III – Essay on humour
NB: You will need Adobe Reader to view these files.
English is a strenuous and challenging subject in Year 12. Some may enjoy it immensely and others may feel that it is a complete waste of time in learning things that are impractical. My stance is somewhere in the middle. Some things you learn in English are completely useless, while others actually have practical application in life. For example, after doing this subject, you can easily recognise when the media is trying to manipulate you and what persuasive techniques they are trying to employ. You will realise that there is a lot of gibberish on shows like A Current Affair and Today Tonight. Also, by writing in general, you will increase your vocabulary, which will no doubt aid you in daily life. The Austrian philosopher and professor Ludwig Wittgenstein said: “The limits of my language are the limits of my mind.”
In the study design of 2010, English had 6 school assessed coursework components.
|Speech||19/20||Practice your speech many times. Learn 75% of your speech off by heart or better still, memorise it all.|
|Media/language analysis||16.5/20||Annotate articles heavily and, when planning for the essay, list the contention, purpose, tone and audience.|
|Text response I||23/30||When reading the text, highlight and write between the margins.|
|Imaginary||21/30||Prepare 3 or 4 stories that you can choose between on the day.|
|Text response II||37/50|
The exam I did was 3 hours and an additional 15 minutes reading time. The exam comprised of three essays to write.
The text I did was Richard III. I do not normally like Shakespeare’s plays, but this one was an exception. It is a joy to write about and the context of the play is also quite interesting. Shakespeare provides some masterful insights into human psychology in this play. In preparation for the text response, I read the text for the second time and did a handful of practice essays (perhaps 6 or 7), with 3 under timed conditions (60 minutes for the essay).
Writing in context (expository/imaginary essay)
My teacher recommended choosing the expository option on the exam. I think the idea is that it is much easier for potential examiners to disagree whether a creative piece is good or not. In comparison, expository essays tend to be more agreeable for the assessors. Prepare at least two texts to use for the expository piece. I know the study design says you only have to use one source, but knowing two pieces well will allow the examiner to recognise the amount of effort you put in. In preparation for the expository section of the exam, I studied Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and had good knowledge of four poems from Dawe’s Sometimes Gladness. In the actual exam, I ended up writing about The Catcher in the Rye and two of the poems I had prepared.
I found this section the most annoying one. For me, it is too boring and systematic. What I did was chronologically go through 5 or 6 powerful persuasive techniques used in the piece. It is preferable to have a linking sentence when you transition from analysing one technique to another, e.g. ‘the writer complements his use of imagery with a juxtaposition’. Remember that you must analyse the accompanying image or you will be marked down. I also highly recommend you discuss the headline, by-line and, if it is a website, the layout of the website. One obscure persuasive technique that I loved to mention is called the straw man. This is where the writer builds up the argument for something, only to knock it down to create greater effect for his own argument.
One thing I felt was very helpful was setting up a time plan. Here is my time layout for each hour-long essay (you may choose to change it slightly so that it will have greater use for you):
7 minutes planning
6 minutes introduction
(12 minutes body paragraph) x 3
6 minutes conclusion
5 minutes proofreading
In the actual English exam, I tried to stay within 0-3 minutes of this time range. Writing time started at 9:15am, so when we were allowed to start writing, I jotted down when I should be finished each item, i.e.
9:22am Finished planning for first essay
9:28am Finished body paragraph 1 for first essay, etc.
You should plan extensively for your essays, especially if you are not doing it under timed conditions. This will allow you to understand a text much more deeply. I liked to write down key quotes that I was going to use in my essay, otherwise I tended to forget to use them.
Proofreading your work is an excellent habit. You will catch out spelling errors, punctuation errors and awkward phrasings, and can correct them. This is especially important in the end-of-year exam. When we are under pressure, we are very likely to make mistakes such as leaving out a word. Even if the sentence was a masterpiece, if we leave an important word out, then the sentence may make no sense and will leave a negative impression on the examiner.
My friend had a peculiar idea of using ‘pen weights’. He would sticky tape a rubber to the top of his pen so that the pen’s weight was increased. The idea is that, with constant writing, the muscles in his hands would build up and this will allow him to write more in the exam without getting so tired. I didn’t try this idea, but it does seem logical.
If you can afford it, buy an electronic dictionary. This saves so much time in looking up words or synonyms and will encourage you to expand your vocabulary.
You should have read each of your texts at least twice before the English exam. Reading a text for the second time will give you special insights that were impossible to notice on your first reading.
SparkNotes is a wonderful free online study guide to your texts. They cover every text I studied in VCE. Save the articles on your computer or even print them out and annotate them.
English Language is a subject that you do not hear much about in Year 10 or 11. Some schools don’t even offer it, but if your school does, you should consider this subject. If you dislike normal English, perhaps you will find English Language is better suited to you. While it is a somewhat obscure subject, plenty of people have done well with it. I have personally talked to two people who achieved 99.95 and another who achieved 99.85 while having done English Language as their only English subject. In 2009, English Language had a higher scaling bonus above Literature, which means that you are competing against tougher opposition if you choose this subject. On the other hand, the bonus scaling acts as a sort of insurance policy because the more mistakes you make, the higher your scaling bonus will be.
At my school, only English Language units 2-4 were available. If you wanted to do it, you had to choose the English/English Language hybrid subject in Year 11. I think this is a good idea because at the end of Year 11, you have better insight on whether you want to choose English Language or stick with traditional English. However, if you forgot to consider this subject properly and you’re stuck in normal English, don’t worry – you are in the same situation I was in at the start of Year 12.