BlogEnglishHow to Ace Your End of Year VCE English Exams

How to Ace Your End of Year VCE English Exams

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The thought of sitting your end of year VCE English Exam can be daunting.

Exam season always seems so far away but it’s here before you know it — not to mention, English exams often start it all off! 

The VCE English Exam tests your understanding of assigned texts as well as the language used in contemporary articles. It is a 3 hour exam with 15 minutes reading time, requiring a total of 3 responses to various texts. Sounds like a marathon doesn’t it?

What if we told you that there are ways to make it easier? 

We’ve summarised some tips and tricks to start getting you prepared for your VCE English Exam right from the get-go!

Let’s dive right in! 

Tip #1: Know your texts inside out! 
Tip #2: Compile a Quote Bank 
Tip #3: Read the News! 
Tip #4: Plan out Essay Topics 
Tip #5: Complete Practise Exams  
Tip #6: Take Care of Yourself 

Tip #1: Know your texts inside out! 

For your VCE English Exam, you’ll have to write an analytical piece on one selected text as well as a comparative essay based on two other texts.

The purpose of these responses is for you to show the examiners your understanding of the texts, by bringing out key themes and ideas through skilful analysisIn order to do this, you need to have a clear and thorough understanding of the texts on which you are going to write your responses come exam day. 

Reading the text multiple times is a good way to truly understand the storyline — upon the second read, you can pick up intricacies which allow you to paint a clear picture of what is happening!

Make sure you’re prepared for everything that the VCE English Language Study Design throws at you and read our complete guide here!

As well as this, close analysis is vital when it comes to unpacking the VCE English Exam texts.

This is done by choosing a significant scene or turning point in the text and looking for symbols and textual features, as well as character and author motives.

It’s simply not enough to skim the texts as you will miss all the key points that would otherwise make up your analysis. 

For example, look at this interaction between Wilkins, Gosling and Rosalind in Anna Ziegler’s play Photograph 51. The ‘senior common room’ actually symbolises more than it initially seems to:

WILKINS: (Matter-of-fact.) “I eat in the senior common room.” 

ROSALIND: “That’s where we’ll go then.”

WILKINS: “That’s the thing.” 

ROSALIND: “What’s the thing?” 

WILKINS: “It’s for men only. (Quote from Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler) 

GOSLING: It’s not like biophysicists have such great conversations at meals anyway. They tend to just talk about the work. They never take a break. 

ROSALIND: But those are precisely the conversations I need to have. Scientists make discoveries over lunch. 

Also studying Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler for VCE English? Check out our complete summary, themes and analysis of Photograph 51 here!

A closer look reveals:

The “senior common room”symbolically represents the barring of women in daily life, as Rosalind is denied the opportunity to participate in valued discussion, told it is for “men only”. Through this exclusion, Ziegler highlights the difficulties that Rosalind and women alike must face in order to transcend the boundaries enforced by men in a predominantly patriarchal society. 

Classroom - VCE English Exam

Tip #2: Compile a Quote Bank 

Both your analytical and comparative responses in the VCE English Exam require you to use all sorts of evidence from the text.

Evidence comes in the form of quotations as well as stage directions in the case of a play.

Tip: Keep note of these and unpack them throughout the year. You can come back and refer to them when it comes time to write practice essays.

Remember, simply writing out the quotes is not enough, you also need to unpack the quote to find why and how it has been used.

Your analysis should:

  1.  Analyse what the quote means in relation to the big ideas of the text. What is the author is trying to convey through the evidence? Why have they used it in that particular part of the text?
  2. Identify which characters are involved as well as their attitudes and intentions.
  3. Take note of which underlying theme the quote comes under.

By compiling the quotes in this way, you will have plenty of evidence to refer to when you are given any topic!

Take a closer look at the quote said by Wilkins in Photograph 51:

WILKINS: “It’s for men only.”

Themes and Ideas: Patriarchal Power/Society, Female Oppression in the Scientific World 

Character’s Views/Intention: Wilkins, as a man living in a largely patriarchal society, feels that he is justified for excluding Rosalind as he is accustomed to only seeing and interacting with men in the senior common room and feels it should remain that way. 

Author’s Views/Intention: Ziegler utilises this quote to pinpoint the extent to which patriarchal views have been embedded into the society of the time and its consequential impacts for the coexisting women such as Rosalind. 

Now if you’re looking for existing quote banks, we’ve got you covered for a range of VCE English texts below:

Tip #3: Read the News! 

This might sound like an unconventional tip, but remember that one of the three essays you will be asked to write is an argument analysis on a heavily debated issue.

By reading the opinion section of the local newspaper (such as The Age or The Herald Sun), you’ll get sufficient exposure to opinion articles. Whilst reading these articles you should try and identify the key features that make up an argument analysis.

Want a deeper dive into the essentials of your VCE argument analysis? Check out our extensive guide to acing your argument analysis here!

The type of opinion article you’re reading, the author and their credentials, the arguments made by the author as well as the persuasive techniques used to convince the audience of their stance on the issue are all key features you should take notice of in an argument analysis.  

By identifying these things, you’ll know where and how to look for these key features when you are presented with an article for the first time on exam day.

As well as this, you gain knowledge of the issues currently debated in the media allowing you to draw connections if a similar article pops up on the exam!


Tip #4: Plan out Essay Topics for Your VCE English Exam

Practise essays as we know them is a great way to prepare for the VCE English Exam, however, simply planning them out is just as useful. 

To find essay prompts and topics, check out our complete master list of VCE English past papers here!

The exam essay topics will only be given on the day.  So, you must be well prepared in order to face whatever question the exam may throw at you.

To do this you need to expose yourself to many practise questions as possible.

Writing an essay for every one of these is impractical given that you must balance several VCE subjects at once — not to mention, it’ll drain you out by overworking! 

Instead, compiling a list of practice questions in a word document and planning them out is the best way to ensure you have a good idea of the type of questions which may come up on the exam.

In your plan, make sure you include all details necessary to write the essay:

  • The topic sentences of your arguments
  • The supporting evidence from the text, including quotes and any text features that can be used in that argument

Extract of VCE English Essay

Extract of Essay Plan for a Comparative Response to ‘The Penelopiad’ and ‘Photograph 51.’  

If you find yourself struggling with preparing for your exams, we’re here to help! We can assist with 1 on 1 English tutoring support in Melbourne.

Tip #5: Complete Practice VCE English Exams  

Whilst the VCE English exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes in total, it doesn’t seem so long when you have to plan and write out 3 full responses in the allocated time.

Therefore, it is important to test your abilities under timed conditionsTo do this, you can complete practice exams.

The texts will usually change over the years and as study designs change — so, you might only have one to two VCAA past papers to try.

However, you can also access company papers and ask your teachers to get your hands on all practise exams available.  

Sitting down and writing for 3 hours can be difficult. Often, students run out of time in section C submitting an average or incomplete response!

It is therefore important to get used to these conditions and figure out for yourself how much time you want to allocate to each section. This is vital in successfully completing the VCE English Exam.

The Iliad

Tip #6: Take Care of Yourself 

Whilst preparing as best as you can for your exam is important, you should never compromise your health.

At the end of the day, taking care of your health will allow you to perform your best come exam day!

This includes:

  • Taking breaks when necessary 
  • Getting adequate sleep 
  • Fuel your body 
  • Having fun 

And That’s It, Preparing for your VCE English Exam has never been easier! 

Check out more of our VCE English resources here:

Are you looking for some extra help with preparing for your VCE English end of year exams?

We have an incredible team of VCE tutors and mentors! Check out our expert VCE tutors in Glen Waverley!

We can help you master the VCE English study design and ace your upcoming VCE assessments with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or online!

VCE English can be quite a challenge! Getting support can push you to be your best and unlock your potential! Check out our VCE tutors in Cranbourne!

We’ve supported over 8,000 students over the last 11 years, and on average our students score mark improvements of over 20%!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational VCE tutor and mentor, get in touch today or give us a ring on 1300 267 888!

Abhisha Vaheesan completed her VCE in 2021 and is currently an undergraduate student studying Bachelor of Radiography and Medical Imaging (Honours) at Monash University. As much as she is invested in Biology and putting together the building blocks of life, she is equally immersed in debating the conflicts of modern literature. Aside from this, she loves listening to music, is an avid writer and K-drama fanatic.

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