The thought of the end of year VCE English examination might seem daunting with it not only being the first exam you take, but also three hours of writing each VCE text response!
We’ve broken down the three different styles of text response in the VCE English examination paper — Sections A, B and C.
For each section, we’ve provided you with some tips and kick-starting your preparation for what is to come.
Let’s dive in!
What is a VCE Text Response?
A VCE text response is the act of writing a piece in which engages with the appropriate material from the VCE English syllabus.
Depending on the style of the response, you will engage with different thematic properties and analysis of each text.
You will practise these skills throughout the year and identify both your strengths and areas that need more attention with each essay you write.
It is helpful to look towards the end of year exam no matter where you reside within the school year as a clear understanding of the exam structure and what is being asked of you will help to mitigate any surprises.
If you need support writing a VCE text response, our incredible team of Melbourne tutors can help you out!
Section A – Your Analytical Interpretation of a Text
The first text response within your VCE English examination will require you to pick a text in which you have studied thoroughly in Unit 3 and write your own analytical interpretation of the text.
The exam will provide two essay questions for each text and you will choose one to respond to.
How To Structure Your VCE Text Response For Section A
Your introduction will outline the rest of your analytical interpretation.
It should be clear and precise, setting you up for a cohesive essay to follow.
The first sentence should introduce the author, text and date of the analytical text in a broad affirmation of your contention.
The rest of your introduction should provide a sentence in which you signpost the following body paragraphs you are going to write, illustrating the significance of each paragraph.
You will conclude your introduction with a sentence confirming your stance within the analytical interpretation.
Your introduction should be simple, it is there to provide the examiner with an overview of what you will write about and how your thesis statement will be validated through your analysis. The more concise, the better.
Depending on what you have practised throughout the year, you will focus on three or four different body paragraphs within Section A.
You will incorporate an analysis of the author’s intent and your own take on the text, utilising quotes, paraphrasing, themes and motifs from the text.
Analytical interpretation entails the implementation of evidence in order to substantiate your argument. There are various structures in which can help to best argue your contention.
For example, the ‘Yes, No, However’ approach, although the choice of structure is not fixed. We suggest you talk through structural options with your teacher if you’re unclear with your current approach.
In terms of paragraph structure itself, the TEEL strategy is helpful in explaining the task of the analytical interpretation.
Topic Sentence: The topic sentence will provide a broad overview of the main idea explored throughout the analysis of each paragraph.
A concise topic sense is vital to the overall momentum and validity of your text response, it should consist of the essay topic itself in addition to your own overruling idea.
Explain/elaborate: After the topic sentence you will provide a closer explanation of the paragraph’s focus.
Through utilising the TEEL strategy, the structure will assist in limiting quantity over quality. Within the explanation you may draw on themes, motifs and techniques utilised by the author.
The explanation will work to validate your overall stance and reflect your thorough understanding of the text.
Evidence/examples: You will provide textual evidence in order to support your explanation and ideas. In order to support the quote itself, you will provide the page number it is quoted from.
It is important to minimise summary when providing evidence, it can be beneficial to implement quotes in which are between one and six words when writing practice text responses.
The textual evidence provided should illuminate your own contention, not distract from the explanation you have written.
Linking sentence: The linking sentence is essential to the overall flow of your text response, in a summation of the paragraph you are concluding, the final sentence can be a useful tool in alluding to the next idea you will discuss.
From here, you will repeat the TEEL structure throughout the paragraphs to follow.
Conclusion: Your conclusion will bring the analysis together in recognising what you have written about and reminding the examiner how your essay has progressed.
You should not introduce any new information within the conclusion, its role is to reaffirm the significance of your analysis. Your conclusion should not mimic your introduction, it should be a fresh summary of your text response.
Tip #1: Don’t Rush Your Planning
The exam might seem overwhelming at a first glance as there are questions on twenty different texts in the question booklet.
Take time to find the one you have prepared for and identify the options presented to you during the reading time.
If it becomes difficult to choose an essay question, take your time and think about your favourite themes and motifs to write about, then re-approach the two proposed essay questions on your second read through of the exam.
Once you have picked a topic, you will begin to visualise relevant quotes and formulate a structure for your analytical interpretation text response in your head.
Tip #2: Practise Writing Essay Plans
You have fifteen minutes of reading time to visualise quotes and patterns.
To make the most of your time, you need to have the ability to formulate a plan for your text response within a matter of minutes.
Throughout the year, an important skill you must learn is completing rough planning exercises within the reading time for each essay.
Time management is a large aspect of the VCE English exam. In other words, it’s in your favour to complete several plans when you study for your VCE text responses.
Tip #3: Set a 10 Minute Timer for Writing Practice Introductions
When preparing for the exam, it can be helpful to acquire a list of practice questions and set a timer for 10 minutes, attempting to write an introduction to the topic. Continue this until you see fit.
The exercise will allow you to regulate your time management, formulate various conclusions in the establishment of a wider scope of understanding recurring themes and allow you to become confident in beginning your essays.
Even if you do a couple, this exercise is quick and can be very helpful if you complete it every now and then!
Tip #4: Discuss With Your Friends
Understanding themes is an integral part to your interpretative analysis, it is the foundation in which you underlay your own utilisation of the text in the substantiation of your contention. Talk about themes with your friends!
Flesh out the ideas on a white board at lunch or on the weekend in the backyard.
The various themes should be more than familiar to you by the time of the examination and through becoming acquainted with the themes, you will discover which ones you like writing about.
Section B – A Comparative Analysis of Texts
Hour two, let’s do it!
The second text response within your VCE English examination will require you to construct an analysis based on a pair of texts you have studied. Therefore you will write a text response in which incorporates two different texts.
The first text will provide the basis of your analysis whilst the second text will embellish and assist the first in informing the contention.
You will choose a topic from the exam booklet, applying ideas and evidence from a pair of texts in order to best support your comparative analysis.
How To Structure Your VCE Text Response for Section B
Your introduction will establish both texts in order to provide the reader with an understanding of the material that informs the basis of your analysis.
It can be helpful to introduce both texts with either a point of similarity or difference in order to establish a clear contention from the beginning.
Moreover, you will signpost each argument and conclude the introduction with a thesis statement before diving in the first body paragraph.
Throughout your body paragraphs, you will establish meaningful interactions between Text A and Text B through the analysis of points of similarity, difference or a combination of both within each text.
You can maximise your analysis of the topic itself through a concise structure and plan whereby you allocate when and where you will integrate each text. For example:
Paragraph One: Focus on Text A and incorporate Text B towards the end.
Paragraph Two: Focus on Text B and reinforce Text A towards the end.
Paragraph Three: Equal Weight in the analysis of Text A and B, drawing on both to communicate your argument.
Note: When writing the body of the comparative text response, it is important to not lose sight of the topic in which you are responding to as the thoughtful incorporation of two different texts is a complex skill to master.
There is no formal way to structure the Section B text response although using the ‘Yes, No, However’ approach can be helpful in getting your head around the analysis.
The majority of the task itself can sometimes be establishing a structure for your piece in which best serves your arguments whilst providing scope for both Text A and B.
So, discussing the structure with your teacher and fellow peers is a good idea if you are unclear on the task itself.
The conclusion of your comparative piece should reinforce the overarching contention of your text response whilst drawing light on a couple of arguments made within the analysis.
It is important to not overcomplicate the conclusion. The conclusion should be a reminder to the examiner of how well your analysis of both texts has answered the topic and argued a stance on it.
Tip: Creating a quote bank and theme spreadsheet for the pair of texts you will be focusing on for the exam can be helpful in preparation for Section B.
By separating the comparative or contrasting themes between each text, it can help to organise your thoughts and have a solid foundation to refer back to when workshopping ideas and paragraphs.
From here, you will be able to recognise your favourite quotes and what works for you when exploring the pair of texts within your text response.
Section C – Argument and Persuasive Language
We’ve made it, hour three of your English exam!
The third and final text response within your VCE English examination will focus on your analysis of an article provided to you by the exam booklet, in your own interpretation of written, visual and physical persuasive techniques.
Throughout the text response, you will need to present an understanding of the arguments expressed, how the arguments present a point of view and how the visual and written language serves to reinforce the persuasive effect of the piece.
Using the reading time is pertinent for Section C!
You could be faced with a number of stimulus options including a newsletter, blog or opinion piece, it’s important to take the time to assess the excerpt in order to complete the text response adequately.
Tip: Scribble all over the piece once reading time finishes, underline aspects in which stick out and utilise the visual if you are provided with one! Think about colour, size and where the image is situated within the article; attention to detail is a blessing in your argument and persuasive language text analysis.
How To Structure Your Response For Section C
The introduction in Section C should outline the author, publication, title of the article and most importantly, the identified contention of the piece.
Signpost the target audience, subject matter, the identified arguments you will focus on, how the arguments are communicated and conclude with the thesis statement for the argument analysis.
You may structure body paragraphs in terms of the arguments you have identified within the piece.
By highlighting how the author implements specific techniques, you will put the best foot forward in terms of thorough and insightful analysis and not summary.
In order to complement your analysis and the evidence such as quotes or description of the visual stimulus, the identification of literary techniques can be wonderful in enhancing your response.
Close analysis of the author’s spin on the subject matter including the incorporation of finite details such as how alliteration for example may influence the opinion of the reader or affect the flow of the piece is gold!
Tip: Practise highlighting ten different persuasive techniques when interpreting practice media sources.
Training your eye for obscure and valuable pieces of detail is an amazing skill to have in the final section of your VCE English examination.
Adding a flair of individualism to your essay will catch the marker’s eye.
Practice having a fresh take on the piece. The more comfortable you are with finding your way around a potential stimulus source, the more comfortable you will be on the big day!
Remember your job for VCE Section C text response is to explain how language and visuals communicate a point of view.
You can prepare for your Section C response with daily activities such as reading the newspaper!
It is best to establish how you will structure Section C in addition to familiarising yourself with the literary techniques and persuasive techniques you can use to substantiate your analysis as the subject matter and form of the stimulus itself is uncertain until you are in the exam itself.
The Section C conclusion should provide a summation of how the stimulus has intended to influence the audience.
Drawing attention to the persuasive techniques you have analysed, your conclusion should be simple and clear.
Tying up the significance of your analysis, revisit the contention whilst being mindful of using different vocabulary and therefore showcasing your understanding of the arguments and overarching contention presented.
And, that’s all!
Breathe! Once you’ve applied all our tips, you’ll be several steps closer to write amazing text responses.
Check out more VCE resources here:
- Everything You Need to Know from the VCE English Language Study Design
- How VCE Subject Scaling Works and How It Can Impact Your ATAR
- What You Should Consider When Selecting Your VCE Subjects
- How to Analyse All the Light We Cannot See for HSC and VCE English
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Evie Warnes is a Content Writer for Art of Smart and a current undergraduate student, completing her final year at the University of Melbourne. She studies a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Criminology and minoring in Indigenous Studies. In her free time she loves to walk, create videos and hang out with friends. After graduating, Evie hopes to do a Post-Grad in Film and Television and travel overseas.