2008 VCE English exam resources

Well the count-down is on to the first major exam; English. Some of you may have already started your exams in the form of music or drama - I hope you blitzed them!

However today's article is solely focussed on preparing for the English exam.

Here are 3 great resources to help you with the VCE English Exam -

1. VCE English Text Talk archive: list of The Education Age's text talk articles since 2001

2. The VCAA website:

The VCE English curriculum information.

The 2008 VCE English Exam information (including the sample exam paper for 2008):

3. Playing it by the book - VCE English Exam article

The following article appeared in the THE AGE VCE EXAM GUIDE -- Monday, September 8, 2008. It relates to the English Exam and I found it highly useful so enjoy.

Sourced directly from:

" Examiners are looking for insight and relevance. By Bob Hillman."
The 2008 English examination not only affords students the opportunity of demonstrating their skills and knowledge gained from their work in Units 3 and 4, it also draws on the accumulated competences in English over many years.

Students have three hours for writing time plus fifteen minutes of reading time. The examination is divided into three distinct sections and each of these sections is equal in assessment weighting. Students should spend approximately one hour on each section.

It is important that each piece of writing is a completed product, so students should ensure that they have had sufficient practice in planning, writing and checking their work under exam conditions.

Students are allowed to bring a dictionary (but not a thesaurus) into the examination and the dictionary may be used during the reading time. Wise students will ensure they have an appropriate dictionary which may be used for clarification of terms used in the examination and to check spelling.

It is certainly wise for students to plan each response before writing and there is sufficient space for students to make notes and create a plan on the left hand side of the booklet pages. It is important to remember, however, that assessors are evaluating the finished written pieces and not the notes and plans.

In 2008 there are three distinct pieces of writing required and each has its own expectations and criteria.

Section A - Text Response

Throughout the year, students have studied two texts from a list of twenty, published by the VCAA for study in Reading and Responding. In the examination, there will be a choice of two topics for each text. Students are to select ONE of the two texts studied throughout the year and then select ONE of the two topics offered for that text. Students must write the name of the selected text on the front of the examination script book and tick the box for the topic chosen (i or ii) inside the script book.

It is expected that students have a thorough and insightful understanding of the ideas, characters and themes constructed and presented in their text and that they demonstrate that knowledge by making appropriate detailed reference to the text throughout their response.

In 2008 there has been greater emphasis on analysis of the structures, features and conventions used by the author to construct meaning, and on readers' different interpretations. Those students who are able to incorporate this level of exploration in their discussion, demonstrating how it adds meaning to the text and topic, will be rewarded.

Assessors are looking for fluent, controlled writing which understands the implications of the topic, shows sophisticated insights into the text and is lively and fresh in its presentation.

Section B - Writing in Context

The focus of Section B is writing. Good writing, however, can only be achieved with good ideas and this section of the examination offers students the opportunity of presenting ideas they have considered throughout the year in their selected Context.

Teachers have selected one of four Contexts offered by the VCAA to explore throughout the year. Within each Context, students have been required to study two texts which have enhanced their understanding of the Context itself.

Students will be given a prompt for each Context which will provide the direction for their piece of writing.

The given Task provides the purpose and audience for the writing.

It is important to understand that there is no expected response. Assessors will mark the piece of writing based on the quality of the writing, the quality of the ideas and the demonstrated capacity to deal with the prompt.

It is expected that throughout the year students have been given the opportunity for a range of different approaches to writing and each student must then make a decision about their approach to writing given the prompt, the task and the skills of the student.

One approach to writing is not preferable to another. A particular approach will not necessarily be more successful than another. It is the quality of the writing and the quality of ideas that are the key criteria.

On the front of the Section B booklet, students must nominate both their Context and one of the texts from the VCAA list which they believe their piece of writing is most informed by. Assessors will have an excellent working knowledge of the texts and will be able to distinguish how a piece of writing has been informed by the nominated text.

Naturally, the discussions that have taken place in the classroom throughout the year mean that numerous sources will have influenced a student's insights into the Context. But students must make a decision about the text which most informs their piece of writing and nominate that text on the front cover of the booklet.

The degree of textual detail employed by students in their writing will vary according to the approach to writing that has been adopted. It may be appropriate, in some cases, to quote directly from a text, or it may be that the detail from the text is implicit. Either is desirable dependent on the approach to writing determined by the prompt, the task, and the student.

The VCAA rules state that a student must not write about more than one film as their primary text in Section A and Section B. If a student nominates a film for Section A, then they must NOT have a film as the primary basis for their Section B piece of writing. Ultimately, assessors are looking for a lively, well informed piece of writing that demonstrates insightful perceptions into the Context while dealing with the prompt.

Section C - Language analysis Students will be presented with one or more pieces of written and visual material in this final Section of the examination. The purpose of this Section is to demonstrate an understanding of the way written and visual language is used to persuade readers, listeners or viewers of a point of view.

The most successful responses will be able to contextualise the material and demonstrate an understanding of how language is being used.

There is no "expected" response and students will make decisions about which parts of the material offer them the best opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of how language is used to convey ideas about an issue. Thus responses will be quite different.

It is expected that students are able to show how any visual material adds meaning and implication to the material as a whole within the context of the issue presented. Students should avoid listing or simplistically labelling persuasive techniques, but rather look closely at the language and imagery created by the writer in attempting to influence the reader.

Responses should be in the form of a single, fluent, well ordered essay, employing the appropriate conventions for a successful piece of writing.

Students who understand the distinctions among the three separate tasks required, and who use their time wisely in the examination to complete three intelligent, well structured pieces of writing, will have the confidence to show off the skills and knowledge they have gained throughout their study.

(See for Sample Examination, Exam Criteria, Frequently Asked Questions, and samples of writing)

Bob Hillman is a VCE assessor."

Sourced directly from:

More subject specific articles can be found in the THE AGE VCE EXAM GUIDE 2008 archive.

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