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Is VCE English Language hard?

(10 mins) Is VCE English Language hard? Is VCE English Language the right subject for you? Have a read at Nicole's journey through VCE English Language, as she shares her insights into the challenges she faced, as well as many ways to overcome these challenges, ultimately taking home a Raw 45 study score.

Hi readers! I‘m Nicole, a past student of VCE Excel Education, and a high scorer (Raw 45) in VCE English Language.

As a student who’s been through VCE English language, I can honestly say that whether it is hard really depends on your strengths and interests. For me, and for many of my peers, it definitely posed some unique challenges.


In year 10, I found myself asking the same question while choosing subjects for VCE. After extensive research, determined that VCE English Language was a better fit for me. While this might not be the experience for everyone, I found little enjoyment in analysing novels and authors' intentions, a major focus of core English. However, I thoroughly enjoyed dissecting conversations, which is a key aspect of English Language. Opting for VCE English Language turned out to be one of the best decisions in my 18 years - I genuinely had a lot of fun, even though it was daunting at first.


What students found hard + tips and tricks for VCE English Language?


Before I move on to more specific tips, here are some general tips for VCE English Language


  1. Students found it hard to find interest and enjoy VCE English language, leading to the loss of motivation. Without genuine interest, staying engaged with the seemingly complex material becomes a chore, making it really difficult to invest the time and effort needed to grasp concepts deeply.

Try to be curious and passionate about VCE English Language. I know itsounds nerdy, but make it FUN. Expand your analytical skills to linguistics inthe real world. Every spoken or written explanation carries an underlyingpurpose, whether it be deliberate or subconscious. If you're not sure what theunderlying purposes are, perhaps think about the factors that influence thelanguage that people use. By asking more "why does that matter"questions, you're developing a genuine interest in the topic.


  1. Students often struggle to figure out what to improve on and are limited in their exposure to different perspectives.

Find a study group discuss and read through one another's work. It provides a new perspective, where your mates can provide new insights. Furthermore, while reading through your mates' work and scanning for which parts can be improved, you're also indirectly improving your own skills. A study group also keeps you accountable and more motivated. It's also important that the study group is not too large (for me I only had my work peer assessed by one friend) because things can get messy or distracting. For me, I had a shared google drive with my friend and we would both upload our works and peer review them.


  1. One of the challenges of VCE English language is the need to stay informed about current events and contemporary issues, as this knowledge can significantly bolster your ACs and essays. Most students encounter difficulties in incorporating current, real-world examples into their essay, leading to flimsy, unconvincing arguments.

Read. Read news. Read sample essays and ACs. Read your mates' work. This is where you can enhance your written skills and gain fresh ideas to expand upon. Any news websites work, but my favourite are ABC and The Conversation.


  1. Many students find VCE English language challenging due to the varied skills required for each section of the examination. Some struggle to adapt to each section and hit the nail on what the examiner is looking for.

Understand the structure of the examination. To excel in English language, it's essential to understand the structure of the examination. The exam comprises three different sections: (A) short answer, (B) analytical commentary, and (C) essay. Each has unique demands and are vastly different, so it requires different strategies for exam prep, which I will go into a bit later.


  1. Time management is a skill that a lot of students struggle with, leading to rushed responses, incomplete answers and overall lower performance. Managing your time wisely starts from reading time.

Allocate your time wisely during reading times. If you haven't gotten to full exams yet, don’t worry about this first. You have 15 minutes in the end of year exam. My strategy was look through the essay first (2 min), choose my prompt quickly and plan the paragraphs, then identify hop on to the Analytical Commentary (5 minutes) and identify the social purpose, context, function, etc and note a few salient features if they pop up at you. No need to find all your examples. Lastly, I spend the rest of the time (8 minutes) basically"answering" the short answer questions in my head, so that when writing time starts I can immediately start writing and feel in the zone.



Here are some tips specific to each section:


1.   Short answer:

These questions follow a question-and-answer format, focusing on analysing a brief excerpt from a provided text.


For the questions with lower marks, pick the low-hanging fruits

  • In SAQ, how good your examples are don't matter, as long as they are relevant. Pick the easiest example and move on quickly.

However, with 5-6 markers, quality does matter

  • Try to be more creative with your answers as these are marked more holistically.

Main takeaway: lego blocks


The Short Answer Questions in VCE English language can be particularly challenging due to the dual demands of engaging with the text while finding the right metalanguage and stylistic features to analyse it effectively. Many students found difficulty with understanding metalanguage, while the more proficient ones who had already mastered metalanguage and stylistic features struggled with effectively connecting with the text. Most of us would know how to memorise metalanguage. Some of us would know the best metalanguage to apply with regards to a specific phrase. Few of us would know the stylistic effects of metalanguage. And only the top scorers would know how to apply that and engage with the text.


  1. For those grappling with metalanguage, create "lego blocks" which are essentially chunks of analysis you would use for a particular feature. It encompasses everything - what that metalanguage actually does, why the author used it, and what it's trying to evoke in the readers. If I found a good analysis, whether it be in sample essays or in your mates' work or in lesson powerpoints, I would note it down and essentially create "lego blocks" of stylistic features.

Here are some examples


-        To emphasise/lend prominence to  the patient, which is topicalised as the subject at the beginning of the sentence.

-         Only for agentless-passive: evade  culpability/responsibility by removing the agent associated with the verb  (identity of the agent remains undisclosed)

-         Agentless: depersonalises the  text and thus creates a factual, objective and impartial tone


(syntactic features)

-           Renders prominence to/carrying  weight to [a certain idea/concept]

-           Depersonalises the discourse,  making it more distant, cold, detached, all encompassing (depends)

-           Remove any sort of involvement,  evade responsibility/involvement by removing the verb and its associated  agent.

-           Objectivises an assertion, making  it sound like a factual statement rather than an opinion, therefore enhancing  credibility, expertise. (relevant in academic discourse)

Nominalisation in “casualisation” (52) or “introduction” (34) exploits the weighty and abstract nature of nouns to relocate focus from the action onto the concept. By  heightening the objectivity of the claims and depersonalising language to be  neutral, these lexical choices endow the text with its strong formality.


  1. To engage more with the text, put yourself in the shoes of the speaker. Perspective. This can get you into the top 1%. It's all about showing that you have a clear understanding of what is going on in the text and you're actively engaging with the text. Also, steer clear of generic terms like "author," "speaker," or "text," opting instead for more vivid descriptors such as "Mr. Albanese" or "podcast."



2.   Analytical Commentaries

An analytical commentary involves examining a text to discuss its language features, stylistic devices, and their effects in achieving the text's purpose and engaging the audience. You're required to find your own examples from the text.


Main takeaway: Show, don't tell

  1. Analytical commentaries present a significant challenge, particularly in delving into depth of analysis. Personally, I had very shallow and descriptive paragraphs. I was merely telling and describing everything to the examiner, not ANALYSING them. I found it difficult to move beyond surface-level observations to truly dissect the metalinguistic features. I often thought “that’s just common sense, why do I even have to write it down?”, resulting in my ACs lacking the depth and insight     necessary for high marks.
  • One word transformed my approach: perspective. I began to put myself in the shoes of the writer or speaker to understand their intentions. Consider the impact of what the text is trying to create. Ask “why?”    
  • Another thing that helped me develop more analytical paragraphs was just explicitly stating the obvious, even though you’d think it’s unnecessary information. Imagine the examiner as a 5-year-old child to whom you're explaining everything, which helps you engage more deeply with the text.


b.    Students fail to seamlessly incorporate social purpose, context and register into their analysis, making a paragraph sound very rigid.

In almost every piece of analysis you do, make it a point to refer to social purpose, context, register. Even if the example is in the register paragraph, make most of your analysis relevant to register, but still link it subtly to social purpose and context. This can easily boost you from a 35 to a 40.


  1. The "lego blocks" come in handy
  • You might argue that an AC involves on-the-spot analysis, where you start writing from scratch after you're given the text. No, its not. You want to have some phrases and stylistic features memorised as well. In a way, you can prepare for an AC, just like you can prepare for essays. You can have your AC basically "pre-written" even before you get access to the text, and when you get the text, engage with it.


3.   Essay:

  • The essay section requires writing a coherent and structured essay that explores and analyses linguistic concepts, issues, or phenomena using evidence and examples to support the discussion. You would have 3 essay topics, as well as a couple of stimuli example for each topic. The essay is essentially an expanded short answer question evaluated with holistic marking, aiming to assess how effectively you can address the prompt.

Main takeaway: Don't be an NPC

  1. One common stumbling block is the tendency to rely on mundane or cliched examples, which can dull the impact of an otherwise well-constructed arguments. Picture this: you're pouring your heart and soul into dissecting the metalinguistic features, only to find yourself resorting to tired examples that fail to excite or engage your reader.

Imagine being an examiner and reading thousands of essay pieces. And seeing the same examples over and over again. And the same boring analysis. I'dbe put to sleep. Don’t be boring and generic like all the average students.Find good examples, find high-quality examples.

For example, when writing about Teenspeak, don't use basic, banal examples such as"bruh", "gyat", "rizzler". Instead, find more exciting ones where you can analyse, such as this advertisement that I saw in 2023:


Where I structured my analysis around why Edrolo tried to use Teenspeak to appeal to teenagers.


  1. Many students struggle to pick which of the 3 essay topics to choose. They'd be deciding and weighing the pros and cons and then suddenly boom 10 minutes gone, they're still stuck on which one to choose and what paragraphs to write. They start panicking. GG.

Train yourself to pick out the topic that is the best. For me, my system was unit 3 > unit4, formal language > informal language. Have specific paragraphs that you memorise, then remember to adapt that to answer the form.


That's it from me for now.


Remember, mastering the VCE English language is a journey, not a destination. Every word you learn, every sentence you craft, and every mistake you make is a step toward becoming a better student. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the small victories, and never stop exploring the beauty of language. Keep pushing your limits, and you'll be amazed at how far you can go. Your dedication today will pave the way for your success tomorrow. So what are you waiting for? Take action.

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