Exam Preparation Advice for 2020 (Part 2)

Exam Preparation Advice for 2020 (Part 2)

This article has been written by Liam McAlary, a Years 7 – 12, VCE Legal Studies and VCE English Language Tutor at Learnmate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Liam then please check out his page here.

Hello guys, this is my last article for you in the lead up to your exam. Consequently, the focus of this article is the English Language exam (which you would already know if you read my last article). By the time you read this, the exam is just a week and a half away.  This article will discuss time management, the three individual sections of the exam, and some other preparation tips for the day before and of the exam.

Time Management:

With a short answer section, and two essay length responses in just 120 minutes, the English Language exam has a well-deserved reputation for being difficult to finish.

The first thing I always say when discussing time management, is that reading time is crucial. Reading time is where you pick and provisionally plan your essay, get to grips with the section A and B texts, and start planning responses to them, and reading time can help to save time whilst writing, if it is used effectively. Once writing time starts, jot down things you are worried about forgetting, as well as some quick plans for your essay, and then start annotating and writing. In terms of how to break your time down and the order in which you do the three sections is ultimately up to you, however I would recommend doing the exam in the order it is given to you. In terms of a rough time guide, I would recommend the following:

1 minute: Planning essay and memory dumping things you are concerned about forgetting

20 minutes: Section A (including annotation)

45 minutes: Section B (including annotation)

50 minutes: Section C (including annotation)

4 minutes: Editing (this is actually really important, as spelling and grammar are crucial to your mark as this is an English subject)


I have written a more significantly more detailed article dedicated to managing time in your exam, which can be found here: https://learnmate.com.au/time-management-english-language-exam/


Section A (Short Answer):

For this section, you will be given a text and asked a series of short answer questions on it. To succeed in this section, you must have a strong understanding of metalanguage, grammar, and the key concepts of the course, as they relate to a given text. Gaps in these areas are almost invariably exposed by section A (unlike sections B and C, you are unable to frame a response around what you are strong with, as if you are asked the question, you need to answer it). This has been repeatedly stressed in the VCAA’s assessment reports. This is a section that you can pick up some time in if you do it well, and devoting a lot of your reading time to it will help, as you can start planning responses. Further, make sure that your answers are relevant, not excessively long, and refer to the appropriate line numbers if the question asks for it.

Bottom line: Read the text carefully, read the questions carefully, and do not overwrite, you can only get as many marks as are offered.

Section B (analytical commentary):

This probably the hardest section to prepare for, as it is text dependent, and without a clearly defined structure. Nonetheless, ensure that you have a structure that works for you (in fact, have a couple so that you can best respond to the text provided). However, do make sure that you have an introduction that addresses the context, audience, register and purpose of the text, and ensure that you keep referring back to them throughout your writing (The VCAA have also repeatedly stressed this in their assessment reports). The text is different to section A, so do not confuse the two (this has happened and students have written exceptional commentaries, yet received 0). Also, ensure that you use the entire text, it is there for a reason. Finally, you do not need to write a conclusion, and do not be afraid to cut this section short if worried about time, as it is the easiest to go back and add more to.

Bottom line: Read the text carefully, pick the important features, and explain why they are there in terms of the context, audience, register and purpose.


Section C (Essay):

This is the only section that involves choice, so pick the essay that you feel you can write best, remembering that using the stimulus material is essential. Do not go in with a rote learned essay, assessors can see through it like it’s a newly cleaned window. This section is also the most contingent on structure (because marks are attached to structure), so ensure that you have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Moreover, this section also relies on your ability to use and incorporate contemporary Australian examples that help you to prove your point, so make sure that you have a deep and wide ranging bank of examples that you can call upon and explain to show a depth of knowledge and understanding. Finally, remember to answer the question, and look at te specific wording of the question, there are often one or two words (such as always, every, invariably, primarily, mainly, etc.) that really make the question, an your argument will often turn on those couple of words, so read the question(s) carefully.

Bottom line: Remember to write a complete essay that answers the question put to you, that uses the stimulus, as well as contemporary Australian examples that are well explained as to their relevance to your argument.

Final Tips:


Good luck for your exam. This has been a year like no other, so finish the year strong, and then enjoy yourself (in a COVID safe way), because you have sure as anything earned it. Remember, everything on that exam, you have covered, it’s not a document that’s out to get you, its there for you to show the assessors what you know and how well you write.

LearnMate is Australia’s leading tutoring agency offering private lessons in all primary & high school subjects including English, maths, science, humanities, foreign languages, and so much more. Our mission is simple: to provide professional, engaging and enthusiastic tutors to students, while also ensuring the student feels empowered and confident during their assessments! Ultimately, our goal is to empower students all over Australia to achieve amazing results and make their dreams come true!

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Exam Preparation Advice for 2020 (Part 2)