The Final Run-in for the English Language Exam

October 21, 2021joelleva

Summary: This article focuses on the final few days of preparation before the English Language exam, and in the room strategies. 

As promised in my last article, this article will focus on strategies for in the exam room, and the last couple of days (a lot of this will also be applicable to other exams, too). Please read this in the context of my last article, particularly when I discuss exam sections below (think to time management and exam strategies). 

The days leading up

Before I give some advice about the last few days in the lead up to your exam, I will quickly point out that I wrote an article about the last 24 hours before your exam. That article can be found here: I have sought to avoid repeating myself here, so have a read of that (remember that the exam was later in the exam period, and in the afternoon that year). 

Practice exams and feedback

Over these last few days, it is really important keep doing practice exams, and getting feedback on them (ideally under exam conditions), and I would recommend a prioritisation of VCAA exams based on the current study design (2016 onwards, noting that some parts of unit 4, Area of Study 1 were removed in 2020), as they will be the ones that most closely resemble the wording and layout of what you will see on the day. 

Also, whilst teacher feedback is important, preferable, and something you should pursue, the VCAA exams having such detailed assessment reports explaining questions and answers provide a safety net for you, in case your teachers are unable to return your work in a timely way. 

Physical and mental wellbeing 

Ensure that you have a good sleep and exercise routine to manage stress levels (this will also help you to be at your best in the exam), and with the English Language exam often being quite late in the day, it is worth having something to do to relax and take your mind off the exam for a portion of the day, whilst also doing some final checks over your examples especially (an exam day example that you find would very much impress assessors if you can find one, because it doesn’t get much more contemporary). 

In the exam room

Turn up early to avoid stress, make sure your water bottle is full, and ensure that you have all your equipment (highlighters, multiple pens, ID) ready to go. Ok, do that before you go into the exam room, and ideally, before you leave the house on the exam day. 

What I will do now is give some very brief advice on each of the sections. 

Section A

Section A of the exam is a short answer section. 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 is a point that examiners invariably make in their reports. My, “bottom line,” tip for this section is to read the text and questions carefully, and do not overwrite, you can only get as many marks as are offered. 

Section B

Section B is an 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). 

Don’t confuse the text with the section A one, they are different. Also, watch the clock here (you don’t need a conclusion). My bottom line tip here is to 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

Section C is an essay. Pick the essay (in reading time) 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. Also, pay very careful attention to the words of the prompt. There are often one or two words (such as always, every, invariably, primarily, mainly, etc.) that really make the question, and your argument will often turn on those couple of words. 

Also, REMEMBER YOUR CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLES. My bottom-line tip here is 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. 

Goodbye and good luck

Good luck with your exams, and enjoy the time off. It’s been another crazy year, and good luck with your next stages. By the way, here is another exam article I wrote a while ago: 

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