Developing study habits for VCE English

Developing study habits for VCE English

This week, English teacher Yasmine McCafferty discusses why it is important to establish a study pattern rather than simply bounce from SAC to SAC, and provides tips on how to achieve this.

By this stage in the term, you will have started to feel the pressure of the many demands being placed on you.

In addition to the pressures of school, you will also have endless 18th birthday parties to attend, as well as sport events, music lessons, part-time jobs and other extracurricular activities that can eat up your time. You might start to worry that you can’t fit it all in to a seven-day week. You might feel like something has to give. So how do you manage all of this, keep up with your work and not just bounce from SAC to SAC?

SACs are important …

Your School-assessed Coursework (SAC) is important in many ways. As you may already know, your SAC marks (moderated according to your school’s examination results) contribute to your final study score. SACs also give assessors an indication of whether you have demonstrated achievement of the outcomes specified for Units 3 and 4 of the Study Design. You will need to meet these outcomes to a satisfactory level to achieve your VCE.

… but there’s more to the picture.

SACs are not the only times you will need to demonstrate that you have met an outcome; you are also expected to meet the coursework requirements, which include reading the texts, engaging with the class work and submitting homework tasks regularly. The intention of this is not to keep you busy, but to support the development of your English knowledge and skills.

The overarching purpose of the study of English is to examine how language is used to create a range of meanings in a variety of contexts for different audiences and purposes. This is not something that can be learned at the last minute. A successful English student will have built up their knowledge and skills from the start of the year (or earlier, if possible).

If all you are doing is the work required for the next SAC, then you are not allowing time for ideas to brew in your mind, to listen to feedback on your writing or to store new material in your long-term memory. The knowledge and skills required to succeed in this subject need to be developed incrementally, and this is where a dedicated study routine comes in.

Developing a study pattern

Not sure where to start when it comes to studying for English? Below is a list of tips on how you can develop helpful study habits.

  • Know your texts inside out. Spend time making detailed notes and chapter summaries. Read and re-read constantly over the year, annotating all of the time.
  • Develop quote banks. Keep lists of short quotations that are useful to embed in your discussion and analysis. Put these under headings such as characters, settings, ideas and stylistic features.
  • Create your own glossary of persuasive techniques. You can access these in published texts, but you will understand the techniques much better if you make your own glossary. Make sure that you include a definition of the technique and an example of it being used in a recent media text.
  • Create vocabulary and spelling lists. The best way to extend your vocabulary is to make lists of words for describing textual elements such as settings and characters. The same goes for improving your spelling. Keep lists of the words that you commonly use but often spell incorrectly, and use the old tried-and-true method of ‘look, say, cover, write, check’.
  • Practise writing. While it’s helpful to write complete essays and creative pieces, it’s also important for you to target specific areas for improvement (e.g. introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions).
  • Read widely. Seek out media articles to practise your analysis of argument and language, and read academic articles on your texts (which you can access via your school library databases or Google Scholar).
  • Form a study group of like-minded students. This is a great way to share your ideas and test them out in discussion.
  • Talk to your teacher. Have an ongoing conversation with your English teacher about class tasks and practice pieces, focusing on what you can do to take yourself to the next level.


Try to devote a minimum of ten minutes a night to studying for English (sometimes, of course, you will need to do more than this). Doing a little bit regularly is the key to a successful year. It can be tempting to ignore this when you have SACs looming in other subjects, but be disciplined and you will be rewarded.

Good luck!



Need some extra help navigating VCE English? Check out Key Skills for Senior English 2nd edition. It features step-by-step approaches to each outcome in the Study Design; activities and exercises to help consolidate your knowledge; and annotated sample responses with assessor comments to help build your essay-writing skills.

Key Skills for Senior English 2nd edition is produced by Insight Publications, an independent, Australian educational publisher.


Photo credit: juliaap/shutterstock

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