EAL: Preparing for Section C – Argument and persuasive language

EAL: Preparing for Section C – Argument and persuasive language

EAL teacher and Insight writer Michael E Daniel discusses preparing for Section C of the EAL exam.

Section C of the paper is worth 40% of the total marks for the exam; therefore, you should allow approximately 70 minutes to complete it. This section of the exam requires you to complete two tasks or questions. Question 1 requires you to answer a series of short-answer questions. Question 2 requires you to write an extended written analysis. Questions 1 and 2 are each worth ten marks.

Question 1

During the exam, allow approximately 30 minutes to complete this task.

You will need to answer approximately five questions. These questions are designed to test your understanding or comprehension of the text(s). Before you answer these questions you must read them very carefully, to work out what you are being asked. It is a good idea to read through the questions at least twice, and to check the dictionary to clarify the meaning of unfamiliar words. Look carefully at the mark allocation for each question – this can be a helpful guide as to how many details or points of information you need to provide.

Read through the text once, to familiarise yourself with its contents. Pay particular attention to the background information, which might provide further details about the writer and the target audience. When you read through the text a second time, underline (in pencil) sections of the text where the answers are given, and place letters in the margin that correspond to the questions.

You should now be ready to draft the answers. Try to put the answers into your own words where possible, to show that you understand what the text is saying. Once you have completed all questions, read through your responses to make sure you have answered the questions correctly. Double-check your answers against the information in the text(s).

Question 2

During the exam, allow approximately 40 minutes to complete this task.

Question 2 will ask you to ‘analyse the ways in which the [writer] uses argument and written and visual language to try to persuade others to share [their] point of view’ (EAL Sample aural and written examination, VCAA website). If there is more than one text to be analysed, this will be stated in the instructions. In order to complete this task, you will need to balance your analysis of argument with your analysis of language. You must also analyse any visual material. As part of your revision, you should review the argument and persuasive language strategies you are likely to encounter in the exam text(s). Chapter 13 of Insight’s EAL Year 12 2nd edition textbook contains useful summaries of these strategies and techniques.

Once you have completed the short-answer questions, read through the resource material again, annotating it. Use one colour pen (for example, red) to underline and make notes in the margins about argument strategies; another colour (for example, green) to underline persuasive language techniques and label them in the margin; and a third colour (for example, blue) to make notes about intended effects (i.e. how the audience might feel or what they might think, and why). You could also assign numbers to each supporting argument you find and then analyse each in turn in your body paragraphs. Remember that you cannot analyse every persuasive element in just 40 minutes, so choose the elements that you feel most confident about analysing.

Your written analysis should begin with a short introduction (one or two sentences) in which you identify the following:

  • the issue
  • the writer
  • the text’s title and text type
  • the context
  • the intended audience
  • the writer’s purpose
  • the writer’s main contention.

An effective way to organise your written analysis is by the main points of argument. You could begin each body paragraph by analysing how the writer uses a particular argument (one or two sentences). Then analyse how various examples of persuasive language are used by the writer (one or two sentences). Finally, discuss the intended effects of these language choices on the audience.

When analysing the persuasive language, you should quote from the text. You should also make sure you analyse each language example – it is not enough to merely identify techniques. When discussing intended effects, be specific. Avoid vague or generic statements such as ‘this positions the audience to agree with the writer’. Instead, explain how this particular use of language or argument is meant to persuade this particular audience.

End your analysis with a short conclusion of one or two sentences, in which you summarise the main persuasive strategies used (without re-listing every technique) and the main elements of the context.

General tips

Try to obtain as many practice short-answer tasks as you can from your teacher, and from friends who go to other schools. There are also practice tasks in Insight Publications’ EAL Year 12 2nd edition, which also includes further advice and guidelines. You should practise annotating the texts, answering the short-answer questions and writing the extended analysis. Initially, do each task without any time constraints. After you have completed a few practice tasks, try completing an entire Section C task under timed conditions; that is, 70 minutes from commencing reading and annotating the text(s) to completing the analysis of argument and language. You should write your answers by hand as you will be required to do during the exam, rather than typing them on a computer.

You could also collaborate with friends via video or social media during the Term 3 holidays and the study-leave period prior to the exams to compare answers and analyses. You could share work with your friends that your teacher has assessed. Look carefully at your teacher’s comments. These provide valuable feedback as to how both you and your friends could improve your written analyses and answers to short-answer questions. In addition, look at sample written answers and analyses such as those contained in EAL Year 12 2nd edition and VCE EAL SAC & Exam Guide. These give you guidance as to specific elements to look for when completing an analysis, and examples of how to structure your writing.


Need help preparing for Section C of the Year 12 EAL Exam? Try Insight’s past EAL Section C Exam Practice papers. Each paper contains 10 exam-style Section C scenarios, high-level sample responses for three scenarios, and tips and guidelines to help you succeed.

Insight’s past EAL Section C Exam Practice papers are produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.


Image credit: sebra/shutterstock

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