This week on our blog, Insight writer and English teacher Leon Furze gives his tips on how Year 11 students can prepare for the new VCE English Study Design (2023–2027).
Whenever there’s a new Study Design, teachers and students alike get nervous. For English, over 40 000 students and hundreds of teachers are facing some totally new Areas of Study. Your teachers will have been working hard to make sure the texts, assessments and units of work are all up to date. There are also some things you can do right now to prepare for Year 11 and 12, and even the final examination.
The new Study Design brings with it some interesting and exciting opportunities, including a broader range of text types to explore in your writing (you can even write blog posts like this one). It offers more opportunities to present your personal voice and style, and the requirements for key knowledge and key skills are much clearer, so you know what to expect. These five tips will help you get a head start with the new Study Design.
1. Take notes
There’s a huge emphasis on note-taking and annotation in the new Study Design. Throw away your highlighters and pick up a pencil because annotating is not just colouring in. While it might look nice to have a fluorescent text at the end of the year, it’ll be practically useless if you don’t know why you highlighted that important passage in bright yellow. Instead of highlighting, use a pen or pencil to write notes in the margins – you’ll thank yourself later.
2. Read widely
The biggest change to the Study Design is the new ‘Crafting texts’ and ‘Creating texts’ Areas of Study. One of the best ways to prepare for these writing outcomes is to read widely. You’ll get ‘mentor texts’ from your teacher based on the idea you study in class. These mentor texts will be short and designed to inspire ideas for your own writing. You’ll need to study three set texts in class, but your writing will develop much more if you bring some of your own mentor texts to the party. So read widely: blog posts, articles, short stories, poems, essays, novellas – anything at all that might inspire you.
3. Get personal
The new outcome for Area of Study 1 in Unit 1 is called ‘Reading and exploring texts’, but many teachers have already started calling it ‘the personal response’ because of the assessment task. In this Area of Study you’ll need to make personal connections to one set text, which might be a written text or a film. Ask yourself: How do I relate the characters to the people and relationships in my life? How are the settings similar to places I know? How do the author’s or director’s views and values align with or against my own? And how else do I personally connect with this text? The personal response is a great opportunity for you to build a strong connection with a text.
4. Analyse this
Analysis is a key element of the new Study Design, just as it was in the previous iteration. One crucial update is that the key skills for ‘Reading and responding’ now include a much greater emphasis on strategies for inferential reading and viewing. Inferential reading is a key skill for analysing texts – it means ‘reading between the lines’. The best way to build your inferential reading muscles is to get comfortable with close reading. This means annotating short key passages from your texts, looking for ideas, techniques, language and everything else you would expect in English.
5. Write more
Teachers have noticed that since remote learning became widespread, many students have lost stamina when it comes to writing. That’s totally understandable. You would have been in middle years during some of the longest lockdowns in Australia, so you’ll need to work hard to build that writing stamina up before the final exam. The best way to do this is to write. Write daily. Keep a journal. Reflect on your own writing and the texts you study. Write as much as possible so that when you hit Year 12, you’re comfortable putting pen to paper and can confidently write under pressure.
The new Study Design is full of opportunity and offers English students an unprecedented amount of choice. Embrace it, and you’ll hopefully find yourself reading some extremely interesting texts and producing some of the best work you’ve ever written.
Looking for a resource that will help you navigate Units 1 and 2 of the 2023 VCE English Study Design? Make sure you get English Year 11: VCE Units 1 & 2 by Robert Beardwood with Leon Furze and Ben White. It’s a comprehensive textbook that includes detailed guidelines for each Area of Study, as well as strategies for text analysis, practical approaches to developing written pieces, and sample responses.
English Year 11: VCE Units 1 & 2 is produced by Insight Publications, your local, independent Australian publisher.