Did someone say ‘exam’? It’s not too early to start preparing for the big day at the end of the year. But if you’re struggling to get started, never fear – Insight writer and English/EAL teacher Niki Cook has some excellent tips and tricks to get you revising like a pro.
Term 3 is nearly at an end, and while the SACs are all but out of the way, the journey isn’t over yet. It’s now time to turn your thoughts towards preparing for the final hurdle – the end-of-year exam. Although effective revision will be crucial to your success in the exam, knowing how to go about this is not always so straightforward. In this post, we look at some strategies to help you feel ready for the English exam on 30 October.
Check your notes
In order to revise effectively, you’ll need to have all your studying materials ready. Your first task should be to check that you have a full set of notes on each of your texts, information regarding structuring strategies for each section of the exam, and notes on argument and persuasive language techniques.
Go through your notes carefully, and if there are gaps, ask your friends or teachers for the information you may have missed. Be prepared to share – your classmates are much more likely to reciprocate if you offer them some of your material as well.
Revisit your SACs
By the end of Unit 4 you’ll have completed a SAC for each of the three sections of the exam. Read back over each of your SACs, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and look closely at the feedback that you’ve been given. What specific areas has your teacher indicated you need to focus on? If you’re not sure, ask them.
TIP: Once you’ve identified your weak spots, try rewriting paragraphs from your SACs to improve these specific areas. It’s a good idea to do this before Term 3 ends, as this will enable you to really focus your revision during the break.
Be strategic in your revision. Set up a timetable for the term break and for evenings and weekends once you’re back at school.
Avoid simply blocking out a space for ‘English revision’. Be specific and break your English revision time into each Area of Study to ensure that you are revising for individual sections of the exam.
Focus on your weak points
Most of us tend to spend the majority of our time doing things we like and are good at. When it comes to revision, however, you should spend more time focusing on the things you find challenging. While it might seem appealing to avoid revising for the analysis of argument and persuasive language in Section C of the exam and instead watch Rear Window for the seventeenth time, this is not likely to help you on exam day.
TIP: If you allocate specific study time to areas you find challenging, you will be less likely to avoid them.
Practise under exam conditions
As every English teacher will tell you, nothing beats the effectiveness of practising for the exam using a timer and good old-fashioned pen and paper. Think of it in sporting terms – you wouldn’t prepare to run a marathon just by cycling, would you? In the final exam you will be writing by hand under timed conditions, so it’s important to get a feel for this early on in your revision.
Revising your texts for the exam can be particularly daunting as there always seems to be a lot to remember. A few strategies can help with this.
- Identify ‘hardworking’ or ‘multi-tastic’ quotes – Look for quotes and examples that could be used for multiple themes or ideas.
- Identify common ideas in topics – Find as many essay topics on your texts as you can and look for common themes and ideas. Many topics on a text will address fairly similar concerns, and you’ll soon find that there is a limited set of things you are likely to be asked to discuss.
- Plan – Gather arguments and points for the major themes and ideas in your texts and practise writing paragraphs on them. Do this effectively and, when it comes to exam time, you’ll be able to select and adapt the most applicable ideas and evidence according to the topic (much like a mental filing cabinet).
Stretch your brainstorming muscles
Good brainstorming and planning are critical for producing a strong essay that addresses the specifics of the topic. Effective ways to practise brainstorming can be divided into two categories.
- Exam brainstorming – Give yourself 5–10 minutes to unpack a specific topic, just as you would do in the exam. The focus here is on producing a detailed essay plan in a short amount of time.
- Detailed brainstorming – Spend about 30 minutes unpacking every possible approach to a specific topic. The focus here is on developing skills in processing your thoughts and thinking about different approaches to a topic – skills that may come in handy on exam day.
Familiarise yourself with different text types
Unlike the other sections of the exam, Section C is an unknown entity; you simply can’t know how many texts you’ll get or what format the material will appear in. Therefore, it’s vital to practise with a wide range of text types. Build on your understanding of different text types so that you can identify the key features of each and explain how they differ (an editorial versus a speech, for example).
While 30 October might seem distant at the moment, the end-of-year exam isn’t as far away as you might imagine. Starting your revision now will ensure you feel confident in your skills and as prepared as you can be for the big day. Good luck!
Need some more help with the English or EAL exam? Purchase Insight’s English/EAL Exam Guides by Robert Beardwood and Melanie Napthine. The English/EAL Exam Guides provide students with even more revision strategies and activities to prepare for VCE English and EAL. From time management during the exam to proofreading responses, the English/EAL Exam Guides cover all the knowledge and skills required for success in the English and EAL exams.
The English/EAL Exam Guides are produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.
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