This week, Insight writer and Literature teacher Briony Schroor offers her tips on how you can best prepare for the Literature exam.
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, your Year 12 Literature exam is drawing nearer. The tips below are designed to help you as you prepare for this finale – the ultimate celebration of all you have learned throughout your VCE Lit course.
1. Familiarise yourself with your texts
- Choose the two texts you plan to write about in the exam; these should be texts that you enjoyed as you studied them and that you want to write about. Remember that these texts must be from two different categories (for example, poems and a play, or a novel and short stories).
- Reread your two texts carefully and reannotate them as you go. You should annotate important style features, striking imagery and, particularly for your Section A preferred text, significant moments relevant to your chosen critical perspective/s.
- Explain your texts to someone who doesn’t know them, using quotations that you have memorised to support your descriptions.
- Create quotation banks for both your texts, including all the really important lines or phrases. This is particularly important for your Section A revision, but memorising quotations for Section B is also very useful for when you need to support your discussion with references beyond the scope of the passages.
- Record yourself reciting short extracts from your texts, being as expressive as you can, then listen to the recordings as you travel to school. This will help with memorising quotations and also remind you of the emotional impact of your texts.
2. Research your texts
- Do some research about the authors of your two texts – start with Wikipedia and go from there. For example, you might watch a TED Talk by Maxine Beneba Clarke if you’re studying Foreign Soil, or read an interview with Ceridwen Dovey if reading Only the Animals. You might watch I Am Not Your Negro if you’re studying James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, or if you’re studying Othello or A Winter’s Tale, you might enjoy Shakespeare in Love. Because Lit asks students to write about texts, not authors, you won’t use all this background material in the exam. However, you will build an understanding of the contexts of the texts that you’re writing about, which is important.
- Read critical responses to your texts – if your texts have scholarly introductions, this is a good place to start. Scholarly research will help add to your understanding of the complexities of your texts.
- Make sure you understand the literary perspective/s you plan to use for your Section A response, reading relevant critical material carefully in order to apply it to your chosen text. Collecting short, relevant and useful quotations from literary criticism will also help to enhance your writing in the exam.
- Organise a study group (either in person or online) and discuss a particular aspect of your text, listening carefully to the views of others, and expressing your own thinking as clearly as you can.
3. Prepare to write
- Reread all the analytical writing you have done in Lit throughout your two years of VCE, and take careful note of all the feedback you have received. Make sure that you understand the comments your teacher has made about your work and take steps to implement any suggestions for improvement.
- Share your writing with your study group, noting how your peers approach analytical tasks, and learning from their strengths and knowledge.
- Read carefully through the VCAA Literature external assessment reports (previously called examination reports) for the last several years and note the assessors’ feedback.
- Read and annotate the sample responses provided with the external assessment reports, noting the style of the responses, and how they respond to the texts and the topics or passages.
- Read the exam specifications and the assessment criteria published by VCAA, and ensure that you understand the requirements of both sections of the exam.
- Look through past Literature exams on the VCAA website to familiarise yourself with the format of the exam and the style of the Section A topics.
- Prepare vocabulary banks for your two texts, including useful analytical verbs, adverbs and adjectives appropriate for your text. Check the definitions of these words, so that you’re sure you’re using correct and relevant vocabulary.
- Write a list of relevant technical language, making sure you know and understand the important metalanguage for your texts – for example, whether they include ‘iambic pentameter’, ‘troche’ or ‘hyperbole’.
- Write practice paragraphs and essays under timed conditions, and submit these to your teacher for feedback. You could also ask a peer to assess your work for you, using the exam criteria.
The exam is your opportunity to show off your knowledge, insight and skill – enjoy it! And good luck.
Studying VCE Literature? Then make sure you purchase the new Literature Handbook: A guide to literary analysis. It’s a comprehensive and accessible reference book that covers the essential knowledge and skills for analysing novels, short stories, drama, poetry, nonfiction and film.
The Literature Handbook is produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.
Image credit: fizkes/Shutterstock