Revising for the EAL Exam

Revising for the EAL Exam

In this post, Insight writer and EAL teacher Niki Cook outlines her strategies for revising for the EAL exam.

This time of year typically prompts mixed feelings: the end of school is finally in sight, but – before that excitement – there’s the challenge of VCE exams to overcome! In this post we’ll look at some strategies to help you prepare specifically for the EAL exam, so that you can get your exam period off to a great start.


Practise the different skills

The first and most obvious preparation strategy is to make sure that you practise each of the skills required for the EAL exam. The three sections of the exam each require you to demonstrate different skills, so you need to allocate time to preparing for all of them.

  • Listening: This can be easy to overlook as you might be focused on revising your set text for Section B of the exam, but it’s very important to practise your exam-specific listening skills. Use the audio texts available from past VCAA exams to help build familiarity with the pace and style of VCAA material. Look closely at the types of question that are asked, and practise identifying key question words, and the types of responses those words require. Build a bank of instruction words used in listening questions, so that you are familiar with them. Make sure that you know what is meant by ‘language use’ and what is meant by ‘delivery’, as there will almost certainly be at least one question involving one or both of these terms in the exam.
  • Essay writing: Review the structure of a text response essay and revise how to write each part – remember that examiners will be looking for a piece that is appropriately structured. Practise writing topic sentences in response to a particular topic. Choose an essay topic and identify evidence for that particular topic, then adapt that evidence to address different topics.
  • Short answer: This part of the exam is essentially testing your comprehension and close-reading skills. It’s important to familiarise yourself with key question words and the sorts of responses expected for each.
  • Argument analysis: While you will be working with unseen material in the exam, you can prepare for this section by building your familiarity with different text types and different audiences. The Insight EAL Section C Exam Practice booklet provides a range of material that can be used for this. Also aim to develop stem sentences that can be used for analysis, linking together examples with a discussion of their intended effect.

Identify weaknesses

As the EAL exam is based on material covered in Unit 3, the things you need to focus on may not be that fresh in your mind, so this is a good place to start with your revision. Revisit feedback that you’ve received on your SACs and any practice pieces that you’ve completed. Ask yourself: What are you good at? What do you find challenging? If you aren’t sure, ask your teacher. Then make sure that you spend more time focusing on the things that you find difficult. Allocate specific blocks of time in your revision timetable to work on the things you find difficult, so that you properly address them.

Practise working under timed conditions

This is absolutely essential. In the EAL exam, you are going to be working under time pressure. Three hours sounds like a long time, but you have a lot to complete in that time. Every practice piece that you complete should be done by hand and completed in the same amount of time as you will have in the exam.

Break the exam down into chunks. You have to do Section A first, and this will take roughly 35 minutes. This leaves you approximately 145 minutes to complete the rest of the exam. Section B and Section C are equally weighted, so divide the time fairly equally. As there are two parts to Section C, I would suggest allowing 70 minutes for Section B, and 75 minutes for Section C. While Question 1 and Question 2 of Section C are equally weighted, it’s likely to take longer to write an essay than to complete the short-answer questions. However, you have a higher probability of picking up marks in the short-answer questions than the essay, so don’t rush! You will also need to allow some time for re-reading the material. A split of 5–10 minutes reading, 15–20 minutes for Question 1 and 45–50 minutes for Question 2 is a good guide to follow.

Remember that working under timed conditions doesn’t have to mean writing a full essay. Write a body paragraph in 10 minutes. Complete a set of short answer questions in 15–20 minutes. Plan an essay in five minutes. Highlight the key words in a set of listening questions in one minute. No matter how long you have, there is always something you can do.

Control the controllables

Exams are stressful, and there are a lot of unknowns, such as the topics, the unseen material, and what the audio texts will be about. It’s therefore important that you focus on the things that you can control. Have a clear plan for how you’ll approach the exam – for example, after you have completed Section A, which section will you do next? Make sure you know when you need to move on to the following section. Have a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast before the exam. These are all steps that will prepare you to be in the best position possible as you enter the exam.


Be methodical, strategic and logical in your preparation, and you’ll be able to enter the EAL exam with confidence. Good luck!


Need help preparing for the EAL exam? Make sure you get our VCE EAL SAC & Exam Guide by Melanie Napthine and Robert Beardwood. This book includes revision strategies and activities to help you prepare for the VCE EAL exam. From time management strategies to proofreading responses, it covers the knowledge and skills required for success in the EAL exam.

The VCE EAL SAC & Exam Guide is produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.


Image credit: Monkey Business Images/shutterstock

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