Revising for the English exam: Last minute tips!

Revising for the English exam: Last minute tips!

With the English exam just over a week away, here are some tips from English teacher and Insight writer Anja Drummond to help you with last-minute preparation!

The English exam is almost upon us. Here are some last minute tips to help you with the final push.


Make a study plan

Aim to spend some time each day studying English. The English exam is in the morning, so start the morning by having breakfast, then sitting at your desk and writing a practice essay under timed conditions. Once you have written the essay, pause and consider what you found most challenging. Take a break then sit down and do some targeted work on that problem area.


Develop a game plan for the exam

There are three sections to the exam. Think about which section you will begin with first. I recommend starting with Section C (argument and persuasive language) so that you can make effective use of your reading time by reading the scenario during those fifteen minutes, then annotating the text as soon as you can pick up your pen. But if this task is your Achilles’ heel, you might start in another section. Work with your strengths: start with the section you feel most confident in, and finish with the section you find most challenging.


Familiarise yourself with the exam booklets

The best way to manage anxiety is to be as prepared as you can, and being familiar with the physical layout of the exam will remove one stressor on the day. The VCAA publish past exam papers and a sample copy of the answer book you will write your responses in on their website: Print a copy of the answer book and write a practice essay in it to gauge how many words you typically write per page. The last thing you should be doing during the exam is counting how many words you have written – this will save you from having to do that!


Plan essays

Sections A and B of your exam both require you to write essays in response to topics. There is an abundant supply of exam topics in the many past exam papers on the VCAA website, and in the various exam resources available for purchase. Set up a study session with a group of friends and plan as many essays as you can. Focus on developing strong contentions, then write full topic sentences and brainstorm what evidence you would draw upon to flesh out each paragraph. This will help you be prepared for any topics that the exam may throw at you, and it’s also an effective way to consolidate existing knowledge as well as identify any gaps in your learning.


Refine your knowledge

It’s likely that you have a good understanding of the major characters and plot points in your Section A and B texts, but to stand out from the crowd you want to show a deeper level of understanding in your responses compared to the other students. As you plan your essays, push yourself to identify how a minor character may reinforce ideas that are more obviously expressed through the experiences of major characters. For example, in Euripides’ The Women of Troy, Andromache’s fate shows that even a ‘perfect wife’ can be made a slave – however, the Chorus also experience a tragic fate, suggesting that no woman can escape such horrors when she does not have the protection of a husband or father. Similarly, in Cate Kennedy’s Like a House on Fire, Frank’s inability to communicate his emotions in ‘Flexion’ is echoed in the character of Chris in ‘Ashes’. By looking for a second example that backs up your claims, you can develop more meaningful arguments.


Read and refine past essays

Every paragraph and essay you have written this year is a potential source of exam revision. Get out your old essays and re-read them. Ask yourself how you could improve the essay and have a go at redrafting it. You may also find it helpful to read essays your friends have written, or that have been published in study guides (though don’t do this if you know it will make you feel anxious!).


Practise sleep hygiene

If you don’t already have good sleeping habits, try to have them this week. Sleep hygiene means having a bedroom environment and daily routines that help you get a good night’s sleep. You might feel the impulse to stay up late cramming, but sleep is actually really important in consolidating memory. Develop a self-soothing routine to settle into bed at night: take a bath, cleanse your face, read a book, dim the lights, and switch off your technology by 9 pm. Set yourself a fixed wake-up time like 7 am that aligns with your upcoming exam timetable and stick with it. This simple routine will be very beneficial throughout the exam period.


Be positive!

You have done an amazing job making it here. Celebrate your achievements and know that you will be rewarded for your hard work in the end.

Good luck!


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

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

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