What to expect in VCE English as an Additional Language (EAL)

What to expect in VCE English as an Additional Language (EAL)

There are lots of similarities between VCE English and VCE EAL, but there are also a number of crucial differences. In this week’s blog post, Insight writer and English/EAL teacher Niki Cook goes through what students should expect when entering VCE EAL.

As we reach the second half of the year, it’s likely that your thoughts are turning towards next year – and if you’re currently in Year 10, this means facing the perhaps daunting prospect of beginning your VCE studies.

To help alleviate some of those nerves, here’s a look at what you can expect in each Area of Study across the two years of VCE EAL, along with some tips on how to prepare for your future studies.

Reading and creating texts

This is one of the Areas of Study that relates to set texts, and it can be found in Units 1 and 3. For this Area of Study, you’ll be required to read (or view) a designated text and respond to it in different ways. For Unit 1, your school will select the text or texts that you’ll focus on. For Unit 3, your texts will be chosen from a designated list that is the same for all English and EAL students.

You will then produce creative and analytical responses to these texts. The form of your creative response will vary depending on your teacher, but it’s fairly safe to say that your analytical response will be in the form of an essay.

TIP: Use the rest of this year and your studies in Units 1 and 2 to refine your grasp of text response essay structures. This will allow you to focus on getting to know your text in Unit 3 in as much detail as possible.

Analysing and presenting argument

The Areas of Study dealing with argument feature in all four VCE units and in the final exam as well. While Units 1 and 2 focus on both ‘Analysing and presenting argument’, Unit 3 focuses on ‘Analysing argument’ and Unit 4 focuses on ‘Presenting argument’.

To make things easier, let’s consider this Area of Study in its two parts.

Analysing argument

This section requires you to understand how argument and persuasive language are used to position audiences. This will involve reading a range of different types of persuasive texts and analysing their content and structure. It is important to remember that ‘language’ refers to both written and visual material in this Area of Study. This means that you need to practise analysing and explaining the persuasive elements of different types of visual texts as well as written texts.

In Units 1 and 2 you’ll focus on building your skills by analysing a single text, while in Unit 3 you’ll move on to analysing two or three texts on the same issue and comparing the ways in which they position their respective audiences.

TIP: Read letters to the editor and articles in the opinion sections of newspapers regularly. This will build your familiarity with these text types, as well as with topical issues and different writing styles, which can be quite different from the styles used in texts you’re likely more used to reading.

Presenting argument

This section requires you to use your understanding of language and argument to construct your own persuasive texts. Some of these may be written, but the development and delivery of a persuasive oral presentation is also a key task for this Area of Study.

TIP: Take every opportunity to practise speaking in front of people, even in informal settings. This will build your confidence and skills in preparation for the more formal assessment situations to come.

Reading and comparing texts

This is the second Area of Study that relates to set texts. You will be required to compare two texts by identifying and analysing their similarities and differences in terms of ideas, issues and themes, as well as the ways in which the texts’ creators have presented these in the texts.

As with ‘Reading and creating texts’, assessment typically takes the form of an analytical essay. However, it is important to note that this Area of Study is not on the final VCE exam – you will only need to complete it as part of your classroom assessment.

TIP: Start early. Content knowledge required for comparative study can appear overwhelming, so you need to give yourself time to get to know both texts. As you read or view your texts, make notes on the ideas, issues and themes so that you have a basis for comparison right from the beginning.

Listening to texts

This Area of Study is only in Unit 3, though there is an audio component in the ‘Analysing and presenting argument’ Area of Study in Unit 1 as well.

The requirement for this Area of Study is pretty straightforward: you need to demonstrate that you can comprehend a spoken text. Listening comprehension tasks also form one of the three components of the final VCE exam.

TIP: Listen to spoken English as often as possible. Find podcasts – in English! – on topics that you’re interested in and use them to help build your listening skills.


While it may seem as though there’s a lot to cover in VCE EAL, remember that you’ve already been working on these skills in your English studies. Identify your existing strengths as well as any areas you still need to work on – if you’re not sure, ask your teacher. Remember that VCE is a journey and you’ve got two years to develop and refine your skills, so keep persevering and the progress will come.


Looking for resources for extra listening practice? Insight’s Years 11 and 12 EAL Listening Practice Student Collections 1 and 2 offer original audio texts on diverse and engaging topics, along with questions and sample answers, designed to develop students’ listening and comprehension skills.

The Years 11 and 12 EAL Listening Practice Student Collections 1 and 2 are produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.


Image credit: 9dream Studio/shutterstock

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