Year 12 VCE English: An overview

Year 12 VCE English: An overview

This week, Insight writer and English teacher Anja Drummond provides an overview of the Year 12 English course.

Welcome to Year 12 English. After years of honing your English analytical skills, you are now ready for the final lap. In order to do well in Units 3 and 4 of VCE English, you will need to have a thorough understanding of how scores are calculated and how the course is structured.

Here is an outline of each section of the English Year 12 VCE course, including an overview of what you will need to achieve throughout the year and some tips for success.

How is the English study score calculated?

Your level of achievement in Units 3 and 4 will be determined by School-assessed Coursework (SAC) and the end-of-year examination. The percentage breakdown of the study score in VCE English is:

  • Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 25%
  • Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 25%
  • End-of-year examination: 50%

What is in the Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework?

Area of Study 1 – Reading and creating texts

This Area of Study is broken into two SAC components – an analytical text response and a creative response. Each SAC component is worth 30 marks (60 out of the 100 marks allocated to Unit 3).

In your analytical response, you will need to prepare a ‘sustained analytical interpretation’ of a selected text: that is, a text response essay. By now, you will have had lots of practice writing essays, but it is important to remember that your essay will need to demonstrate a strong understanding of how the form and features of the text create meaning and impact the reader, viewer or audience.

In your creative response, the same strong understanding of the text is required – you should be familiar with the form and features, the implied ideas and values, and how readers respond to the text. However, your understanding of these elements will be demonstrated creatively rather than analytically. Make thoughtful decisions to adopt or adapt the structure, conventions and language of the original text in your own writing, and consider the impact of your decisions on your audience. Keep track of these decisions, as you will be required to provide a written explanation along with your creative response. Your written explanation must provide insightful justification for the choices you made regarding content and your approach during the creative process. You must be able to demonstrate meaningful connections to the original text and a complex understanding of purpose, audience and context.

TIP: Read and annotate your texts several times. (See advice on how to annotate here if you require a helping hand).

TIP: Ask yourself meaningful questions about the text creator’s decisions. For example, how does a playwright use stage directions to demonstrate power relationships between characters? How does a filmmaker use cinematic devices to introduce themes? How does a novelist create suspense throughout the plot?

TIP: Before you start writing your creative response, create a table. In one column, outline the text’s structure, conventions and use of language, as well as the main ideas and themes. In a second column, note whether this will be evident in your creative response and the reason why or why not.

Area of Study 2 – Analysing argument

This SAC component is worth 40 marks (out of the 100 marks allocated to Unit 3).

This Area of Study requires you to be able to analyse and compare the use of argument and persuasive language in texts that present a point of view on an issue currently debated in the media. The texts used for this will be selected by your teacher/school.

Note that this task requires you to consider how both argument and language work in unison to position the reader to accept a particular point of view. To do this well, you will need to think carefully about the writer’s overall purpose, their intended audience and the context of the chosen texts.

TIP: Visual elements are an important part of persuasive pieces. Pay attention to how the placement and positioning of a visual element, including interactive elements that invite the reader to ‘click here’ or ‘join the conversation’, support the writer’s purpose or argument.

TIP: Start practising this skill now. You are surrounded by persuasive texts on the bus, on social media and even in the classroom. Start thinking critically about how the world around you is trying to shape your responses every day.

What is in the Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework?

Area of Study 1 – Reading and comparing texts

This SAC component is worth 60 marks (out of the 100 marks allocated to Unit 4).

This Area of Study builds on the reading skills you developed in Unit 3 Area of Study 1.

In your essay, you will be required to produce a detailed comparison of two texts, looking at the meaningful connections between them.

However, in addition to exploring the ways that each text creator develops character and setting (as well as how they convey ideas, issues and themes), you must also explore how the two texts use different perspectives to reflect particular values.

TIP: Move beyond the use of simple connectives such as ‘similarly’ or ‘in comparison’ and think about how you can add nuance to your essay. For example, the texts may convey a similar idea, but their approach to conveying that idea through their characters may differ.

TIP: When annotating your texts, take note of the similarities and differences. For example, in Ransom, Priam says that he must remain in ‘ceremonial stillness’ as a leader. This contrasts with Mandela in Invictus, who is constantly moving until the film’s resolution.

Area of Study 2 – Presenting argument

This SAC component is worth 40 marks (out of the 100 marks allocated to Unit 4). You will receive a mark out of 10 for your statement of intention and a mark out of 30 for your oral presentation.

This Area of Study requires you to draw on your learning from Unit 3 Area of Study 2: analysing how argument and persuasive language is used to position an audience. In Unit 4, you are required to convey your own persuasive point of view in an oral presentation. In addition to writing a good argument, you will also need to skilfully use oral conventions (such as pace, gesture and tone) to influence your audience.

TIP: Your oral presentation must relate to an issue that has appeared in the media since 1 September of the previous year. Keep an eye on the media from now on, and look for a good issue that you will be able to speak passionately about.

TIP: Only use visuals in your presentation if they will clearly support your argument, or if your teacher expects you to use them.

TIP: Don’t leave writing your presentation to the last minute. Finish it early so you have lots of time to decide on the spoken conventions that will best support your writing.


And finally, remember this maxim: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ Doing so will keep you in good standing as you continue towards the finishing line in November.


Need a comprehensive overview of the Year 12 English course? Purchase Insight’s English Year 12 2nd edition by Robert Beardwood. With definitions and explanations, models, step-by-step guidelines, annotated sample responses and numerous activities, this textbook develops students’ confidence in writing, analysing, and presenting a point of view, providing the tools for success in Year 12 English.

English Year 12 2nd edition is produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.


Photo credit: Yulia Grigoryeva/shutterstock

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