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Exam Preparation Week 4

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Metalanguage in text response and comparative essays!

Hello everyone, and welcome to another week of English content! This week we will be discussing how to include metalanguage in both section A and section B of the exam.

It is important to note that according to VCAA, although metalanguage is not exactly mentioned in the study design, it is an important part of the criteria for each section.

For section A (text response), VCAA states that for a high scoring response the use of ‘precise and expressive language’ is required, and in section B (comparative) it is emphasised that ‘sophisticated comparison’ should be aimed for. I found using metalanguage to be a sure-fire way to hit these points.


Metalanguage is the specific techniques that an author uses in order to convey the message of the text in a specific way. When I discussed metalanguage techniques, I would not only discuss the actual technique but more importantly, how this contributes to the meaning that the author is conveying.

Metalanguage is very specific to the text type. Here are some specific techniques that I have identified as quite unique and distinct to the text type:


  • Narrative style – i.e. does the plot unveil in a circular or linear manner? Are there time lapses that jump to plot events in the future?

  • Narrative voice – who is the speaker? Is this consistent throughout the text?

  • Characterisation – how are the characters depicted? What hints does the author offer us through description of their personalities and decisions?


  • Interpolated commentary – the author’s notes and description on certain events in the play. Usually written in italics between dialogue, it is rich in analysis and authorial intent.

  • Stage directions – indicates how the characters would be positioned on stage. Can unveil description about their emotions and the way in which they are carrying out certain actions.

Some examples from my own writing of how I incorporated analysis of these techniques include:

‘The omniscient narration in The Golden Age flits between the consciousness of many different characters in the scene of the piano concert. Through describing the emotional reactions of Elsa to the music and the significance of the pieces for Frank, London binds them together through the common experience by allowing the narrative to inhabit both of their perspectives.’

‘Miller’s use of interpolated commentary throughout The Crucible serves to offer insight on the historical context in which the narrative occurs, and serves to unveil the menace with the ‘edge of the wilderness close by… full of mystery’ that the American landscape posed to the community of Salem which bolsters its insularity.’


In section B, I would be emphasising the difference between the forms of the text using metalanguage. For example, the text pairing of ‘The Crucible’ and ‘The Dressmaker’ contains a play and novel. Metalanguage was particularly useful when describing the end of each text.

In The Crucible, a metalanguage technique that I would use to describe the end of the text would be the denouement which refers to the way that conclusion of the text is constructed. I would then pair this with description of the black humour of The Dressmaker’s ending and its self-annihilation, mirroring the reckoning of religion in Salem with Tilly setting Dungatar ablaze.


As you can see, I have only specified a limited number of metalanguage techniques. Utilising a few of these effectively and explaining them well is the best way to support your analysis and show the examiner that you have looked deeper into your text!

All the best and good luck for writing!

Have a question?

In the final weeks before exams Mirella will be hosting 2 Live Q&A sessions to help everyone get fully prepared for exams. If you have a question on how to best get prepared, a question about an exam question or area of content send it through here, and Mirella might answer it live!

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