Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Hello again! This week, we’ll be capping off our revision of the Media course content by looking at your School Assessed Taskwork (SAT), or your media productions as well as looking at how to deal with 10 mark questions. I’m very much aware of the restrictions that have made these productions especially difficult this year, but I’m confident that there are still lots of ways for all of us to prepare for this section of the exam!
In saying this, I am 99.9% that the SAT section of the exam is going to look a lot different compared to previous years. Because of the difficulties faced by so many students in their productions, I’m confident that these questions will be (but don't take this as a guarantee!):
Very general in nature, so that they are accessible to all students
Focused on the planning phase of your productions
However, there are still a number of areas we should be looking at for revision just in case - the exam can technically ask you about any stage in your media production process. Luckily, I have some tips to guide your thinking, and help you to reflect on what kinds of knowledge the exam might ask you to provide. Let’s firstly look at some of the initial steps in your production:
No matter whether you chose to make a film, an audio piece, a print or any other medium of production, your plans would have begun with research. Once we form an initial idea for our project, our research phase guides us into looking at similar examples that exist in the real world. One of the biggest components of this is to look at how codes and conventions are used in your researched examples. For example - let’s say we want to make a film like Get Out (2017). The first thing we’d need to do is watch Get Out and some similar films such as Split, Midsommar and Us. We would need to look at specific examples from these examples, and the easiest way to do this is to use the language of codes and conventions. Maybe lighting or sound or point of view were used in a really interesting way across these films - if you tried to copy or emulate these codes and conventions, that’s really good information to provide in your exam!
I should also note that we can funnel down our research ideas into ‘Genre and Style’ as well - identifying what genre our production falls into, and also its unique style.
Once we formed an idea of what genre, style, codes and conventions we wanted to try in our productions, the next step would have been to experiment! If an exam question asks you about experimentation, all you need to do is to provide examples of some relevant codes/conventions/skills, and write about how you tried them. You could write about how you tried one of the camera angles from the film Get Out, because you liked the way it created tension for the audience.
Once we’ve done our experiments, we may have met with mixed results. If that camera angle you tried worked really well, then that’s awesome! You’ll be able to reflect on that success, and tell the exam assessor how you ended up using that camera angle in the final version of your production. However, if the camera angle didn’t work so well, don’t panic because you’ll still have plenty to talk about! Reflection gives us the opportunity to look back on what went well, or what went wrong, and then consider how this helped us moving forward. Maybe, in finding out the camera angle didn’t work so well, you instead discovered a way to use lighting and your camera in a way that worked much better. These are the kind of anecdotes assessors are looking for; examples of how you looked back on your research and experimentation, and tried different options before settling on a production of some kind.
It should also be noted that your final production might not match up with your original plan at all, especially given the restrictions placed on us all this year. All this means is that you have a much bigger opportunity to describe how you adapted your plans. This is all achievable through reflection. One quote which I think is particularly useful here comes from a tutor in my teaching degree at uni, who shared this with me:
“We do not learn from experience...we learn from reflecting on experience” - John Dewey
If you’re still unsure about answering questions on your production, or looking for what else you might revise to include in your answers, there are some other places to look:
Any documentation you made during your production. Things like scripts, equipment lists and shot lists would have helped you to organise your production and synthesise your ideas. You can include the fact that you made these documents in your answers.
Opportunities and Constraints. Many of you may have found opportunities in finding a certain location to film, or enlisting the help of friends and family in your production. These are some helpful anecdotes that you can include in your responses. In terms of constraints, I am almost certain that everyone can think of a few examples of how their production was constrained this year.
As I said earlier, hopefully this section of the exam reflects how tricky this year was for students trying to complete their productions. I can’t imagine this section will give you too much trouble compared to previous years, but hopefully I’ve helped to guide your reflection on things you can mention in the exam. For the next few weeks with this blog, I’ll be running through some practice questions and other exam skills in the lead-up to your exam!
10 mark questions
10 mark questions are something that students all over the state tend to struggle with, so I’m going to share my personal planning technique for these types of questions.
I do have a really personal philosophy when it comes to answer-planning in general, which is that you’ve gotta break a couple eggs to make an omelette. By that I mean, you need to use a little bit of time to plan in order to gain time, and efficiency, and fluency, when you actually start writing. So so often, I see students jump straight into a 10-mark question without thinking ahead. Usually, they get about halfway through - and then they get stuck. This is for a number of reasons:
- They run out of examples to use
- They forget what they were arguing about mid-sentence
- They start feeling stressed by timed conditions/the ominous threat of the ‘VCE EXAM’
These are all really valid reasons for feeling lost mid-answer, but there’s a way to get around them, and that’s by planning! So let’s go through some steps you can take based on this sample question:
“Media narratives can convey ideology through the selection and application of media codes and conventions. Analyse how media codes and conventions convey ideology in the media narratives that you have studied this year.” (10 Marks)
Step 1: Unpacking the Question
At this early step, we need to start highlighting keywords here, since this will get our brains to start thinking of relevant examples we can use. So what are the keywords here?
- Ideology - which ideologies will you choose to look at from each of your films ie. environmentalism in Avatar (2009) or racial inequality in Get Out (2017)
- Codes - which examples might you discuss?
- Conventions - which examples might you discuss?
Importantly at this step, we need to make sure that all of the examples we choose are relevant to the question. We’re always, always going to be relating back to how these codes and conventions convey ideology, so staying on subject is key here.
Step 2: Dot Pointing Your Examples
So unpacking the question has got us brainstorming some relevant examples we can use - now we need to decide which of these examples we’re actually going to include in our answer. The way I used to do this was by dot-pointing, and I don’t mean this in a mental way, I mean physically and visually:
Lots of students don’t know this, but in a VCE written exam, the examiners are only allowed to look at the black lines and what you write on them. Anything on the edges of the paper doesn’t count - because we don’t get planning paper for Media, we can use this space to our advantage. In this example, you can see how I’ve quickly noted some terms like ‘sound’ and ‘point of view,’ so I can use them later in my example. I’ve also branched out in red pen to remind myself to give details like ‘musical score’ and ‘effects’ under the sound dot point.
The point of this step is to start transforming your ideas into concrete arguments.
Step 2.5: Deciding How Many Examples
So we’re making dot points, things are going well, but we need to decide how many dot points to make, or more generally, how many examples we need. This usually depends on how many marks the question is worth. Here’s a breakdown of this particular question:
10 marks = 5 marks for each film, ie. 5 marks for Get Out and 5 marks for Avatar
Within those 5 marks for each film:
- 3 marks for three examples - maybe two codes and one convention, or some other combination
- 1 mark for identifying the ideology present within the film
- 1 mark for stating how the codes and conventions conveyed that specific ideology
Also, just keep in mind that you should try and keep examples of the films balanced whenever you can, so an even amount for each.
Step 3: Structuring Your Answer
Home stretch! We’ve brainstormed a bunch of examples, chosen our favourites, and now we’re clear on the exact things we want to say - now we just need to put them in order. This way, once we start writing in full sentences we know exactly where to go, because we’ve made ourselves a roadmap of how to write out our answer.
I would highly recommend putting your best answers first. The reason I say this is because if you run out of time in your exam, at least you can be confident that your favourite and strongest answers are guaranteed to be in your response.
At this point, you can also decide whether you want to constantly compare your films in one big paragraph, or if you want to do two smaller paragraphs with one on each film. If you tend to struggle with timed exam conditions or writing long responses, I would suggest the two small paragraphs - they let you focus on one film at a time, which is a lot less stressful on the brain.
One last thing! Before we start writing, we just have to remind ourselves to A.T.B.Q - answer the bloody question (an acronym my teachers used at school which I’ve never forgotten). Make sure we’re always linking back to our main question (like TEEL paragraphs in English). Lastly, please remember, don’t retell the story!!
And that’s it!
Hopefully this framework will help you to plan out your responses. I should note that I didn’t just use my dot-pointing method for 10-markers - I would plan out answers all the way down to the 3-marker range. It’s always been my policy that planning before you write makes your answer look better, sound better and increases your chances of getting full marks. Make sure you get around to practicing these skills on some sample exams in the next couple weeks!
Have a question?
In the final weeks before exams Stefan 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, have been stuck on an exam question or want to clarify an area of content send it through here, and Stefan might answer it live!