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Exam Preparation Week 6

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Hello everyone, and welcome to another week of the English Connect blog! We are roughly one month away from the English exam, so now is a great time to start buckling down with your preparation.

However, remember that VCE is a culmination, or a build up of al the hard work you’ve been doing across the course of 2 years. Take the time to be proud of how far your writing has come and treat this month as the time to fine-tune your skills and pull the together so you can feel confident on the day.

This post will be centred around how we can break down the exam topic, using the example of the comparative texts Ransom and The Queen. However, these skills are very transferable to absolute any text and to both Sections A and B of the exam!

Personally, I used a 3-step planning method to fully breakdown a topic. This would make up the majority of my introduction, and the topic sentences of my body paragraphs. Essentially, this was my PLAN.

3 step planning method:

1. Unpack and highlight the key terms of the topic

2. Stance/extension method to build a contention

3. Question method to create paragraph topic sentences

Let’s take a look at a sample topic!

Compare how the tension between the private and public world of leaders is examined in these two texts.

1. Highlight and unpack key terms

I found it extremely useful to highlight all the key terms in a topic and define them in the context of your text. This is usefully because:

  • It shapes the ideas you will include in your essay

  • It forces you to actually answer the topic

  • You can include these definitions in your introduction and in your main body to explain your line of reasoning

Let’s see how we can frame our preliminary ideas in terms of the key terms of the topic. Note that these are just my first thoughts!

  • Tension - issues that arise when expectations are not met, what happens when a leader believes they are serving the people in the right way according to them, but this is actually not the case?

  • Private - within familial relationships, ‘behind closed doors’, what’s behind the royalty? Relationship with themselves as HUMANS first and not royals

  • Public - royal identity, invest in their lives, they have expectations of the leaders

  • Leaders – King Priam redefines his version of leadership as humbler towards the public and attempts to learn from the public’s version of morality through improving his own understanding and leadership actions. Queen Elizabeth's version of leadership considers her expected duties towards the public

2. Forming a contention using the Stance/Extension method:

To from a contention, I used the stance/contention method which I found was quite universal and put a label on the types of sentences I was constructing.

Firstly, I would develop a stance using the key terms of the topic. This was always very simple and direct in language.

Example stance sentence: The leaders in both texts have tensions that arise out of their public and private lives.

Then, I would write out an extension of that stance – why do I hold that opinion? What explains why there are tensions? What exactly are the public and private worlds? Do the two texts resolve these tensions?

Example extension: In Ransom, private and public worlds merge for King Priam and he can learn from the experiences of common people in the public world. The Queen also forces the titular leader to deal with the private and public worlds, however there is not an easy resolution between the two and a large personal sacrifice on the part of the Queen is required. Both texts present the idea that for leaders, they must tackle the difficult task of reaching out into their communities to resolve these tensions.

This might seem quite long, but it ends up taking up half of my introduction. I would just add a contextualising statement at the beginning and then I’d be good to go! 3. Question method to find topic sentences

For this method, I would break down the topic by asking myself further questions. For example:

  • How does the private world affect leaders?

  • How does the public world affect leaders?

  • Are the leaders able to resolve the two?

Then I would simply, answer these questions and thus form my topic sentence and the beginning of my body paragraph! For example:

How does the private world affect leaders?

In Ransom and the Queen, the private world represents the status quo and the traditional values that the leaders must lead under in order to fulfil their duties.

This allows me to continue on and provide specific examples in each comparative text:

While the Queen so much more comfortable in these expectations and lifestyle, Priam undergoes a moral crisis and realises that the traditions of the old royal ways do not align with his personal beliefs anymore.

Exam Section C: Identifying arguments using the Block method!

Hello everyone, and welcome to another week of Connect English content! I hope you are doing well and taking the time for yourself throughout this stressful period.

At this point in my exam preparation, I was definitely looking towards Section C of the exam and having a go at planning and strategizing my approach to this section.

Today I will be tackling the much mythologised process of finding the arguments in an argument analysis piece. My approach was very simple – break up the article into 3 parts, and simply describe the argument!

This would allow me to structure my analysis with 3 main body paragraphs correlating to the 3 main arguments in the piece, and then add on the other perspectives from the other texts (image or accompanying comment) to the 3 main body paragraphs.

I’ll break down Section C of the 2016 exam as an example.

This is the main piece, alongside an accompanying cartoon and smaller opinion piece. However, I will just going to focus on the main piece for the moment:

As you can see, it is not quite broken up into 3 easy sections that I can use as the basis of my body paragraphs. This is where I would identify the tonal shifts and changes in persuasive aim to identify these sections.

Tonal shifts: Where the way that the author constructs their argument changes. Is the author softer in their language, or more steadfast and stubborn? Do they use more emotive or factual arguments?

Persuasive aim: What is the author trying to get the reader to do? Is the reader being asked to act (ie donate, recycle, think about an idea) or is the reader being informed of information that may influence their outlook on an issue?

Based on the 2016 piece, I identified that the first paragraph is setting the scene and informing the reader of the current situation. The second and third paragraphs are explaining what needs to be done and why. The final paragraph is then advocating for what the reader, as ‘residents of Lawton’, need to do.

Based on this, I would then use a highlighter to map out the blocks (of course with aesthetically pleasing highlighter colours!)

Based on the blocks, I would then go onto describing the argument. Once I found the blocks, I found that this comes fairly naturally. This is sample of how I would go about doing this:

1. Wiley begins her opinion piece by presenting Lawton as a quiet and secluded town that is in great need of an attraction to lure people in and bring in money into the town.

2. Wiley continues on by arguing that if the town wants to improve its reputation and economic outcomes, it needs to implement an attraction. The town has the potential to become prosperous through promoting their fresh produce and their community values.

3. Wiley finally asserts that Lawton needs to protect its way of life by opening the town to the outer world to allow the town to grow, through the attraction and convincing the town of the necessity to build it.

I hope that this process is helpful in considering how you can finetune your planning process.

As always, good luck and happy 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, have been stuck on an exam question or want to clarify an area of content send it through here, and Mirella might answer it live!

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