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Exam Preparation Week 7

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Let’s work on some ways to apply everything we have have covered over the last 6 weeks to answering exam questions in a way that we will be able to grab all those marks we rightfully deserve. I thought I’d spend today’s post writing about some exam-style questions, and identifying some things to look out for in your exam.

Discuss the capacity of the media to influence its audience(s) in the contemporary media landscape. (7 marks, 2019 Exam).

This question tripped up a lot of students in last year’s exam - across the state, students only received an average of three marks out of the available seven. I thought it might be useful to go through the comments made in the Examiner’s Report about this one to try and explain what assessors are looking for when marking this sort of question.

“Some students misread the question and wrote on historical examples of media influence.”

When we talk about the contemporary media landscape, we need to be providing examples of media influence happening in the contemporary world - meaning influences occurring now. This could include examples involving social media because they are particularly relevant to modern times.

“A number of students made unsupported claims that media influence is less prominent than it was last century, without recognising that issues of media influence are understood and theorised differently today.”

This point is really important - and to give it some context, we need to remind ourselves of how communication theories were constructed over time. The early communication theories made up in the 1930’s believed that media messages were linear, and audiences were passive - basically implying that the media had ultimate power over audiences. BUT, just because our modern theories don’t believe in that anymore, it doesn’t mean the media in reality is less powerful than in the 1930’s!

What we need to realise here is that, no matter the influence occurring, those influences are just theorised differently today. The example included in the Examiner’s Report used examples of social media, and explored how large their spheres of influence could be by using modern theories such as the Filter Bubble. In doing so, the answer showed that in some ways, “the media arguably has greater capacity to influence audiences in the contemporary media landscape than ever before.”

It’s also worth noting here that using communication theories is not a one-size-fits-all affair - we couldn’t say that every example of influence in 2020 could be explained by, for instance, the Reinforcement Theory. Instead, we find the example of influence first, then work out which explanation works best, backed up by one of our theories.

What if there’s a question I don’t fully understand?

Example: ‘Audiences are central to the construction and dissemination of media products…’

So in this example, I’ve highlighted the keywords construction and dissemination. For any Media exam answer, you need to be including all of these keywords in your responses - it shows the assessor that you’re directly answering the question, and the use of specific terminology like these keywords is also very useful.

However, what if you only knew what the word construction meant, and you knew how to talk about it, but you had no idea what to include for dissemination? This is something that can happen in the heat of the moment under exam stress, and it’s not the best situation to find yourself in, but I do have a tip to work around it.

The advice is this: every time you use the word construction, tag the words ‘and dissemination’ on the end, so that the word dissemination gets included in your answer without you directly addressing it or providing examples for it. As an example, your concluding sentence might look something like:

“Therefore, the construction and dissemination of media texts shows that…”

Of course, this won’t win you back 100% of the available marks, but it will significantly improve your answer. The main thing to take away here is that we need to be including all of those keywords from the question in our answer.

Lastly - a note about reading time

I want to show you two questions from the 2018 Exam:

3. Explain how a media code and/or convention was used to create audience engagement in one media narrative that you have studied this year. This media narrative may be any of the media narratives that you have studied this year.


4. Explain why audience readings made by the intended audience may be different from readings made by present-day audiences. In your response, refer to one media narrative that you have studied this year. This media narrative may be any of the media narratives that you have studied this year.

Looking at these two questions, we notice something interesting - in Question 3 you can use either of your films as an example but for Question 4, you are blocked from using the film you mentioned in Question 3. This is a really common trick used when writing the Media exams, and every year it leads to disappointed students who wish they could use a film for Question 4 because they had the perfect example - unfortunately, they already used that film in Q3 and don’t have time to start from scratch.

The easiest way to avoid this absolute bummer is to identify this trick in your reading time. I can almost guarantee one of these conditions will be hidden somewhere in your exam - usually the narrative and ideology section - and if you can spot it in your reading time, you can pick which films will fit each question best, and save yourself from worrying about it once writing time begins.

That’s just about everything I wanted to mention today - thanks again for reading! Next week will be my final post before the exam period begins, where I’ll be sharing some personal tips about studying in the weeks before the exam from the perspective of myself in Year 12. See you then, and congratulations once again on completing your Year 12 studies!!!!

Have a question?

In the final days 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!

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