Students will all know, even if they've only spent one year at school, that being able to speak, write, read, and practice English is a big access point that helps your text reading comprehension and analysis, and writing of such texts, whether the student is at the time of study where they should be thinking about the VCE examination process or not.

It is for just this reason that English is a compulsory unit at VCE in year 11 and year 12 all across Melbourne, VIC, and Australia.

Its examination can help grant you access to the university you want and is used to order students in a given year (regardless of the theme under study/texts that your school has chosen). It is also crucial in how it can help you when analysing culture and texts, and can also help you practice your language and analytical skills that you use to craft your own argument or idea at any hour of the day.

Check out our guide to VCE English subjects and their exams to understand well what their units will entail, and be happy with the good understanding you have of this topic afterwards.

Discover the ways you can revise for VCE English exams.

English exams can be stressful but understanding how to write a text and essays is crucial.
Studying for your English exam can wear you out! | Source: Insight Publications
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Study Design of your English Units at VCE

VCE encompasses year 11 and year 12 in Melbourne and Victoria. These are the last two years of school and you are expected to have a good range of skills in English by then, including in reading and writing, text analysis, analysing culture, writing essays, and responding to text and auditory based questions.

Typically, because English is so important to the final year study design of high school, students will study a session or two at the start or their week, and a session or two at the end of at least an hour per session.

This is all done with a view towards a final exam at the end of year 12 which every class will prepare you for in several ways.

Teachers (and potentially a private tutor) are at your disposal during this time since online study by yourself of texts may help you get your ideas about the theme in order, but the help to guide you to clear a clear access point for understanding, analytical ability, and response, is only possible during class time with a teacher.

The skills that you practice and practice all throughout year 11 and year 12 focus generally on three areas: reading/writing, text and language analysis, and response to questions of culture.

What this looks like in practice at school is that there will be almost an essay every hour written by you leading up to the final exam, and also close analysing and formulation of questions around texts and issues of culture and society

. This can occur via many a learning platform, including online through self-study or in class in a debate-style format, both of which teachers are happy to facilitate.

The units (unit 1, unit 2, unit 3, unit 4) occur one per semester from year 11 semester 1, to year 12 semester 2. Each builds upon the skills of the previous - ability to form an argument, critical analysis of a text, reading or writing about the discussion of culture, and also study and writing skills which are relevant to essays.

This does not vary no matter your access to online resources, nor where you are in Melbourne, VIC, or Australia.

Now, we will break down a little further the three topics that you will cover in your units: General English, English Literature, and English Language.

Read all about VCE English exam text analysis.

Skills needed to write your VCE English exam might be more diverse than you think.
Getting ready for the VCE English exam can take all year. | Source: Prezi

Different Areas of English Available at VCE Units 1-4 and their Respective Exams

Students will have the choice to study one topic or multiple of them in unit 1 and 2, and then change in unit 3 or 4, since the final examination that students need to use as the platform to access a further point of study after school such as university occurs at the end of year 12.

For this reason, students generally practice for this one the most, and practice questions and their respective response based on text discussion and writing a solid argument about a topic of culture (this can vary year to year, although the study design stays quite regular in VCE General English, and only varies slightly for the others). 

The exam itself for most of the English subjects students take lasts around 3 hours, so while this might seem a long time for an examination, they need to know their writing style and how to make an argument off by heart. 

There can be a lot of pressure to perform these skills well on the day, so making sure you choose one or more of the English subjects available in the study guide is crucial, as it takes a lot of dedication to master.

General/Standard English

The most common one since it is compulsory, General English is the one which has the broadest topic focus that is relevant to culture and society and can let you lead a happy life in Melbourne, Victoria, or Australia as it offers some cultural introspective.

Teachers are very engaged at this level, however, we do recommend trying to find a private tutor to help you in analysing texts and crafting a response with a clear argument to suit your writing style.

This is because, due to the general nature of the subject and the fact everyone has to take it, it's harder to stand out and receive a higher score if you're aiming for an English degree at university after.

Find interesting English tutoring here on Superprof.

Topics you may cover in General English VCE include Australian identity.
Australian identity is something you're likely to discuss in your General English class with other students and teachers | Source: PNGItem

The topic focus will generally be around Australian identity, including historical and contemporary perspectives.

There will also be text analysis that focuses on a novel or two, or poetry. Students will be required to identify features of the language of the present and provide critiques and arguments for their significance.

Passages of text will need to be critically understood in order to do well on the final exam, as we will explore in the next section.

The General English Exam

There is only one session of the exam, so you have to get it right on the day.

This one lasts for three hours, and typically presents you with a range of critical questions, and two to three passages of text which you need to discuss in relation to a particular topic that you have focussed on in class and is prescribed by the study guide.

Students will then need to assess these in the context of their own learning, as well as their significance in relation to the novel or text.

 The examination will test their understanding of the texts and topic they have studied, as well as the reading, writing, analytical ability, and argument skills they have developed throughout the course of units 1 to 4.

Find out how to write a brilliant VCE English essay.

English Literature

Often regarded as the most advanced of the English subjects, this one is for book lovers. You won't just focus on the novel in your classes, but a variety of texts, typically novel, poetry, and classics focussed.

Over the course of the year (particularly in unit 3 and unit 4), you will study around 7-8 texts which don't follow the same theme in the way that General English texts do.

It is the job of the teacher and students to work together to discover what themes are present across and within all of the texts under study.

This will deal with language choice and writing style of the author to convey meaning (metaphors, colour words, repetition, alliteration/assonance etc), character relationships and story arcs, speculation about broader social and cultural context at the time the text was written, and the author's voice to name a few.

Find interesting VCE English tutoring here on Superprof.

The English Lit Exam

This is just as arduous with a three-hour length of time for students to write two essays, however requires more intuitive understanding and less memorisation than the General English Exam.

Students will be required to analyse a selection of passages of text from two of the ones they have studied from the study guide.

Within each of these selections, there will be two passages to compare.

The student must compare the themes that are present in both of these, taking into account the context of the novel or poems within the larger work or corpus. They are thus assessed on their ability to recognise the common themes, as well as their eloquence and creativity in expressing their interpretation of the text.

Find interesting VCE English tutor Melbourne here on Superprof.

English Literature is a popular subject from within the English stream.
English Literature is the most text-heavy of the three English streams. | Source: Getty Images - MaskaRad

English Language

This is less common than the other two to take, as it is not offered by every school. It requires a more mathematical approach to English, focussing more on its function and sociolinguistic placement than looking at themes in text per se.

Much closer to a linguistics subject, students here will learn how to break down grammar, analyse register and pragmatics, provide analytical commentary through discourse analysis, and express understanding of the role of English and language more generally as a social construct.

What to Expect in the English Language Exam

This exam is also very challenging and crams a lot more into its 2 hours than the others do.

The first section focuses on discourse analysis of one or more formal or informal interactions, section two on analytical commentary on the style and pragmatics of speech in one or more text or interaction, and section three asks students to write an essay based on a stimulus topic to do with language.

Pupils in this stream of English will have their examination marked based on how well they show their understanding of language and its social function, as well as their correct placement of English language understanding in relation to the use of certain discursive features and their social significance.

Now, learn how to write the perfect essay structure.

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