Don your thinking cap and don your reading glasses - we are going to talk you through the different kinds of texts, subjects, and exams in the English VCE study design.

The three different areas will all focus on writing, reading, speaking, and listening with their units (Unit 1 and Unit 2 - Year 11; Unit 3 and Unit 4 - Year 12), and the study design can help guide you to a good access point for knowing what you will study and keep you happy hour after hour in your revision.

Specialised teachers for each stream will help you with study skills, how to do well in exams, how to understand texts, and how to conduct independent study online, including how to practice and order ideas in your writing and plan your essays. This will contribute to your ATAR score and help you get into your ideal university course in Melbourne, Victoria, or Australia.

Year 12 VCE English is compulsory for all students in Melbourne and VIC, but luckily the reading and writing skills, as well as topic focus and essay writing abilities are widely applicable, and for this reason, your school will probably offer one of the three different streams: General English, English Literature, or English Language. 

Our guide will run you through the background to the study design for each of these three and what their exam looks like, and give tips on how to centre your argument and plan your ideas to ace your text response and craft brilliant essays.

Discover the features of VCE English essays.

Poetry is a large part of English VCE text analysis
Studying poetry is something you'll likely need to do in your text analysis. | Source: Poetry Archive
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Class Time, Study Skills, Study Design, and Access Point for Each of the Three Englishes

The units 1 and 2, and units 3 and 4 may differ in difficulty, but both are good places for having a strong understanding of English language skills - writing, reading, speaking, listening, topic focus, essay writing, idea order - and are compulsory for all students in Melbourne, VIC, and Australia.

All elements in the Australian school platform (check the online study guide for more information) have a similar core for English, including reading comprehension and analysing texts and being able to talk to teachers and others and apply this knowledge to a broader societal context. However, students will be happy to know that the topic of each English will centre around something different.

The three areas mentioned above - General English, English Literature, and English Language - all have a different access point and platform for university, with your practice in class time across the year varying for each, and you will find access to this information below.

General English

The access point for General English is considered the centre of the study design, since it gives students a good general understanding of text response and how to make their ideas flow, often in relation to stimuli such as Australian society and the online world. 

It involves breaking down understanding about society and culture and the world around us, and using speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills that make it possible to engage well with life in Melbourne. Your teachers or tutor will incite debates and base your learning on questions of identity, and help you find good skills for analysis of texts, which you can then write in an essay to help order your ideas well. 

Typically, you will have a session at the start of the week and a session at the end of the week at school, since the score for English is so important and competitive, given that all students must take it. And don't be fooled - even though this is considered the least academic of the VCE English topics you will study, it still asks big questions about language and society.

Find interesting VCE English tutor Melbourne here on Superprof.

Shakespeare is a common text writer who is studied in VCE English text analysis
Shakespeare's poetry and plays are likely topics for text analysis. | Source: Wikipedia.fr

The General English Exam

The study design is a good access point for answering questions you may have about this exam. The examination platform for this unit in year 12 seeks to test the English skills acquired throughout school and the course of learning year after year. This exam lasts three hours and asks students to engage with short answer questions, then write an extended essay based on the topic of their choice in their study, as well as a text or texts they've looked at. Students also have to memorise quotes from the text to show their understanding and apply knowledge to the essay.

Get the overall gist of English VCE exams here.

The Text Analysis

The way that this relates to the study design for General English is that students need to have the quotes prepared and look at the question given during the exam session.

The reading item understudy will ask questions to students on the topic they have looked at and then contextualise this to Australian identity. A private tutor is generally a good help to help you practice for this, but teachers also give tips on critically analysing and finding the main point at the centre of the questions under study.

This is when the student needs to apply the quotes they have, and you will be happy to know that a good amount of students have no trouble writing these to great effect. Analysing and in-depth analysis, including of the text and of society, are deemed crucial and contribute highly to your final score.

Practice for the text analysis itself by looking at random passages from your book or poetry from class and brainstorming about them in relation to the contexts you've discussed.

This will also facilitate the memorisation of quotes.

English Literature

This is known as the most difficult stream, however, don't be dissuaded - it's the most text focussed and the most critical of the three. You will study novels, plays, poetry, including classics and contemporary literature, and will learn how to identify topic, theme, style, voice, and imagery in them, whilst being able to understand their historical, cultural, and social significance.

What is tricky about this kind of English is that you have to read 7-8 texts in one year. Teachers will guide you in how to do this efficiently, but you will be expected to have this done by the time the exam rolls around, or well and truly before. This is part of the fun though, and lots of class time will be dedicated to reading aloud together and pausing to understand the deeper questions of what is at play, as well as refining skills including identifying features and relationships that highlight the author's meaning more profoundly.

This differs from General English in that the teachers and tutors you work with will be much more personally linked to you, as your ideas are what counts when it comes to the final VCE examination. The specific elements you will all work on together to identify in the text are the author's language choice and writing style, character relationships and story arcs, author's voice and intent, and ability to contextualise these features historically and in a contemporary setting, all the while comparing these two settings.

Find out how to best revise for your VCE English exam.

The English Literature Exam

Lasting only two hours, you have to use this time to do two text analysis tasks which will be drawn from two separate pieces of literature. One will most likely be poetry or a play, and the other a novel. It is the task of students to identify similarities and differences between these two passages and locate them within the text, without having to memorise any quotes. 

Student interpretation of the features and overall work are what counts here, and being able to critically evaluate what is in front of them and present a convincing argument for their significance and relationship to one another is what they will be marked on. It is for this reason that working on skills and interpretation are of particular importance in this subject.

Find interesting English tutoring here on Superprof.

Jane Austen text analysis is highly common.
If you study English Literature, there is a good chance you'll study Jane Austen. | Source: France Culture

The English Literature Text Analysis

The key to success in this area is to focus on the similarities and discrepancies between the two pieces.

To really do well, think about a) where each passage is located in the book/poetry collection, b) consider the features of this passage in front of you and the ones in the other, then c), think about how and why the language choice might be different in relation to character relationships, tone etc.

If the student can correctly identify what the features are then note a clearly stated emotional and analytical response to these, the they will very likely do well in this subject. The best way to practice before the exam for this would be to work on your analysing skills and ability to correctly put these into your own words, all the while crafting an idea of what the broader significance is in the text. Revision before the examinations can also be effectively spent by practicing paragraph writing on particular features to save time in the exam session on the day.

Find interesting VCE English tutors here on Superprof.

English Language VCE is a language and linguistics focussed stream.
You will study English and sociolinguistics in the English Language VCE stream. | Source: Kaeleela

English Language

This is the most scientific and linguistic in approach and will focus more on the function of language and grammar in a sociolinguistic way rather than perfecting text analysis. You will learn how to view discourse analysis critically and understand semantic and pragmatic features of interaction, discourse, and written communication.

The English Language Exam

This one also goes for two hours, with the three sections focussing on: a discourse analysis of formal or informal interactions, analytical commentary style and speech functions in an interaction, and an essay based on a language-related topic. 

The English Language Text Analysis

The text will essentially be a discourse, so the things you'll need to make sure you understand before you do this are how to identify formality, features of grammar that indicate meaning, and knowing how we use language as a social function.

Students will do well to be able to identify the purpose of certain features of language to in order to clearly articulate their understanding of hidden meaning in discourse. When it comes to the essay, the student will also need to be knowledgeable in general issues concerning English and general language use, so they will need to be able to draw on research and other texts themselves. 

Learn about essay structure in your VCE English exams.

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