So you've toiled and tethered your way through 4-5 years of high-school English. You've written your fair share of text responses, read a ton of books. You've developed a diverse array of English language skills, and you don't mind reading. You have a clear writing style and can write texts of many persuasions. And yet, like every other budding VCE student you've arrived at the critical juncture: does one enrol in the units for VCE English or VCE literature?

If you need help deciding which subject is right for you, then this guide will hopefully help you make a better decision.

We will look at the study guide and the skills required for each subject so you can choose the subject which will maximise your study score! Let's venture on.

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Studying English in Year 12: Is VCE Literature the best option?

Every VCE student must make the decision for their final year of school as to whether they undertake traditional English studies or opt for a different English subject such as VCE Literature or English Language.

First, let's see what the VCAA Study Design has to say about VCE Literature?

According to VCAA: "VCE Literature focuses on the meaning derived from texts, the relationship between texts, the contexts in which texts are produced and read, and the experiences the reader brings to the texts.

In VCE Literature students undertake close reading of texts and analyse how language and literary elements and techniques function within a text. Emphasis is placed on recognition of a text’s complexity and meaning, and on consideration of how that meaning is embodied in its literary form. The study provides opportunities for reading deeply, widely and critically, responding analytically and creatively, and appreciating the aesthetic merit of texts."

What you will find when studying literature, as this guide suggests, is that students will be required to read more books, poems and passages than in English. However, where the emphasis in English is on language analysis, literature tilts towards an appreciation for "aesthetic merit" within texts. This means that the simple and clear poetic beauty or resonance of a text is more likely to be the topic for analysis, rather than the mechanical techniques of persuasion.

If you are a book worm, and can easily list your top 10 favourite books for example, then literature is likely a great option for you, since you can now do all your recreational reading under the guise of study!

Being an avid reader can mean that literature could be right for you
The more you read for leisure, the more tools you'll have in your arsenal when working on essays!

 

What about VCE English?

Undoubtedly the most selected course of all, English is a mixture of analysing texts such as articles, as well as responding to longer texts such as novels, and preparing a creative piece under the 'context essay' section of the course.

According to VCAA: "Through engagement with texts from the contemporary world and from the past, and using texts from Australia and from other cultures, students studying English become confident, articulate and critically aware communicators and further develop a sense of themselves, their world and their place within it. English helps equip students for participation in a democratic society and the global community."

Therefore, English is a general subject where a variety of texts are studied from a variety of angles. It is the ideal course for students who enjoy analysing language and writing essays, yet do not have a particular affinity for novels or 'aesthetic merit' which are the topic of analysis in VCE Literature.

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The Exam

A big factor in determining whether it will be better for you to do literature or English in year 12 should be the exam.

The literature exam is two hours long and focuses on depth analysis of meaning, technique and writing style of the author of two passages. According to bloggers who have taken VCE Literature, it is possible to predict the kind of passages you will have to analyse, so the breadth of preparation may not be as broad as it is for the English exam.

It's always a good idea to go through the last few years of previous exams, for both literature and English to see which one feels like the right subject for you.

The English exam on the other hand is three hours long and requires three different writing styles for each one. This means that you will have to devote a lot of time and effort into becoming confident writing one language analysis, one text response and one context piece. This could be quite a lot of preparation if you are not naturally good at English, potentially taking up time that could be spent preparing for other exams.

However, if essay writing is really your thing and you enjoy preparing 'quote banks' and creative pieces, then you shouldn't be too concerned about the workload of VCE English and its lengthy exam.

If you really, really love writing essays and think that the English language is your greatest strength when it comes to VCE, consider taking both subjects. This will mean that you can spend your academic year reading, writing and refining your essays.

This could be preferable to focusing on more memory-based subjects such as Business Management and Physical Education if that's where your strengths lie. It also means you can avoid doing a maths or science subject if you feel like these are some of your weaker areas.

Find interesting English tutor here on Superprof.

 

Don't underestimate how much you will have to read in Year 12
In literature, you will analyse the aesthetic beauty of texts (Source: Claudia Wolff - Unsplash)

Scaling

Scaling should come into consideration when making this decision.

In short, English scales down while Literature scales up.

For example, if you get a 40 study score in English, this will be scaled down a whole point to 39, while if you score a 40 in literature it will be scaled up a whole point to 41.

Regardless of the content or scaling of each course, the most important aspect of VCE subject selection is that you enjoy all the subjects that you pick and that they showcase your strengths. This way, all the study, practice exams and everything else will feel like a downhill race, rather than an uphill one!

A third option: English Language

The rules for VCE state that you simply have to choose at least one English subject, and that this subject will count towards your 'main 4' study scores. This means you can also take VCE English Language over Literature or English.

The VCAA Study Design states that VCE English Language "builds on students’ previous learning about the conventions and codes used by speakers and writers of English. Informed by the discipline of linguistics, it provides students with metalinguistic tools to understand and analyse language use, variation and change. Students studying English Language examine how uses and interpretations of language are nuanced and complex rather than a series of fixed conventions."

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Language isn't static and is always changing, so knowing the ins and outs of English will always be beneficial
VCE English Language looks at the English language as a linguistic code (Source: Green Chameleon - Unsplash)

Should I get a tutor for Literature or English?

Regardless of whether you choose Literature or English for your studies, one of the best ways to maximise your education and achieve a deeper understanding of the ideas presented in your course is to hire a tutor. A good tutor has years of tutoring experience and achieved a high score in the subject in which they are offering tutoring services.

Let's have a look at options for finding the ideal English or Literature tutor.

Superprof is a tutoring platform that allows students of any skill to search a catalogue of private tutors and contact the one who they think will be great for them. You can find all types of English tutors here, from high achieving Year 12 students, undergrads all the way up to PhD and tenured teachers.

Tutors can also be found on websites such as Tutor Finder, where you can also view a list of former literary students turned tutors, who are willing to help you out with analysing and interpreting texts for literature.

Find interesting English tutor Melbourne here on Superprof.

There are many great resources available, such as local libraries, where you can study or get text books
Like choosing a good to read from the library - select your VCE English subject(s) carefully! (Source: Eliabe Costa - Unsplash)

 

What's the verdict?

In summary, choosing English or Literature for VCE is a matter of preference. If you prefer analysing texts for their poeticism and meaning, choose Literature. If you choose to apply a more frank and persuasive frame to analysing writing, then English will be a better choice for you.

If you really really love reading, writing essays and have a dedicated English tutor, then perhaps you can get a lot out of doing both!

If you are interested in linguistics and prefer to see language as 'code' to achieve certain communicative needs, then perhaps VCE English Language is the best class for your education!

At the end of the day, view subject selection as an attempt to motivate yourself maximally. If you do classes which suit your strengths, or which you want to receive further tutoring in, then your curiosity will guide you towards a great score! If you resent your education, the results will be worse. It's that simple.

So, consider how many essays you want to write and the type of essay you would like to be preparing for your classes and exams. If you pick the right classes, you might even enjoy going to school!!

Best of luck to all.

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Jack

An English Teacher by day, a writer and musician by night. Teaching is my adult passion the same way Pokemon was my childhood passion.