How to gain extra marks without even trying

The night before the exam

Go to bed at your normal (going to school) time, not earlier not later.

Do not sit up late cramming you will only stress yourself without achieving anything (you should already have done your preparation!)

Get some exercise a run, swim or walk is fine. This does not mean go out and party with your friends!

 Make sure you drink plenty of WATER, you want to go to the exam hydrated… but not full of liquid – you know the consequences of this!

Find your dictionary and two working blue or black pens (both the same if possible) and highlighters. You must be self sufficient. You are NOT allowed to borrow pens or dictionaries from other students once the exam has started.

  Exam morning

Eat breakfast (even if your stomach is churning) Three hours is a long time on an empty stomach.

Arrive at school 20 minutes to half an hour before your exam.

What to take into the exam:

Water in a clear unlabeled bottle.  It is important to stay hydrated for optimum brain function.

A dictionary – you may not take a thesaurus even if it is attached  to your dictionary   A thesaurus will confiscated if you do take one in. (Your dictionary will work as a thesaurus; remember there is no rule which says you have to replace a word with another single word!)

  • TWO working blue/black pens that don’t leave blots every second word.
  • Highlighters for your Language Analysis
  • Watch – but programmable  watches may be confiscated for the duration of the exam


What you may not take into the exam

  • Your text books
  • Notes of any kind (yes we know you are allowed  a page of notes for maths but this is the English exam and the rules are different!)

What you should not take into the exam

  • Red pens, pastel coloured pens, perfumed pens,  pencils – none of these are appropriate unless you are intent on annoying the examiner so they will give you the worst possible mark.

There are no marks for writing the number of the question in a different colour (and there are some assessors who get quite irate when students do change pens as it is considered a waste of writing time).

  •  Liquid paper – you are not allowed to use it.

A single line through any errors works just as well (don’t scribble it out, it looks messy).  Assessors get paid per question, so they don’t waste their time reading what you have crossed out.

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A collection of prompts for Imaginative landscape

  1. Landscape is often linked to emotion.
  2. Landscapes, both real and imagined, change our views of the world.
  3. The landscape of the imagination draws on the physical landscape.
  4. A single place can change our view of the world.
  5. The place in which we live has an impact on our understanding of the world.
  6. The physical setting of a place can often reflect the state of our emotions.
  7. The natural world around us helps to shape our destiny.
  8. The landscapes that we create in our mind help to keep our imagination alive.
  9. The way we relate to our physical environment can determine the kind of person we become.
  10. A change in the landscape can reflect a corresponding change in a person.
  11. Landscapes influence how people see themselves.
  12. Landscapes challenge our sense of belonging.
  13. Our memories of a landscape have the power to transform.
  14. Any landscape is a condition of the spirit.
  15. The landscape people grow up in speaks to them in a way that nowhere else does.
  16. Our perception of a landscape is forged from personal experience.
  17. The meaning of a landscape changes over time.
  18. People’s lives can be enriched by an emotional connection to the landscape.
  19. One landscape may be experienced differently by different people.
  20. The landscape of the imagination draws on the physical landscape.
  21. Landscape is often linked to emotion.
  22. For most people, there is a strong connection to a remembered landscape.
  23. The way we view the landscape we live in reflects our hopes and fears.
  24. The landscape in which we live influences who we are.
  25. Our sense of place depends more on memories and experiences than on the physical landscape.
  26. People who are in conflict with the landscape are usually in conflict with each other.
  27. Human impact on the landscape is always fleeting.
  28. People’s fears and desires are often revealed through their perceptions of the external landscape.
  29. Landscapes are not static, neutral places. We are able to transform them in our minds.
  30. It can be difficult to accept changes that occur to a familiar landscape.
  31. The landscape is a place for people to shape and evolve.
  32. The landscape in which we live affects our perception of the world.
  33. As we explore other imaginative worlds, we make sense of our own.
  34. Landscapes transform our ideas and emotions.
  35. Reality and imagination often merge as we struggle to interpret the world in which we live.
  36. Our imagination can give us new perspectives about our environment and how we interact within it.
  37. We create landscapes as a form of escape. We can escape as far as our imagination allows.
  38. Imagination allows impossibilities to eventuate.
  39. It is through other people’s interpretations of our own environments that we can better understand and  shape our own experiences.
  40. We live in a specific time and place yet, simultaneously, we experience an internal life that is not limited in  this way. (2009 VCE Exam)
  41. Events and experiences influence the way we connect to a place. (2008 VCE Exam)
  42. The place in which we live strongly influences how we make sense of the world. (VCE Sample Exam)
  43. Our vision of the landscape reflects our vision of ourselves.
  44. We create landscapes as a form of escape. We can escape as far as our imagination allows.
  45. Landscape is our retreat from life’s pressure as well as from the world of nightmare.
  46. Our lives can be explained in terms of literal and metaphorical landscapes.
  47. We spend our lives digging for meaning, grappling physically, mentally and emotionally with our daily environments.
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Third Term Break

There is time to improve your grade remarkably between now and the exams, but you will need to take control.


Get up at a reasonable hour (Don’t sleep your day away!).  If you get up not much later than your usual time you can achieve a lot of work and still have time for exercise and a little socialising.

Work out a study timetable — divide your time between your subjects, don’t just do one and ignore the others, don’t just do what comes easiest! The research shows that you should be working in at least half hour blocks with short breaks

Form a study group — but make sure that they are people who will study and who will share ideas.  Read each other’s work and comment constructively, make workable suggestions, solve problems…

Submit your work for teacher’s comments

For English:

WRITE, WRITE WRITE. (Essay Topics for your texts and Prompts for Context are here on the blog! Short articles for a quick analysis are here too)

Text: Complete a mix of: plans, intro + dot points + conclusion; and most importantly full essays under timed conditions. (1 hour)

Context: Work on your pieces and ensure that you are both addressing the prompt and incorporating your chosen text Witness/GUPA into your writing. Look for prompts which would not fit anything that you have written.  What would you do for these? Full essays under timed conditions. (1 hour)

Language Analysis: Complete VCAA past papers (see VCAA site) or use ones from your manual or quick analyses from the articles on this blog for when you have only a little time. You could also use any opinion article from a newspaper. Full essays under timed conditions. (1 hour)

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Weekly Term 3 Homework 2011




Year of Wonders

Language analysis:

Past VCAA exam papers


August  5 It is only the in mates who benefit from the production of Cosi Fan Tutte. Discuss with reference to Cosi It is only when we know ourselves that we can find a place to belong 1666 was truly a year of wonders for Anna Firth. Discuss. VCAA 2007 Exam (You have already done this one in class but have a fresh try)
August 12 Lewis never has control over the production, it is Roy who makes all the decisions. Our identity and sense of belonging are shaped by our cultural heritage. Fear was as destructive as the plague itself. Is this true of Year of Wonders? VCAA 2006 (both articles)
August 19 The world outside the asylum was as mad as anything to be found inside the institution. Is this Nowra’s view? Friends are the most important way of finding out who we are and where we belong All the characters in Year of Wonders are flawed in some way. Discuss VCAA 2004 (don’t forget the image)
August 26 Madness is in the eye of the beholder. Discuss with reference to Cosi Living in a culture which is different is never easy Year of Wonders is totally unrealistic. Nobody could be as selfless  as these characters. Do you agree? VCAA 2009 sample exam
Sept  2 Music and the arts are much more than mere entertainment. Does Cosi support this view? To belong we hide behind a series of masks which hide our true identity Every person in Year of Wonders  has their own way of coping. To what extent is this true? VCAA 2008 exam
Sept  9 All the characters in Cosi have their own version of what it is to be normal. Do you agree? Our outward appearance tells little of who we really are Despite the horrors of the plague many of the characters benefit from their situation. Discuss VCAA 2009 exam
Sept  16 How does love shape the actions of the characters in Cosi? Only our families can ever truly understand us It is the women who are the strongest characters in Year of Wonders. Do you agree? VCAA 2010 exam
Sept  23        

You can complete a mix of Full essays; Essay plans; Full introdution – dot point- full conclusion; Dot point intro – topic sentences – dot point expansion; Lotus diagrams; Essays in timed or untimed conditions. AT LEAST HALF SHOULD BE FULL ESSAYS. The important thing is to be thinking about and trying different ways of shaping essays and ways of responding to Text, Contest and Language Analysis.

When in doubt seek help (but have a go yourself first)!

You need to submit your work for feedback

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Year of Wonders

You can find a useful discussion of Year of Wonders on the Wheeler Centre’s site:

It should provide you with some food for thought about the novel and ways of engaging with this text.

Posted in Year of Wonders | Tagged | 7 Comments

SAC questions for Cosi

Please note that none of your teachers will comment on essays written on these topics as preparation for the SAC. (Essays on other topics might receive feedback, if time permits)

SAC Topics (select ONE)

Love and politics are equally important.  Discuss with reference to Cosi.


Lewis is as much a product of his environment as Nick, Lucy or any of the in-mates.  Discuss.

PS: Don’t forget to check out the marking criteria for your SAC via the English drop down menu.
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New prompts I & B… pictures?

The (longish) list of prompts for Identity and Belonging has been expanded.  Check out the new ones on the bottom of the list.

By the way the prompts are in two formats, statements and questions.  The prompt you see on the exam paper could be either

and even more confrontingly could be a picture or graphic, with or without a written prompt. This has not yet happened but the VCCA says “prompt or stimulus material” in its official publications.  (More later)

Posted in Identity and Belonging, prompts, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Context: Imaginative Landscape Exam Prep

Background information

You have one hour to complete this section in your exam (minus planning time, minus proof reading). You should not be afraid to spend around 5 to 7 minutes planning. Planning saves time and gives a better result! You should ALWAYS proof read carefully.  You would be amazed at the silly mistakes which are made under exam pressure.

This is a writing exercise not a text response, but you must use the text in some way. There is no rule about how much, this will depend on your writing style. You do NOT have to refer to the text in every paragraph — a key word or idea from the text need come up only once in the entire piece (perhaps an expository piece on oneof Kinsella’s major concerns, land salination, or a line from a Kinsella poem might be the only link to the text), or the text may be a  thread running right through the writing (for example the retelling of a story from One Night tthe Moon from the viewpoint of a another character from the film).

The Exam (but not the Study Design) says you may write in any style, imaginative, persuasive, expository (or a blend of these). In reality this means any style — try to find a piece that doesn’t fit one of these categories — I can’t. No one style gives an advantage over the other and you should aim to write to your own strengths. The bottom line is that the Assessors are looking for good writing that 1)incorporates the ideas of Imaginative Landscape 2) has some relationship to the text/s, in your case John Kinsella’s poems and One Night the Moon 3) a reference to all or part of the prompt. Please note that a prompt is not a question, it is a springboard for your own writing, so unlike a text question you do not have to deal with every part of the prompt, but you must incorporate some of the perspective on  the Imaginative Landscape raised by the particular prompt

You are NOT allowed a statement of explanation in your exam; last year the English Assessors were instructed to disregard any statements, so you are wasting your time if you chose to write one. This means that the link to your nominated text must be apparent within your written piece. Part of your preparation is to work out ways you can do this so that the link is relevent and flows within your writing. Good writing will use the ideas which have grown from the text as a springboard.

So how do you prepare?

The Basics:

  1.  Consider what you know about the task. You will use your chosen text and the ideas about IMaginative landscape you have worked on in class and thought about on your own.
  2. The exam will give you one prompt for this context only (There are no choices here)
  3. The prompt on the exam will use the ideas of the Imaginative landscape and will have to be suitable for all four texts which are available in this context. This means the prompt must be broad.
  4. There is an extensive list of Imagainative Landscape prompts in another post on this site. Have a look at the similarities and differences between them.
  5. You have already written several essays for this context (even if it is only the ones you did for your SACs!). Use the essays you have already written and see how what you have done could be matched to a different prompt.  What changes would you need to make?
  6. Find the prompts which do not fit what you have already written. Begin to plan ideas for these. You need a (small) selection of different pieces to match different kinds of  prompts.

The not so basic:

  1. Look critically at the pieces you have written (and get others to offer constructive criticism). Which do you like best? What works well? How could the pieces be improved?
  2. Check that you have some complex ideas to discuss. Do you need to do more research? What are your thoughts on the role of landscape (real or imagined) in our lives?
  3. Avoid a formulaic structure, keep your writing fresh.
  4. Start to improve the vocabulary.  If you have essays on computer don’t underestimate the value of highlight then shift F7 to find alternate words.
  5. Play with different ways of presenting the same information. Turn an imaginative piece into an expository, an argumentative in to an imaginative. Experiment with blending two styles — for example use imagined scenarios to illustrate the points of an expository piece.
  6. Keep trying; trial your ability to write a finished piece within the one hour time frame. It is like training for a sport, the more you do the easier it becomes. The only way to get up to speed is to train yourself properly.
  7. When you get to the exam, you do not have to reinvent the wheel from scratch. Use the prompt and some ideas relating to your chosen text that you have already explored.
  8. Think, consider, ponder, think and write, write, rewrite! You can do your thinking anytime, under the shower, on the bus, eating lunch, going for a run… Use those spare 5 minutes for something useful… and remember any “ahha” inspirations and have them ready to incorporate into your writing.
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VCAA 2008 exam analysis material (modified slightly)

Below is the 2008 2008 exam analysis material.  The images were subject to copyright and have been replaced with similar clip art images.  A sample response is on another post.

The Write Stuff  …  


Email and text messaging may be fast and efficient, but nothing really beats receiving a long letter from a good friend in the mail or, even better, an anonymous love letter on Valentine’s Day.

Roses are red, violets are blue

If you SMS me this Valentine’s Day

Consider us through!

Picture this: it’s Valentine’s Day and your partner has just emailed through an e-card complete with dancing sheep and the words .I luv ewe.. How sweet, you think. Just as you’re about to show it off to a colleague, you notice her opening a thick, red envelope that sprinkles fragrant rose petals as she releases a handwritten letter. It’s a note from her boyfriend and, by the time she’s put it down, she’s blushing pink, leaving your e-card somewhat pale by comparison.

.A handwritten note is like dining by candlelight instead of flicking on the lights, says calligrapher Margaret Shepherd. And she’s spot on. Isn’t it better to make a gift instead of buying one? Isn’t it better to enjoy a stroll rather than hopping into a car?

 Unless you’re illiterate or have a heart of stone, there’s nothing quite like receiving a letter in the mail, especially for important occasions. It tells you that someone has put their hurried existence on hold long enough to write a letter, find a post office, buy a stamp and send it. In this era of instant gratification, that kind of effort really stands out.

 If the social forecasters are to be believed, today we’re not only too impatient to write letters, we can’t even be bothered to sit down and read one. Instead we want everything pronto and have little time for one-to-one interaction. We’re doing more of our banking, bill paying, gift buying and grocery shopping online and, as for information, we want it faster, shorter and sooner.

 Information overload is largely to blame for our need for speed. According to lifestyle strategist Ian Hutchinson, we’re now subjected to 20 million advertising messages before we hit 20. Add to that emails, text messages and voice mails, and it’s no surprise that generation Y finds letter writing so passé.

 Over the past decade, however, rapid leaps in technology have seen the written letter replaced by faster, more efficient and inexpensive alternatives. The result, in many cases, is an abbreviation of real communication and this is what worries social commentators such as Dr Bob Montgomery, Director of Communication for the Australian Psychological Society.

 The current generation has taken to SMSing in droves, he says. These guys are the most visually literate generation . . . but they’ve got the attention span of a gnat. I don’t think It’s useful in the long run, as it’s not good for approaching many tasks and a lot of relationships..


When it comes to making a relationship work well, good communication is essential, he says. But if all you’re sending is a brief SMS, it has rather less impact than saying, .Hey, I’ve spent half the day thinking about  you…. You don’t need an excuse to put pen to paper, but there are times when it’s the best option. You’ve got time to think about what you want to say and you can polish up how you’re saying it. It slows down the pace of the interaction and invites a more considered response, says Dr Montgomery. Letters are also an intimate, though non-intrusive, way to offer condolences for the death of a loved one, a job loss or the breakdown of a marriage (although preferably not your own..Dear John. letters are taboo!). They’re also perfect for expressing real appreciation (for that pricey wedding gift, for example) and can be like fertiliser to a friendship. Hands up who hasn’t been disappointed to find a lengthy email from a friend has also been CCed to 23 others.

It’s often said that love letters are the most re-read and regretted, but they need not be. When done right, they can take a relationship to the next level. The key is to be sincere. We’re relying increasingly on commercial writers to state the sentiment for us, Dr Montgomery says. But writing your own message can carry more clout than Roses are red, violets are blue  ….

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Sample response (modified) VCAA 2008 language analysis

This is a sample response for the VCAA Exam 2008, based on a slightly modified paper in that the images are clip art not the originals from the paper, but the words are as cut from the VCAA website. The original document is contained in a separate post so that you can attempt it yourself before looking at the sample response.

Given the time constraints, it is necessary to make decisions about what should be included and what to leave out. 

Sample response: The Write Stuff

Using humour  to attract readers of the popular magazine, the witty pun on “right” in the headline suggests both the topic, letter writing, and the writer’s perspective on the topic – that it is indeed appreciated as the right stuff. The font of the headline and the first letter of the article are designed to replicate hand writing, reinforcing the writer’s warm-hearted and colloquially expressed contention that “nothing really beats receiving a long letter from a good friend in the mail” The adjectives “long” and “good” leave the reader feeling positive about the experience of receiving mail and disposed to readily accept the writer’s contention. A quick glance at the page links the ideas of writing and romance as readers consider the graphics accompanying the article, an amorous rose, a love heart and the allure of the romantic quill pen in an appeal to nostalgia for times past.

Calling up images of “an anonymous love letter on Valentine’s day” the juxtaposed idea of an sms message is ridiculed by the parody of the well-known rhyme “Roses are red…” in a verse which does not scan properly “If you SMS me this Valentine’s Day”, making the proposition of an sms seem even more ridiculous, encouraging readers to reject the idea as unromantic “consider us through”.

Positioning readers to reject all electronic forms of love letter, the scenario of dancing sheep and the lamely jocular words “I luv ewe…” on email are in stark contrast to the hyperbole of the emotionally charged description of the “thick, red envelope that sprinkles fragrant rose petals” which would guarantee that the romance-focused target audience, instantly reject the dancing sheep, thus reinforcing the contention.

The writer calls on the expertise of one whose job is to promote handwritten material, calligrapher Margaret Shepherd, who compares the romantic image of “candlelight”  in opposition to the ridiculously mundane scenario of “flicking on the lights on” which is immediately followed by successive rhetorical questions each beginning “Isn’t it better…” and containing emotional blackmail “make… instead of buy”, “short stroll” presented as self-evident truths, where no disagreement could be countenanced.  The acceptance of Shepherd’s position is further strengthened as anyone who is considering disagreement is disparagingly characterized as being “illiterate” or having a “heart of stone”.

The tone of the article changes so as to appear well-informed and authoritative, suggesting “social researchers” argue that “we” want it “faster shorter and sooner”. This buzz phrase and the repeated inclusive language “we can’t” “We’re not” is an indictment of society as a whole which is quickly excused by surprising and confronting statistics from the seemingly authoritative  “lifestyle strategist” Ian Hutchinson “20 Million advertising messages before…20”, ensuring readers do not feel offended. The list of other common electronic communications adds to this justification “emails, text messages… voicemail”.

Well known Dr Bob Montgomery, with the impressive title “Director of Communication for the Australian Psychological Society”, is used to add weight to the argument. His argument  is expressed in a combination of colloquial “guys”  and academic language “visually literate” making his point appear both easy to understand and authoritative. The wry humor of  “but they’ve got the attention span of a gnat” plays on a sterieotype to keep the audience’s attention as he drives home his contention “I don’t think It’s useful in the long run”, relying on his position to promote his opinion into the realm of established wisdom.

The final section, preceded by the visual promise of the tender image of the rose and the entwined wedding rings, offers earnest advice on the value of letter writing “Hey, I’ve spent half the day thinking about  you…” including a long and appealing  list of advantages “slows down… considered response…intimate…real appreciation…” all of which is characterized alliteratively and sentimentally as “fertilizer to friendship”,  The contrast to emails “CCed to 23 others” builds on a common shared experience to position readers to accept the value of the handwritten letter to “carry more clout”. A cyclical structure returns to the already ridiculed “roses are red” to end the letter, leaving little room to disagree with the contentions of the writer and the collected experts.

759 words

50 minutes

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