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Author Topic: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)  (Read 22170 times)

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jakesilove

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Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« on: February 03, 2016, 09:06:53 pm »
+25
This is a general guide, not just for Maths students, but for all who disdain walking through the doors at 9am knowing that today you will be reciting lines of Shakespeare, analysing one word for three hours, or memorising quotes that you genuinely could not care less about.
 
My experience with the subject we call English was filled with highs and lows. Sometimes, we would have really interesting philosophical discussions, in which I felt engaged and willing to positively contribute to the general learning atmosphere of the classroom. Other times, it really felt like wading through a river of bullshit, trying to mould the clumps into something resembling a thesis.
 
If youíre reading this guide, you probably know what Iím talking about. Youíll feel like you understand exactly whatís going on, and then all of a sudden you get distracted playing Run at cool-mathgames.com and youíve missed an entire sonnet, in which the main character seems to have done a 180 in thought process.

Worse, you just wonít care. You just wonít care whether Hamlet is a serial procrastinator, or whether the context of The Tempest is the most important aspect, or WHY YOU ARE EVEN READING ROMULUS MY FATHER (yes, I did that in my year, thus the pent up aggression).

Hereís the first thing that youíve just got to accept;

Youíre going to have to do English

Youíre going to have to get through the year. Youíre going to have to write countless essays, short stories, comprehension tasks. We even did listening tasks, speeches, visual representations amongst many other (arguably) unnecessary tasks.

This short guide is going to go over the methods I used to get through the year. A lot of the tips might sound a bit extreme, but I swear to you that I utalised all of them to get through the year. I ended up getting a pretty great mark in the English (Advanced) course: a 95, as well as topping the course in my year. That pissed everyone off; I absolutely disdained the subject, made a complete joke of it, and yet I kept getting good marks. I am a Maths/Science oriented person; I did Extension two Maths, Physics and Chemistry. All Iím saying is to give these tips a go, and take the subject semi-seriously. Youíll be fine; everyone manages to finish the course, why on Earth would you not be able to as well?

1.   Acknowledge that, to some extent, the subject can be a joke. Why not treat it as a joke as well?

I played English like a game. I tried to come up with the strangest ways to approach the subject, so that I didnít get bored and I thought I was in charge.

English Advanced can be, to a pretty large extent, treated as a formula. Quote goes here, explanation goes there, conclusion pops up somewhere towards the end. But that isnít enough, that isnít enough to keep you interested, to make your essay stand out. If you make yourself interested in your essay, youíre going to do better. If you think about your thesis on a Saturday night, weeks before your exam, youíre going to do better.

I didnít believe any of the crap English tried to teach me at first. Metaphors didnít mean anything, sibilance was just included to make the sentence sound slightly, slightly stronger. But, as I considered my thesis and main points throughout the year to a greater extent, I really started to get emotionally involved in my essays.


The main reason that I managed to become interested in my thesis and my points was by treating the subject as a joke. Lots of Science/Maths students think themselves above English: I didnít quite believe that, I just did feel like it was a bit of a waste of time. So I messed with the system.

My thesis, for every single section, was the polar opposite of the standard thesis. For Hamlet, the typical response is ďHamletís hamartia was his inactionĒ, and then various arguments that flow from there. My thesis was that ďHamlet was a highly active, however introspective, individual, whom we should all admireĒ. Basically, I said he was constantly doing something, albeit different to his foils.

Making your thesis different, either by making it nuanced, specific, or just totally different to everyone elseís, is a way to make yourself interested in the topic and in the area of study. You donít need to believe it; remember to treat it a little bit like a game. I completely disagreed with my thesis, but I constructed my own truth. Youíre putting on a faÁade, a fake ďEnglish professorĒ jacket that lets you spout bullshit. Convincingly. Never underestimate your ability to aptly spend 5 pages explaining the importance of an idea that you completely disagree with.

To summarise: Make yourself interested in the essays. Come up with a thesis different to everyone else, which allows you to genuinely explore morality/humanity in a way that most students ignore because they just listen to their teachers and write whatever they are told. By being slightly removed from the rest of the class (by just generally not giving a shit), you can get an edge that no other student has. 

2.   But studying for English is long, boring and difficult.

Yeah. Yeah thatís true. Studying for English sucks. But there are methods that make it less arduous and less time consuming, although probably no less boring.

Letís talk about writing practice essays. That was probably the most difficult type of study I had to do throughout the year, largely because I just didnít have the focus or patience to spend 40 whole minutes writing out an essay. Thatís why, in general, my recommendation is not to do practice essays, at least in one sitting.

Most of my English study consisted of writing ESSAY PLANS. Once you get going writing your essay, itís easy to just keep writing. The hardest part is starting, and knowing where to start. 

By having a fairly comprehensive essay plan, you donít lose time thinking. You should walk into every essay knowing which two/three themes youíll be discussing, which quotes youíll be using, how youíll be using them etc. Writing out your essay plan over and over again, and making that your study, is my top recommendation if you canít sit through an entire essay-writing session.

For English, preparation is key. I would seriously recommend having these essay plans ready for each module, and basically knowing them by heart. Following the order of your plan in the exam room will keep you right on track to finishing the essay with the best results possible.

The following is a structure for any essay plan. I hope its useful!

Example essay plan

-   Introduction

o   Write out the first half of the introduction that you will actually write in the exam. Itís important to eventually be able to just smash it out from the get-go, without thinking. Make sure to include the TWO OR THREE THEMES that you will use to build your thesis and answer the question.

o   The second half of the introduction should be, at least slightly, tailored to the question.

-   Paragraph one

o   Have your ĎGolden Sentenceí memorised. This is a single, brilliant sentence that summarises your take on the theme.

o   Quote #1. Explanation of Quote #1. Finally, application of Quote #1 to the thesis/question.

o   Quote #2. Explanation of Quote #2. Finally, application of Quote #2 to the thesis/question.

o   Quote #3. Explanation of Quote #3. Finally, application of Quote #3 to the thesis/question.

o   Finally, you put a concluding sentence. This should be tailored for the question, and so doesnít need to be included in your essay plan.

-   Paragraph two

o   Have your ĎGolden Sentenceí memorised. This is a single, brilliant sentence that summarises your take on the theme.

o   Quote #1. Explanation of Quote #1. Finally, application of Quote #1 to the thesis/question.

o   Quote #2. Explanation of Quote #2. Finally, application of Quote #2 to the thesis/question.

o   Quote #3. Explanation of Quote #3. Finally, application of Quote #3 to the thesis/question.

o   Finally, you put a concluding sentence. This should be tailored for the question, and so doesnít need to be included in your essay plan.

-   Paragraph three

o   Just a quick note; you may not need a third paragraph, depending on how you structure your thesis and themes.

o   Have your ĎGolden Sentenceí memorised. This is a single, brilliant sentence that summarises your take on the theme.

o   Quote #1. Explanation of Quote #1. Finally, application of Quote #1 to the thesis/question.

o   Quote #2. Explanation of Quote #2. Finally, application of Quote #2 to the thesis/question.

o   Quote #3. Explanation of Quote #3. Finally, application of Quote #3 to the thesis/question.

o   Finally, you put a concluding sentence. This should be tailored for the question, and so doesnít need to be included in your essay plan.

-   Conclusion

o   Not a bad idea to have some really punchy sentences memorised, but for the most part itís better to tailor your response to the thesis and question you are addressing.

Quick note: I am not saying you only need 9 quotes. Feel free to throw a few more in that you donít necessarily go into great depth with. In fact, I would definitely recommend using 10-15 quotes per essay.

Once youíve written out a few of these, itís a good idea to type it up and have a finalised essay plan. If you want to expand on the essay plan, including interesting sentences etc. then feel free to. But I honestly think this sort of study is nearly as good as writing a practice essay.

You are going to need to write a practice essay. Youíre going to need to write lots of practice essays. However that can be done closer to exam times, whereas this can be done throughout the term. Itís just a less arduous way to study.

In terms of remembering your quotes, I donít think thereís a sure fire way to easily memorise stuff. I would keep your quotes short and memorable. Make sure every quote you use has a technique in it that you can discuss; there is no point using a content-less quote!

I would (hand)write your themes, and the relevant quotes beneath it. Then just use them as flashcards, memorising them by reading through them, asking people to test you etc. If you have a good understanding of why youíre using the quote (ie. Where it fits into your thesis) and how youíre using the quote (ie. What you are going to say about the quote), it makes it a hell of a lot easier to memorise.

To summarise: Have a very solid essay plan, which is detailed enough such that you know exactly what you are going to write walking into an exam, but short enough such that writing it out a few times to practice is not too arduous. Make sure to use sensible quotes: nothing too long, and nothing that doesnít add to your thesis.

3.   To memorise or not to memorise, that is the question

Letís talk about memorisation really quickly. I never tried to memorise my essays, but I promise you that by the end of the year, youíll basically know most of your essay by heart. That is, if you write exams like I did.

I had my essay plan for each module smashed out about a month before each exam. That wasnít because I was super prepared: I just genuinely didnít listen in class, and so I had nothing else to do. When you feel your class in being unproductive, or youíre going through an irrelevant point, make the lesson productive for yourself. You feel superior because youíre not paying attention, and better because youíre doing great work.

Every single exam, I wrote the same essays within the module. Every belonging essay was the same throughout the year, every Frankenstein/Bladerunner essay was the same throughout the year. Literally exactly the same, with an altered sentence here or there to suit the question. I genuinely believe that you can suit ANY thesis that you have prepared to ANY question you can be asked, if you are nimble enough on you feet.

Basically, I never prepared multiple essays because you can always work around a question. However if you donít feel comfortable doing that, by all means remember two. But by writing out the same one, over and over again, for the entire year, I got to my HSC exam and didnít even have to think. My brain was switched off, my hand was scratching away, and then the exam was over.

4.   Make yourself sound smarter than your teacher

This is a real thing I did. I found big words that I liked the sound of. I vaguely learnt what they meant, although not in any particular depth. Then, I used them in my essay.

My teachers absolutely frothed over them.

By having a thesis totally different from everyone else, you already sound bloody smart. You can think for yourself, and maybe your teacher doesnít quite understand your thesis, but they think to themselves ďhmm maybe this student is smarter than me, I canít mark them down for that!Ē. To really push yourself over the edge, though, use big words.

My favourite words were vicissitudes and verisimilitude. A google of ďBig smart wordsĒ yields things like:

Capricious
Dichotomy
Beleaguered
Quixotic

You get the idea. Write yourself a list, write yourself definition, put them in a sentence in your essay and memorise that sentence. By sounding smarter, teachers will generally look more favourable on you. Since all English essays are marked dependant on whether the teacher has had their cup of coffee that morning or not, having a few extra silver bullets is always helpful. 

Share these words on the ATAR notes community! Thereís no way anyone will pick up if youíre all using the same smart words; more likely, your HSC markers will just think youíre a brilliantly intelligent year group!

5.   Iíve made your teachers out to sound like utter morons. Mostly, theyíre not
Most of your English teachers are actually very intelligent. Theyíre also great sources of knowledge, even if you have a great quote but you just donít know what to do with them. Its class discussion that is often not so useful, however if you are developing your thesis, quotes to use etc. I would strongly recommend asking your teacher about it, whether in person or by email. They are there to help you; donít waste that resource. Ask them to mark draft essays, or even just your essay plan. See what they like, and what they donít like, because in the end what they say goes. Use them as a resource, like you would use any others: utalise their strengths, avoid their weaknesses.

6.   Finding the perfect related text

The related text I used in my HSC year was The Backwater Gospel, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVkDrIacHJM) a short film I came across on Youtube. I only used one related text, throughout all modules. I would highly recommend doing this, as it minimises what you have to remember, the time you have to spend analysing your related text etc.

You should always use a different medium to your set text. Usually, your set text is a book/play etc. and so a visual medium is the way to go. In that case, a short film is perfect: Itís short, no one has seen it (so no one can contradict your analysis) and usually theyíre just cool. Find yourself the perfect related text, and use it for everything. You canít get marked down for it, and it allows you to spend your time elsewhere.



I think thatís it from me! This guide has gone for way longer than I thought, and there are countless more tips I could add. We have an ATAR notes forum, in which you can get essays marked, ask countless questions and answer other studentís questions. I would seriously recommend heading on over. Elyse, our amazing English forum moderator, will be there to answer your questions properly; if youíd like, I can always drop in for a sarcastic answer


See you on the forum!

Jake :)

« Last Edit: February 05, 2016, 10:39:46 am by jakesilove »
ATAR: 99.80

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Physics: 93
Chemistry: 93
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Studying a combined Advanced Science/Law degree at UNSW

brenden

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2016, 09:16:19 pm »
+1
Woah - absolutely phenomenal guide.
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Happy Physics Land

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2016, 11:35:51 pm »
0
If theres anything I got out of Jake's splendid guide, it's to contradict the question and use megalithic lexicons.
Mathematics: 96
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christinebelista

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2016, 03:19:27 am »
+2
THIS IS MY BIBLE. thank you so much you absolute weapon

subjects: 
- advanced english
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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2016, 11:30:56 pm »
+1
Wow, thanks! Your advice is very helpful. I will definitely take this on board.   :D
:)

jakesilove

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2016, 11:47:10 am »
+2
Thanks for the positive responses everyone! Would love you to share the guide with your friends (although perhaps not your teachers....).
If you have any suggestions regarding further content to produce (ie. areas you want me to go more in depth with, a list of big words etc.)  please let me know!

Jake :)
ATAR: 99.80

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Physics: 93
Chemistry: 93
Modern History: 94
English Advanced: 95
Mathematics: 96
Mathematics Extension 1: 98

Studying a combined Advanced Science/Law degree at UNSW

Spencerr

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2016, 09:53:12 pm »
+1
Hey Jake, thanks a lot for the guide, it's been really inspiring. I'm also a sciencey-maths type of guy and I think english is one of my hardest and worst subjects. The biggest thing I struggle with is creative writing. I am absolutely horrified at how terrible I am at it. it is my academic bane. Do you have any tips or advice on how I could gradually improve. I'm trying to write regularly but my writing isn't at all improving (although I've only written for one week). I'm entirely willing to put in the effort to improve this part of english but I need guidance on how to do it!!

Also could you post up a list of big smart words? I really need them to improve my essay vocabulary.
Thanks!!
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jamonwindeyer

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2016, 01:34:37 am »
+1
Hey Jake, thanks a lot for the guide, it's been really inspiring. I'm also a sciencey-maths type of guy and I think english is one of my hardest and worst subjects. The biggest thing I struggle with is creative writing. I am absolutely horrified at how terrible I am at it. it is my academic bane. Do you have any tips or advice on how I could gradually improve. I'm trying to write regularly but my writing isn't at all improving (although I've only written for one week). I'm entirely willing to put in the effort to improve this part of english but I need guidance on how to do it!!

Also could you post up a list of big smart words? I really need them to improve my essay vocabulary.
Thanks!!

Hey there diiiiiiiii! Glad you enjoyed Jake's guide.

I too struggled quite a bit with Creative Writing, and the best way to improve is to keep practicing exactly like you are doing! Perhaps what you need is a bit of a breakdown, exactly what is required, a formula if you will  ;) Check out this awesome guide from Elyse, who breaks down the rubric and sets out a wealth of ideas for successful writing pieces, straight from the syllabus. As a Maths guy, I think its super helpful to get a formula to success, and Elyse gives you just that with this guide;)

Thanks for the suggestion, that is an awesome idea for a resource! I'll be sure to pop it in our list along with all the other awesome stuff that is on the way. In the mean time, a thesaurus is your best friend, it is how I expanded my vocab for English  :D Also, how about a word of the day:

dichotomy : Division into two mutually exclusive/opposing groups.

The author seems to present a dichotomous relationship between the curiosity of the individual and the wellbeing of the wider community, suggesting that society restricts personal discovery.

Try and use that in your next essay paragraph, great for discussing opposing viewpoints  ;D
« Last Edit: February 13, 2016, 01:36:36 am by jamonwindeyer »

jakesilove

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2016, 08:54:14 pm »
+1
Hey Jake, thanks a lot for the guide, it's been really inspiring. I'm also a sciencey-maths type of guy and I think english is one of my hardest and worst subjects. The biggest thing I struggle with is creative writing. I am absolutely horrified at how terrible I am at it. it is my academic bane. Do you have any tips or advice on how I could gradually improve. I'm trying to write regularly but my writing isn't at all improving (although I've only written for one week). I'm entirely willing to put in the effort to improve this part of english but I need guidance on how to do it!!

Also could you post up a list of big smart words? I really need them to improve my essay vocabulary.
Thanks!!

Hey Di!

Firstly, love Jamon's response to your questions. Elyse's guide is really quite fantastic, and a formula for success might be exactly what you need.

More specifically, though, I would suggest writing a practice short story, handing it into your teacher, read any feedback, make changes, hand back in etc. etc.. Basically, once you've done this enough times you'll have a great creative piece. Then, when you've written it out enough times, you'll have it essentially memorised!

As for the list of intelligent words, I will absolutely put something like that together in the next few weeks so keep your eyes on the forums!

Hope this helps.

Jake
ATAR: 99.80

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Physics: 93
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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2016, 08:25:19 pm »
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This is beyond words, you've taken the weight of English off my shoulders!

Just one question, how is it that you remember quotes for essays? I'm currently in the preliminary course and recently wrote a comparative essay on transformations between Emma to Clueless, yet I felt I rambled on and on due to the fact I forgot evidential quotes I've got to use. Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated :)

jakesilove

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2016, 08:37:45 pm »
+3
This is beyond words, you've taken the weight of English off my shoulders!

Just one question, how is it that you remember quotes for essays? I'm currently in the preliminary course and recently wrote a comparative essay on transformations between Emma to Clueless, yet I felt I rambled on and on due to the fact I forgot evidential quotes I've got to use. Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated :)

Hey Caitlyn!

Firstly, thank you for your kind words! Glad that this post helped you in your English journey :)

The way that I remembered quotes was by writing them out on palm cards, by theme. Then, I would read them a hundred times over and get my brother to test me on them once a day, for at least the week before the exam. I also wrote out the ones I couldn't quite get a billion times on a piece of paper. Basically, you just need to brute force it.

Try a whole bunch of techniques, and eventually you will manage to remember all of your quotes! From the start, try picking easy quotes that are also quite memorable, as that makes the process a whole lot easier.

Hope this helps! Best of luck!

Jake
ATAR: 99.80

Mathematics Extension 2: 93
Physics: 93
Chemistry: 93
Modern History: 94
English Advanced: 95
Mathematics: 96
Mathematics Extension 1: 98

Studying a combined Advanced Science/Law degree at UNSW

Justina Shehata

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2016, 01:23:45 am »
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is getting a band 6 for english really that hard?

jamonwindeyer

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2016, 01:41:53 am »
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is getting a band 6 for english really that hard?

Depends on what you consider hard I suppose  ;) hard work, diligence, practice, writing skills and a great knowledge of your texts and the themes involved in them are musts for getting a Band 6 in English. Truth be told, it's not easy, but you can totally do it if you work hard at it. Smash it Justina!  ;D

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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2016, 11:05:50 am »
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is getting a band 6 for english really that hard?

I really think that the course of standard and advanced English is difficult! Potentially, the hardest! Advanced English was my most difficult subject, and I studied 4 units of English! The reason being, you have to put on so many caps as an analyser/writer. By this I mean, you view things different for each module, you write a creative, you analyse texts of different types, and in an exam, you have to analyse a text you've never ever seen before! If you're finding it difficult, then don't feel ashamed! Basically, it isn't "that" hard to get a band 6 in the fact that it is definitely achievable. But, like all subjects, you have to really work for a band 6! I scraped in with a 93, and I think that advanced english was the subject that I put the MOST effort into. (I think...) So, with hard work and dilligence, you can do anything. I was lucky English is my strength! If your strength is in maths, for example, you might need to go that little bit further with English to bring it up to a high level! :)

You can do ANYTHING!
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Re: Dealing with English (for Maths students....)
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2016, 11:20:51 am »
+1
is getting a band 6 for english really that hard?
Some food for thought

I got 12/30 for my Mod A speech

I ended up on a high band 5 but my exam mark was barely 90.