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Literature FAQs Answered! (Raw 50 and 47)
« on: November 21, 2019, 08:08:09 pm »
— Frequently Asked Literature Questions Answered! —

Last year, fellow AN user hums_student and I worked together to compile 5 Practical Tips for VCE Literature. This year we decided to get together again to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding VCE Lit.

Both hums_student and I did Lit 3/4 in 2018, and got 47 and 50 raw. For the exam, I did Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams (Section A) and Selected Poems by Robert Browning (Section B). Hums_Student also did COAHTR for A, and Short Stories by Nikolai Gogol for Section B. Below are the questions both of us get asked quite a lot for VCE Lit, both on ATAR Notes and in real life. Most of these questions are regarding subject selections and exam preparation.


I’ve heard Literature is more competitive, the workload is much higher, and the scaling isn’t worth it. Should I still choose it?

[C] Literature is definitely the more competitive out of the two, but in terms of workload I think it is quite arbitrary. I for one thought the workload is less than the workload in English. In the English exam, you must write 3 essays in 3 hours; in literature, it's 2 essays in 2 hours.

Regarding scaling, try not to take it into account too much when doing your subject selections. It's calculated objectively and is there to even things out, not to give one group of students advantage over another.

My grades in year 7-10 English weren’t top tier. Should I still choose lit?

[C] It's true that a lot of strong English students do literature, but you don't have to be strong in English to do well in lit. Similarly, someone who does very well in normal English may struggle in lit as the criteria is very different.

There is an element of creativity and freedom in lit, unlike English where you must follow the strict criteria and structure when structuring and writing your essays. Many students at my school, who average high 90s in English, struggle to do well in lit as they just write the exact same essays. Likewise, I know many students who receive mediocre scores in English, but shines in literature

Literature isn't just "hard English", there are assessments in lit which you would've never done before in year 7-10 English (for example, literary perspectives) so everyone is more or less at the same starting line. People who are strong in English also tend to fall into the trap of writing "English-style" essays which you would want to avoid in literature.

Would it be too much work if I did both Literature AND Mainstream English?

[H] Did not do mainstream English myself, but I did do two other humanities subjects, including VCE Ancient History, and anyone who has done a history subject at VCE would know that the workload is English on steroids.

The workload was definitely heavy, there's no sugar-coating it. But the skills I learnt in essay-writing is very transferrable between all my writing-based subjects. For example, I found that as I started doing more writing practice in history, my literature essays improved too.

But I just want to re-iterate the fact that literature essays and English essays are not the same thing. While doing mainstream English could improve your general writing skills, make sure you are writing literature-style essays in lit.

Is VCE Literature the least useful / applicable one out of all 3 English subjects?

[C] Really depends on what you want to do in the future. I'm hoping to become a vet, so lit seems pretty irrelevant, but still it was a fun subject and kept me sane by balancing out my STEM subjects.

[H] I'm currently studying Bachelor of Arts in uni (doing a lot of subjects from History and Political Science) and I find that a lot of the content I learn in my subjects are built upon VCE Lit, particularly from Literary Perspectives. Of course, if you want to do a non-arts degree, it probably won't be too applicable. But the usefulness of a subject shouldn't be your only criteria in subject selections.


How should I choose my texts for the exam?

[C] First of all, I highly suggest sticking to the texts that you actually learnt at school, because you would've done better VCE-related preparation for the text versus one which you think is interesting but have done minimal study for.

It seems pretty intuitive that you should choose a text that you’re comfortable and most important of all, familiar with. However, many students would try to be strategic. For example, some may choose a text with complicated language because there seems to be more points of analysis over a text with simple language; or choose a text that isn't as popular in the hopes that the assessor won't be as familiar with it. Do NOT do this! Don't try to 'game' the system. Doing a text you haven’t read much is incredibly risky as it'll be much more difficult to include deeper analysis, and it will backfire on you during the exam.

Can I / Should I choose a text my school didn’t study?

[H] Can you? Yes, absolutely (as long as it's on the VCAA text list, duh). Should you? That depends.

I was initially planning on doing Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad even though it bored me to death, but settled on Gogol's Short Stories which my school did not study. My teacher wasn't on board with my decision for good reasons.

I chose Gogol as I've read many of his works already and I was familiar with his style of writing, and also because I am somewhat familiar with Russian/Ukrainian history. If I wasn't, I would've just stuck with HOD. Choosing Gogol was quite a big risk, and I'm not even sure if it paid off (I scored significantly worse on my Gogol essay on the exam).

I would only recommend choosing a text you didn't study at school if and only if you've read the text many times before, you've read other texts by the same author, and if you are incredibly familiar with the social/historical/political context of the text.

Should I study for 3 texts just in case I get an unfamiliar prompt or set of passages on the exam?

[C] I don't recommend this. You'll want to be channeling all your effort and time towards something that counts. It'll be better if you just prepared extensively for your two texts, so that on the exam you will be ready to take on whatever prompt or passage they throw at you.

[H] I did something similar as I was worried that for Section A, the prompt would have a key word that I don't know the meaning to (in Section A you only get one prompt so you don't get a choice). But instead of preparing for 3 texts, I just prepared for Section A and B for both my texts. It cuts down on the workload significantly, not to mention a lot of preparation from Section B can be applied to Section A (though not too much the other way around). Like Colline said, I do not recommend preparing for 3 texts.

How many full essays did you write under timed conditions?

[C] I only did two full trial exams under exam conditions (and both were held by the school), so the answer is four (unless you also count my SACs). I found writing in shorter periods of time more helpful, though during the actual exam sitting still for two hours proved to be a challenge.

[H] I didn't keep count, but roughly around 15 by myself, and 2 more at school. Though honestly it's about quality, not quantity. The most important thing is to always get feedback on your writing.

How should I prepare in the days leading up to the exam?

(Note: everyone prepares differently, and these methods may not necessarily work for you. Nevertheless, these are just what we did in the lead up to the exam, and if you're stuck on how to revise give them a go).

[C] In the days leading up to the exam, I made sure to do plenty of writing every day. It's hard to sit down uninterrupted for 2 hours and 15 minutes straight, so instead I set a timer for only 30 minutes. I'd pick a topic, theme, character, or a short passage from the text, then write non-stop on anything relating to the topic I can think of. After the 30 minutes I'd give myself a break, then read through what I wrote and see what I can do to refine my language and analysis.

[H] About 2 weeks before the exam I started writing one full essay a day under full exam conditions. I also did a lot of 'verbal' brainstorming with a friend, where we'd pick a topic and fire analysis at each other until one of us runs out of ideas. Finally, one thing I found helpful was to take two parts of the text (for example, a character and a theme) which seems completely unrelated to each other, forcing myself to make connections and writing down analysis.

I also recommend compiling a quote list a few weeks before the exam for section A (both from the text and from the critic). Just note that you're not allowed a quote sheet on the day.

What should I do the day before the exam?

[C] Read over your essays and those of high scoring students, and also go over all the feedback you've gotten from your teacher. Do some short writing practice (writing full essays is a bit redundant by this point). Try to commit a couple of good quotes or points of analysis to memory.

[H] Read over: (1) your section A quote sheet; (2) feedback on your writing; (3) key points from examiners' reports. Also go to bed on time.


What is the structure of the exam?

The exam is split into Section A (Literary Perspectives) and Section B (Close Passage Analysis). Each section is worth 20 marks. For Section A, you get a prompt while for Section B you get 3 passages from your chosen text.
The entire exam is out of 40 (20 marks per essay), you have 2 hours to write with 15 minutes of reading time.

How many words do I need per essay?

Roughly 1000, but don't stress if you go under or over by a bit. No examiner is crazy enough to count.
Also, don't worry about running out of space, because you are allowed to ask for extra response booklets on the exam.
Finally, prioritise quality over quantity!

For Section A - Literary Perspectives, can I write on two perspectives / two critics?

No, just stick to one. You most likely were required two on your Literary Perspectives SAC (Unit 4 AOS 1), but for the exam you will only need to write on one.

For Section B - Close Passage Analysis, can I write on two passages?

You are allowed to, but if you're aiming for a study score over 40, don't. The exam is your chance to show off the depth and the breadth of your knowledge on the text to whoever is marking your essay, and that can't be done effectively if you only talk about 2 passages. The exam writers gave you 3 passages for a reason.

For Section B - Close Passage Analysis, can I make reference to parts of the text beyond the passages provided?

Yes, and you should! VCAA doesn't seem to specify to what extent you're allowed to do this, but the general rule of thumb I stuck to was an 80-20 split. Roughly 80% of the essay would be based off of the passages given, and about 20% would be drawing on other points in the text. You do not want to ONLY write on the three passages, because it seems as if you don't know other parts of the text well enough; but if you went beyond too much, it seems as if you either don't know the given passages well enough, or you've prepared an essay and you're trying to fit it to the 3 exam passages.


I’ve heard that there is no structure in Lit essays, is this true?

Nope! It's a common misconception that you are free to write whatever in lit essays because of the freedom in structure that you get. But the truth is, it's not that there is NO structure, but rather the structure is just much more flexible in comparison to English.

All the elements required in essay-writing is still present. You'd still be required to write logically, present textual evidence, analysis, and link back to your contention. But the overall layout of your writing doesn't have to conform to that of an English essay. For example, you do not need to have an introduction and conclusion, and you certainly do not need to have three long body paragraphs talking about three main points.

Is Unit 3 less important in comparison to Unit 4?

Many people slack off in unit 3 just because those assessments aren't as relevant for the exam but please avoid doing this. Unit 3 weights exactly the same as Unit 4!

Also, there's a chance you'd end up choosing a text you did in unit 3 as a text for the exam (or maybe you'd choose both) so definitely avoid thinking you can chill for a bit early in the year.

What are some things I should avoid doing in literature?

   • Write English-style essays
   • Neglect writing practice analysis
   • Underestimate the power of annotating your text (seriously, scribble over your book if you must. If by November your books still look brand new you've been doing it wrong)
   • Neglect your teacher's feedback.
   • Get all your analysis off of SparkNotes
   • Avoid making direct references to your lens or critic in Section A
   • Spend too much time refining your intro/conclusion in Section B. You're not marked on it.
   • Overuse complicated words or long sentences. It's not a competition on who can sound the fanciest but rather who can get their ideas across the most effectively!
And most importantly of all, do not put off reading your text!

What scores did you get on SACs and the exam?

[C] SAC Scores (pre-moderation)
   SAC 1 - Creative: 90% (creative response); 80% (reflective commentary)
   SAC 2 - Adaptations: 87.5%
   SAC 3 - Perspectives: 87.5%
   SAC 4 - Close Passage: 100%
   SAC 5 - Close Passage: 95%
   (Moderately strong cohort, rank 1)
I do not know my exam marks but on my trial exam I got:
   Section A - Literary Perspectives: 18/20
   Section B - Close Passage Analysis: 19/20

[H] SAC Scores (pre-moderation):
   SAC 1 - Creative: 85% (creative response); 90% (reflective commentary)
   SAC 2 - Adaptations: 97.5%
   SAC 3 - Perspectives: 85%
   SAC 4 - Close Passage: 80%
   SAC 5 - Close Passage: 90%
   (Very weak cohort, rank 2)
Exam Scores:
   Section A - Literary Perspectives: 40/40
   Section B - Close Passage Analysis: 34/40

We hope this post was helpful in answering any questions you may have about VCE Lit! Feel free to ask if you have anymore :D
« Last Edit: November 21, 2019, 08:12:20 pm by colline »

VCE: Literature [50] Methods [50] Further [48] Chemistry [40] Biology [33]
2022: Bachelor of Science (Mathematical Economics) @ ANU


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Re: Literature FAQs Answered! (Raw 50 and 47)
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2019, 06:32:34 am »
This is absolutely wonderful colline! ;D


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Re: Literature FAQs Answered! (Raw 50 and 47)
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2019, 05:12:04 pm »
Awesome work!

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