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English & EAL
Creating A Killer Contention For Your Oral Presentation
January 24, 2020
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The following is a snippet from my study guide, How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation . It's filled with unique advice that takes you from start to finish in mimicking the techniques used by a perfect-scorer VCE Year 12 student. You may want to start off reading Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations and come back to this blog if you haven't already!
This blog covers the first step within Pillar 2: Writing The ‘This Is-Going-To-Blow-You-Away’ Speech. Once you've chosen an interesting topic and have researched all of its different viewpoints, it's time to formulate your contention. Often, creating a killer contention is about avoiding some common traps that will make your overall presentation boring, bland and just like the rest of your cohorts'.
So, I like to avoid:
Broad, overarching statements
If you think your contention is, ‘abortion in Australia’ then you’re wrong. This is simply not a contention! A contention is an opinion. The example, ‘abortion in Australia’ offers no insight into your opinion on the issue at all. Instead, ‘We need to consider women’s mental health when judging their decision on abortion’ is an opinion.
A contention that is just plain obvious
Let’s say we use the issue of ‘homelessness in Australia’. Arguing ‘homelessness in Australia is a problem’ or ‘we need to fix the homelessness issue in Australia’ just isn’t going to cut it because you’d never argue the opposite, ‘homelessness is great’. There are no differing viewpoints against your contention which means that you have nothing to argue against.
You need to be more specific with your issue - that’s why you looked up all those viewpoints in your research. For example, you could contend, ‘We need to fix the problems in homes in order to fix Australia’s homeless issue.’ This does has varied viewpoints because someone else’s solution could be to give homeless people greater access to help.
TEST: Before you move on to writing structure, ask yourself, can people argue against my contention? If yes, proceed ahead! If no, you’ll need to revise your contention again. Do this over and over until you can confidently answer ‘yes’ to the above question.
Avoid a contention that is generally accepted as true in today’s age
When climate change first came onto the radar, the main debate was whether it was a real or a conspiracy theory. These discussions were in full force over 5+ years ago. These days (with the exception of climate change skeptics of course), discussion on climate change revolves more heavily around the slow pace of policy implementation, intergenerational effects of climate change, and mental health surrounding climate change.
Rather than arguing, ‘Climate change is real?’ (which your teacher has probably listened to a dozen times), you’re better suited to argue ‘Young people, not governments, should lead the fight against climate change’. Not only does this tie into the LSG belief that you should be more specific with your issue, it’ll also mean that your contention is relevant to today.
Now it's your turn. Give it a go! You might need to take a few tries to get your contention right, and that's absolutely OK.
If even after that you’re still unsure about your contention, make it a priority to speak to your teacher about it. Ask them if they could review your proposed contention and offer you any constructive feedback. Heck, even if you are confident with your contention, I’d ask your teacher anyway for any insight you mightn’t have thought of.
Wondering where to go from here? Well, luckily, my eBook, How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation, details my exact step-by-step process so you can get that A+ in your SAC this year.
- Access a step-by-step guide on how to write your Oral Presentation with simple, easy-to-follow advice
- Read and analyse sample A+ Oral Presentations with EVERY speech annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY students achieved A+ so you reach your goal
- Learn how to stand out from other students with advice on your speech delivery
Sounds like something that'd help you? I think so too! Access the full eBook by clicking here !
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Written by Lisa Tran, who achieved FULL marks in her Oral Presentation:
- How to choose, plan and write your oral presentation and written explanation
- A simple, persuasive speech structure that will blow your audience away
- All essays FULLY annotated so you know exactly what you need to do and what not to do
We’ve come to that time in the year when everyone is scrambling to find the perfect Oral Presentation topic. Choosing the best topic for you is easily the most difficult part of this SAC, so to hopefully ease the burden, I’ve crafted this list with the latest and biggest global debates. My two biggest pieces of advice are NOT to choose an overly complex subject and NOT to choose anything you don’t really understand. A simple idea that is argued effectively works far better than a complex idea argued poorly. Moreover, find a topic that you are genuinely passionate about; regardless of what your ideas are, your passion is the key to success.
That being said, if you are currently struggling to find some inspiration, have a read of the following oral topics that will hopefully bring light to the relevant and pressing issues of the world.
If you haven’t already, check out our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for some general tips and tricks to get you started!
1. Not enough is being done to address gender discrimination, violence and inequality in Australia
We are lucky to live in a country where gender discrimination is on the decline, and where we’re progressively making our way towards equality. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite reached it yet. Gender discrimination and sexist ideologies slowly make their way through our school locker rooms, into our classrooms, across our halls, and most tragically, into our homes. Do we really focus on fixing these issues from youth through education, or are the government and media just letting these problems run their course?
The key thing to focus on is the barriers still present in society that are preventing us from reaching true equality. Search for famous female figures in Australia and the struggles they had to overcome solely based on their gender like Julia Gillard, Grace Tame and Nicole Kidman. Moreover, in a country as advanced and progressive as Australia, why are hundreds of women continuing to be murdered in domestic abuse disputes? It’s these terrifying statistics that demonstrate how far we have to go as a country, and how quickly we need action.
2. Addressing the ‘Climatic Catastrophe’ is being hindered by climate scepticism and multimillion-dollar corporations
Climate change. A buzzword for the top problem of the future. Even now, we’re feeling the terrible effects of the heating climate - floods, droughts and life-changing bush fires that have misplaced thousands of Aussies. A problem this big should require immediate action, right?
Well, two things are preventing us from slowing the changing climate and growing emissions. Firstly, Australia is clearly over-reliant on the coal industry. It is our top export after all, and our mining industry always proves to be a ‘booming success’. Not to mention the several ‘generous’ donations provided from multimillion-dollar fuel corporations to several of our own government parties.
Secondly, there seems to be certain online rhetoric that perpetuates false information. Otherwise known as ‘climate scepticism’, there are people who genuinely believe that climate change is a ‘hoax’ and not worth the time or effort to address. Think about the impact that the spreading of this misinformation can do.
3. Are we too reliant on fossil fuels?
The Russian war against Ukraine has had several terrible impacts across the world, affecting countries that weren’t even involved in the conflict to begin with. You may have heard your parents complain about the soaring fuel prices, or even had to cash out almost double for petrol yourself. The main reason for this is Australia’s reliance on fuel imports from Russia, which have quite obviously been disrupted.
This brings forward an important question, are we too reliant on fossil fuels as a nation? Imagine if we had made the switch to electric cars even just a few years earlier. I have a feeling our transport situation would be significantly better. Think about the policies we would need to introduce to become greener and more self-sufficient.
4. Indigenous injustices and deaths in custody are still being ignored
WARNING: This topic contains descriptions and the name of a recently deceased Indigenous person .
Veronica Nelson, a 37-year-old Indigenous woman, died whilst in custody after calling out 40 times for help from prison staff while being tragically ignored. Her unjust death evaded all sorts of media attention until her recent coroner’s report was revealed. According to doctors, if she had simply received medical attention that night, she would still be here with us today. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated issue.
Hundreds of reports of police brutality, deaths in custody and compliant media sources have been covered up or callously ignored. Take a look at the recent Royal Commission into the almost 500 Indigenous deaths in custody. What can we do as a nation to prevent further harm to our First Nation People?
5. Are social media ‘influencers’ skewing our perceptions of reality?
There’s no denying it, social media is one of the most influential platforms across the world. We often look towards celebrities and new ‘influencers’ for inspiration, life advice and familiarity. Especially coming out of the pandemic, these influencers have been a source of comfort for many during lockdowns. Unfortunately, lives are easy to fake and we are left wondering whether the people we look up to in the social media world are creating unrealistic expectations for us. Are they gaining profit at the expense of our mental health, or do they genuinely care for human connection?
6. Overconsumption in the fashion world: SHEIN, Fashion Nova and more
Online shopping is becoming our new reality, but rapidly growing fashion trends have led to mass production and inhumane outsourcing of labour. Think about the new fast fashion outlets that opened in Melbourne. Should we really be giving a retail platform to businesses that exploit workers and tailors, consistently produce poor-quality clothes and contribute to extensive land pollution? We’ve experienced huge clothing turnover over the past decade, contributing to one of our biggest land-fill issues at the moment. The emphasis on the constant need for more ‘trendy’ pieces results in items of clothing being poorly produced and going ‘out of fashion’ faster and consequently getting thrown out at the end of a new season. Fast fashion is an affordable option for many, but it comes at a cost of underpaid labour and pollution. How can society work towards finding the middle ground, so that everyone benefits and more importantly, what individual efforts can be made to ensure this?
7. Alcohol consumption amongst youths is becoming increasingly normalised
Everyone knows about the impact of alcohol on the body and mind, especially when it is consumed under age. Yet, binge drinking in Australia is a common weekend occurrence for students and is constantly normalised at social gatherings. Turning 18 and officially becoming an adult is exciting for many because of the prospect of finally being able to legally purchase and consume alcohol. However, even now, the long-term effects of alcohol have been proven to be the same as certain drugs and yet, it is heavily marketed by various companies, particularly to young Australians (Cassidy, 2021).
Many healthcare professionals stress that we need to work on reducing the culture of heavy drinking in Australia by increasing awareness of the genuine dangers. Think about ways in which we can do this that are different from what we have in place already.
8. The treatment of Ukraine vs. the Middle East/Sri Lankan/Asian refugees
When the war began in Ukraine, it rightfully caused worldwide outrage. Countries pledged artillery, medical aid and further security assistance for those fighting and opened their borders to Ukrainian refugees. However, during numerous conflicts in the Middle East, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, the world remained silent. The irony lies too within our own government, which was quick to reprimand Russia during the war and willingly state Australia will accommodate Ukrainian refugees, yet sends all other refugees that arrive in Australia to Christmas Island, or back home. There was, and still is, a difference in the treatment of vulnerable people that has long been tied into prolonged systematic racism, and it is still not being addressed.
9. ‘Financial influencers’ are damaging people’s lives and careers
We’ve all seen it online, across Facebook and TikTok. ‘Financial influencers’ that can ‘turn you into a millionaire’ as long as you invest in their 12-step monetised plan for monetary freedom. For the most part, it is unsupported financial advice from online influencers who don’t have any qualifications. They cover bitcoin, cryptocurrency and ‘NFTs’ on social media, mainly encouraging people to quit their jobs and fully focus on the stock markets. Whilst some people have given out genuinely helpful and accessible advice, most end up teaching teenagers and young adults the wrong information, or strategies that have a low chance of success. We have a duty to protect people online, and adults making unsupported gambles with their finances is going against that. A good place to start would be to find out the real-life experiences of people who have lost money and stability as a result of this ‘advice’.
10. Social media has led to growing desensitisation and a lack of human empathy
The internet can be a place of joy and entertainment, allowing us to connect with people across the world and have access to endless information. Unfortunately, it is also a dark space filled with unregulated content that can be easily accessed. We’ve seen mass shootings, suicides and other disturbing material live streamed, exposing us to the worst acts of human nature. There are even those with a ‘morbid curiosity’ who purposefully try and find this content. Continued exposure to this type of content results in more desensitisation towards this material. If we continue this path, are the majority going to lack empathy towards others? Have a look at the wider effects of this type of content on the development of the brain.
11. The gaps in our labour market are only going to grow without rapid action
Over the past year, we have had some of the worst gaps in the labour market. There have been shortages in some of the most essential positions such as nursing, teaching, paramedics and 000 operators. The low wages and stressful nature of the jobs have made it difficult to find enough people willing to enter those job sectors. However, they are vital for our society to function, so how come nothing has yet been introduced to rapidly fix these shortages? Currently, we are out-sourcing labour, but this isn’t a long-term solution and we need to ensure that we don’t experience these problems in the future.
12. Vaccine privilege
Over the past few years, especially in Australia and the USA, we have noticed an increasing trend in people refusing vaccines (COVID and others) due to growing anti-vax sentiments. Despite the plethora of evidence online that discusses the benefits and heavy testing that vaccines have and continue to undergo, people still claim that they do more harm than good. Moreover, it has now been noted that we now have a surplus of vaccines within Australia because of our vaccine hoarding during the middle of the pandemic.
Yet, there are still people across the globe who are dying from various illnesses due to their country’s inability to afford or get access to vaccines. It is now our responsibility to ensure nothing like this happens again in the future, by finding ways to reduce these inequities and tackle vaccine privilege.
13. Our personal data, information and finances are becoming increasingly exposed
This might seem like a bold statement to make, but imagine the sheer level of data that you store online or on your phone. There’s GovID data that is simply stored on your phone that contains information about your entire identity, facial recognition technology that is used everywhere (biotech), cameras and fingerprint access everywhere. The debate is extremely two-sided, with increased cyber protection assisting in solving crimes and preventing identity fraud, but with the growing level of cybercrimes, we’re also put at risk.
What side are you taking?
See Topics From Past Years:
Oral Presentation Topics 2021
Oral Presentation Topics 2020
Oral Presentation Topics 2019
Oral Presentation Topics 2018
Oral Presentation Topics 2017
Oral Presentation Topics 2016
Oral Presentation Topics 2015
Oral Presentation Topics 2014
Don't forget to also check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for everything you need to know for Oral Presentations.
Welcome to 2014! As many of you will already be in your second or third week of schooling, it’s likely that you’re getting plenty of workload from across your subjects. Some of you may very well be preparing for your oral presentation SAC that’s coming up very soon! If that is the case, I’ve collated a list of some popular topics that have cropped up in the Australian media since September last year. The list is intended to help you brainstorm different issues you may wish to debate in your speech, with the contention left for you to decide once you have researched enough on the topic! Check it out below:
- Treatment of asylum seekers
- Processing of asylum seekers
- ‘One punch law’
- Street violence
- Should mathematics be compulsory in schools?
- Shark culling in South Australia
- The end of car manufacturing in Australia
- Sex education and homosexuality
- Work-for-the-dole scheme
- Needle vending machines
- East-West tunnel
- Cory Bernadi’s book – The Conservative Revolution (Abortion)
- Should we smack our children?
- The Indigenous employment gap
- Tecoma McDonalds
- Sexism in the media
- Animal cruelty
- Treatment of fare evaders
- Wearing the hijab in schools
- Childcare wages
- Should the government fund private schools?
- See Oral Presentation Issues in 2013 for other ongoing issues
Here are over 20 Oral Presentation Ideas for you if you're presenting a speech on Australian issues in the media.
- Should gay couples have the same adoption rights as straight couples?
- Should businesses be required to have a sex quota?
- Should political parties be required to run a certain percentage of women candidates?
- Gender workplace diversity
- Treatment of refugees on Manus Island
- Should there be a temporary ban on all immigration into Australia?
- MP citizenship
- Should the government classify Bitcoin as a legal currency?
- Homelessness in Australia
- Obesity in Australia
- Sexual harassment in the TV/movie/hollywood industry
- Should gender identity be added to anti-discrimination laws?
- Should universities provide ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘safe spaces’ for students?
- Should workplaces provide ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘safe spaces’ for staff?
- Informed consent with online data
- Religious freedom
- Same sex marriage freedom
- Adani coalmine
- Political donations
- Penalty rates in Australia
- Wage theft in Australia
- Indigenous recognition in the constitution
- Should we invest in public interest journalism?
See last year's Oral Presentation Ideas here . You might also be interested in Advice for A+ oral presentations here too! Best of luck!
Since September 2014, the current affairs has been raging with numerous controversial topics – perfect for your oral presentation! Here are some of the more interesting issues that would be a good starting point for your oral. Remember to offer an interesting and unique argument, even if it may mean adopting the unconventional or unpopular point of view on the issue!
- Should medicinal cannabis be legalised in Australia?
- Should US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny be allowed to give talks in Australia?
- Should children be vaccinated?
- Should ‘pick-up artist’ Julien Blanc have been banned from visiting Australia?
- Is social media negatively impacting on student studies?
- Should women be allowed to breastfeed in public?
- Should we have more stringent surrogacy laws?
- Should music be free?
- Freezing women’s eggs
- Sexualisation of women in the media
- The media’s portrayal of ‘terrorism’
- Freedom of speech (Charlie Hebdo)
- Doctor co-payments
- Gender equality
- University deregulation
- Creativity in schools
- Should children be allowed to roam unsupervised by their parents?
- Should VCE English be compulsory?
- See Oral Presentation Issues in 2014 for other ongoing issues
There are a plethora of controversial issues in the current Australian media that may be perfect for your 2017 oral presentation! Below are just a few ideas to get you started on your way towards acing that SAC. Remember, pick a topic that you’re passionate and enthusiastic about. Don’t forget that there is no ‘right’ opinion, however, make sure you offer a distinctive argument, even if it means adopting an alternative point of view. Good luck!
- Should the Australian Government ban the wearing of the burka in public?
- Should the homeless be banned from Melbourne’s CBD? (Robert Doyle proposal)
- Should the Australia Government continue to fund the Safe Schools Coalition?
- Should gay marriage be legalised in Australia?
- Should the date of Australia Day be replaced/changed?
- Treatment of asylum seekers in detention centres (especially women and children)
- Is enough action being taken to diminish the sugar industry propaganda to minimise obesity?
- Should on – site pill testing be mandatory at all public events?
- Cultural insensitivity in Australia
- Is the development of technology and social media encouraging narcissism in young adults?
- Victoria’s legal system
- Stem cell research
- Is the development of technology and social media encouraging the sexualisation of boys and girls?
- Drug testing and drug control in Australia (Bourke Street attack)
- Fake news being published by researchers to the media
- Should Victoria’s juvenile justice system be improved by the Government?
- Do students learn as effectively with ebooks compared with traditional, hardcopy books?
- Should security footage of detention centres be released?
- Is Australia becoming an alcohol and sugar driven society?
- Has the notion of privacy been compromised in the 21st century? (internet, technology, terrorism)
Before you start writing your oral presentation, you can't miss our A+ tips that have helped hundreds of students get perfect marks in their SAC. Stand out from others with confidence now .
1. What is an Oral Presentation? 2. What are you expected to cover? (Oral Presentation Criteria) 3. Choosing your Topic 4. Choosing your Contention 5. Writing your Speech 6. Presenting your Speech 7. Writing the Written Explanation 8. Resources to help you prepare for your Oral Presentation
What is an Oral Presentation?
For many VCE English students, the oral presentation is the scariest part of the course; it’s often also the first.
Doing a speech can indeed be daunting— you’re marked in real time, you can’t go back and edit mistakes, and the writing part itself is only half the battle. Nonetheless, the Oral SAC can also be one of the more dynamic and engaging tasks you complete in VCE English, and there’s plenty of ways to make it more interesting and also more manageable for yourself.
Keep reading for a comprehensive overview of what you need to know to succeed in your Oral Presentation. We’ve got you covered- from choosing your topic and contention, to writing and presenting your Speech.
We’ll also be suggesting useful resources, Study Guides and YouTube videos that will provide more detailed information and give you more confidence. Let’s get into it!
What are you expected to cover in an Oral Presentation? (Oral Presentation Rubric)
1. Your Oral Presentation SAC has two components. The first is the Oral Presentation itself (“a point of view presented in oral form”), and the second is a Written Explanation, also known as a Statement of Intention.
2. Your selected topic needs to be an issue that has appeared in the media since 1 September of the previous year
3. Your aim for this entire Oral Presentation SAC is to persuade your audience to agree with your contention (whatever that may be) based off the issue you’ve selected.
Here’s the raw version of VCAA’s expectations from you, taken from the VCAA website :
How to choose your Oral Presentation topic
1. select a topic that has appeared in the media since 1 september of the previous year.
This can be time consuming and tricky, especially if you want to choose something a bit more original or fresh.
Firstly, you need an event. An event in the VCE English context is anything that happens which also generates opinionated media coverage—so, it’s not just an event but it has to be an event that people have published opinions about, and they have to have been published since September 1.
You might wonder why we don’t go to the issue straight away. Here’s a hypothetical to illustrate: if you asked me to name an issue, the best I could probably come up with off the top of my head is climate change. However, if you asked me to name an event, I’d pretty easily recall the Australian bushfires—something much more concrete which a) has generated specific and passionate opinions in the media; and b) can easily be linked to a wider issue such as climate change.
The ABC news archive is also really helpful for finding events since you can pick dates or periods of time and see a good mix of news events from then. Otherwise, Wikipedia has helpful pages of events that happened in specific years in specific countries, so “2023 in Australia” might well be a starting point.
When you have your event, you can then look for an issue. This will be a specific debate that comes out of the event, and can usually be framed as a “whether-or-not” question. The bushfires, for example, might generate debate around whether or not the Australian government is doing enough to combat climate change, whether or not Scott Morrison has fulfilled his duties as Prime Minister.
Most importantly, choose an issue from an event that’s interesting and important to you. After all, you’re going to be spending the time researching, writing and presenting!
2. Filter out the boring events/issues
Understand who your audience is.
Once you know who your audience is, ask yourself: Does this event and issue relate to my audience?
This question matters because “your aim of this entire Oral Presentation SAC is to persuade your audience to agree with your contention (whatever that may be) based off the issue you’ve selected.” This means that what you say to your audience and how they respond to your speech matters.
Even if your assessor isn’t counting exactly how many people are still listening to your speech at the end, everyone knows a powerful speech when they’re in the presence of one - it hooks the audience from start to end - and an assessor, consciously or subconsciously, cannot deny that the collective attentiveness of the room has an influence on their marking of your Oral Presentation.
That’s why you should choose a topic that your audience can relate to. Also, avoid topics that have too many unfamiliar words, because as soon as there’s something they don’t understand, it becomes much harder for them to follow your speech.
Now you may be asking yourself; what is the best topic for oral presentation?
Here are some example topics from previous years to give you inspiration:
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2014
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2015
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2016
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2017
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2018
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2019
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2020
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2021
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2022
VCE English Oral Presentation Topics 2023
For more detailed information on choosing a topic, read my blog Choosing a WOW topic for your VCE Oral Presentation
How to choose your oral presentation contention
Once you've chosen an interesting topic and have researched all of its different viewpoints, it's time to formulate your contention.
Often, creating a killer contention is about avoiding some common traps that will make your overall presentation boring, bland and just like the rest of your cohorts'.
So, there are three things I like to AVOID:
1. Broad, Overarching statements
2. A Contention That Is Just Plain Obvious
3. Avoid A Contention That Is Generally Accepted As True In Today’s Age
For more information on writing a contention, read my blog Creating a Killer Contention for your Oral Presentation
How to write your speech
1. Have a CAPTIVATING introduction sentence; use a short, clear and powerful sentence.
2. RELATE to your audience so that it keeps them interested so they actually WANT to listen.
3. If you are taking on a persona, firstly study and UNDERSTAND your character.
4. Don’t forget your persuasive techniques. I usually use repetition in conjunction with the ‘rule of three’.
5. Remember that you are writing a SPEECH, not an essay. Instil your oral with emotion, varied tone and sentence lengths.
In fact, I've talked about a few of these in a 'Must Dos and Don'ts' video. If you haven't seen it yet, watch below before you read on.
4 tips on presenting your Speech
1. Body Language
Confidence is key. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and, more importantly don’t move your legs. Especially if you’re nervous, swaying or shuffling will be noticeable and make you appear more nervous—when you practise, pay attention to the lower half of your body and train it to stay still if possible.
That being said, do use your arms for gestures. Those are more natural and will help engage the audience, though don’t overdo it either—usually, holding cue cards in one hand frees up the other but also stops you from going overboard.
2. Eye contact
Cue cards brings up another important consideration- eye contact. Hold cue cards in one hand as high as you can without it feeling uncomfortable. This means you don’t have to take your eyes away from the audience for too long or too noticeably to check your notes.
Eye contact increases your engagement with the audience. It also gives the impression of confidence and that you’ve been practicing and know your speech inside and out!
3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
In a best case scenario, you won’t need to rely on your cue cards as you will have your speech basically memorised! Read your speech aloud and pretend that you’re actually delivering your speech. This means:
- Looking up ahead
- Holding the cue cards in the right spot; and
- Not just reading the words, but speaking as if to an audience
It’s extremely helpful to also practice your speech to an actual audience! Practice in front of your family and friends. An alternative is to put a sticker next to your camera and record yourself. The sticker will help indicate where you should create eye contact. Look back at the video and give yourself some feedback, you might be surprised at your presentation!
4. Tone variation
Tone variation involves emphasising certain words, using pauses or slowing down for effect, or modifying volume. Incorporating some of these elements- even writing them into your notes by bolding/italicising/underlining will help you break out of monotony and make the speech more engaging.
Be sure to emphasise emotive language and any evidence you might use to illustrate your arguments. Most importantly, don’t speak too quickly!
5 things to keep in mind while writing the written explanation
For oral presentation based written explanations, the VCAA study design requests students write...
"A written statement of intention to accompany the student’s own oral presentation, articulating the intention of decisions made in the planning process, and how these demonstrate understanding of argument and persuasive language."
Using the topic, 'Why we need to stop crying 'cultural appropriation' when cultural exchange is far more important, ‘let’s see how this can be done with FLAPC with some examples below:
For more information on writing a Written Explanation and a sample FLAPC compiled and rearranged for flow and fluency, read my blog How to Write a Stellar Written Explanation (Statement of Intention) .
Resources to help you prepare for your Oral Presentation
Doing this study all by yourself can be rather daunting, so we've got your back. We specialise in supporting VCE English by creating helpful videos, study guides and eBooks. Here are some just to get your started:
A Three Part Guide to Nailing Your Oral Presentation
Advice for A+ Oral Presentations
How I Got A+ in My Oral Presentation | Live QnA With Lisa Tran
How To 'Overcome' Your Fear of Public Speaking
Oral Presentations | How To Do Speeches
5 Common Oral Presentation Mistakes
Our How to Write a Killer Oral Presentation Study Guide has all the information you need to succeed in your Oral Presentations. Sample A+ essays and written explanations are also included!
2. EAL Study Design
3. Listening Component Marking Criteria
4. Listening Component Tips
5. Reading Comprehension
6. Time Management
7. English Fluency and Proficiency
As you all know, English subjects are integral to VCE studies, since it is compulsory that at least all four units of an English subject be done in order for you to reach that ATAR goal at the end of the VCE tunnel. Given the richness in cultural backgrounds of VCE students cohort, EAL is designed to mend the linguistic gaps between local students and those from non-English speaking backgrounds. Students eligible to complete EAL are those who have no more than 7 years residency in a predominately English-speaking country AND no more than 7 years having English as their main language of instructions.
According to the study design published by VCAA, both English subjects:
‘"[contribute] to the development of literate individuals capable of critical and creative thinking, aesthetic appreciation and creativity…"
It might sound complex, but this basically just means that these subjects enable us to enhance our understanding and usage of the English language, which serves to support our daily English communication. This purpose holds even greater significance to students from non-English speaking backgrounds, as those skills offered by English subjects are essential to their life in Australia. That’s said, EAL can be different from mainstream English in the sense that it also assists students whose mother tongue is not English in adapting to the predominately English-speaking community, via developing their language skills.
EAL Study Design
Both EAL and English assess students on multiple areas, including: Text Response , Creative writing, Argument Analysis, and Comparative . We highly recommend you have a read of the links above so you've got all your English/EAL areas covered!
One major difference is in Unit 3 , where EAL students are required to do a Listening task , whereas mainstream students study an additional text. For a detailed comparison on VCE EAL vs VCE English , read Cynthia's blog post here.
Shown below is the Unit 3 coursework from the VCAA EAL study design, taken from the VCAA website :
Now that we know the similarities and differences, let's focus primarily on the Listening Component of the EAL Exam for the rest of this blog.
Listening Component Marking Criteria
For the listening component of the exam/SAC the examiners (and your own teachers) will be marking your answers base on TWO main points:
- Your ability to understand and convey general and specific parts of the listening track
- Your ability to convey information accurately and appropriately
Some of you out there might be thinking “Listening is easy! I just need to write down the correct answer, it's a piece of cake.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for EAL listening or any VCE Language listening SAC or exam. The VCAA examiners will be looking for appropriateness of vocabulary and the accurate use of grammar, spelling and punctuation. They even look at how well you phrase your response!
For more information on the the exam, read Rachel's blog on how to Nail that VCE EAL Exam Listening Component. She offers her tips for the exam, including taking advantage of bringing bilingual dictionaries into the exam!
Listening Component Tips
Listening is also the easiest section for students to lose marks as many of them may carelessly misread the question and/or comprehensively fail to answer the question. Listening may also be challenging as it requires you to concentrate on multiple things at the same time, for example, the characters’ main contention, emotions, tone shift, and the context of the recording. However, as long as you do more practice, you will soon be able to master the listening skills! Here are the 4 steps that you will have to know if you want to do well in listening!
1. Read The Background Information Of The Text
Use your reading time (15 minutes) wisely and spend around 2-3 minutes in the listening section. The background information of the text is extremely important as it tells you the context of the recording which can also give you a basic idea of the characters involved in the text and the content they will be talking about.
2. Scan Through The Questions Carefully
Look for the keywords in the question, such as the 5W1H (Who, When, Where, What, Which, How), the character names, and the number of points that needs to be answered in each question.
Examples of the 5W1H Questions
- Who is he referring to when he says “You”?
- When did he open his first bookshop?
- Where did he go after his graduation?
- What message is he trying to convey in his speech?
- Which phrase did he use to express how dry it was in the desert?
- How does he express his anger?
3. Note Taking
You should be using the spaces provided in the exam answer booklet to jot down any key words and phrases that are related to the questions. Do not bother to fill in the answers on the answer line just yet, as you are very likely to get distracted, hence, it may increase the risk of missing the answer for the next question. Remember that your notes should be as concise and clear as possible so you will be able to write down the answers immediately once the recording stops.
4. Focus On The Questions That You’ve Missed
Bear in mind that you will have the chance to listen to the recording two times in total so please DO NOT stress if you miss out any answers or you are not sure about the answers after the first time. Highlight the questions that you have trouble with and focus on them when the recording is played the second time.
For more detail on each of these tips, and information on the types of questions you may be asked , read Pallas' blog on How to ACE the EAL Listening Exam .
For Listening practice, head to EAL Listening Practice and Resources (Part 1) and EAL Listening Practice (Part 2), and get tips on EAL Listening and note-taking during the Listening component of the VCE EAL exam/SAC.
Reading Comprehension (Language Analysis)
Section C, Question 1 requires students to write short answers, in note form or sentences, which altogether will make up of 50% of the marks in Section C. For a lot of student, getting good marks for Question 1 is much easier than getting good marks for Question 2, which requires you to write a full language analysis essay. This is why it is important that you are able to maximise your marks in this question because they are purported to be easier marks to get! Some of the questions will ask the students for factual information but more difficult questions will require to think about that is contained in the text and make an interpretation based on your understanding.
1. Question words
To know what sort of answer you are expected to give before looking for details from the article, you need to be familiar with question words.
- WHO - A particular person or group of people impacted by an incident or involved in a situation
- WHAT - This really depends. It might require you to give out information about something or to identify reasons for the writer’s opinions (which is good it might make it easier for you to find the writer’s arguments)
- WHEN - The timeframe within which an issue or event occurred (date, day, etc)
- WHERE - The location of an event
- WHY - The reasons for something
- HOW - How a problem can be resolved
2. Direction words
Unfortunately, not all questions in this section have “question words” and examiners usually give out questions that are broader using “direction words” or “task words”, making this section more challenging for students. EAL is not the only subject that requires students to know their direction words well so it is definitely worthwhile learning these words to improve your performance. These are the most common direction words used in Section C (see below!).
- Describe - Giving information about something or to identify the writer’s opinions
- Explain - This requires you to give out information in your own words and elaborate
- Identify - Students will be required to find what is asked from the article and write them down in the briefest form possible
- List - Usually in note forms – to answer this you need to identify what is asked and briefly noting them down
- Summarise - Retelling something in a succinct and concise ways in your own words, it should only be enough to highlight key ideas
- Support - Finding evidence from the text to justify a statement or opinions
3. Marks allocation
Another super helpful tip is to pay extra attention to the marks allocation of the questions. It usually gives you a fairly accurate indication of how much you should write. The general rule of thumb would be that the number of marks tell students how many sentences or points they should be making.
Identify the reasons why the writer loves travelling (2 marks)
Students should be writing down 2 reasons why the writer loves travelling
The editor strongly opposes the use of plastic bag. Support this statement (3 marks)
In this case, it is probably best to find 3 pieces of evidence from the article that justify the statement stated to make sure you do not lose any marks by not writing enough.
For sample questions and responses with annotations, read Lindsey's blog on EAL Reading Comprehension here.
Time management during the exam is as important as studying and preparing. Here are some tips to help you manage your time during your exam so you can achieve maximum marks!
1. Look at the comprehension questions during reading time
2. look for key features instead of analysing and finding techniques straight away.
You can also use the reading time to find the contention, determine what type of article it was and the source, etc. The following acronym might help you! Try identifying all of the features below as it also helps you plan your introduction within reading time.
- C ontention
- A udience
For a detailed guide on writing Language Analysis Introductions, check out our advice here (for both English & EAL students) and here (specifically for EAL students). We recommend reading both blog posts!
3. Set out a detailed time management plan for your essay the night before the SAC or exams (or earlier if possible)
4. stick with one introduction’s structure/format.
Introductions for EAL Language Analysis, To Write or Not To Write? teaches you a great template approach you can use for your introductions.
5. Not be way too thorough with annotation
6. create your own glossary of words , 7. practice.
To understand each of these time management tips in detail, read Lindsey's blog on EAL Time Management here.
English Fluency and Proficiency
As non-native speakers living and studying in Australia, we would want nothing more than to improve our English skills both for the comfort of living in an English-speaking country and our career prospects. Here are some tips to help you better their writing skills in EAL.
1. Knowing Your Sentence Structure
I cannot stress how important it really is to really know your sentence structure and grammar because, without a solid understanding of how it is supposed to be structured, grammatical errors can easily be made which will preclude you from articulating your ideas in the clearest manner possible.
Simplest form: Subject + Verb + Object
To see an example of structuring sentences together, read Lindsey's blog here.
2. Expand Your vocabulary
While it is sometimes helpful to memorise words from glossaries found on the Internet, it is not the most the effective way to thoroughly improve your vocabulary. In fact, learning words from a glossary or dictionary by heart can often lead to students misusing the words due to their misinterpretation of the new words.
The best way to upgrade your word bank for your essays is to slowly word up from what you already know. Start off with a simple paragraph and you will see your writing get better after every time you edit or rewrite your paragraphs. Therefore you should:
- Avoid generic verbs
- Know the word’s connotations
- Use strong adjectives
English grammar is often seen as one of the more challenging one due to it having so many tenses and irregular cases. However, if you know how to break it down, it is not that scary because there are actually only 13 tenses and future, past and present tenses. Plus, in our EAL exams, we rarely need to use any other tenses aside from the present tenses anyway.
4. Build Your Own 'Essay Formulas'
For each Area of Study, I have a revision document that contains the following:
- Introduction ‘formula’
- Sample paragraph
- Super extensive word bank (my own thesaurus)
- Practice essays and sample essays
To see an example of an 'essay formula' in action, read Lindsey's blog on The Keys to English Fluency and Proficiency here.
The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response
How To Write A Killer Text Response Study Guide
How to embed quotes in your essay like a boss
How to turn your Text Response essays from average to A+
5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion
The Importance of the Introduction
Exam Tips From VCE EAL Examination Reports
Study Techniques: How To Approach a Text That You Hate
1. Summary 2. Themes 3. Symbols and Analysis 4. Quotes 5. Sample Essay Topics 6. Essay Topic Breakdown
Alice Munro is a Canadian Nobel-Prize-winning author of short stories , and Runaway , first published in 2004, is a collection of eight such stories (though kind of actually only six, because three of them are sequential). These stories examine the lives of Canadian women throughout the last century, but not all of them are necessarily realistic to what daily life actually looks like. Rather, Munro uses borderline-supernatural events (which some critics say feel staged or contrived) to shed light on the tensions and challenge s of gender in modern life.
This can mean that some of the stories are quite hard to follow; they go through all these twists and turns, and the lines between stories start blurring after a while. Let’s go through each in a bit more detail before jumping into our analysis.
2. Story-by-Story Characters and Summary
The titular story is about a woman Carla , her husband Clark , their goat Flora , and their elderly neighbour Sylvia Jamieson . There are many runaways in the story: Carla ran away from her middle-class home to marry Clark, Flora the goat literally runs away, a scandalous lie about Sylvia’s late husband gets a bit out of hand, and now Sylvia is helping Carla run away once again, this time from Clark. Few of these runaways are really very successful: this story is really interrogating why and how.
The next three stories are sequential, and revolve around Juliet , a well-educated classicist who is working as a teacher in the first story, ‘Chance’ - it is set in 1965 and she is 21. In this story, she meets her lover Eric Porteous on a train, then finds him again six months later. Eric is sleeping around with a few women in light of his wife’s declining health and eventual passing, but by ‘Soon’ he and Juliet have settled down and had a baby together - Penelope .
‘Soon’ focuses more on the relationship between Juliet and her parents, in particular her mother Sara . Juliet feels a bit out of place now at home, and feels guilty about not being more present for Sara. In turn, ‘Silence’ depicts her own daughter running away from her. Juliet returns to her studies and only hears about Penelope’s life through a chance encounter with a friend who reveals that Penelope is now a mother herself.
The next story is about Grace , an older woman revising the family home of her husband Maury Travers . Their marriage never had a lot of passion in it really - Grace was always more interested in Maury’s family - but both of them were just doing what was expected of them. The contrast comes from Maury’s brother Neil , a doctor who accompanies Grace on a hospital trip when she cuts her foot. This trip becomes longer and more sensual, feeling adulterous even though very little actually transpires between them - the story raises questions around what counts as cheating, and what marriages should entail.
‘Trespasses’ is slightly deliberately disorienting from the start (which is actually the end of the story). We go on a flashback in the middle to learn about a father, Harry , and his daughter Lauren . One day when moving house, Lauren finds a cardboard box - Harry explains that it contains the ashes of a dead baby who he and his wife Eileen (Lauren’s mother) had had before Lauren. This leads to Lauren questioning if she was adopted, which is further complicated by Delphine , a worker at a hotel who seems to think Lauren is her biological daughter. The ending (which was teased at the beginning) is the evening of confrontation between the four characters where the truth is finally revealed.
Conversely, ‘Tricks’ has a more linear plot to follow. Robin is a carer for her asthmatic sister Joanne , but she’s taken to watching Shakespeare plays in the next town once a year. One year, she meets a European clockmaker Danilo who plans to meet her next year when she is back in town - but this doesn’t go to plan at all. It’s only 40 years later that Robin finds out Danilo had a twin brother, which is why the plan had gone downhill.
The last story in the collection is arguably the most complex, and it’s broken into 5 parts to reflect that complexity. It follows Nancy as she ages from a fresh high school graduate to an old woman by the end of the sequence, including her marriage to the town doctor Wilf . Importantly, the stories also cover her friendship with Tessa , who has the supernatural powers mentioned in the title. However, by the third story, Tessa has been abandoned in a mental hospital and she has lost her powers. Throughout the stories, we also see Ollie , Wilf’s cousin (or a figment of Nancy’s imagination according to this analysis), who seems to be responsible for Tessa’s demise.
Let’s start tracing some of the common themes between the stories.
A key theme explored throughout many of the stories is marriage and domesticity . There’s a strong sense that it’s an underwhelming experience : it doesn’t live up to expectations and it particularly dampens the lives of the women involved. Nancy’s marriage to Wilf in ‘Powers’ only happens because she feels guilty - 'I could hardly [turn him down] without landing us both in…embarrassment' - but, as a result, she loses her fun, intellectual streak as he tells her to put down her book, 'give Dante a rest'. A similar fate befalls Juliet, who gives up her study in the process of becoming married.
Marriage is also sometimes explored as a deliberate choice , even if it might have unintended consequences - for example, Carla’s marriage to Clark is described as a life that she 'chose'. This interpretation is more unclear though, and is contradicted in other stories like Passion, where Grace’s marriage is described as 'acquiescence ', acceptance without protest. It’s even contradicted to some extent in the same story: Munro compares Carla’s marriage to a 'captive' situation, where she might’ve chosen to enter the marriage, but after that has little say in how it goes.
This sounds a bit trite, but the title is a key theme as well - just not necessarily in the physical sense . Consider all of these different definitions and how they pop up in the stories. In ‘Runaway’, Carla and the goat run away, but also the lie Carla tells Clark about Leon, a runaway lie that taints his relationship with Sylvia completely. Some runaways are described as accidents - 'she – Flora – slipped through' - while others are much more deliberate. The question here is how much control we actually have over our own lives . Not a lot, it would seem.
The other side of runaway/s is to think about who the victim in each runaway is. Does somebody run away because they are 'in a bad situation, the way it happens', a victim of circumstance , or do they run away because they feel guilty , or because they’re abandoning someone else, the true victim of being left behind? Carla does seem like more of a victim of circumstance with good reason to run away, but think about Nancy leaving Tessa behind in ‘Powers’: ‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’
This question about who the real victim is might be the hardest to answer for ‘Silence’. Juliet’s daughter abandons her, but it’s not like there’s a strong history of positive mother-daughter relationships in their family: Juliet wasn’t able to give Sara what she needed ( 'she had not protected Sara') and in turn isn’t able to quite give Penelope what she needs either (Penelope having a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home '). At the same time, Penelope’s abandonment does feel quite callous and inexplicable , even if Juliet feels like it’s what she deserves; Munro suggests at the end of the story that a reunion would be an 'undeserved blessing'. The intertextuality with Aethiopica reveals Juliet’s good intentions, her similarity to the 'great-hearted queen of Ethiopia', but it doesn’t quite give us the satisfaction of a neat resolution either.
Ethics and Morality
Finally, Munro’s stories also raise questions around morality . Besides what we’ve already covered - adultery, runaways - there are further questions raised around parenthood , particularly in ‘Trespasses’. Harry seems to share a bit too much information with his child, who really doesn’t need to know about the dead baby just yet. Lauren is 'not short of information', and it’s worth questioning where that boundary should be for a child of her age.
But not all ethical questions have simple answers : as in ‘Tricks’ they can sometimes just have 'outrageous', cruel punchlines that don’t reveal themselves for decades. Munro doesn’t necessarily have all the answers on this one. She brings up complex moral situations but does not pass judgment on any.
4. Symbols & Analysis
Throughout the stories, Munro brings in a few elements of Greek mythology or literature . The intertextuality in ‘Silence’ is one example, drawing on the classical text Aethiopica , but there are a few more scattered throughout the stories: the constellations of Orion and Cassiopeia in ‘Chance’ and an oracle-like figure in Tessa, a main character in ‘Powers’. All of these elements have some significance:
- Cassiopeia is known for her arrogance and vanity, which parallels with the way Juliet detaches herself from her life ('she had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer' - despite her very real vulnerabilities)
- Orion is known for his forbidden romance with the virgin goddess Artemis, which parallels with Eric’s romance with Juliet (Juliet being relatively inexperienced with men herself, with all of her experiences being 'fantasy')
- Oracles in mythology are like mouthpieces of the gods who can prophesy about the future. They were often women, so oracles were unusually influential in their male-dominated societies. The question is whether this parallels with Tessa at all: even though she has these supernatural powers, are there other forms of power she might lack instead?
In general, intertextuality is a way to enrich a text by drawing parallels and linking characters to existing stories or archetypes. Here, Munro uses classical texts to add dimension to her characters in a way that is almost-but-not-quite commentary. Pre-existing Greek myths are a way for us to see what’s really going on .
(Rail)Roads and Transit
The other symbol that comes up a few times in the stories is roads or railroads - basically places where runaways might happen . ‘Chance’ is set in the middle of a train journey, ‘Tricks’ involves a couple of train journeys, ‘Runaway’ maps the roads leading in and out of Carla’s home, and almost all of ‘Passion’ takes place on the road. If we broaden ‘places where runaways might happen’ to include planes as well, then we can add ‘Powers’ and ‘Silence’ to the list.
All of these spaces are what might be called liminal - they’re ‘in-between’ spaces with an air of suspense about what can happen. It’s probably most prominent in ‘Passion’, where Grace describes the events of that road trip as a 'passage” in her life, both physically and metaphorically. In general though, they’re the settings where the wildest and most significant events tend to happen.
- 'She—Flora—slipped through.'
- 'She (referring to Carla) chose this life with Clark.'
- 'She is just in a bad situation, the way it happens.'
- 'She saw him as the architect of the life ahead of them, herself as the captive, her submission both proper and exquisite.'
- 'She might be free.' - this is the second last line in the story. Note the ambiguity here (and through all these quotes, to be honest) about which ‘she’ is being referred to (Carla, Flora or even Sylvia)
- 'Juliet was twenty-one years old and already the possessor of a B.A. and an M.A. in classics.'
- 'The problem was that she was a girl. If she got married—which might happen…—she would waste all her hard work.'
- 'She had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer.'
- '…the two of them (referring to Sara and Juliet) intertwined. And then abruptly, Juliet hadn’t wanted any more of it.'
- 'But she had not protected Sara. When Sara had said, soon I’ll see Juliet , Juliet had found no reply. Could it not have been managed?…She had put everything away.'
- Penelope supposedly had a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home.'
- 'Penelope does not have a use for me.'
- 'She hopes as people who know better hope for undeserved blessings, spontaneous remissions, things of that sort.'
- Grace, watching a movie with Maury, felt 'rage…because that was what girls were supposed to be like. That’s what men - people, everybody - thought they should be like. Beautiful, treasured, spoiled, selfish, pea-brained. That was what a girl should be, to be fallen in love with.'
- 'It was not in her nature, of course, to be so openly dumbfounded, so worshipful, as he was.'
- 'Describing this passage, this change in her life, later on, Grace might say - she did say - that it was as if a gate had clanged shut behind her. But at the time there was no clang - acquiescence simply rippled through her.'
- Lauren 'had been brought up to believe that children and adults could be on equal terms with each other.'
- 'How could she be sure that they had not got her as a replacement? If there was one big thing she hadn’t known about, why could there not be another?'
- 'Forgive us our trespasses' - note the ambiguity of ‘trespasses’ (does it mean sins as in the prayer, or overstepping boundaries, or both?)
- 'Some of the best-looking, best-turned-out women in town are those who did not marry.'
- 'A means to an end, those tricks are supposed to be.'
- 'I couldn’t stand for the poor man (referring to Wilf) to have had two girls turn him down’
- 'I used to have a feeling something really unusual would occur in my life, and it would be important to have recorded everything. Was that just a feeling?'
- 'She could be upset to see you leave without her. So I’ll give you an opportunity just to slip away.'
- 'He has nearly forgotten that he ever believed in her powers, he is now only anxious for her and for himself, that their counterfeit should work well.'
Having great quotes is one thing, but you also want to make sure you know How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss !
6. Sample Essay Topics
- What does Runaway teach us about romance?
- Carla, Grace and Tessa are more similar than different in terms of their relationships with the men in their lives. Do you agree?
- How does Munro contrast younger and older women in Runaway ?
- What does the setting contribute to the overall effect of Runaway ?
- 'Forgive us our trespasses.' What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway ?
7. Essay Topic Breakdown
Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will give you a brief glimpse on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .
Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:
Step 1: A nalyse
Step 2: B rainstorm
Step 3: C reate a Plan
‘Forgive us our trespasses.’ What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway ?
Step 1: Analyse
This quote is from ‘Trespasses’ and captures the double meaning of the word as both overstepping physical boundaries and sinning in the moral or religious sense . It’s likely we’ll want to talk about both interpretations - physically trespassing but also encroaching on boundaries in immoral ways. Note that the prompt also includes the action words ‘created’ and ‘overstepped’, meaning that there’ll be a pretty diverse range of examples that we’ll need to use to answer this prompt comprehensively.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Let’s start with physical boundaries : Carla’s marriage and the fences on her property and the US-Canada border in ‘Powers’ come to mind. Then, we’ve got non-physical boundaries: emotionally as in ‘Chance’ and ethically as in ‘Trespasses’. This is where we start getting into whether these boundaries are created or overstepped .
Clark creates boundaries for Carla and her attempts to break free from them are unsuccessful. The border in ‘Powers’ is more of an excuse for Nancy to neglect Tessa, a boundary she creates and never makes the effort to overstep. Finally, the ethical boundaries in ‘Trespasses’ are overstepped from the get-go. How can we synthesise these ideas into one essay?
Step 3: Create a Plan
I think the trick with questions like this is not to just allocate different types of boundaries and/or different action words to each paragraph. Try to think of creative ways to string these ideas together that also build towards a bigger picture or overall contention about the text as a whole. This example plan explores physical and emotional boundaries but makes a bigger argument that they are often associated with regret in Munro’s stories.
Paragraph 1 : Physical boundaries are both the most intentional and the most difficult to overstep.
- Carla’s farmstead is isolated and bordered by roads; her marriage to Clark and her life on this farmstead is likened to a 'captive' situation, with Clark being the 'architect' of it all
- Munro ends Runaway on a pessimistic note about Carla’s ability to leave this boundary: 'She might be free'
- International borders also constitute physical barriers, and these are used by Nancy in ‘Powers’ to avoid responsibility; because this is an active decision (‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’), it’s a barrier that never really gets broken. Similar to Penelope in ‘Silence’
Paragraph 2 : Munro’s stories, however, focus more on emotional boundaries , and the way these are applied varies greatly. This variation underscores their complexity .
- Emotional boundaries when created can prevent intimacy: Juliet 'ma[kes] herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer' so as to avoid commitment. These boundaries come back to bite when she has a daughter
- Conversely, they cause a great deal of harm when overstepped: for example, ‘Trespasses’ sees 'crazy and dangerous' adults toy with the life of a child, constantly assuming that she 'can take it' when in fact this is not the case
Paragraph 3 : Regardless, Munro’s characters often come to regret the boundaries they erect or overstep.
- Carla’s ambivalence about her marriage is tinged with regret either way: when she’s there, she wants to escape, and when she escapes, she questions if she has 'anything left in [her]'
- Juliet reflects on the boundaries she puts up between herself and Penelope and realises that 'spontaneous remissions' between them are undeserved and impossible
- In ‘Powers’, Nancy struggles with the guilt of abandoning Tessa: many years later, she still wants to 'open [the past] up' and understand her motives. However, it is too late, and the boundaries are already there
- Munro does not suggest that boundaries are inherently good or bad, but her stories show how they can be sources of regret when treated improperly
Runaway is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Creative Response. Check out Audrey's blog on how to approach Runaway as a Creative Response for more.
For a detailed guide on Creative Response as a whole, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing .
The most overlooked aspect of English is probably the actual reading of your English novel. Shockingly, there are some students who believe that they can still do well in English without reading their texts – but that’s a topic for another blog post. Since VCE is about strategy, you should think about how you can maximise your learning while minimising the time spent reading. Some students only read their text once, while others read up to 5 or 6 times! For some one reading may be sufficient but in most circumstances it is definitely not enough. Conversely, reading more than 5 times might be a bit excessive. After asking ex-VCE students who have excelled in English, the overall consensus is that you should read your text 3 times before the English exam. Here’s why:
Reading 1 : The first reading should be done in the holidays prior to your school year. Yes, it is during the holidays but you will be thankful you started early when you’re in the middle of numerous SACs, assignments and homework during the year. You should take your time with the first reading in order to let the information soak in. Focus on exposing yourself to the characters and themes. Since many essay topics are based on characters or themes, this will help you foresee the types of prompts you’ll be asked. If it is a more difficult text to understand (such as Shakespeare), rather than pushing through your reading and trying to understand the plot, have a look at study guides first in order to gain a better understanding from the outset.
Reading 2 : This should be done while you are studying your text at school. Using the new information taught in class (such as character, theme, context and metalanguage analysis), a second reading will help you build on the knowledge from your first reading. During the reading, you should start to take note of key passages and draw out important quotes. This will set you up for the SAC and mean that you have read your text twice before your SAC.
Reading 3 : Your third and final reading is to be completed before your English exam. An ideal time is the term 3 holidays. Since it may have been a while since you studied the text, the third reading is crucial for knowledge consolidation. You should watch out for things that you missed during first two readings – usually small pieces of information that are unique and when used in essays, will separate you from other students. These include: not-so-popular quotes, passages that haven’t been discussed in class, fleeting descriptions of characters etc. Remember that the best essays involve interesting and original discussion of the text.
Reading 1 : Initial exposure to the text and an idea of what prompts may be asked in SACs and the English exam.
Reading 2 : Essential for identifying key details for SAC preparation.
Reading 3 : Vital for consolidation prior to the English exam and finding information that will distinguish yourself from other students.
So with this in mind, figure out how you will approach your readings throughout the year, and most importantly – get started early!
After Darkness is currently studied in VCE English under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .
1. Introduction (Plot Summary) 2. Characters and Development 3. Themes 4. Narrative Conventions/Literary Devices 5. Sample Paragraphs 6. Additional Essay Prompts and Analysis Questions to Consider 7. Tips
1. Introduction (Plot Summary)
Christine Piper’s historical fiction, After Darkness deals with suppressed fragments of the past and silenced memories. The protagonist, Dr Ibaraki, attempts to move forward with life whilst also trying to hide past confrontations as well as any remnants of his past wrongdoings and memories. The text consists of three intertwined narrative strands – Ibaraki’s past in Tokyo in 1934, his arrival in Broome in 1938 to work in a hospital there, and his arrival in a detainment camp in Loveday (South Australia) in 1942 after the outbreak of war.
2. Characters and Development
4. Narrative Conventions/Literary Devices
- ‘a mallee tree’ - Aboriginal word for water which symbolises purity, source of life 'if it’s hit by bushfire it grows back from the root with lots of branches, like all the others here. It’s a tough tree. Drought, bushfire…it’ll survive almost anything…I was struck by the ingenuity of the tree in its ability to generate and create a new shape better suited to the environment.'
- The tag with 'the character ko…[with] its loop of yellowed string...The knot at the end had left an impression on the page behind it: a small indentation, like a scar.'
- 'Felt like hell on earth'
- 'The hollow trunks of dead trees haunted its edges like lost people' - Can also link to the landscape narrative convention
- 'The scene was like a photograph, preserving the strangeness of the moment.'
Description of the hospital atmosphere where the patient next to Hayashi laid
- 'Only the windows were missing, leaving dark holes like the eyes of an empty soul'
- 'The photos reached me first. I leafed through the black and white images: swollen fingers, blistered toes, blackened faces, and grotesque, rotting flesh that shrivelled and puckered to reveal bone. The final photo depicted a child’s chubby hands, the tips of the fingers all black.' - Also foreshadowing death of his and Kayoko’s child
- 'That afternoon, the sky darkened, and the wind picked up…making the world outside opaque.'
- Middlemarch (book) which symbolises Ibaraki and Sister Bernice’s friendship as Bernice was left behind
- Robinson Crusoe
- 'Being able to conduct research in this way has delivered unparalleled knowledge, which we’ve already passed on to the army to minimise further loss of life.'
- 'You haafu fools don’t deserve the Japanese blood in you!'
- 'You bloody racist!'
- 'You fucking Emperor-worshipping pig...!'
- 'Haafu' - Derogatory, racism term used to define those who are biracial (half Japanese):
An interpretation of the language use throughout the text could be Piper’s way of humanising the Japanese people to her readers and notifying them that they also have their own culture and form of communication
Another interpretation of the language use is to show that both the Australians and Japanese are just as cruel as each other because they show no respect to one another and use language in such a brutal way
Ibaraki represents that divide where he can speak both languages, yet still, cannot voice his own opinion or stand up for himself (link to theme of silence)
- 'The void seemed to have a force of its own, drawing the meaning of the words into it.'
- 'The engine coughed into life.'
- 'snow was falling as I walked home from the station – the first snow of the season.' - Foreshadowing the storm about to come in his life
- 'A black silhouette against the fallen snow.' - Foreshadowing Kayoko’s death
5. Sample Paragraphs
'But as soon as you show a part of yourself, almost at once you hide it away.' Ibaraki’s deepest flaw in After Darkness is his failure to reveal himself. Do you agree?
Christine Piper’s historical fiction, After Darkness explores the consequences that an individual will be forced to endure when they choose to conceal the truth from their loved ones. Piper reveals that when a person fails to reveal themselves, it can eventually become a great obstacle which keeps them from creating meaningful and successful relationships. Additionally, Piper asserts that it can be difficult for an individual to confront their past and move completely forward with their present, especially if they believed their actions were morally wrong. Furthermore, Piper highlights the importance of allowing people into one’s life as a means to eliminate the build-up the feelings of shame and guilt.
Piper acknowledges that some people will find it difficult to open up to others about their past due to them accumulating a large amount of regret and guilt over time. This is the case for Ibaraki as he was involved with the ‘experiments’ when he was working in the ‘Epidemic Prevention Laboratory', in which Major Kimura sternly told him to practise ‘discretion and not talk ‘about [his] work to anybody'. The inability to confide in his wife or mother after performing illegal and mentally disturbing actions causes him to possess a brusque conduct towards others, afraid that they will discover his truth and ‘not be able to look at [him] at all'. His failure to confess his past wrongdoings shapes the majority of his life, ruining his marriage and making him feel the need ‘to escape’ from his losses and ‘start afresh'. He eventually lies to his mother by making her believe that he ‘had gone to Kayoko’s parents’ house’ for the break, avoiding any questions from being raised about his job. As a consequence, he fails to tell his family about his horrid past suggesting that he has accepted that ‘[his] life had become one that others whispered about'. Juxtaposed to Ibaraki’s stress relieving methods, Kayoko confides in her mother after she receives news of her miscarriage, highlighting that when one willingly shares their pain with loved ones, it can release the burden as well as provide them with some assistance. In contrast to this, Ibaraki’s guilty conscience indicates that he will take ‘the secret to his grave', making it extremely difficult for people he encounters to understand him and form a meaningful connection with him. Nonetheless, Piper does not place blame on Ibaraki as he was ordered to keep the ‘specimen’ business hidden from society, thereby inviting her readers to keep in mind that some individuals are forced by others to not reveal their true colours for fear of ruining a specific reputation.
Throughout the journey in After Darkness , Piper engendered that remaining silent about one’s past events that shapes their future is one of the deepest flaws. She notes that for people to understand and form bonds with one another, it is extremely important to reveal their identity as masking it only arises suspicions. Piper postulates that for some, memories are nostalgic; whereas, for others it carries an unrelenting burden of guilt, forcing them to hide themselves which ultimately becomes the reason as to why they feel alone in their life.
6. Additional Essay Prompts and Analysis Questions to Consider
- Analyse the role of silence in After Darkness . Compare the ways in which the characters in the text utilise or handle silence. What is Piper suggesting about the notion of silence?
- Discuss the importance of friendship in the text. What is it about friends that make the characters appear more human? How can friendship bolster development in one’s character?
- Racism and nationalism are prominent themes in the text. How are the two interlinked? Explore the ways they are shown throughout the text and by different characters. Is Piper indicating that the two always lead to negative consequences?
- Analyse some of the narrative conventions (imagery, simile, metaphor, symbols, motifs, landscapes, language, etc.) in the novel and what they mean to certain characters and to the readers.
- Explore the ways in which the text emphasises that personal conscience can oftentimes hold people back from revealing their true thoughts and feelings.
- Character transformation (bildungsroman) is prevalent throughout the text. What is Piper suggesting through Ibaraki’s character in terms of the friendships and acquaintances he has formed and how have they impacted him? How have these relationships shaped him as a person in the past and present? Were such traits he developed over time beneficial for himself and those around him or have they caused the destruction of once healthy relationships?
If you'd like to see how to break down an essay topic, you might like to check out our After Darkness Essay Topic Breakdown blog post!
- Be sure to read as many academic articles as you can find in relation to the text in order to assist you with in-depth analysis when writing your essays. This will help you to stand out from the crowd and place you in a higher standing compared to your classmates as your ideas will appear much more sophisticated and thought-out.
- Being clear and concise with the language choices is such a crucial factor. Don’t over complicate the ideas you are trying to get across to your examiners by incorporating ‘big words’ you believe will make your writing appear of higher quality, because in most cases, it does the exact opposite (see Why Using Big Words in VCE Essays Can Make You Look Dumber ). Be careful! If it's a choice between using simpler language that your examiners will understand vs. using more complex vocabulary where it becomes difficult for the examiners to understand what you're trying to say, the first option is best! Ideally though, you want to find a balance between the two - a clearly written, easy to understand essay with more complex vocabulary and language woven into it.
- If there is a quote in the prompt, be sure to embed the quote into the analysis, rather than making the quote its own sentence. You only need to mention this quote once in the entire essay. How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss has everything you need to know for this!
If you'd like to see sample A+ essays complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+, then you'll definitely want to check out our After Darkness Study Guide ! In it, we also cover advanced discussions on topics like structural features and context, completely broken down into easy-to-understand concepts so you can smash your next SAC or exam! Check it out here .
Are you an EAL student worrying about the listening component of the new study design?
Are you worried? If you are, fear not, I am here to help!
Here are some extremely useful tips that I have acquired from completing both Japanese and Chinese listening exams. They are very applicable to the EAL exam and will hopefully make you feel more confident about this new component!
- As EAL students we are allowed to bring bilingual dictionaries into the exam, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT! You will be amazed at how useful your dictionary can be.
- Use your reading time efficiently! Take a close look at your listening tracks’ questions! Search your dictionary for tricky vocabularies that are embedded in the question. Make each second count!
- Look out for the key question words! If you spot “when” and “why” in the question, then you know for sure that you need to listen out for location and time!
- Pay attention to the tone.
- Take note of any adjectives, phrases and words that express the character’s (in the listening track) thoughts, feelings and concerns.
- There is a space in the exam paper for you to take notes, USE THAT SPACE! Write down all the key information you can possibility hear from the track! According to the examiner’s report those students who wrote notes in the space provided tend to score much more higher than those who don't.
- Don't waste time wondering what the track just played! Listen carefully for the next sentence, missing out on one piece of information is better than two!
Some of you out there might be thinking “Listening is easy! I just need to write down the correct answer, it's a piece of cake.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for EAL listening or any VCE Language listening SAC or exam. The VCAA examiners will look at the accuracy of your answer, grammar and spelling. They even look at how well you phrase your response!
If you are aiming for a perfect listening response you MUST take a look at my breakdown of the examiners’ marking criteria!
For the listening component of the exam/SAC the examiners (and your own teachers) will be marking your answers base on TWO main points
- Appropriateness of vocabulary
- Accurate use of grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Are you feeling more confident for the VCE EAL Listening section with a couple of handy hints in your pocket? I hope you are! Give it a go, it is not as scary as you think!
1. 'The fantasy never got beyond that—I didn't let it—and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn't sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.'
Compare how a perceived sense of control shapes characters in both Never Let Me Go and Stasiland .
2. Compare how the texts explore the importance of memory in defining identity.
3. 'To conform is to be safe and to survive.'
Compare how this idea is examined in both texts.
4. 'I'll have Hailsham with me, safely in my head, and that'll be something no one can take away.' (Never Let Me Go)
Compare how these texts explore the consequences of denying history for affected individuals.
5. Compare how Never Let Me Go and Stasiland examine what it means to be human.
6. Compare how both texts explore the influence of being an outsider on one's understanding of society and their place in the world.
7. 'This society, it was built on lies – lie after lie after lie.' ( Stasiland )
Compare what the two texts say about wilful ignorance in society.
8. 'It is impossible to be free when you are unaware of your confines.'
Compare how the two texts explore freedom and confinement.
9 . 'When I got out of prison, I was basically no longer human.' ( Stasiland )
'Poor creatures. What did we do to you?' ( Never Let Me Go )
Compare how Never Let Me Go and Stasiland explore how humanity can be irreparably broken.
10. Compare how these texts examine the sacrifices required for societal progression and change.
11. Compare what the two texts say about the inevitability of change and being forgotten.
12. Compare the ways these texts explore the influence of different types of human relationships on the individual.
13. 'Things have been put behind glass, but they are not yet over.' ( Stasiland )
Compare how Never Let Me Go and Stasiland demonstrate differing attitudes towards reality and the past.
14. Compare what the two texts suggest about the factors which shape an individual's world view.
15. 'We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all.' ( Never Let Me Go )
'...a soul buckled out of shape, forever.' ( Stasiland )
Compare how Never Let Me Go and Stasiland explore the concept of souls in relation to one's identity.
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How to Write and Structure a Persuasive Speech
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The purpose of a persuasive speech is to convince your audience to agree with an idea or opinion that you present. First, you'll need to choose a side on a controversial topic, then you will write a speech to explain your position, and convince the audience to agree with you.
You can produce an effective persuasive speech if you structure your argument as a solution to a problem. Your first job as a speaker is to convince your audience that a particular problem is important to them, and then you must convince them that you have the solution to make things better.
Note: You don't have to address a real problem. Any need can work as the problem. For example, you could consider the lack of a pet, the need to wash one's hands, or the need to pick a particular sport to play as the "problem."
As an example, let's imagine that you have chosen "Getting Up Early" as your persuasion topic. Your goal will be to persuade classmates to get themselves out of bed an hour earlier every morning. In this instance, the problem could be summed up as "morning chaos."
A standard speech format has an introduction with a great hook statement, three main points, and a summary. Your persuasive speech will be a tailored version of this format.
Before you write the text of your speech, you should sketch an outline that includes your hook statement and three main points.
Writing the Text
The introduction of your speech must be compelling because your audience will make up their minds within a few minutes whether or not they are interested in your topic.
Before you write the full body you should come up with a greeting. Your greeting can be as simple as "Good morning everyone. My name is Frank."
After your greeting, you will offer a hook to capture attention. A hook sentence for the "morning chaos" speech could be a question:
- How many times have you been late for school?
- Does your day begin with shouts and arguments?
- Have you ever missed the bus?
Or your hook could be a statistic or surprising statement:
- More than 50 percent of high school students skip breakfast because they just don't have time to eat.
- Tardy kids drop out of school more often than punctual kids.
Once you have the attention of your audience, follow through to define the topic/problem and introduce your solution. Here's an example of what you might have so far:
Good afternoon, class. Some of you know me, but some of you may not. My name is Frank Godfrey, and I have a question for you. Does your day begin with shouts and arguments? Do you go to school in a bad mood because you've been yelled at, or because you argued with your parent? The chaos you experience in the morning can bring you down and affect your performance at school.
Add the solution:
You can improve your mood and your school performance by adding more time to your morning schedule. You can accomplish this by setting your alarm clock to go off one hour earlier.
Your next task will be to write the body, which will contain the three main points you've come up with to argue your position. Each point will be followed by supporting evidence or anecdotes, and each body paragraph will need to end with a transition statement that leads to the next segment. Here is a sample of three main statements:
- Bad moods caused by morning chaos will affect your workday performance.
- If you skip breakfast to buy time, you're making a harmful health decision.
- (Ending on a cheerful note) You'll enjoy a boost to your self-esteem when you reduce the morning chaos.
After you write three body paragraphs with strong transition statements that make your speech flow, you are ready to work on your summary.
Your summary will re-emphasize your argument and restate your points in slightly different language. This can be a little tricky. You don't want to sound repetitive but will need to repeat what you have said. Find a way to reword the same main points.
Finally, you must make sure to write a clear final sentence or passage to keep yourself from stammering at the end or fading off in an awkward moment. A few examples of graceful exits:
- We all like to sleep. It's hard to get up some mornings, but rest assured that the reward is well worth the effort.
- If you follow these guidelines and make the effort to get up a little bit earlier every day, you'll reap rewards in your home life and on your report card.
Tips for Writing Your Speech
- Don't be confrontational in your argument. You don't need to put down the other side; just convince your audience that your position is correct by using positive assertions.
- Use simple statistics. Don't overwhelm your audience with confusing numbers.
- Don't complicate your speech by going outside the standard "three points" format. While it might seem simplistic, it is a tried and true method for presenting to an audience who is listening as opposed to reading.
- How to Write a Persuasive Essay
- 5 Tips on How to Write a Speech Essay
- Tips on How to Write an Argumentative Essay
- How To Write an Essay
- Writing an Opinion Essay
- 5 Steps to Writing a Position Paper
- How to Structure an Essay
- What Is Expository Writing?
- Ethos, Logos, Pathos for Persuasion
- Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
- Audience Analysis in Speech and Composition
- 100 Persuasive Speech Topics for Students
- How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
- What an Essay Is and How to Write One
- 50 Topics for Impromptu Student Speeches
- How to Write a Letter of Complaint
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