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Tips to help achieve Excellence

Hi. I’m one of those people. One of those teens with the big dreams, the glasses and the try-hard attitude. All this year I’ve been getting high grades in my internals and been really happy. We just had mocks for English, and I kinda flopped. So I was wondering, does anyone have some tips (preferably from personal experience) on how to change gears, and get up to Excellence with Visual and Oral Text?
Thanks!

Hi NCEA,
What level English are you talking about?

Hi NewtonsApple,
I’m NCEA Level 1.

Hey. Level 1 isn’t much to stress about as it’s level 2 and 3 that uni’s look at mostly :slight_smile:
This is basically your experimental year where it’s good to try new study and memorizational techniques.
English can be very hard or very easy depending on wether you like/ relate to the text, so try to relate the visual or oral text to something happening in your life or within your community and get opinionated. The essays are basically you bullshitting your way through 2 pages of your opinion. Also use everything the teacher points out (if the teacher is marking it), cater to the markers opinion to get a higher mark.
What themes are you studying at the moment? What are the texts you are doing? Or what questions did you pick? I might be able to help more with the actual studying and research side of things if I know a little more details about it :slight_smile:

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Hello. Thanks for the tips. The visual text I am doing is the film, blinded by the light. Themes we are studying in the film are power of music, hopes/dreams and aspirations and escapism. The written text is Macbeth. Themes in this we are studying are equivocation and guilt.

So with the film, choose a couple of scenes that show these themes, and memorize what happens in it. Don’t be too fussed on memorizing the exact camera shots because you can use whatever type you want (wide shot, close up, pan, extreme close up - when in doubt use either wide shot or close up, depending on the nearness of the subject) make sure to use at least one example the teacher gave you, as they do know what they’re talking about and at the very least it’ll get you another mark towards that excellence! Re watch the movie a couple days before the exam, this helps just with that last little bit of memorization. Also gives you an excuse to watch a movie during exam week ;))
Macbeth is an awesome text to write about- guilt is a great theme as well, also comparing this guilt to innocence (for example a character thinks they are doing it for the good, when really its not) also bear in mind that this was created to be a play, so you can also call the ‘reader’ the ‘viewer’ and make sure you describe exactly what the viewer (aka you) sees, compared to the characters on the stage. An interesting point to make would be that you can’t see what is going on when you are experiencing something firsthand (for example in modern society, you can’t see a toxic relationship if you’re the one in it, but everyone else can)
Macbeth is full with a lot of examples, so to make it easier on you, memorize 5 (write them out 5 times, say them 5 times, read them 5 times) for each theme, and as soon as you get into the exam write them down shorthand on a scrap piece of paper :))
Also a massive thing with excellence is that conclusion! so for the conclusion, only talk about the themes, and how they relate to now- don’t talk about the text at all. Only the themes.
for example: “Macbeth shows us the themes of guilt in society…” IS WRONG
but “The author shows us the themes of Guilt in society…” IS RIGHT
We connect the themes and society in the conclusion, and then what we can take away from these themes.
Good luck for your exams! if you want a couple excellence exemplars for the theme of guilt I can show you my level 2 ones ;))

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I agree with Jojo. Just to add, it’s always good to link to society and show appreciation of the authors purpose. If you show the marker that you know the author is trying to communicate something about the world, society or any contentious aspect, then that shows sensible, mature thinking on your part or as they like to call it “perception”. Especially for unfamiliar, if you delve very deep into the authors purpose, showing the markers that you are not just perceiving it literally but can see beyond the text then I think you should be fine. Just remember you need to appreciate what the purpose is, and how the author/poet has weaved it into their text.

I actually also did Macbeth in Level 1. Let me know if you would like to see my paper (I did get an excellence for it). My theme was more on the character development of Lady Macbeth.

With Macbeth there is a lot of historical context. If you weave in that historical context, you are being very mature in your thinking and are showing the markers that you know what you are talking about.

Hi There - fantastic to see the discussion and support on this forum!

Our forums open next week - so please do pop back then for more discussion… in the meantime, we have the following suggestions:

Films create meaning through images and sound. The trick to writing a good essay for this standard, is to make sure you are showing how the things you see and hear (film techniques) contribute to your understanding of the aspect (character, idea, conflict etc). As you are practicing your exam writing in your study time, choose a few techniques you have identified and brainstorm as much as you can about the effect it has you as a viewer. What does it make you feel? How does that contribute to your understanding of the film, the character, the main idea?

For excellence, your discussion of what a particular film technique contributes needs to be perceptive . That means you’ve seen (perceived) something yourself from thinking deeply about the film. That usually means you’re saying something that hasn’t been learned from a study guide, but something you’ve noticed .

For example, being able to identify an extreme close up is a start, but the important thing is to be able to describe the effect it has. Think about what you’re seeing and how it makes you feel. It’s not enough to simply describe what you see. Sure an ECU helps you see more detail, but it’s also likely to make you feel uneasy. Try getting that close you your friend and see what happens! So why does the filmmaker want you to feel uneasy with this shot? Does that make you sympathise with the character? Does it make you lose any trust you may have had for that character? Is it a turning point in the film in terms of how you relate to the character?

One other tip is to remember to listen to the film. Sound is actually more important than the images, believe it or not. Try following a film with your eyes shut and then open them and turn the sound off. Which is harder? So don’t be afraid to think deeply about the sound. How do the sound being made in the film create a sense of mood or tension? Is there silence in any of the scenes or shots? How does the sound help us to empathise with a character? Music is a really powerful way to help the audience make meaning in a film. Think about the tempo, the instrumentation, the pitch, the volume. Be specific and then go crazy describing the effect . Is it triumphant sounding? Nervous? Is it the sort of song you’d find in the character’s Spotify playlist? See how the choice of a piece of music can suggest so much about mood and character?

So good practice for the external is to take a scene, identify a few key techniques, and write as much as you can about what they contribute. Go deep. The more you write the more you’ll notice.

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