Tips to help achieve with 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 Unfamiliar Text?

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

There are a few things you can do to prepare for this standard. You will no doubt have a list, or a glossary of language features from your teacher, and you will no doubt have worked hard to be able to identify them. Being able to discuss how they contribute to your understanding of the text is the key to doing well.

One of the best things you can do is read a lot. Read different things. Read the paper and think about how the sentences are constructed. If it’s an opinion piece, what kind of language does the writer use? If it’s a poem, look for patterns. Is there a set of images, similes, metaphors, adjectives, that have the same kind of idea? Does that pattern change? If it’s in more than one stanza, how is the sense different in each stanza. Just half an hour or so as often as you can. You don’t need to write an essay every time. Just notice what’s happening in what you’re reading. It’s ok if you don’t spot something every time.

Don’t freak out if you don’t know what the poem means or if it doesn’t make sense. Ask yourself what sense you can make of it and go from there. You know what words mean. They might be put together in a way that confuses you, but just sit with that confusion and think about what it tells you. Somebody said, “If you’re not confused, you’re not thinking clearly.” The harder the text the more you have to think. And that’s ok! Practice doing that now to train your brain so you can do it in the exam too.

If you are writing about an image, like a metaphor or a simile, there are two parts: The image and the thing it represents. Think about both and why they go together. When Shakespeare asks is lover, “shall I compare thee to a summers’ day,” he then proceeds to unpack the image for us in the lines that follow. So, in your study, you could take a metaphor and brainstorm all the ways it fits the thing it describes. How many ways could a love be like a summer’s day?

And finally, don’t forget about sound. You listen to a poem as much as you visualise what’s in it. Be prepared to write about how assonance connects key words, or how alliteration can do the same. Look for internal rhymes. These are patterns that connect not just words but the ideas they represent.

There is heaps you could do and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but you don’t have to know it all . The trick is to take a few things and feel confident about them.

Hi there. Something to try. With Unfamiliar try and have a structure in your mind to respond. Maybe divide the text in three, each bit covered in a paragraph. For each see how it shows the question asked, then find a technique that helps this, give an example and explain how it answers the question.

Hello. Thanks for the tip. So are you suggesting that my response for an individual task has the same sort of three paragraph structure an essay has and that I use this for three main points from the text and then bring into per paragraph? My problem with this technique would be that I like to write a lot and so would take well over an hour to do all three plus the two other essays I must write. How would you go about this? Thanks! :slight_smile:

A good call. Could you think about making it two sections and then finding a technique for each that relates to the question?

That possibly sounds like it might work. I’ll just have to condense the info possibly. Question: is it possible to gain a high grade if you do only TWO really good responses?

Great. Have a go at one and see how it goes. Concentrate on answering the question only, no plot stuff.
For the point about getting a really good grade with just two. Think of it this way - Each question is marked out of eight to a total of 24. Think of Achieved as 7: Merit as 14. Excellence as 19. So you would need 2 marked at 7 to get to Merit.