Author: Kirsten Fox
Publisher: Insight, 2015, 176 pages
Kirsten Fox is well-known in the VCE English Language field, having been involved in the course since its beginnings. This is the third edition of her extremely useful and unique exam guide.
The book is clearly divided into three sections, logically reflecting the three sections of the exam. This includes Section A – short answer questions; Section B – analytical commentary and Section C – the essay. The book also includes eight pages of practical exam advice, including some crucial lists of ‘dos and don’ts’. In addition, there is a six page glossary to cover the key metalanguage of this course.
Many people will be familiar with the earlier editions, and whilst this new edition contains some of the previous texts, each section has been updated and enlarged. In Section A, three of the eight texts are new. All the sample short answer questions follow the newer exam style of being just four or five questions for each text, adding up to fifteen marks per text. Line spaces to write the answers are not provided, as they were previously.
To start Section B, there is a new, very useful, 12 page guide to tackling this section of the exam. It has some crucial information, such as explaining (with examples) situational and cultural contexts, as well as a step-by-step guide to approaching this relatively new section of the paper. This is followed by a fully worked, annotated example. Again, three of the eight texts are completely new, and even the previous examples have been slightly altered.
Section C has some slight changes to ‘Steps for essay writing’. It includes several new essay topics and a number of the previous topics have been updated to include more recent stimulus material.
Section D of the text, ‘Exam Success’ has been updated to suit the new 2016 – 2020 Study Design and has a range of useful additions, such as exam timing. It still contains the previous information, such as preparing for the exam and approaching each section.
The entire book is very clearly set out and has an easy to follow structure so that teachers and students can select the most relevant section for their purposes at any particular time. Much of the information, such as the exam success, is formatted as dot points, making for easy reading and understanding.
As an English Language teacher, I have found the previous editions essential and I know that this latest one will be also. My students appreciate that Kirsten Fox writes in a language they can understand and follow. Her sample essays and analytical commentaries cover all the required information but are not written in a formal academic prose that would seem unattainable to many students. They use this text and know that it is helping them to improve.
I am sure that many schools will have already added this to their booklists. It would be a very useful tool for students, providing helpful information and additional tasks to complete. Teachers would also benefit by having new texts and new essay topics to use with their classes. This book is highly recommended for all VCE English Language classes, particularly Units 3 and 4.
Reviewed by Gaye Jenkins, English Language teacher at Lavalla College, Traralgon.