English is a subject that I used to incredibly struggle with, it's a mind game. I found it especially difficult to construct sophisticated sentences in a coherent and cohesive manner. I started compiling these tips in Year 9, and I hope that they’ll be able to help you as they have helped me. Good luck!
· Make a word bank
One of the best ways to improve your English vocabulary is to make a word bank. Whenever you come across a new word, whether it be when reading a text in class or seeing it on an article, search up the definition and write it down into a word bank.
You should also try to group words together that have similar meanings, so it becomes easier to find different words to use when constructing your essay, creative, discursive etc. By searching up its definition and looking at how others use it in sentences, this will also ensure that you are using the word correctly.
· Read books, novels etc.
However, it is important to note that you should only read with the desire to enjoy the book. Find a novel that you are interested in, rather than reading for the sake of reading. You don’t have to be reading classics, and instead, just read a good book that interests you.
There’s a wide range of genres that you can choose from, including: historical fiction, mystery, thriller, romance, fantasy, comedy… and the list goes on. (My personal favourite is fantasy, and I also love a good philosophical nonfiction read)
By reading, you can expand your vocabulary, broaden your mindset and learn new ideas that you can refer to in your interpretations of texts in your assessments.
For example, one of my latest reads, “Any Ordinary Day” by Leigh Sales, mentioned schemas. It was incredibly insightful and changed the way I looked at human behaviours and the impacts on it from life-changing events.
“ All of us, whether consciously or unconsciously, hold these ingrained beliefs, called schemas. They differ for each of us. They form in our earliest years, through our personal experiences and what adults teach us. A devastating event smashes a person’s schemas, causing a kind of mental car crash. Sometimes schemas are pieced back together again and sometimes they are destroyed and replaced by something else.”
Excerpt From: Leigh Sales. “Any Ordinary Day: Blindsides, Resilience and What Happens After the Worst Day of Your Life.”
IMPROVING SENTENCE STRUCTURE:
· Find and read sample essays
Another tip is to read myriads of sample essays even those that are not related to your text. When you do so, you should pay close attention to the author’s use of language (remember to add new words to your word bank!) and sentence structure.
Here’s what you could gain from doing so:
Expand your vocabulary
Discover new ways to phrase sentences
Synthesise between essay structures to identify which one you feel most comfortable with
Learn different ways of representing your ideas in a cohesive and coherent manner
Take notes on how the essay has been constructed and by doing so, you can gain a deeper insight into the features of a quality essay and thus, apply it to your own essays.
Where to get them:
In order to retrieve these essays, you have to be very proactive and simply just ask.
Ask around the top achievers in the years above you (at your school is best, but you can also ask people from other schools)! This is one of the best ways to see what you’ll be getting into in the year above, and the standard that is necessary to secure a top mark
There are many essays online, but a lot of them aren’t of the standard that is necessary for you to get a top scoring mark. Instead, the best approach is to actively ask (even cold dm) people from older year groups (or those who have graduated) that you know have done well in English for their essays.
We offer sample essays to students from all year levels here at Concept too, so feel free to come try out a lesson and get a glimpse of the resources we offer!
IN CLASS (OR WHEN PREPARING FOR AN ASSESSMENT):
· Give yourself feedback or ask your friends to peer review
When you are writing practice responses in preparation for an upcoming exam, you should always be getting into the practice of giving yourself feedback and critiquing your own work. (if you are working digitally, you can just add comments to your document!) The best way to find out if you have logical or expression errors in your work is to always proofread ALOUD - this will help you notice things you wouldn’t normally (trust me, it works!). Note errors in your writing and use your knowledge from class to provide constructive feedback so you can continuously develop your writing and comprehension skills.
· Ask questions and participate in class discussions
This is KEY to improving English since it enables you to feel more confident with your ideas and helps you to continue exploring them in more detail. Listen to what your teacher says as they are teaching from the syllabus and sharing information that will most likely be relevant for your assessments. Most of the time, students don’t want to contribute because they are worried that their ideas will be dismissed and made fun of, but you don’t have to worry because every contribution to class is of value and your teacher can help expand your ideas or clarify something you are confused about.
I used to be very shy in class as well, however, in Year 9 (which is when I started to put my hand up in class more), I noticed that I was able to learn better and I did not feel as confused nearly as much. It was frightening at first, but after a while you get used to it and you become more confident in raising your hand during class. Understand that your teachers are there to help you and your classmates are also there to learn!
AFTER AN ASSESSMENT:
· Give yourself feedback
This method is still relevant after you’ve finished an assessment. Even if you do well, you want to be continuously improving to ensure that your marks are consistent. Thus, you should identify your strengths and weaknesses, and find ways to better approach the question that you were given in the assessment for future reference.
You could also consider seeking feedback from your teachers so that they could elaborate on why they deducted marks or rewarded marks. The teachers follow a strict marking criteria and they could help provide advice on strengthening your weaknesses so that you can attain a better mark next time.
Written by: Cassie Cai