The Year 12 Literature Exam is worth 50% of the entire score.

  • On the exam, you are required to write 2 close analysis pieces in 2 hours. You have an extra 15 minutes for reading time at the beginning.

  • It is HIGHLY recommended to visit the VCAA page for ALL Study Areas.

VCAA Literature Exams and Advice

  • Below is a summary and ideas from VCAA and your teacher!

Literature Exam – Specific Advice

This is a summary of the key points of the 2010 and 2009 Assessment Reports.

Treat this information as VERY, VERY, VERY important advice to be memorized and followed!

  1. Use the passages as the starting point for your Close Analysis RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING.
For example:

Hamlet’s speech in Passage 1 to the attendant surveillants Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is representative of the notion of duality that pervades all three passages. It is in its construction paradoxical in nature, containing the gravitas of Hamlet’s metaphysical discourses also present in his soliloquies throughout the play, while maintaining the infinitely deregulated style of prose.

Doing this indicates three things immediately.
ü You are going to focus specifically on the PASSAGES
ü You have a valid interpretation to put forward
ü You can connect the passages on the exam to other concerns within the play

A weak opening would be as follows

William Shakespeare’s epic tragedy ‘Hamlet’’ features death, madness and betrayal. Throughout the play ‘Hamlet the Dane’ is subjected to the grief of all three.

The problem with this opening is that it suggests a ‘theme’ essay. (And yes, I know I’ve told you to use this as a fall-back, but let’s work on having a DIRECT reference to the passages in the first sentence of your analysis).

  1. For Hamlet take special note of any stage directions that may be in the passage. What do they indicate about how the words may be interpreted?
For example:

Consider the following passage from Act V, Scene II. What is the implication of Laertes’ aside’?

LAERTES
My lord, I'll hit him now.
KING CLAUDIUS
I do not think't.
LAERTES
[Aside] And yet 'tis almost 'gainst my conscience.
HAMLET
Come, for the third, Laertes: you but dally;
I pray you, pass with your best violence;
I am afeard you make a wanton of me.
LAERTES
Say you so? come on.
They play

  1. Be concerned with the language and the construction of the text. Make references to the rhyme, rhythm, imagery, metaphors and etc WHILE you are making your interpretation. Do not have SEPARATE discussions of language techniques.

You need to “show a genuine and substantiated interaction with the text and evidence of close reading. [Students] need to be concerned with the language and the construction of the text, as well as with what the text is about.”’’


  1. When writing about Hamlet, students wanted to discuss “corruption, poison or madness” but they needed to use the given passages to do so”. ‘

In other words, refer to point 1. in this document. Don’t write a “theme-based” essay.

  1. When writing on poetry, “students were able to discuss Harwood’s common concerns, but also to show the range in her poetry.”

Work on being showing connections between ideas/themes/imagery in Harwood’s poems, as well as demonstrating an understanding of how varied (rhyme, rhythm, historical concerns, feminist themes) her poems are.

When writing on Emma, the examiners were pleased that students were able to use the “selected passages to enable a development of a reading based in the heroine’s growing maturity.”

6. Higher-scoring responses commented on the views and values of the author as part of their general discussion and analysis of the text, whereas weaker responses tended to add a paragraph, often at the end of the essay, in an attempt to meet this requirement.

7. It is imperative that students base their response on one or more of the passages provided. A passing reference is insufficient and students who do not meet this requirement will not score highly.

Some other comments of use from the Assessment Reports

“Hamlet was the most popular play text and, although it is a challenging text, most students found plenty with which to engage and were well able to analyse the language. Weaker responses tended to oversimplify the concerns of the text and criticise Hamlet for ‘dithering around’ and not ‘getting on with things’ like Fortinbras. Better responses showed a sure grasp of the play’s larger concerns and discussion ranged over the play as a whole. The crafty unctuous speech of Claudius to Hamlet in passage one, and Hamlet’s stiff formality in reply, alerted more perceptive students to the simmering deep family rift at work, even before the ghost’s appearance to Hamlet. Some students thought that the ghost had in fact appeared to him before passage one.”

“Students who were able to express complex ideas with accuracy and assurance scored well. The ability to work closely with the language of the text and to analyse it was very important. The following six examples demonstrate this facility with language and a perceptive and sophisticated interpretation of the text.

In the first passage Shakespeare pits the binary opposites of Claudius and Hamlet against each other as Claudius – a lecherous murderer and ‘satyr’- in pompous , majestic fashion tries to compel Hamlet to ‘think of us as a father’. The use of the royal plural ’we’ further exacerbates the contempt in which young Hamlet holds his Uncle ‘a little more than kin and less than kind’. Furthermore Gertrude advises Hamlet to ‘look like a friend on Denmark’ but to Hamlet Denmark has bred ‘things rank and gross in nature’ and confines him like a prison with the denial of his passage to Wittenberg.”