How To Excel In HSC Advanced English

HSC English in a nutshell..

How exactly does one get a Band 6 Essay in Advanced English?

Some of our best performing students in Advanced English will tell you that it all comes down to presenting your arguments, and accurately understanding what the question is asking you.

If you haven’t already, check out our HSC Glossary of Keywords, which will help you to understand the correct meaning of keywords to help you plan, structure and finally answer the question correctly.

RELATED: HSC Glossary of Keywords

But what sets top responses apart is what is generally referred to in marking rubrics as a ‘sophisticated’ approach to deconstructing the question and coming up with a meaningful thesis.

Learn the syllabus inside out

We highly recommend taking the time to read the syllabus prescriptions; they will tell you exactly what is required of you, and set a kind of perimeter around, a premise for the work you produce.

Remember that your HSC examinations can only test you on that which is being referenced in the syllabus – so if you aren’t complying with its prescriptions, you will not be giving those markers what they want to read.

Particularly with the Area of Study (the focus of Paper 1), the words used in the Syllabus to describe the unit can actually help you to develop the ideas around which you write your extended response and creative composition.

Think structure

The first factor your examiners will look for is whether you have structured your responses soundly. That is, whether you have organised and/or ordered your ideas in a way that allows the reader to easily follow your train of thought.

Remember that each of your extended responses need to have:

– Introduction (with an opening statement, a summary of your ideas and references to your text)

– Body (at least 3 or 4 paragraphs constructed via idea not text)

– Conclusion (with an overall statement that reevaluates your opening statement, and a closing insight that recognises what has been learnt/discovered/unveiled from your study of the unit.

You should memorise this structure and do not let it slip. At all times, ensure that your ideas move appropriately from one to the next, that your sentences and deconstruction flow and directly support the ideas you have presented, that your language of connection (how you link your ideas and texts) is inserted in the right places and crafts appropriate ties.

ISE: Identify, Support & Explain

Whilst setting up clear and insightful ideas within each of your responses is extremely important, it is essentially your deconstruction of your texts – your identification of how a composer shapes meaning through his or her text via his or her use of distinctive language features – that will award you your marks. Therefore, if we had to choose only one acronym to memorise throughout HSC English, it would be ISE.

In other words, when you are analysing or deconstructing a text, your need to put together sentences that are always comprised of the following three components:

Identify: Clearly state the language feature you have chosen as an example from the text.

Support: Quote the section of the text which utilises this language feature.

Explain: Describe in depth the effect of this quote; that is, how it works to create meaning, in relation to the idea being explored.

Don’t regurgitate content, answer the question

Of acing English, this is possibly the single most important piece of advice we want all Year 12 students to know!

With HSC English comes a major misconception: students seem predisposed to believe that memorising a couple of solid essays, and then regurgitating them in the exam is going to get them those top marks. This is not the case! Plus, when we’re given exam booklets and designated space to answer the question, we often think we have to fill up the entire paper; which is also, untrue.

RELATED: We’re back in centre for Term 3 and holiday courses

Now, back the syllabus. It states that a student cannot attain higher than a C in any response if they don’t directly answer the question provided. Although you are definitely able to learn main ideas, concepts and points of analysis that will go into your response, the key to mastering the HSC Advanced English course is being able to adapt your ideas to whatever the stimulus and question is offered. This does not mean simply inserting a couple of words in here and there; it means refocusing your line of argument, the reasoning which drives your idea, so that it becomes relevant and responsive to the question being asked.

The key to adapting your pre-developed ideas is being able to look at a given question, pick out the key words or phrases, and then comprehend exactly what is being asked in this question. Before you begin writing, formulate an argument for yourself:

How do I feel about this question? What is the argument I wish to communicate? 

Which every practice question you are allocated in class work, use your highlighter to identify those parts to which you need to refer continually in your response.

Throughout your English study, you should never compose a practice response that is not written in response to a specific question. You need to get used to moulding your response to comply with the instructions required.

Remember that in the exam, no matter how strong and sophisticated your regurgitated essay might be, you won’t score highly unless you are addressing the question through and through.

Avoid panic territory! Prepare yourself for all situations

Don’t drive yourself into a corner, beware of the fact that the information you would like to write in your responses might not be the appropriate material for the nature of the question specified.

Also, something very important to remember is that there is no guarantee that you will be asked to write in the form of an essay! This has happened before – in the 2007 English HSC Paper.

Practice makes perfect

In addition to practising adapting your material to different questions and writing in different forms, there are some sections of the HSC English course (namely, Section 1 & 2 of Paper 1) about which yet another misconception has formed: that it is impossible to study for them, because you cannot predict what will be given to you. This is not the case!

It is important to realise from the very beginning, that you can actually prepare yourself for the sections that don’t necessarily focus on any one or more of your set texts.

Whilst of course, every year will provide a different set of texts and questions, there are structural patterns you can recognise, and useful tips and methods of responding that remain constant. Practice with past HSC papers, familiarise yourself with approaching unseen texts and picking out language features on the spot, and practice structuring paragraph responses within the time constraints.

Click here to explore our in-centre and online HSC English courses at Talent 100, and excel in English this year!

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