How to succeed in HSC English

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For many of you, English will unfortunately be the hardest subject to conquer in the HSC. However I believe that with adequate preparation, understanding and direction, any hard working student can achieve a high mark in English Advanced. Here are a few tips that I think will help you along your HSC year.

1. Read your set texts

I can’t stress how important it is that you read your set texts through at least once (and countless more times for Module B) to gain an appreciation of not only their structure, but how they tie together as separate pieces of work. Here, you can save time by bookmarking all the quotes / pages that you find are relevant to the thematic concerns you will be exploring in your essay. Then, instead of rereading the text multiple times or flipping through multiple chapters to find that quote you vaguely remember, these pieces of evidence will be waiting for you.

2. Thoroughly understand the rubric

Just like science subjects are heavily centred on the syllabus, the essay questions you receive in English exams will be focused upon the AOS / module rubrics. Hence, it only makes sense that your base essays should also be focused upon the rubric. Essentially, if you can cover most aspects of the rubric with your essay, no exam question should be impossible. Thus, understanding, breaking down and annotating the rubric becomes essential to cover all bases and ensure that the hours you put into studying English are appropriately rewarded with the right marks.

3. Edit and tighten your essay

Go back over your essay once you’ve written it – you’ll be surprised by how many unnecessary sentences and phrases you would have thrown in there. Any words that repeat the same point or don’t add to your argument should be eliminated and unnecessarily long quotes should be shortened. Here, you can probably both clarify and sophisticate your argument as you gain a stronger grasp on your essay as a whole. Essentially, you want to be making the strongest points with the least amount of words. Brevity and clarity are key!

4. Look at the flexibility of your essay and practise moulding

Although a high-level base essay is an essential starting point, it becomes useless if it’s not easily mouldable to exam questions. If you find that one of your paragraphs doesn’t 100% work with a certain direction of questions, build a bank of back-up quotes to open up more avenues. Also, in the exam be prepared to cut out any material in your essay that is irrelevant to the question and if need be, add new quotes in that support your stance. This will gain you more marks, despite the decrease in level of expression. Answering the question > everything!

5. Make sure your creative is both conceptually strong and rubric based

Your creative is essentially another way in which HSC markers test your understanding of the Area of Study. In your creative, you need to make sure that you make meaningful points about Discovery – even think of a “thesis” if you like. Your creative should effectively prove this thesis, but obviously in a subtler, more innovative way than your essay does. Make sure that your creative is realistic and appropriate in terms of both term and storyline. Lastly, your creative needs to be adaptable to most, if not all, parts of the rubric. Be prepared for any terms in the rubric (eg individual, community, rediscovery) to be appointed as a focal point of your creative.

6. Practise your unseen reading task throughout the year

The unseen will indisputably be the easiest section to achieve full marks in, especially for those of you who tend to struggle with essays. The mark allocation is straightforward: 1 to 3-markers, one mark for each quote, technique and explanation.  For 4, 5 and 6 markers, it becomes a bit more complicated and may involve writing about multiple texts and connecting them in terms of certain concepts about discovery. Here, it’s likely you will need to write a mini-essay with intertextual links between your chosen texts in your mini-paragraphs. However, marks will still be predictably allocated based on the amount (and of course, quality) of evidence you present. The level required to achieve a 15/15 here is much lower than that required of an essay, so this is the section where you really can’t afford to lose marks.

7. Take each term as it comes

I would definitely advise doing the AOS and then the Modules progressively, in the order they come in at school. I don’t think it’s helpful to think too far ahead (eg start Module B in the summer holidays) because it will loosen your focus on the current essay you should be focusing on.  This may result in a lower mark, and the need to then play catch up later in the year. If you work on each essay as they come, you should score high marks and be prepared for trials – running out of time shouldn’t be a problem.

To conclude, remember that setbacks are okay and that you can definitely recover from one bad mark. You have multiple opportunities (trials, HSC) to make up for it. A final tip: English becomes a lot easier if you try to appreciate your texts and enjoy reading them!

Feel free to approach me if you seek advice or have any questions. Good luck!

About Yueyue Miao

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