2019 HSC Responses – English Advanced Short Answer

Looking for sample answers for English Advanced short response questions? Our English Tutor Brianna Johnson provides some sample answers! Brianna scored a Band 6 in English and is currently studying a double degree in Education and Arts (English) at the University of Sydney.





How to approach and answer short response questions

Many students find Section 1 of the first English Advanced HSC paper to be quite difficult. Compared to the other sections in both Paper 1 and 2, Section 1’s focus is on responding to completely new texts as well as to a variety of questions ranging in marks. In order to gain the best marks possible, you will need to consider and respond to how a range of different text types address and engage with the Common Module ‘Texts and Human Experiences’.

The 2019 HSC paper asked students to consider the following text types in their short responses:

  1. One Poem
  2. Two prose fiction extracts
  3. One feature article

Based on feedback and guidelines given by HSC markers on how students performed in response to Section 1 of the first HSC English Advanced paper in 2019, it is important to consider the following when addressing your unseen texts and their respective questions:

  1. Explicitly and accurately identify how the text and question link to the idea of ‘Human Experience’ and how.
  2. Respond succinctly and concisely.
  3. Avoid descriptive responses and instead, go beyond recounting the text to analyse and evaluate the text in response to the question.
  4. Address all parts of the question, including its links to the module, any literary techniques or key ideas.
  5. Identify and include a range of literary techniques (including both written and visual devices) in order to illustrate your understanding of the text and answer the question.

But it isn’t enough just to tell you how you should be responding to these questions. In order to help you better your ability to approach and answer Section 1 of the Common Module for English Advanced, let’s take a look at some sample responses!

Question 1 (3 marks)

Text 1 – Poem, Samuel Wagan Watson, ‘Boomerang in a Thuderstorm’

Question: Explain how Boomerangs in a Thunderstorm represents an intense moment. 

  • In your response, you should identify the ‘intense moment’ as represented in the poem.
  • Analyse at least 2 literary techniques within the poem to explain how this intense moment is portrayed.
  • Make some connection to how this intense moment or experience links to the greater concerns of the module


Boomerangs in a Thunderstorm invites responders to consider the impact of an intense moment of cultural experience through its initial use of the inclusive pronoun “we” before immediately disorientating readers with the abrupt and succeeding truncated sentences “Thunder cracking” and “Whooping shapes dance across the overcast sky”. The persona’s strong familial and spiritual connection to the land is further established through the metaphor of “riding the storm”, reflecting how through a celebration of culture and family, one can prevail through challenges. As the persona and his uncle find strength in family and culture to “ride” the storm, they fill their “lungs of spirits” and unified, they throw their “boomerangs” into the thunderstorm. 

Other answers may include:

  • Other links to spiritual and cultural significance within the poem.
  • Further or other links to land and nature.
  • An intense moment that surrounds emotion, loss or grief as perhaps implied by the Elegiacal nature of this poem’s form with the tribute “For Uncle Steve” and the final line “rain disguised as tears”.

Question 2 (5 marks)

Text 2 – Prose Fiction Extract – Thea Astley, A Kindness Cup

Question: Analyse how the experience of returning home has been shaped by the writer.

  • In your response, you should address what is involved in returning home and how this has been shaped through the writer’s use of a range of literary techniques.
  • Make some connection between the process, journey or experience of returning home and the idea of the ‘Human Experience’.
  • Provide at least 4 examples from the text with relevant analysis in response to the question.


The extract A Kindness Cup challenges the romanticised metanarrative surrounding the experience of returning home; the composer instead reveals the inconsistencies present within the often difficult and emotionally taxing journey of returning to one’s home.

Through the truncated opening line “Dorahy submits to this pull of fate, the writer establishes the persona’s initial apathy towards a journey which would presumably invoke excitement and anticipation, but only works to fill him with “nauseating nostalgia”. This is further reinforced through the writer’s repetition of the adjectives “scraggy” and “scrubby” to reveal a dreary coastal town, reminding readers that the experience of returning home is often tainted through rose-coloured glasses and that for many the place they call home harbours “grief” and “rage”. Moreover, the implementation of anaphora in the lines “Already steam is rising from the baking township… Already there is sweat along his hairline, the saddened back of his neck, trickling between his breasts.”, works to further reveal the experience of returning home as one of difficulty and discomfort through showcasing the persona’s stark lack of agency as the bustle and heat of the town persists around him. The writer’s use of parentheses in the aside “(Where are the banners, the bunting . . .)” continues to challenge even the persona’s expectations of continuity upon returning home, instead inviting responders to reconsider the how the individual experience of returning home can often present itself as an arduous journey of regret and dismay.

Other answers may include:

  • The idea of empathy for the persona as readers come to learn about his past experiences, regrets and grief.
  • Including the notion of “forgiveness” that appears both in the person’s self-musing and the depiction of the tea-shop worker who “isn’t forgiving”.
  • How perceptions of people, places and things change throughout one’s life.
  • The notion of conflicting emotions and motivations, i.e the feeling of “grief” and other vexations towards the town but still wanting to “forgive” and thus reconcile his relationship with the town and his past or move on in peace.

Question 3 (3 marks)

Text 3 – Prose Fiction Extract – Olga Tokarczuk, ‘Flights’

Question: How is metaphor used in Lines, Planes and Bodies to represent human experience?

  • In your response, you should examine how at least one metaphor is used to explore the human experience.
  • Explicitly outline and explore what/which human experience is being explored and to what effect.
  • Provide a secondary literary technique or example that works to further support the metaphor in representing some aspect of the human experience.


The composer in Text 4, Lines, Planes and Bodies utilises the metaphor of “windows” to convey the growing sense of disconnection within the modern collective human experience. Most notably, this metaphor is highlighted through the line “only see flickers, flutterings of light, tiny pictures, too brief and distant to be intelligible.”, where the metaphor of the “windows”, although inviting the persona into the intimacy of one’s personal world and home, only works to further convey the fragmentation and disconnection present within our collective experience. This metaphor is furthered through the author’s utilisation of synecdoche in “face” and “mouth”, exemplifying the disconnection between people and their wider world. 

Other answers may include:

  • “Stages” or the “camera” as the key metaphor being explored or used by the author.
  • The idea of personal human experiences being greater than our connection to the collective.
  • Other literary devices used in order to support the effect of the main metaphor. For instance the hypophoric questioning in “Life? There’s no such thing;” or the syndeton in “Moments, crumbs, fleeting configurations”.

Question 4 (4 marks)

Text 4 – Feature Article – Luke Ryan, ‘I’m bored, therefore I am’

Question: How does the feature article explore the paradox of boredom? 

  • Your response should identify and explore the idea of the ‘paradox of boredom’ and in what way this feature article presents this paradox and its implications
  • Identify and include at least three examples from the text with an appropriate analysis that relates back to answering the question
  • Make some connection between the paradox of boredom and the lived ‘Human Experience’, whether that be individual or collective


The feature article i’m bored, therefore i am explores the challenging paradox of boredom as something both exceedingly demonised within our contemporary “post-boredom” culture yet incredibly intrinsic to the growth of human creativity and spirit. The composer firstly establishes the idea of boredom being innate to the natural joint human experience through an allusion to our collective past “cave” humanity, depicting boredom not as something one should “fear” as we do in the 21st-century, but rather the reason for our evolutionary development and the growth of our cultural arts and the human spirit. This is notable within the truncated line “boredom is a challenge”, where boredom is no longer a means to explore or challenge the unknown but is instead feared for its emptiness and lack of “stimulation”, even if only for a second. Whilst boredom is thus vilified through being characterised as a byproduct of laziness within our modern sphere, through the composer’s intertextual references to the 20th-century author Christopher Knight and Defoe’s 18th-century epic Robinson Crusoe, readers are encouraged to reconsider the importance of the paradox of boredom as it offers what critic Mary Mann considers a “good challenge” and is thus “vital” to the continuity of the arts as well as our collective human experience. 

Other answers may include:

  • The inclusion of irony, as boredom is a basic human trait yet something vilified within our contemporary society.
  • Weaving through the anecdote of the frustration experienced when one’s Wi-Fi cuts out as a symptom of over-stimulation and the sheer absence of boredom, thus offering a consequence to a lack of boredom within our individual lives.

Question 5 (5 marks)

Question: To what extent is the significance of ordinary experiences explored in the feature article and ONE other text? Support your response with reference to the feature article and ONE other text.

  • Your response should make an evaluation or judgement on how Text 4 and one other unseen text explore the significance of ordinary experiences.
  • Be explicit in identifying what specific ordinary experience each text grapples with.
  • Include at least two examples from each text in your analysis.
  • Link the idea of ‘ordinary experiences’ to the human condition, whether that be our individual or collective human experience. This can also include references to our motivations, behaviours and feelings.
  • Shift your answer away from simply comparing the two texts; instead consider how ‘ordinary experiences’ are explored, why and how that then positions us as readers to feel.
  • Structuring your response in a ‘mini-essay’ format can help in answering questions that ask you to evaluate multiple texts.


The ordinary collective human experience of everyday boredom in the feature article i’m bored, therefore i am is explored through the composer’s critical reflection on how natural and even innate human behaviours, motivations and feelings can become vilified in our modern world. Meanwhile, the prose fiction extract Flights examines how ordinary experiences such as the journey of returning home can often harbour unexpected emotions.

Ryan’s feature article unpacks the contradictions that surround the “distinctly human” experience of boredom through his skillful use of irony and humour, stating that within the context of our contemporary world, boredom only works to remind one of their lack of “simulation”, stirring feelings of “anxiety” and “frustration” in response to something entirely human. The composer further explores the vilification of boredom further through quoting academic Bertrand Russell, cautioning readers of straying too far from the challenge and importance of ‘ordinary’ experiences through his simile of “cut flowers in a vase”. This in turn encourages responders to reconsider how, like a withering bouquet, our enjoyment is only temporary without the growth that our natural experiences bring. 

Conversely, Text 2’s prose fiction extract Flights grapples with the often overlooked and complex hardships that come with experiences many humans consider simply ‘ordinary’. Through the strong narrative voice of the persona, perhaps most notably in his stream of consciousness “One should never go back… One goes back, again and again… This place has much to be forgiven it.”, readers are prompted to reconsider the “nauseating nostalgia” and complex emotions that the ‘ordinary’ experience of returning home can bring. Whilst Astley’s offers a distinctly different depiction of ordinary human experiences, both composers position responders to think critically and reconsider how ordinary experiences are innate to the human condition and often incredibly complex.  

Other answers may include:

  • Analysis of either Text 1 or Text 3 alongside your analysis of Text 4.
  • Reflecting on a different aspect of ‘ordinary experiences’, for example, your response could evaluate the cultural, spiritual or familial connection in Text 1.
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