Dymocks English Tutor and HSC High Achiever William looks back at his experience of the HSC and gives you his top tips to surviving and thriving in HSC English Advanced. William recieved an ATAR of 95.55 and a Band 6 in HSC English Advanced.
How to succeed in HSC English Advanced
English Advanced – the advanced level of the only compulsory subject within Years 11 and 12 is quite the adversary for many students currently undertaking the HSC. However, with a bit of practice and some hard work, we can tame the beast that is HSC English and turn it from one of our weaknesses into one of our strengths – all in the process of four simple steps.
- Knowing your text
- Writing about your text
- Learn from your feedback
Step 1: Knowing your text
Knowing your text is the first and most crucial step in the journey to mastering Advanced English. When you begin a new module, you will be assigned a text from a list of prescribed texts. These texts would vary by module, and could range from Shakespearean plays, poetic epics, or well-renowned international literature.
Once you receive your text, proceed to familiarise yourself it, either through light research of the composer or perhaps by reading a short analysis of the text. This way you will understand the context of your text and will lay the foundation for when you begin reading it.
The next step is to read, read, and read! Your school may take in-class time to read the text, but be sure to read it at home as well. As you read, remember to make some notes on important sections of the text. These notes could be ideas your teacher has presented, or your own personal analysis. Be sure to have fun as you read and add some of your own flair to your notes.
Step 2: Writing about your text
Ok, so you’ve read your text, know it inside from out, and now your teacher has asked you to write an essay on it – but where do you start? The first step is to understand the question you have been assigned, and the particular key terms used within it. It is expected that you know what these key terms mean, and that you will be assessed on your ability to apply these key terms into your response.
Take for example the Module A question:
“How have context and values shaped the textual conversation between Hagseed and The Tempest?”
So, what exactly are the key terms in the above question? Well, there are certain words that stand out, that is, ‘context’ and ‘values’. From here we can deduce that you will be assessed on your ability to discuss ‘context and values’ within your texts. How well you can discuss it, however, will largely depend on the arguments you present, your textual evidence used, analysis of that evidence, and how strongly you tied it together with the question.
So, what is the first step to writing a good response? Well, you must begin writing. Write, write, write and write some more. It doesn’t matter how good or bad your initial drafts are, but you must learn to be comfortable with writing and responding to questions. Only then can you start to incorporate more complex techniques and methods into your essays. Be sure that each of your drafts are reviewed by your teacher, and that any concerns you have are addressed.
Step 3: Learn from your feedback
You now understand your text inside out and feel comfortable writing responses about your text. So, what now?
Now begins the cycle of improvement. This is when you start to apply feedback from your teacher into your new responses. Critically analyse each comment on your essay and start drafting ideas on how to improve it. Rephrase particular sections if you feel there is room for improvement within. You should also have access to a range of Band 6 level essays – read those as well to see how the top students structure their response. Remember to ask your teacher for help if you have to, and make sure you continue writing.
Write Essay > Get Feedback > Improve Essay > Repeat
Step 4: Simulation
You have arrived at the stage where you are confident in your writing ability and understanding of your text. So now it is time to put that to the test. Ask your teacher to create a bank of questions for you to attempt. These questions will be answered under timed pressure (40 minutes per essay question) without any preparation beforehand. It will be a simulation of a real HSC environment and will help you to respond spontaneously to questions without any planning. At this point, keywords within the question should help trigger your previous analysis and textual evidence done within step 1 and step 2. It would only be a matter of applying that pre-existing knowledge, but also whilst manipulating it to the question, which is something you would have prepared for in step 3.
Once you have satisfactorily done enough simulation (about 2-3 essays per module), you will be completely prepared for the English Advanced HSC. There will be no surprises within the exam hall and each question in the HSC paper will be something you are already highly familiar with.
The best thing is that once this step is completed, you probably won’t realise that you have indeed mastered the English Advanced course.