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Advice for the New HSC English Extension Syllabus

Post Series: The New English Syllabus Explained

Like Standard and Advanced HSC English, the Extension English syllabus for 2019 – 2023 has been entirely revamped. The course now contains a Common Module that all students complete, as well as an elective based on the Common Module. The new course is focused on the concept of “Literary Worlds” – how they created, why they are created and what effects do they have – and require you to reflect on the private, public and imaginary worlds present in texts.  

Common Module

This module is completed by all Extension English students and has no prescribed texts. It is the first section, worth 25 marks, and may be in one or two parts. There are three tasks that may be asked in this module, all of which requiring a response to unseen material. A highly likely task is a two part question involving a creative piece and a critical reflection on the piece. This is quite similar to Module C in Advanced English. However, the focus of the reflection should be on how you have crafted your literary world, and how the much longer stimulus has informed your response, rather than your prescribed texts.

As you will be asked to compose in the style of the unseen excerpt provided in the exam, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to come to the exam with a pre-prepared creative. Instead, the best way to prepare for this section is to develop techniques and devices that you can consciously draw on in your creative. This will improve the technical quality of your work, as well as giving you direct examples to discuss in your reflection. Including motifs, reoccurring images or any other large scale structural device will assist in making your creative cohesive and effective.

There may or may not be a reflection on the creative. When writing a reflection for Extension English, you must ensure you are evaluating your work, rather than describing or explaining. Evaluating involves a process of identifying the technique you have used, explaining its effect and justifying such a decision. For example, a reflection on a creative inspired by Melissa Harrison’s Clay may go as follows:

I have altered the narrative voice slightly to suit the focalisation of Alexander, but have still maintained Harrison’s reserved, nostalgic tone that reveals how intricate details amalgamate into a lively image of the urban world, in contrary to its conventional symbolism.

You are required to elaborate further than Module C on your purpose and intention, and are expected to discuss more complex ideas, attitudes and values. Try to avoid discussing plot decisions, unless they are quite significant to your analysis. In any case, you should discuss how your language choices support such plot points.

There is also the option for an entirely critical response based on unseen material. This will involve evaluating how the literary world is created and what values, attitudes and emotions are presented. In this situation, it is most important to have a clear structure to your analysis, like any essay, and to avoid a rambling stream of comments about the text. Ensure you take time to plan key points, rather than approaching the text chronologically.

Elective

The Common Module then breaks off into five different electives for section 2 of the paper, which is also worth 25 marks. This is the prepared section where you will be asked an essay question based on two prescribed texts and at least one related text of your own choosing. Often in Extension English, you will be given a substantial quote to respond to and this quote must shape your response. This requires you to be highly versatile in your analysis.

It is important to approach the essay question with a focus on the elective rather than the texts themselves. That is, your thesis and related arguments should all identify what characteristics link your texts and what this says about the module. For this reason, the names of your texts shouldn’t feature in your thesis statement or in your topic sentences. Rather, you should be quoting your module and relating it to the question. For example:

Texts composed in worlds of upheaval question the sanctity of literature that preceded them and interrogate the supposed truths they contain.

After such a statement is made, you should use your chosen text as your evidence. In general, you are attempting to explain what your prescribed and related texts have in common and why this is related to your module.

A way to significantly improve your analysis is by writing integrated paragraphs, where you discuss multiple texts in the one paragraph. Largely speaking, discussing two texts tends to be the most effective, however you may find some ideas may be relevant to more texts. Integrated paragraphs involve a conceptual topic sentence that applies to both texts. Then, you will discuss how one text demonstrates this. Using a connecting term such as “likewise” or “similarly”, you will follow this with an explanation of how the second text supports the topic sentence, in the same paragraph. Essentially, you are writing two shorter, independent body paragraphs on the same idea and combining them.  By doing this, you will show a higher level of sophistication than individual paragraph, whilst also showing a stronger understanding of the module as a whole concept, rather than as a series of texts.

How we can help with HSC English Tutoring at Master Coaching Hurstville

At Master Coaching, we will focus on fostering your creative and analytical skills to give you the widest toolbox to approach both components of the exam. We will aid you in developing sophisticated analysis of your texts supported by critical readings and elements of literary theory, made accessible by our HSC English tutors.  We will also help you develop a strong understanding of literary worlds to give you a structured approach to both sections of the paper, preparing you for the highly complex questions that often appear in the HSC English Exam.

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