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Writing an effective creative writing piece is developed through continuous practice. However, below are some helpful guidelines that will assist you in achieving maximum marks in the creative writing component of the HSC.

Imaginative composition writing guidelines for the HSC

Question Format

Take note of the question format. It might look like this:

  • Respond to a stimulus image/s
  • Respond to a stimulus statement, extract, quote and / or question
  • Respond to a combination of stimulus image / written text

It is imperative that the stimulus image and/or written text provided in the question be incorporated into your imaginative composition in a meaningful way. Do not simply make an incidental reference to the stimulus material to begin or finish your composition, or at some isolated point throughout your response.

Use the stimulus to create atmosphere, built a motif, establish a core concern, contribute to character development etc.

Composition Format

The form required may be stated explicitly within the question directions. For example, “Write an original short story in which you demonstrate…”


The form of your composition may be chosen by you, as stated in the question directions. For example, “Write an original composition in which you demonstrate…”

Your ability to sustain an imaginative composition in the form required or chosen by you is factored into the final mark, so choose carefully if it is left up to you.

Possible composition forms include:

Short story







Dialogue / conversation





Feature article



Stylistic Features

Consider what genre options are available to you. Does your idea for an imaginative composition lend itself towards:

  • Drama
  • Social satire
    • Romance
    • Allegory
    • Crime fiction?

The narrative perspective is an important consideration.

  1. First person narration will imbue the piece with a subjectivity and engage the responder more fully with the main character
  2. Second person narration will assume control over the responder’s emotional / intellectual journey (difficult to sustain)
  3. Third person narration will provide a broader scope for composer commentary

The dominant tone of the narrative is important. It could be reflective, critical, didactic, sympathetic, disillusioned etc.

Consider what structure is best suited for the composition:

  • Retrospective
  • Linear or non-linear
  • Episodic
  • Circular
  • Parallel stories
  • Absurdist


You are given 40 minutes in the HSC to complete this section of Paper One. It is expected that students can write 800 to 1000 words in this time. As a page indication, this translates to an average of size full pages, yet this is greatly dependent on handwriting size.

With those Guidelines in Mind, How Can You Best Prepare for the HSC Exam?

Markers are skilled in identifying pre-prepared responses. Inadequate use of the stimulus material is a clear indicator of this.

Markers are also skilled in identifying unprepared responses. Inadequate length, familiar story lines and an unimaginative rehashing of the syllabus rubric are all clear indicators.

To prepare for the examination response:

  • Think about your narrative concepts early – you need to give yourself at least three options so that you are able to adapt your material to suit the question on the day
  • Read widely, taking note of the conceptual, structural or literary devices used
  • Incorporate time in your study program every fortnight to develop your ideas. Try different approaches, styles and forms
  • Put into practice any advice or feedback given in class, assessment or examination responses
  • Practice writing your imaginative composition under exam conditions (40 minutes)
  • Practice adapting a narrative into different compositional forms

If you would like help preparing for your imaginative composition from an experienced tutor, you can get in contact with us. We offer a free trial lesson and can help you understand how to maximise your marks and refine your study process or exam techniques so you can perform your best on the day of the exam.

You can read more about our approach to tuition on our about page.

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HSC English Tutors

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