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Study Strategies and Exam Preparation for HSC English

  1. Know your text

Make sure you have read / viewed your text a number of times, that you have a clear personal response and that your response is firmly based on your detailed understanding of the text. Know the text well enough to be able to make detailed reference to specific parts of it which prove an argument, no matter what the argument may be. You must be able to refer to your text confidently and in detail.

Analyse how your text illuminates / interacts with the ideas in the rubric i.e. how you will use the text to talk about any or all of the ideas in the rubric.

  1. Organise your notes around the rubric

You should have plenty of detailed notes based on what you have written in response to class discussions, questions in class, and notes which have been provided. Re-organise those notes based on the ideas in the rubric – for each separate rubric point, re-word the ideas that are in your notes so that they address the rubric.

  1. Practise writing exam-type responses

The Board of Studies website has many past papers from over the years. Use these to practise writing exam responses. See below, then write the response again to improve areas of weakness. Mark it again when this is done.

Make sure that you have read “Notes From the Marking Centre” for each question in each course for the last three or four years. This gives you feedback for what HSC students did well/poorly in the exam, according to what the markers of that exam saw.

  1. Mark each other’s work

The Board of Studies also includes Marking Guidelines for each question. In small groups, each complete the same question under exam conditions, then use the Marking Guidelines to mark each other’s work. Talk over what mark each of your group would give, and the reasons why. Alternatively, give your work to your classroom teacher and ask for them to mark it and give you feedback.

How to Approach the HSC Exam:

  1. Short Answer Questions
  • Answer the question. Use your own words to explain your ideas.
  • The length of your answers should be in the same ratio as the marks that they are worth. This means that an answer to a two-mark question should be about twice as long as a one mark question. An answer to a one-mark question needs only be short, for it is looking for only one thing. The last question, worth the most marks, should be the longest answer.
  • Make close, detailed reference to the text – answers that are too general and don’t refer to the text specifically could be a response to any text, not just those provided.
  • Get organised – don’t have arrows to additional parts of a response – this can be confusing and limit the quality of your response.
  • Structure your answer in the same order as the question.
  • There is no need to try to find/provide ideas that are unique, unconventional or obscure. The most clear and obvious answer will usually be the best one – it’s about identifying and analysing, not creating.
  • Remember to treat each question as a separate entity – don’t make reference to your answer to another part.
  • Make sure that you deal with the texts that you have been given to read. It is not Question 3, so it doesn’t need your speculation or philosophy – you need to be analytical.
  1. Extended Response Questions
  • ANSWER THE QUESTION – The biggest consistent problem in English is that there are many students who seem to think that a pre-prepared response is acceptable. Analyse the question carefully, do the job that it asks you to do, and focus your response on the areas it wants you to talk about.
  • Make sure that the quality of your writing is as impressive as you can make it. Aim for clarity first, accompanied by control and confidence. Add sophistication of language and style if you can. Be careful not to use vocabulary that you cannot use correctly.
  • In responding to Modules where you need to talk about more than one text, an integrated response is the best approach.
  • Explain your ideas in detail.
  • Make close and detailed reference to specific incidents / events / parts of your text which will prove your argument.
  • Provide relevant quotes to further prove your argument. Students who create an effective thesis which addresses the question, and which is continually used throughout the essay, will create the most impressive responses.
  • Manage your time effectively so that you have the same amount of time devoted to each question, and that you finish your answer to each question.
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