What are the modules? How are they different? Why is it important to know? How can I work with the system instead of against it?
English Advanced is often a blur at the best of times. With its vague expectations of verbose and analytical answers – it kind of makes it hard to work out what is expected by the markers. Most of us just want to know what we need to do and how to do it – but in English, it always seems to be a shot in the dark. One way you can get your head around it - with Trials fast approaching and the HSC only being a few months away is to outsmart the modules – the building blocks of the course.
Let’s start with Discovery, Paper 1: Part III, the essay.
Area of Study: Discovery
All of my students know that it’s 80% technique and 10% content – the last 10% is health. No point learning the entire course in one night if you’ve got bloodshot eyes and a Redbull-infused mental blur on the day of the exam. Therefore, let’s start with the building blocks.
You need to smash this one to break even. It is your bread and butter. You can’t break a Band 4 without this because it’s the literal foundation of your answer. Your English essay is a house (initiate metaphor mode), your Prescribed Text is the cement foundations and your Related Text is the state of the art kitchen with a built-in coffee machine (Disclaimer: my own dream).
The coffee machine won’t be pumping out its caffeinated goodness if the entire room has fallen into a sinkhole. Likewise, your related text won’t express its intended meaning without the Prescribed text as foundation. So therefore, be it poetry, a film, a novel, a play or a speech – make sure you know that text better than your best friend’s annoying eating habits.
This is where your essay gets juicy. This is the part where you speak with wisdom about a text that you actually might like. This is also the part where Glenda, who’s marking your essay in Wollongong, should spit out her third instant coffee at the new conclusions you have come to about discovery – as opposed to the 314th analysis of Remember the Titans and how a football coach represents all of the inspirations in our lives and striving for greatness. (They can smell boys’ schools from a mile away when they see this one in the introduction – don’t let your gender be assumed).
I cannot stress enough the need for a decent, not very well-known, and deeply related text. This will make the difference between a Band 5 and a Band 6 answer. One really great one that I teach to my students for both Standard and Advanced is Sarah’s Key, a 2009 French/English film about the Holocaust and its impact on individuals in France today, which I 10/10 recommend because it wows the markers – which is your main goal.
How they mark:
Here’s a guide through the mind of Glenda, HSC marker since time immemorial:
- Band 1: Wow. At least he wrote his name on the paper. This might as well be written in Windings font.
- Band 2: There’s a word over here and a word over there…thank God I’m getting paid for this.
- Band 3: This kid studied this for the first time last night. 2 pages wow.
- Band 4: I thought this generation was about breaking the mainstream? At least she kind of knows what the text was about and threw in a few techniques – didn’t make me fall asleep.
- Band 5: Yass, finally a kid with brains. I’m actually seeing analysis – Alleluia they’ve read the syllabus (hint hint). Oh, wow there were some actual great points in there.
- Band 6: *Marker blown out the window by extreme power of what was written in the essay. Entire marking centre in blackout due to the overload. In the distance, sirens. *
Above everything else – hit the syllabus hard. You should have done a practice response OR just a practice essay plan for every sentence in the Discovery syllabus which you can find here on page 9: http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabus_hsc/pdf_doc/english-prescriptions-2015-20.pdf
They cannot ask you a question that is not a direct quotation from one of these statements – or one which is reworded and guided towards the exact meaning of one of these sentences. Basically, not much more can be said than KNOW THE RUBRIC.
General tips from experience
- Be as philosophical as you damn-well please, but please make sure it makes sense. There’s a difference between sounding like Socrates and the spiritually enlightened disenfranchised guy making videos from his parent’s house in Liverpool on your Facebook feed.
- Do not use thesaurus.com – unless you are so confident that you could use that word in a sentence correctly out loud. It will ruin the flow of your essay if just one word is used incorrectly. Write as you would if you were explaining it to an intellectual friend.
- Do 5-minute essay plans for each topic. This means jotting down the PETEL/TEEL/STEEL format for your 4-5 paragraphs in 4 minutes – and spending one minute in the end reading over it. This is the most effective way to prepare for any question in Paper 1: Section III.
- Get a conclusion in. I don’t care if you have to skip the climactic ending of your final paragraph – without a conclusion it immediately makes the marker feel that they cannot give you full marks/anywhere near it because it’s unfinished.
- Write confidently. You chose Advanced for a reason two years ago – although the actual nature of the course may have crushed your self-perception several times along the way – you deep down do have what it takes to annihilate this essay through your way with words. Show the marker that fire.
Never forget to have passion in your work. Even if at the last minute you are frantically revising your content – make sure you can write the next day in a way that shows your appreciation, if not your love for the English language and its expression through texts.
You’ve got this.
The help is there around you. Utilise it.
Be annoying to your teachers. Constantly ask your tutor questions.
Be unafraid of judgment if you make a mistake – it will help you grow into a more confident writer and individual in general. Let these tips marinate in your head over the next day or so, and put them into practice slowly and steadily the next chance you get. Best of luck in your studies,
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