HSC English Standard - Module A – Q&A

Highly accomplished English teacher, Jowen Hillyer, answers questions from students studying for their HSC in the lead up to the exams.

How do we know what quotes to memorise if there are many different possible aspects they could ask including: affirm, ignore, reveal, challenge or disrupt prevailing assumptions?

Those words are there so that all the texts on the HSC list for Module A are covered.

Can we be asked to write an essay on a specific poem?

Yes – at least as a springboard into discussing ideas. Remember, this module is not a study of texts by themselves but how those texts illuminate ideas in the module.

If we are running out of time at the end of the exam, can we dot point the ideas we wanted to elaborate on?

Yes – you can and it is absolutely better than leaving it blank.

The markers want to give you marks not 'deduct' them. It will preclude you from the higher bands because one criteria in the marking is about structure and cohesion. 

What should we do if we get thrown off by the essay question? What if it asks us to discuss a theme we had no previous experience with?

Synonyms will be your friend. If the question asks you to write about division within culture and you have only ever studied themes like mateship and a fair go, what arguments can be saved? 

How do you effectively answer a comparison between two or more poems?

In standard you are not comparing poems. You are picking a few big ideas on culture and identity and matching parts of the poems to those ideas.

I learnt Pygmalion at school – is it recommended for us to write three body paragraphs, or two in greater depth? I tend to run out of time if I attempt to write three body paragraphs in the exam.

You can write as many body paragraphs as you need to answer the question on the day.

Can I do ellipses to shorten quotes in an essay in order to save time?

Absolutely. A whole quote is not always needed to convey the idea.

Is it better to be short and straightforward or use all the lines but babble on?

Clear and concise is always better.

How can you maximise the amount of words in a small amount of time?

It’s not about the amount of words but about the quality of your argument.


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