HSC texts and human experiences

Highly accomplished English teacher, Jowen Hillyer, answers questions from students studying for their HSC in the lead up to the 2021 exams.

Would you recommend two longer quotes in a paragraph, or shorter (three–five word) quotes integrated throughout (say five or six quotes)?

In my experience integrated is better. Longer quotes can be useful sometimes but the examiners want to see your words more than the words from your text.

How can I best manage my time during the exam? How much time should I generally spend on a 5-mark question as opposed to a 20-mark question?

As a general rule it is 2 minutes 15 seconds per mark, but allow some thinking time so if you allow 2 minutes per mark you have time to read over your responses and add/subtract things. 10 minutes for a 5-mark question is about right (with wriggle room of 1 minute or so).

I worry that I often miss the main points that the markers are wanting me to talk about in the comprehension aspect. Any tips?

Look for synonyms. Rewrite the question in your own words. Look to the verbs – what does it want you to do with the question?

I find it hard to comprehend the text and analyse it under test conditions. How do I fix this?

Look for clues. The heading will tell you what type of text it is (even if it doesn’t look like a poem, trust that it is and look for language devices you expect to see in a poem).

Would you tell us where can we find the stimulus of the reading part in the HSC paper?

The stimulus is in a separate booklet to the question booklet. They are often (or have been in the past) stapled together.

A good tip is to separate them as soon as you are given reading time so that you can look at the question you are answering on a text at the same time as reading that text –rather than flipping between booklets.

Should we do short answer questions in order?

While there is no rule to say that you should, it helps to do it in order for two reasons.

What is the best way to answer a ‘compare’ question, which is typically 6 marks in the short answers?

While there is no ‘one way’ to do this, it helps to have a structure in mind.

Can I tie in texts from other modules when answering questions specifically on human experiences?

No. This module is for the text you studied for Texts and Human Experiences only.

How should we best use our reading time?

There are four ways you can maximise your reading time.

My school's studying the poems of Rosemary Dobson. What are the chances that they'll specify a poem, and get us to analyse that and use it in our essay?

The exam is designed to be unpredictable so that you show what you know not what you memorised.

Could the HSC paper ask us to analyse a specific character in the text and how they represent the human experience?

The exam is designed to make you think on the spot about what you know about the module and how the text demonstrates that.

If an essay question asks about something specific such as setting, can we also include quotes about other aspects of the text?

Of course! Just don’t ignore the question. If it asks about setting you can define what that means in your introduction.

Is it a good idea to prepare generic essays and learn to adapt them in the HSC?

It is a good idea to write a few different essays in response to questions, but this is more for your time management and quote retention purposes.

How do we know which quotes to memorise?

The best quotes to memorise are ones which do more than one thing.

In English Paper 1 Section 1, for a ‘what extent’ question, isn’t stating your opinion, as in ‘to a large extent ...’, too informal?

Instead of saying ‘to a large extent’ try evaluative adverbs (passing a judgement without having to directly state it), eg.‘Creatively, (composer) does …, ‘Succinctly …', ‘Clearly …’.

My teacher pointed out an ambiguity in the rubric regarding the style of writing we may be asked to do. She said that there is a possibility (she said it is small) that we may have to write a creative/discursive etc. piece in this module. She said we haven't seen it yet but there is a small possibility that it may happen. Is it your understanding that this is true?

The rubric shows what you need to learn but not what will be examined.

What do we talk about when questions ask about form?

This is all about representation. Why did the composer choose film/poetry/prose etc as the best way to get their ideas across to you?


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