How to Ace Advanced English

What are the most common mistakes students make during their HSC? 

The English HSC examines students on their ability to answer short answer questions and compose essays.

how to ace english advanced

The short answer section (Paper 1, Section 1) of the HSC is often the most challenging among students. It entails the reading of unseen texts and answering questions relating to the common module rubric. 

Some of the more common mistakes that students tend to make in this particular section include: 

  • Poor Time Management: students tend to forget that paper 1 is only one and a half hours with ten minutes of reading time. More often than not, they spend about an hour, excluding their ten minutes of reading time just answering this section. 

Each section of the HSC is worth 20 marks. Therefore, as stated at the beginning of each section, approximately 45 minutes should be allowed for the unseen texts.

  • Incorrect allocation of marks: when answering short answer questions, it is CRUCIAL to first look at the marks allocated to the question. Why? It provides the most information as to what your markers will be looking for. Students also misinterpret the question and analyse the text for the wrong techniques and evidence.
  • Incorrect use of techniques: This works in two ways. Firstly, students use the wrong techniques for the text type. It is widespread for HSC markers to see students using poetic techniques on non-fictional extracts such as an article. Your techniques MUST match the text type. Secondly, students may have a good piece of evidence to use; however, the incorrect technique is associated with it, leading to marks loss.  

There are three essay questions and one creative writing question in the HSC English paper’s remaining sections. These sections are unarguably the areas in which students lose the most marks.

Some of the mistakes that lead to a significant loss in marks include: 

  • Not addressing the question: students struggle to break down the question into the required components that determine which band they will achieve. 
  • Unstructured paragraphs: students write paragraphs that do not follow a structure taught at school. Some of the structures that students follow are IEQTEL, SKETEL, PEEL etc. 
  • Weak Evidence: in each of the paragraphs, there is a requirement to include evidence that aligns with the text type. While students have evidence, it is either insufficient or weak, not supporting the argument.

Useful Tips for your English HSC

While it seems like a difficult task to achieve a band 6 in English, if you implement these tips, you will be well on your way to improving your marks.

  1. Time Management: it is essential to remember how much time should be allocated to each section as this is where most students go wrong.
    In Paper 1, you should allow 45 minutes per section. In Paper 2, you should allow 40 minutes per section. If you spend more time than allocated, you will likely struggle to complete the entire paper. During the exam, bring your watch with you, and stay wary of the time. Sometimes the clock in the room may be out of sight. Take a few seconds to calculate the time you should finish each section to ensure that you do not compromise other sections.
  2. Answering Essay Questions: when you initially read the question, you may be overwhelmed due to stress or overthinking. The first step you should take is to break down the essay question into relevant components. What is the question asking? Which rubric statement links to the question? Breaking the question down into smaller parts makes it easier to answer and ensure that all aspects are acknowledged.
  3. Answering Short Answer Questions: one of the most useful tips I offer to my students is always reading the short answer question before the text. Upon their first reading, this allows students to analyse the text for the required answers and evidence. Whereas, if they were to read the text, they would require a further reading of the text, which ultimately wastes a lot of time.
  4. Do NOT walk in with prepared essays: the new syllabus has shifted from memorising and preparing essays. If you do choose to walk in with a ready essay, chances are, it will NOT be applicable. This allows the board to examine students on how they can apply their knowledge to questions and compose essays on the spot. The most effective way to ace advanced English is by memorising your graphic organisers or QTE tables.
  5. Legible handwriting: this is a MAJOR aspect of answering questions. Ensure your handwriting is legible. HSC markers have a maximum of about 20 minutes to mark each essay, and they will indeed not spend any more time than that. If they come across a paper that is difficult to read due to the illegible handwriting, they will, without a doubt, refuse to mark it or award it a low mark. To avoid this, you must ensure that your writing is neat and large enough for the marker.

Thank you for reading, and we hope you benefited from this blog. If you or your child are interested in English Tutoring, contact The Thinking Cap Tutoring Centre on 0415 625 525 for more information. We would love to help!

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