It is not uncommon for students to choose the HSC English Advanced course without knowing in great depth and breadth, the demands, expectations and general layout of the course. In fact, many students only figure out the structure of the English Advanced examination when they near trials, which means that for the most part, they are going through the HSC year without a clear understanding of what exactly it is that they are actually working towards, unsure of what is going to be formally expected of them in the actual exam as well as the expectations associated with each section of the test.
If this describes the current position you are in right now as a student sitting the English Advanced course for the HSC, have no fear, as this blog has been written to dispel any ambiguities and uncertainties that you may have about the exam (i.e., how much time do I get for each section of the exam? How many essays do I need to remember? What do I prepare for the Craft of Writing? Is there a short answer section?) and lay out in clear terms, the expectations and demands of the course.
Breaking down the English Advanced HSC course:
First and foremost, let’s get the basics out of the way. The English Advanced course consists of four modules that you will study over the course of the academic year. Each module will have a dedicated section in the exam that is designed specifically to assess what you have learned in that module through either an extended response (essay), short answers, or other form of writing (e.g., creatives or reflectives). In each of these modules, you will also have a text or multiple texts that are studied. The modules (and their rubrics) are as follows for your reference:
Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences
Module A: Textual Conversations
Module B: Critical Study of Literature
Module C: The Craft of Writing
Something to note is that each module has a very unique tone and quality, a specific governing ‘idea’ or ‘issue’ that forms its central crux and that directs the general shape and form of your analysis of the text that is studied under that module. As previously mentioned, some modules might have you just studying one text/ a series of texts by the same author (e.g., Common Module) whereas others entail you studying multiple texts by different composers (e.g., Textual Conversations). The direction of your essay for each of these modules will be defined loosely by what the rubric for that specific module states. For instance, the texts and human experiences module brings attention to how literature represents the human experience, both individual and collective, the anomalies, paradoxes and inconsistencies that characterise the nature of being (i.e., the contradictions and absurdities that form part of our experiences in life). Whereas, the textual conversations rubric gets us to consider entirely different things, such as the ways in which a comparative study reveals how the representation of meaning changes, evolves or shifts over time in accordance with the prevailing social, cultural, political, religious and ideological paradigm.
Breaking down the English Advanced HSC Examination
There are two papers that make up the English Advanced exam, each sat on a different day. Paper 1 is 1.5 hours, and consists of two sections, whilst paper 2 is 2 hours, and consists of 3 sections.
Paper 1 is dedicated entirely to the Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences. It involves a short answer response section and an extended response (essay) section where you will be required to analyse your prescribed text in light of the given question. Remember, this is the Common Module section of the exam, which means that you need to be familiar with the main concerns of this module and its associated rubric. As paper 1 is 1.5 hours, this means that you will have 45 minutes for each section, but it is entirely up to you how you divide your time (e.g., 50 minutes for the essay and 40 minutes for the short answer), depending upon your strengths and weaknesses.
Paper 2 is 2 hours and has 3 sections. Thus, you have 40 minutes to complete each section. Again, you can divide your time as you wish depending on what your strengths and weaknesses are. Since the first paper assessed the common module, Paper 2 examines the remaining module, with a designated section for each.
For Module A: Textual Conversations, you will have an extended response essay. This is the same for Module B: Critical Study of Literature. The final section which is Module C: The Craft of Writing is where you will be asked to write either an imaginative, discursive or persuasive piece with an accompanying reflection statement where you justify the creative and literary choices you made when constructing your work.
ALL sections are worth 25 marks each, meaning that your overall mark will be out of 100.
Clearly, Paper 2 is much heftier than the first, as it consists of two extended essays (on the modules that are also slightly more difficult than the common module) along with the craft of writing section which is also quite unpredictable in nature, and requires more thinking and adaptation. Nonetheless, with adequate planning and preparation, the exam should fly by relatively quickly.