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Author Topic: [WIP] - English (Advanced and Standard): Where to go from Half Yearlies  (Read 1975 times)  Share 

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(note: this guide will be constantly updated :) please stay patient. Thanks! )

English is probably the most demanding subject as you are forced to write four essays, an imaginative piece of writing, and a series of short answer questions. What makes it even more difficult is the level of subjectivity that comes into play with the markers. Your teacher could be in love with your work, while the marker might absolutely hate it - there's no pleasing them!!

You might be receiving your half yearly results now, and be absolutely disappointed. That's totally fine! So, how should you fix it? How do you make it better for trials and the HSC? This guide will serve to lead you into the right path, and hopefully by the end of it all, you'll feel more confident with the upcoming exams.

This guide will be broken up into the different sections, Paper 1 and Paper 2.

Paper 1 (Advanced and Standard)
Section I: Short answers/Unseen texts
Section I encourages you to think deeply about the connections texts have with the concept of discovery. Moreover, you should be able to draw out the ideas that the composer aims to present ABOUT the concepts of discovery. What are they? And then, how does the composer portray this notion about discovery?

When you’re answering the questions, make sure you narrow down particular ideas about discovery rather than aim to write about discovery on a broader scale. Think about how the characters react to their environment. What sort of reaction do they provide? What does that say about the discovery being explored?

For example, if the character reacts to the environment with a negative tone, what does that say about the discovery? Does discovery always have to be a positive thing? If you discuss assumptions and challenges, be specific. What are they being challenged on? How does this influence the way we perceive the notion of discovery?

Moreover, your analysis should not serve as a replacement to insightful comments about discovery. Time and time again, students have attempted to squeeze more analysis (techniques and effect) without connecting that to the broader picture of discovery. Make sure you take a balanced stance between textual evidence and insightful and meaningful arguments, and if needed, cut down on the techniques to explain and demonstrate the concept of discovery more.

To do well in this section, you should expose yourself to as many text types and make sure you can comfortably find techniques within that text type. Often, non fiction texts are harder to analyse than prose or fiction because non fiction texts are more direct in the way they are written. Look into the style of writing - you should always be thinking about the “macro” techniques before the “micro” techniques. This means: structure, voice, tone, etc. Anything that is “outside” the text but still employs meaning into the text, whereas “micro” techniques are techniques you are more familiar with.

When you’re practicing these questions, make sure you’re aware of the mark allocations. They should serve as a guide to how long/detailed your answer SHOULD be. If it’s a 2 mark question, don’t write a full essay on it - you’re wasting time and effort, and time is really important in this exam.

By the end of this section, you should have an enhanced understanding on the concept of discovery, and what it means to both, the composer and the audience. You should be able to understand the deeper connections discovery plays in our daily life, and you should be able to draw out insightful comments about discovery in a range of texts.

Section II: Creative writing
Section II is your only chance to be the creator and not the audience. Through a year of studying the texts and what makes them stand out, it’s your turn to create something.

In this section, the hardest part is tailoring a prepared creative to the stimulus, but don’t worry! If you think about the right things on the exam day, then the process of tailoring a response becomes much easier.

When you get into the exam, you should think about:

Central element of the question - what sort of discovery do they want you to draw out in your response? It should be the focus of your discovery concept within the creative writing. Then branch out that single idea into multiple smaller ideas that are interconnected into the one main idea.

For example, your main focus could be the ramifications of unexpected discoveries. Your smaller ideas could draw on a few things: unexpected discovery as a driver or motivator, end result of that unexpected discovery, new insights through unexpected discoveries.
This will give you a strong advantage as you will be tailoring a prepared response to the question given on the day.

Central focus to the stimulus - think about the literal and the symbolic nature of the stimulus. Is the stimulus the catalyst? Does it play as a major role in the climax of your creative? Is it a motif that later presents itself in another form?

Consider how you can employ symbolism in the form of the stimulus to enhance the action and reaction from the characters.
Your goal at the end of it all is your ability to interpret the stimulus however you want.

On top of that, you should also be focusing on the four main areas in every creative response: setting, character, timeframe, and plot.

Setting: Think back to a book you recently read. How do they establish the setting? Being able to position the reader into your world can be done in only a few sentences, and they don’t have to be done in description. Rather than describing what your place looks like, focus your attention more on what your place feels like. Is it very “homey”? Then perhaps compare your setting to a familiar environment. Being able to compare one unfamiliar setting to a familiar setting allows the reader to predict the “type” of setting you’re aiming for.
On top of that, consider how things interact in that setting. For example, if you’re trying to describe a very busy city-like setting, consider the soundscape of a typical setting. How could you interpret that into your piece of writing?

Character: Characters are essentially the skeleton to any piece of writing. Without a character, there would be no plot. Without a plot, there would be no story. Your aim here is to create a plausible and flexible character that you can then use to drive the plot forward. Use action rather than thoughts and words to describe a character. Consider how they interact with their surrounding environment - how does the environment react? Using action rather than words will enhance creative thinking because you have more to work with as opposed to thoughts and words.

For a HSC piece, limit yourself to one or two characters; having too many will give you too little time to resolve all of the complications that arise from each of these characters. What this means is that you have more time to engage with the character.

Establish a voice at the start for your character, and sustain it throughout the creative piece. This means you need to be comfortable writing in the style that you have chosen.

Timeframe: I’ve spoken with a few HSC markers, and they all seem to say the same thing. Avoid linear stories as much as possible! This means you start from some time (say, in the morning), and then you follow a chronological order of events. For example, you wake up one morning, then you eat breakfast, and then you play outside, and finally you go to sleep. It’s boring! And it’s often very difficult to do well - if you choose a linear story, make sure it’s phenomenal!

Instead, you should be looking into a non-linear or circular timeframe - that is, as long as you’re not following a linearly ordered timeframe, you’ll be okay. Writing without a linear order will allow you to demonstrate deeper connections between objects’ significance, and in doing so, it connects ideas about discovery (whether that be valued or challenged is entirely up to you).

When you’re shifting between timelines, make sure it’s obvious to the marker. Common ways of showing a change in time is with three asterisks (***), followed by a line with no writing.

Plot: Developing a great plot will often enhance your creative, while a weaker plot will diminish it. Developing a great plot comes from starting with a great character. Not ‘great’ as in a hero, but ‘great’ as in development of character is certainly there. Your goal here is to drive the plot forward, and to reveal more about the character - whether that be their past, unsolved personal mysteries, etc. Use plot twists to attract the reader’s attention, or to diverge their attention from an important aspect of the story. Use adages (short and memorable quotes that has veritable truths to them) to encourage deeper ideas about your story.

Vary sentence lengths. If you have a long sentence, follow it up with a short one! The purpose here is twofold. It disrupts the flow, and in doing so, it creates an emphasis on your ideas being pushed forward. Furthermore, it allows the reader to catch a breath. You wouldn’t want the reader to feel strained when they’re only up to the third sentence. Consider how varying sentence lengths can emphasise your ideas.

Section III: Essay
Section III encourages you to make connected ideas between texts about a particular aspect of discovery. You will need to make a judgement as to how accurate the question reflects your understanding of discovery. Remember that the Area of Study essay is a thematic essay, so your main focus should be with respect to the thematic concept of discovery.

To do well in this section, you will need a conceptual understanding of the prescribed and related text, so that you can compare the similarities and differences between them in terms of the concept of discovery. Instead of talking about the texts (which seems to be the recurring piece of evidence each year), instead consider the ways in which the characters themselves interact with the environment and objects they “discover”. Is the notion of discovery static? Or does it change all the time? How do we interpret discovery in our daily life?

Another key idea that gets thrown around a lot by English markers is ”sustain argument”, and you’re probably thinking “What the hell does it mean?”. To sustain an argument means to strengthen the argument, or to embellish your argument with insightful comments about the concept of discovery. As mentioned earlier, you should NOT replace insightful ideas with more textual evidence - instead, focus more on demonstrating your deep understanding on the concepts behind discovery, and then to use the texts to support your argument. It shouldn’t work the other way around.

You should now have a better understanding on the outcomes of an essay, but how do we write an Area of Study essay?

Before writing:
Before writing, you should always draft a plan of the ideas and the concepts of discovery that will become the crust to your response. To do so, consider what the focus of the question is. If the question asks about the “assumptions of society”, be explicit with your ideas. WHAT assumptions? WHAT ideas? WHAT concept of discovery? By explicitly answering these questions, you will have a better understanding on the direction of your response.

To start, begin with a general comment about discovery. You should directly answer the question here, make a judgement and then provide a general outline of the discovery concept here. You should then introduce your texts whilst expanding on your argument. Remember that it’s still a conceptual study, even if you’ve introduced your texts so keep it discovery-oriented. Finish the introduction with a conceptual reconsideration to discovery and the question. Your last sentence is essentially the direction you want for your essay, so keep it in the realm of discoveries.

Body paragraphs:
When you’re writing the body paragraphs, keep in mind that the discovery concept should always be laid out on the table. It should be at the forefront of your essay - your discussion of the texts should weave itself in with the argument of your position on the question.

Topic sentences are one of the most important sentences in any body paragraph. It drives the direction you’re aiming for in the body paragraph. You can think of it as the “summary” to your body paragraph, so keep it about the discovery concept that you will be discussing. When you’re introducing your quotes, aim to weave it in with the analysis. It saves time and space. In doing so, you are essentially “killing two birds with one stone” - providing textual evidence and strengthening your position on the question.

When you’re analysing a specific quote, make sure it supports your argument. Don’t pick out quotes just for the sake of having more quotes. If it doesn’t drive a point forward, don’t use it. There are more quotes you could have in replacement. Don’t just use micro techniques, such as “simile”, “metaphor”, “personification”, etc. Consider the overall text structure, form, voice, tone, etc. It provides more breadth for you to enhance your point, and often with prose and poetry, the structure plays an integral part to the construction of meaning and ideas.

Much like the introduction, your conclusion should serve as the “re-introduction” to your text’s values and attitudes towards the discovery concept and position on the question. It’s your last chance to prove to the markers that you’ve answered the question, so make sure you’re addressing the question. Make sure you explicitly position your argument so that you’ve addressed your own judgement to the accuracy of the question on your own understanding.

So, how should we refine our work?

You’re at that point now where you just need to refine the work. To do so, keep submitting drafted responses to your teachers, peers, and even here at ATARNotes - we have a range of experience with marking, some of whom have marked over a hundred essays. Rest assured, you never have “no one” to give you some feedback on. Even if it’s just one or two paragraphs, it’s still better than not submitting anything to be looked at or given feedback for.

ATAR Notes offers free essay marking! You can submit a response at this board. We don’t just accept English - we have a whole list of subjects that you can request for.

Keep in mind that anything you do in Paper 1 should relate back to the concept of discovery. Whether that be a new idea for your creative, a new insightful comment for your Section I, or just a new idea for your essay, what does that say about the concept of discovery? What do we learn as individuals? What about as readers?

Good luck with Paper 1! I hope it all goes well :D

Additional resources for Paper 1
« Last Edit: April 17, 2018, 02:00:45 pm by Opengangs »


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Re: English (Advanced and Standard): Where to go from Half Yearlies
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2018, 01:05:46 pm »
Paper 2 (Standard)
Module A: Experience through language
Each respective elective emphasises the need for the student to respond to the language forms and features, and then discuss the significance of that function within a text. Distinctive voices and visuals are presented in the text through the composer’s context and purpose. To do well in this unit of work, you will need a deeper understanding of the requirements and outcomes expected from a typical student in this module.

The aim behind this module is to develop your understanding and awareness of the language within text. What does this mean? It basically means that by the end of this module, you should be able to understand the function language plays within a text. And not just texts too - in your daily life, how does being able to communicate insightfully allow us to contribute to society? How does language play a part in allowing us to form relationships with others? Through common interest? Through common core values?

So in a nutshell, your aim here is to know how the language used by composers contribute to the overall meaning behind texts. Whether that be in a positive or negative light is entirely your own understanding. You should also consider how form is used to employ meaning into the text. How does the structure within the text allow the composer to construct a text?

How do I approach the module essay?

To perform well, you should have a balanced discussion between your prescribed and related. That is, discuss how the significance of language is evident in both texts. You should also be discussing the texts at a conceptual level - this means that your argument and concept should frame and direct your response, not so much the text. For example, rather than how the characters seek distinctive voices, think more broadly about the composer’s purpose with that particular voice. Was it intentional in the way they are presented within the text?

Moreover, your response should be directed towards a specific experience in which both texts explore. For example, if you are discussing the experiences of racism, isolation, and alienation, then be explicit about it. Make sure the discussions are specific - don’t give a general outline of the experiences.

Address the question in full! This is a common area of weakness across both Standard and Advanced. To be hitting the Band 6 range, you will need to be answering all parts of the question. If the question discusses two specific experiences, discuss both in relation to your texts. If you leave one idea out of the question, you’re leaving yourself too little substance - which means there’s more pressure on the quality of your analysis. Take the five minute reading time to plan out what ideas you’re going to discussing, and how you’re going to be approaching those ideas.

Build up the argument! Like the Discovery component, never have your textual evidence replace insightful comments. Instead, use your insightful ideas drive your argument, and then use the quotes to back up your argument. When you do, you begin to create a sustained and cohesive argument. If you have a meaningful comment to make, use this as motivation. Aim to minimise the number of quotes for more insightful analysis about your quotes. It saves time, and it releases a bit of stress from all of that memorisation!

Module B: Close Study of Text
Module C: Texts and Society
« Last Edit: April 18, 2018, 02:27:38 pm by Opengangs »


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Re: English (Advanced and Standard): Where to go from Half Yearlies
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2018, 01:06:05 pm »
Paper 2 (Advanced)
Module A: Comparative Study of Texts
Module B: Critical Study of Text
Module C: Representations and Text