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With the new HSC English Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences now in full swing, we at Stepping Stones Education wanted to provide you with some handy tips that may make your study of this module much more rewarding and easier.
Before we begin, it is very important that you know what a rubric is and more particularly have read the rubric for this common module.
A rubric is an outline of all the key elements of your upcoming study; for each of your English modules this year a different rubric will be provided. Have a read of the following Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences rubric if you haven’t yet already:
Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences Rubric
In this common module students deepen their understanding of how texts represent individual and collective human experiences. They examine how texts represent human qualities and emotions associated with, or arising from, these experiences. Students appreciate, explore, interpret, analyse and evaluate the ways language is used to shape these representations in a range of texts in a variety of forms, modes and media.
Students explore how texts may give insight into the anomalies, paradoxes and inconsistencies in human behaviour and motivations, inviting the responder to see the world differently, to challenge assumptions, ignite new ideas or reflect personally. They may also consider the role of storytelling throughout time to express and reflect particular lives and cultures. By responding to a range of texts they further develop skills and confidence using various literary devices, language concepts, modes and media to formulate a considered response to texts.
Students study one prescribed text and a range of short texts that provide rich opportunities to further explore representations of human experiences illuminated in texts. They make increasingly informed judgements about how aspects of these texts, for example context, purpose, structure, stylistic and grammatical features, and form shape meaning. In addition, students select one related text and draw from personal experience to make connections between themselves, the world of the text and their wider world.
By responding and composing throughout the module students further develop a repertoire of skills in comprehending, interpreting and analysing complex texts. They examine how different modes and media use visual, verbal and/or digital language elements. They communicate ideas using figurative language to express universal themes and evaluative language to make informed judgements about texts. Students further develop skills in using metalanguage, correct grammar and syntax to analyse language and express a personal perspective about a text.
Tip #1 – Prepare your notes carefully!
Keep a folder. Stay organised.
Every handout, worksheet you complete, word document you write, feedback you receive should be stored away safely.
All physical materials should have your name and date on them, this will help you store them chronologically. The most common mistake when it comes to English notes is that you undervalue the materials you are given because you don’t understand how helpful they truly are. Having your notes kept neat not only help you with revision but it will allow you to quickly locate concepts and ideas you explored in class that you may wish to use for your essays.
All electronic materials should be given an appropriate name and stored consistently in the same place on your computer. It is also highly recommended that you take advantage of free cloud storage services to store your files, this promotes productivity as you always have access to your work. Personally, it is surprising to see how many students just name their files ‘english essay 1’ or ‘hdiwuah’ and tuck them away somewhere in their computer never to be found again.
For example, if you do a homework paragraph for class you would name it ‘Human Experiences Homework Paragraph 1’, or if you were to do an essay you would name it ‘Human Experiences Essay Version 1’. If you were to get feedback on that essay, you would title it ‘Human Experiences Essay Version 1 (Feedback)’ and so on. Make sure everything you create/send/receive is titled and stored away properly.
The most important thing to a successful study of English is making sure your ‘notes’ are well organised and can be easily referenced back.
Tip #2 – Keep yourself ahead of schedule
Year 12 moves very quick. Understand your exam dates and mark them in your calendar as soon as you can.
For English essays it is always advised that you are writing your own drafts even before the official assessment notification is given.
- Read your Core Text in full
- Read your Related Text(s) in full
- Wrote at least one-two draft essays or at least 3-4 paragraphs (see Tip #5)
This means that if your assessment notification is handed out in Week 5, you have four weeks from the start of the school term to have done all the above.
The most common mistake when it comes to English preparation is only writing your first set of drafts when you have already been handed the exam notification (if the exam is an essay). If your main excuse is that you have no idea what essay question will be… you can use this:
The study of Human Experiences provides insights into inconsistencies in human behaviour and motivations.
Explore this statement with close reference to your prescribed text and ONE related text of your choosing.
Tip #3 – Understand the Examination Format
There are only two assessable formats for the common module; essay and comprehension (short answers).
Unlike the past Area of Study: Discovery/Belonging/Journey… etc there is no longer a requirement for creative writing within the first module of study.
A comprehension paper will require you to read a variety of texts (image, poem, fiction/non-fiction extract) and answer short responses. In addition, all short response questions are targeted towards a key phrase in the rubric. The comprehension paper is worth a total of 20 marks and is recommended to be completed within 45 minutes, with 10 minutes reading time. It is likely that you will be asked to do the comprehension paper section alongside an essay.
The essay component will require you to write a structured response towards an aspect of the rubric using your prescribed text and related text of your own choosing. NESA has announced that they want students to stop bringing memorised essays into the examination room and as such most essay questions are far more specific. In the past, essay questions were limited to rubric key words but now they can include analysis of specific literary techniques, themes, ideas or literary structures. The essay is worth a total of 20 marks.
To best prepare and get an understanding of either the comprehension paper or essay, NESA has released a sample paper for reference.
Tip #4 – Past resources are still useful!
Old comprehension papers are still useful!
If you want to find valuable study materials for upcoming exams, you can still use any past HSC English Paper 1 for revision. Whilst the new syllabus has changed the Paper 1 exam in terms of content and length, the comprehension section remains unchanged and this can be used for revision purposes!
You might be guessing how this is possible?
Although the key word ‘human experiences’ doesn’t sound the same as ‘Discovery’, ‘Belonging’ and ‘Journey’, all it takes is a little creativity to overcome this small hurdle. For example, if you are looking at a recent HSC paper 1 and see the word ‘discovery’ you can interpret that as an aspect of the human experience of ‘finding out something that changes you’. Follow this similar principle for any of the older Area of Study words and you suddenly have a lot of preparation material!
The comprehension and short answer section of the common module remains as challenging, with students being required to understand and analyse multiple text types and form strong responses in a short amount of time.
It is advised that once you have studied the common module for at least 2 weeks and have a solid grasp of the requirements of the rubric that you look to attempting past paper resources if you have an upcoming comprehension exam.
Unfortunately, any essay question from an English HSC Paper 1 is quite specific and likely won’t be able to be re-used.
Tip #5 – Write paragraphs as early as possible
Practice writing in full paragraphs for your core and related texts as soon as possible.
A full paragraph involves structure, it includes a very clear topic sentence, quotes, techniques and averages about 150 – 180 words.
If you don’t have the confidence to write full essays for your texts because you don’t know how to put all your ideas together or let alone know how to write a good introduction, writing body paragraphs is the best way to improve.
So, let’s say you have a point about your core text, maybe it’s about how the main character learns about himself, or learns the truth about something or even finds out that a certain way of thinking is wrong. Whatever the idea is, try your best to put it down in words through a body paragraph structure. Simply have your first sentence clearly state what your idea is and then follow that up with two – three supporting quotes/techniques with explanations and you have yourself a body paragraph.
These body paragraphs will serve as your ticket to writing a good essay. You may never use them directly in your final essay but the opportunity to start testing yourself and attempting to put your ideas together in a structured and precise manner is exactly what your essay needs to do.
If your teacher never sets any body paragraphs for you to do, try your best to set some yourself, they seriously pay off!
Tip #6 – Make sure you have someone who can give you feedback.
Have someone you can rely on to give you feedback on your work when you need it.
The key to success is making sure you know who is available and ready. For English, self-criticism can be tough and getting someone else to look at your work will accelerate your writing ability.
Make sure that you are listening in class to know what your teacher’s expectations are when it comes to essay submissions and always meet those deadlines. This is extremely important for homework tasks or even extra work that the teacher is willing to look at.
If you don’t plan this out properly, the truth is you’ll find your first feedback will come in the form of what mark you receive for that examination. Whilst that isn’t wrong at all, if you want to ensure you minimise risk and maximise your chances at a good mark.
It is always important to have your work passed through someone who knows what their doing so you can fix it before the exam itself.