Matrix Blog

English 11-12

2021 HSC English Standard Exam Paper 2 Sample Guidelines

In this article, the Matrix English team shares their 2021 HSC English Standard Exam Paper 2 sample answers. Use these responses as a guide to see what would score highly for the 2021 HSC English Standard Exam Paper 2.

The Matrix 2021 HSC English Standard Exam Paper 2 Sample Guidelines for English Standard are here!


2021 HSC English Standard Exam Paper 2 Sample Guidelines

HSC students have just finished their English Standard Exam Paper 2! Do you know how to approach its questions?

In this article, we share our thoughts for the 2021 HSC English Standard Exam Paper 2 to help you construct a response that would score highly. You can find the paper here on the NESA website. The full list of prescribed texts can be found here on this NESA page.

Read on to see sample guidelines for all of the 2021 prescribed text questions.


Section I — Module A: Language, Identity and Culture (20 marks)

Analyse how language creates a sense of identity for individuals within a community in your prescribed text.

This question is very broad and applies to all the prescribed texts. Many students see this and fall into the trap of writing a very generic essay that doesn’t provide specific details about the concepts explored in their text. You can avoid this by:

  1. Underlining the key words
  2. Defining the key words and the NESA verb
  3. Noting the specific ways that these key concepts relate to your prescribed text


Here’s what that looks like:

Question: Analyse how language creates a sense of identity for individuals within a community in your prescribed text.

NESA verb: Analyse


  • Identify components and the relationship between them; draw out and relate implications (NESA).

What should I write about?

  • What individuals, community, language techniques and types of identities feature in the text?
  • Which characters feel a sense of identity in their community and which characters don’t? Why might that be the case?
  • Does language play a role in the individual’s sense of identity and the shared community identity? What is that role?
  • How is this portrayed through the characters’ and composer’s language?


Key word: Language


  • The words we write and speak, and the way they organise them into sentences and paragraphs.

How can I relate this to my prescribed text?

  • State specific instances where language in character dialogue, narration or featured extracts has enhanced the composer’s message regarding the identity of individuals and their communities.
  • e.g., For the prescribed text The Loaded Dog by Henry Lawson:
    The use of “strine” (Australian vernacular English) in the publican’s brutal response towards his wife’s distress: “The publican was holding his wife tight and begging her between her squawks, to ‘hold up for my sake, Mary, or I’ll lam the life out of ye.'” emphasises the casual and normative nature of violence within the community
  • e.g., For the prescribed text New Accents by Ouyang Yu:
    The speaker highlights how oral language constructs an integral part of one’s identity and esteem, as he reveals he was mocked and prejudiced against for his Chinese-accented English. He ironically compares “English” to “Anguish” in ‘They tried to fool me around because I couldn’t / Speak “Anguish”‘ to convey the suffering and isolation he felt in a nation that does not speak his native language.


Key word: Identity / Sense of identity


  • A combination of how we see ourselves and how other people see us. It can be described based on physical features like our age, sex and race, as well as non-physical things like our sense of humour, our interests and what makes us happy.
  • We usually feel a strong sense of individual identity when we have confidence in ourselves, and a strong sense of community identity typically stems from feeling accepted and appreciated by the people around us.

How can I relate this to my prescribed text?

  • Identify the types of identity that resonate in your prescribed text. These forms of identity could be directly linked to a community (e.g., culture, religion, locality, ethnicity) or could be very personal to the individual (e.g. artistic, emotional, moral identity). Ultimately, the individual’s identity will always be influenced by the community they are surrounded by, however, they will distinguish themselves in unique ways.
  • e.g., For the prescribed text Our Pipes by Henry Lawson:
    The narrator explains how he forges a friendship with Jack Mitchell based on their common poverty and disdain for the community that has made them feel confined to this part of their identities in the polysyndeton “We cursed society because we weren’t rich men, and then we felt better and conversation drifted lazily round various subjects and ended in that of smoking”.
  • e.g., For the prescribed text Unearth by Eckermann:
    The speaker establishes the importance of culture and community to their self-identity by paying homage to their ancestors and metaphorically “[breathing] life into [their] bodies” in an oral delivery of their poem.


Key word: Individual


  • A single person. They may fit in as a member of a group/community, or they stand out in many ways.

How can I relate this to my prescribed text?

  • You’d want to pick out key characters in your texts that interact with and perceive their community in different ways to show the diversity of individuals that exist. You may choose the protagonists, their foils or particularly conforming or non-conforming individuals in the community. Only pick the most prominent examples because you need to limit yourself to around 3 individuals to make sure you have enough time to explore each in enough detail.
  • e.g., For the prescribed text The Drover’s Wife by Henry Lawson:
    The repetition of “no” coupled with the desolate imagery in “bush with no horizon, for the country is flat. No ranges in the distance. The bush consists of stunted, rotten native apple trees. No undergrowth” highlights how the narrator feels isolated in the remote Australian bushland, rejecting any romantic insinuations of peace and contentment in solitude.
  • e.g., For the prescribed text Eyes by Eckermann:
    Eckermann uses passionately emotive language in the metaphor of a woman deciding which pair of “eyes” she will “wear” in “Will she choose eyes of ‘wonder’ or ‘contempt’ … but, in the end, chooses ‘rage'” to depict how the individual resorts to anger to emotionally protect herself in challenging situations when she is left feeling vulnerable. Eckermann, herself, was a part of the Stolen Generations and was only reunited with her mother at the age of 34 years, and similarly, only connected with her son when he was 18, so she offers raw insights of what it’s like to feel violated, defenseless and alone.


Key word: Community


  • A group of people who share at least one thing in common, whether it’s intentional, desired or not — their shared trait may just be the location where they live (which could be purely a coincidence or out of their control) or it could be a common interest (which they may bond over).
  • The phrase ‘a sense of community’ has a slightly nuanced meaning, as it suggests that the individuals within the community feel a sense of belonging or at least have some feelings about being a part of a community — this could be positive (e.g. appreciation), negative (e.g. resentment) or neutral (e.g. apathy).

How can I relate this to my prescribed text?

    • Recognise the main communities that exist within your prescribed text — they should be the ones that your key characters interact with the most, or at least offer the most perceptive insights into these individuals.
    • e.g., For the prescribed text The Union Buries its Dead by Henry Lawson:
      Lawson cynically parodies a romantic and sombre funeral within an Australian bushland community. He comically undermines character trope of “the heart-broken old mate, with his grizzled head bowed and great pearly drops streaming down his rugged cheeks” by nonchalantly revealing that “He was absent—he was probably ‘out back.'” To add to the irony, Lawson specifically mentions how “the only moisture was that which was induced by the heat” to highlight the absence of tears in a bushland community that appears apathetic and distant.
    • e.g., For the prescribed text Oombulgarri by Eckermann:
      Eckermann reveals how the Aboriginal people developed a stronger sense of community and solidarity with one another as a result of their shared suffering under the control of the Australian settlers. The simile “Echoes of laughter roll like distant thunder” refers to how their once thriving and joyous community was destroyed by the Australian settlers that were like a “storm” that did not “pass by / Hysterical energy whips and wails and wails”, the polysyndeton of “and” coupled with the torturously emotive diction of “wails” and “wails” resembling many voices crying out in pain.


Once you have narrowed down your arguments, make sure that you clearly state what the focus of your essay is in your introduction. This needs to include an overview of each paragraph.


  • Whole essay: Language in both written and oral forms enables individuals to understand social norms within a community, and express personal attitudes that make up their unique identities and influence others.
  • Body paragraph 1: The use of colloquial and Australian vernacular language conveys the toxic social norms of a local community and its shared cultural identity.
  • Body paragraph 2: Individuals seek emotional connection with others, so they struggle to establish a sense of identity and belonging within an estranged rural community.
  • Body paragraph 3: Oral language helps individuals connect over common experiences and develop their sense of emotional identity.

You need to provide evidence from your prescribed text in each body paragraph to support your claims in the introduction, and your conclusion should summarise these claims in light of all this evidence.


Start HSC English confidently

Expert teachers, detailed feedback, one-to-one help! Learn from home with Matrix+ Online English courses.



Section II — Module B: Close Study of Literature (20 marks)

How does [the composer of your prescribed text] shape character and setting to create a personal and intellectual connection with the reader?

This question applied to the following texts:

  • M T Anderson, Feed
  • Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
  • Scott Rankin, Namatjira
  • William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Peter Weir, The Truman Show
  • Simon Nasht, Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History


How does [the composer of your prescribed text] portray people and places to create a personal and intellectual connection with the reader?

This question applied to the following texts:

  • Robert Gray, Coast Road
  • Oodgero Noonuccal
  • Anna Funder, Stasiland


These questions have slightly different wording, but they are really testing your ability to take vague topics (“personal connection” and “intellectual connections”) and draw perceptive insights from specific textual features (“character” and “setting”/”people” and “places”).

First off, you need to figure out what these personal connections and intellectual connections are. These phrases are open to interpretation and the themes in your prescribed text should guide your thinking.

Here are some examples of what a personal connection could involve:

  • Feelings of solidarity with the characters or persona.
  • Gaining insight into an emotional experience that you potentially will never go through.
  • Reflecting on past personal events, with a new perspective.

Here are some examples of what an intellectual connection could involve:

  • Challenging your assumptions, and appreciating perspectives that you’ve never considered before. This could be on political, moral or social matters.
  • Reinforcing your beliefs, while perhaps adding new insight as to why you hold these beliefs.
  • Learning about past, current and future affairs.

Once you’ve established the personal and intellectual connections that you have in your prescribed text (or at least, connections that other readers potentially have), you need to consider how characters and settings/people and places are used to create these connections. You need to use textual evidence to support your claims.

These are textual devices that involve characters or people:

  • Dialogue
  • Characterisation
  • Character foils
  • Archetypes and tropes
  • Tone
  • Diction
  • Commentary of a narrator or a third person

These are textual devices that involve settings or places:

  • Imagery
  • In medias res
  • Pathetic fallacy
  • Metaphor
  • Symbolism

All the personal and intellectual insights you offer need to be clearly and directly linked to characters/people or settings/places. Otherwise, your discussion will be irrelevant, potentially lose marks and waste your writing time.


Section III — Module C: The Craft of Writing (20 marks)

Luck is defined as success or failure apparently caused by chance … But I’ve realised by watching so long that luck is rarely a lighting strike, isolated and dramatic. It’s much more like the wind blowing constantly. Sometimes it’s calm, and sometimes it blows in gusts. And sometimes it comes from directions that you didn’t even imagine.

(a) Compose a piece of imaginative, discursive or persuasive writing that develops ONE idea about luck in the stimulus provided. (12 marks)

  • You are given the choice of imaginative, discursive or persuasive writing. Use the form that you are most confident with given the stimulus provided.
  • You need to explore one idea about luck and this idea MUST be from the stimulus provided. You might have other ideas but if it’s not obviously related to the stimulus, you are guaranteed to lose marks.
  • Be prepared to explain how you were inspired by your prescribed text AND the stimulus.
  • The imaginative/discursive/persuasive piece is worth 12 marks, and the reflection is worth 8 marks. Allocate your time to each part accordingly; i.e., 24 minutes for writing piece and 16 minutes for reflection.
    • Often students find that discursive writing forms are very versatile and easy to end quickly. Given that you have less than 30 minutes to write a complete piece, this could convince you to write a discursive essay.

Here are some ideas that you can extract from the stimulus:

  • Luck is defined as success or failure: Humans are fixated on quantitative successes and failures, and do not appreciate simple things in life — like loved ones, freedom, happiness — that they are lucky to have
  • luck is rarely a lighting strike, isolated and dramatic: There is no such thing as luck. There are always other factors like hard work and commitment that lead you to your eventual outcome.
  • Sometimes it’s calm, and sometimes it blows in gusts: Sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you are not.
  • sometimes it comes from directions that you didn’t even imagine: Sometimes you don’t even know whether things that happen to you will be good for you in the long term or not. Therefore, it’s not always easy to know when you’ve been lucky.

(b) Explain how the creative decisions that you made in part (a) were influenced by a prescribed text that you have studied. (8 marks)

  • You must explain how the aspects of your own writing were inspired by your prescribed texts.
  • To clearly show these links, provide quotes from your own writing and your prescribed texts.
  • Do not rush your reflection. It is worth 8 marks and should be allocated around 16 minutes accordingly.

Written by Matrix English Team

The Matrix English Team are tutors and teachers with a passion for English and a dedication to seeing Matrix Students achieving their academic goals.


© Matrix Education and, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Get free study tips and resources delivered to your inbox.

Join 75,893 students who already have a head start.

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies. Read our cookies statement.

OK, I understand