Matrix Blog

English 11-12

English Advanced VS English Standard VS English Studies for the New Syllabus

Learn what the differences are between English Advanced, English Standard, and English Studies.

The new Year 11 & 12 (Stage 6) English Syllabus starts in 2018

In 2018, Year 11 students began the study of the new Year 11 & 12 (Stage 6) English Syllabus with the first students sitting the HSC in 2019. The 2018 English Syllabus introduces new modules and texts.

In this post, we answer some frequently asked questions from Year 10 students about choosing the right English course for Year 11.

Read on as we compare the different English courses so you can make the right decision.

Analysing texts doesn’t have to be hard

Download your free Textual Analysis Planner

Learn how to analyse texts and produce insightful notes!


Introducing the New 2018 Year 11 English Syllabus

Year 11 English is the first year of Stage 6 English.

  • Year 9 and 10 English is known as Stage 5 English
  • Year 11 and 12 English is known as Stage 6 English

Stage 6 English offers three different options – English Advanced, English Standard, and English Studies. More information about Stage 6 can be found on the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) website.

Year 11 English Standard and Advanced courses have set modules for study. The modules for the  Year 11 curriculum starting in 2018 are:

Table of HSC English Modules
Year 11 English Advanced Year 11 English Standard Year 11 English Studies
Common Module:
Reading to Write
Reading to Write
Non Common Module.
Achieving Through English: English in education, work and community
Module A:
Narratives that Shaped the World
Contemporary Possibilities
Chosen from a group of 14 Electives
Module B:
Critical Study of Literature
Close Study of Literature
 Chosen from a group of 14 Electives
  • Module is the term used by NESA to describe the unit set for study. The modules prescribe the content studied by students, this includes the approach to the texts.
  • Students must always familiarise themselves with the Module outlines to be able to address their criteria.
  • The Common Module is used to standardise testing for the different levels of English.
  • All students for English Standard and English Advanced will need to take the Common Module in Year 11 and again in Year 12.
  • English Studies students do not do The Common Module in Year 11. In Year 11, English Studies students study the Achieving Through English Module. In Year 12, English Studies students will take the Common Module with English Advanced and English Standard.
  • English Studies students take elective modules chosen by their teachers from a list of 14 options. The list can be found here on the NESA website. The other modules that students take will differ in difficulty depending on which English course they study.
  • The English Advanced Modules are more complex and demanding than the English Standard Modules.
  • In Year 11, there is not a prescribed text list. In Year 12, the texts will be chosen from a list of prescriptions.
  • We recommend students speak with their School English co-ordinator regarding the suitable level of English.
  • There are only 3 assessment tasks allowed to be set for Year 11.

Universities are increasingly requiring students to have a minimum result in either English Standard or Advanced.


Choosing the right English course (English Advanced, English Standard, or English Studies)

The different levels of English have different requirements for student competency and ability. To help students determine which English course is best for them, we’ve produced a flowchart that illustrates the level of achievement students need to attain for the differing levels.


The Pathways of English Progression


How students perform in Year 10 English should inform their decisions for the level of Year 11 English they choose to study.

  • If they struggle with Year 10 English, students should carefully consider the commitment they will need to make to succeed in Year 11 English Advanced.
  • If students perform well in Year 10 English, but don’t want to commit the time to studying Year 11 English Advanced, they should consider how scaling may benefit them.

We recommend that students discuss this with their High School English teacher and Year Co-ordinator before making a decision.


Comparing English courses: English Advanced  vs English Standard vs English Studies

What are the specific differences between English Advanced, English Standard, and English Studies? Let’s have a look.

  • English Standard and English Advanced are both Category A subjects. This means that they are academic subjects that qualify for an ATAR.
  • English Studies is a Category B subject. You are only allowed to have 2 units of category B in your 10 units for the HSC.
  • As you must have an English subject, English Studies will be the only Category B subject you can take.
  • In addition, some university courses, such as those in education, will require a Band 5 in English Standard or Advanced as a minimum.

The tables below compare the three different courses in terms of its aims, the complexity of texts, student skills required, study requirements, and benefits.

The different levels of English have different aims and outcomes for students:

English Studies English Standard English Advanced
• English Studies aims to teach a practical understanding of English. • English Standard is designed to give students competence in analysing and discussing a range of texts.

• English Standard is aimed to help students communicate more effectively.

• English Advanced develops students’ mastery of English.

• They learn to analyse complex texts and discuss them in detail.


The complexity of the texts you’ll study varies significantly between the different levels of English:

English Studies English Standard English Advanced
Complexity of Texts
Developing reading competency. Common literary texts. Complex and challenging texts.


The different levels of English require additional skills and proficiency with them:

English Studies English Standard English Advanced
Students Skills
• Correct English usage

• Clear essay structure

• Basic literary analysis

• Oral communication skills.





• Correct English usage

• Strong essay structure

• Aptitude spotting and discussing literary/ dramatic/ poetic/ filmic  techniques

• Ability to analyse themes in texts

• Strong oral communication skills

• Understanding of different mediums of production and textual forms.


• Mastery of English usage

• Excellent Essay structure

• Excellent ability to analyse and discuss a wide range of literary/ dramatic/ poetic/ filmic techniques in texts. Students can use these to support detailed arguments.

• Comprehensive understanding of themes in texts

• Knowledge of a range of artistic movements and contextual periods

• Detailed knowledge of different mediums of production and textual forms. Students develop the ability to discuss how these are used to produce meaning.

• Excellent written and oral communication skills.

• Students are able to produce texts in a variety of forms and registers.


You will need to invest much more time into English Advanced than English Studies:

English Studies English Standard English Advanced
Study Requirements
2-3 hours per week 4-5 hours per week 6 hrs + per week


With all this extra work, there are benefits to be had for studying at the higher level of English:

English Studies English Standard English Advanced
• Students who complete English Studies will gain confidence in their oral and written communication skills.

• Students will develop a basic understanding of how texts develop meaning.

• English Studies is a Category B subject. This means it will only attract an ATAR if it is the only 2 unit Category B subject.

• Students will learn to analyse texts.

• They will gain an understanding of how composers represent their ideas for various audiences.

• Students will be able to communicate effectively in written and oral forms.

• Qualifies for an ATAR as a Category A subject.

• Students will gain excellent communication skills.

• They will learn how to analyse a wide range of complex texts.

• They will be able to discuss challenging ideas clearly and concisely.

• Students of English Advanced will be well prepared for the communication demands of tertiary education.

• English Advanced scales better than Standard, making it easier to achieve the ATAR you need.

• Qualifies for an ATAR as Category A Subjects.


Understanding what’s expected of Year 11 English students

Most Year 10 students find Year 11 English much more demanding. In Stage 6, there is a significant increase in the level of complexity of the texts and the depth of detail with which they are studied.

In Year 10, students identify techniques and discuss what these techniques do. Whereas in Year 11, students need to identify techniques and discuss how they develop meaning in the text.


You will be presented with similar texts to Stage 5. But in Year 11, you will need to discuss them in far greater depth.


This means student responses will be longer and more detailed in Year 11 and therefore students will have more homework and need to do more study! So, how should students study for English?

In our Beginner’s Guide To Acing HSC English, we detail the process for analysing a text and developing study notes:

1 Read/ view the set text for the first time You want to read a text to enjoy it and come to grips with its content before you analyse it.
2 Read/ view it again The second time you engage with a text is where you really begin to understand its content and recognise how the composer is conveying their ideas.
3 Make note of the techniques used You need to write down what techniques are used in each example. You then want to make notes about how these techniques help the composer represent their ideas and concerns for the audience (YOU!).
4 Create a table of the themes and useful quotations from the text. Tabulating information makes it much easier to write essays and other assignments. At Matrix, students are provided with Textual Analysis Templates in their Year 11 English Theorybooks.
5 Do some research on the text and see how the ideas and perspectives compare to those of others. You need to demonstrate an aptitude for research, but you must also show independent thought. It is important that students form an opinion of the text before they search out others’ perspectives. You must demonstrate independent thinking and learning skills!
6 Write a practice essay and get feedback Writing drafts and getting peer feedback is the best way to improve your English marks. At Matrix, all students get detailed feedback on the school assessment tasks they need assistance with. Matrix English students get workshop time on top of classroom lessons where they can work on assignments one-on-one with a tutor.
7 Write a new essay incorporating changes that fix the flaws of the first essay At Matrix, students are provided with comprehensive rubrics and detailed feedback on their work. Matrix rubrics give actionable feedback on the following criteria:

  1. Engagement with the question
  2. Originality
  3. Argumentation
  4. Structure
  5. Use of Evidence
  6. Language Use


Clearly, Year 11 English is far more complex and time-consuming than Year 10 English.

In addition, English Advanced is more complex and demanding than English Standard or English Studies.

However, there is a reward for this additional work. There is a greater level of scaling applied to English Advanced. In past years, English Advanced has been scaled significantly higher than English Standard.

Let’s see what scaling is and how it works.


Scaling of English Advanced and English Standard?

Scaling is the process of converting HSC marks into scaled marks for comparison across different subjects. This conversion, or ‘scaling,’ is required as students undertake different levels of English. Essentially, comparing the marks of students studying different English courses is not accurate in assessing students in comparison to one another.

A different level of scaling is applied to each subject, this reflects different demands of the subject. As a general rule, the “harder” the unit of study, the “better” the scaling it receives.

English Advanced scales better than English Standard.

Please note that students should not be choosing subjects based on scaling. Instead, scaling graphs should be used as the tool for determining your required position/rank in the state for you to obtain your desired ATAR.

For example,

  • A student in 90th percentile (top 10 percent in the state) in English Advanced will receive a scaled mark of 42.5/50 which equates to 85/100, whereas a student in 90th percentile in English Standard will receive a scaled mark of 28/50 which equates to 56/100. Note that you will only need to be in the 30th percentile (top 70 percent in the state) in English Advanced to obtain a scaled mark of 56/100!
  • A student in the 30th percentile in English Advanced will obtain higher scaled mark than a student is in the 90th percentile (top 10 percent in the state) in English Standard.

Graph of Scaling Curves for English Subjects

Scaling is a complex idea if you would like to know more you should read All About ATAR Scaling.


Want to learn how to ace HSC English?

We’ve helped thousands of students ace HSC English over the last 19 years. Learn our secrets to HSC success at our free Secrets to Acing HSC English Seminar! Learn more.

Start HSC English confidently

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

Written by Patrick Condliffe

Patrick has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons. 1st Class - Australian Literature) from USYD. His poetry, short stories, and essays have been published online and in print and he regularly reviews film and other media. Patrick is the editor of the popular Matrix blog and has been an English teacher at Matrix since 2012.


© 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