In this post, Dennis shares his secrets for scoring 96 in his English Advanced exams.
Learn how I scored 96 in the HSC English exam. In this post, I share my tips for success in the HSC English Exam.
A shocking number of students who are really smart and native English speakers write essays that don’t make grammatical sense. Before year 12, you should pick up a grammar book, and be familiar with fun like verb-noun agreement, singular-plural agreement, and parallelism. Remember, the rules of idiomatic written English differ from those of spoken English.
HSC students have a weird habit of micro analysing every piece of text they see. Their analysis looks like: The author’s use of the dichotomous paradox between the words black and white creates a symbolism with the pathetic fallacy of the rain falling on the symbolic umbrella. This might sound smart at first, but when you take a step back, you realise it sounds confusing and has nothing to do with the wider themes of the book. Relax and read the text as a whole. By micro-analysing, you are missing out on the most important thing—the underlying themes behind the text.
If you want your writing to make an impression on the marker, it should follow a clear linear progression that follows logic. Think of it this way, the examiner is someone who wants to cross a river. Each sentence, you are trying to lay a stone so that they may take a step forward. When they reach the other end, they are persuaded by your argument. Your stones should be not too close, or they think they’re going nowhere; and not too far or they’ll lose you. Likewise your essay should be making clear progression from sentence to sentence, moving forward, without making abrupt jumps. Also, if you were guiding someone across a river, you wouldn’t put stones in a circle. Move forward in a logical way, and don’t jump from place to place.
Ideally, nearly all of your sentences should be short single clauses (a clause has a subject and an object, if you didn’t know this—point made in my first tip). You should use plain and simple English as much as you can without losing meaning. Instead of, “he commenced his journey”, say “he began his journey”.
Don’t write about not belonging in a school-yard. A creative writing piece has to be interesting. You can set in during a war, during a famine in a poor country, in a science fiction world, or in a world of magical realism. You can experiment with styles like existentialism or untrustworthy persona to give your creative writing piece an extra layer of sophistication. Remember, a creative shouldn’t be preaching a moral lesson, or simply triggering a feeling such as sympathy for the alienated person. It should be more complex. It should be thought-provoking and possibly morally ambiguous—just like all your fictional HSC texts.
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