Helen shares her tips for topping English Extension 1!
Do you want to know how I topped English Extension 1 for NSW? Well, there are no shortcuts to doing well in the HSC, so putting in a lot of time and effort is essential.
If, however, you have already overcome the initial hurdles of finding motivation and practising self-discipline, here are a few tips to make your essays stand out from all the rest.
It’s late on a Friday night. The marker is at his desk. He is exhausted and can’t wait to get home to watch the latest episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and feed his cat. There are 395392 more essays to mark. The marker takes an essay from the top of the pile and slowly peels it open. He reads the first paragraph before tearing the paper in half, throwing his head back and unleashing a thunderous cry.
It is the stuff of nightmares – yet another stock-standard, B- range essay. This may seem obvious, but in order for a marker to notice your essay or creative out of the hundreds that they have already ploughed through at the marking centre, you need to demonstrate that your depth and breadth of understanding is spectacular. What I mean by this is: if your teacher tells you to research what one critic says about your text, research five. Read as many critical analyses on your core texts as you can and read a wide range of other texts to find the perfect related text. Have a strong understanding of the underlying assumptions/values/contexts/forms of the elective that you are studying. If you go above and beyond the bare minimum, your marks will reflect the extra effort you have put in!
Show people your work (camp outside the staffroom and refuse to leave until your essay is marked). Ask for feedback. Draft and redraft and redraft again. Be constantly refining your essay and creative pieces throughout the year, and adding to them as you learn new things. Don’t be afraid to discuss your work with your friends, as they may have something to add to your creative that you hadn’t even thought of, and in turn, you may be able to help them.
Just like in part 1, don’t contribute the psychological deterioration of HSC markers by writing good analysis, but having no real argument. Take a unique point of view that reflects what you are interested in, whether it be feminism, postmodernism or Freudian psychoanalysis.
The same goes for creatives – don’t write a cliche story in which anybody wakes up from any type of dream (unless you have some sort of postmodern, feminist, freudian psychoanalytic dream interpretation to go with it…). Don’t be afraid to be weird and conceptual and explore uncharted territory, because chances are, your English teacher and marker will enjoy things that are weirder and even more conceptual (and hopefully they will love your work!).
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