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How To Ace HSC Belonging Section 1 – Area Of Study

Stuck with AOS: Belonging? Read our guide to acing it.

Worried about Belonging Section 1? Let us help you out.

There are three sections in the HSC English (Standard and Advanced) Exam Paper 1.

Section I: Unseen Texts

Section II: Creative Writing

Section III: Extended Response

All three sections are worth 15 marks, and so it is ideal that you spend an equal amount of time on each. Often students struggle with Section I, as they are not able to prepare responses in the same way as they can for Section II and III.

This blog post is designed to help you understand Section I, and to prepare you for the types of questions you can expect.

How to Effectively Write about Belonging

It is important to have a clear understanding of both belonging and not belonging in your mind before you enter the exam. It is also useful to think of synonyms for belonging so that you are able to effectively discuss the concept without sounding repetitive.

Here is an example:

Belonging: is to be related or connected, to fit a specified environment and not be out of place. Our personal sense of belonging is linked to our self-esteem and differing expectations and responsibilities over time can affect our level of connectedness with family, friends and peers.


For the exam, you will have to read and view a number of unseen texts. You will then be required to answer a number of questions designed to test your understanding of the concept of belonging.  It is essential when answering the questions that you align your information with the criteria, and reflect on how the composer has shaped your understanding of belonging. The questions will also usually start with a verb. You can find a definition of the most common verbs on the Glossary of Key Words page.

Below are the questions from the 2013 HSC exam. Note that in this paper there is one question per text, each worth a different amount of marks, and that the last question requires you to analyse TWO of the texts.

Text one — Image

(a) Describe how a sense of disconnection is created in the image. (2 marks)

Text two — Poem

(b) Why  is  the  ‘creased  photograph’  important  to  the  speaker  and  his  sense  of identity? (2 marks)

Text three — Memoir extract

(c) How do the writer’s memories of childhood reveal the challenges of family life? (3 marks)

Text four — Prose extract

(d) Explain how the author creates a strong sense of inclusion and exclusion in the extract. (3 marks)

Texts one, two, three and four — Image, Poem, Memoir extract and Prose extract

(e) Analyse how TWO of these texts portray the complex emotions resulting from a desire for connection. (5 marks)

Helpful Tips

When discussing textual features:

  • Identify the feature
  • Provide an example of the feature
  • Explain the impact of the feature
  • Extrapolate by discussing why the composer used the feature

The final question:

  • (approximately 5 marks, 12-15 lines)
  • 5 marks:
    –  Fluent expression, constant link to concept, clear statement
    –  4 techniques [2 per text] (3 brief examples)
  • Refer to language features and structures.
  • Compare and contrast the language features and details of the texts, clearly indicating why the text you have selected effectively represents belonging.
  • For each paragraph
    –  Explain techniques and how they support the composer’s aim/purpose.
    –  Refer to explicit examples
    –  Link paragraph to syllabus concepts/question
  • Evaluate texts in terms of:
    –  Textual integrity – how well language techniques work together to support the purpose of the text.
    –  Sophistication of ideas (presentation of multiple perspectives etc).
  • Make sure there is a close parallel between technique & composer’s feelings (about belonging) or purpose or audience.
  • Choose techniques and examples carefully to support your argument and always link to the concept.

Below is a list of useful techniques for analysing a visual text. Try to think about how these techniques can be used in relation to belonging.

Techniques for Analysing a Visual Text (AOS Paper 1)

Angle See framing.
Body language and gaze Facial expressions, gestures, stance or position – can convey the attitude, feelings or personality of the individual shown. Take note of the direction of the subject’s eyes.
Composition What is included is deliberately placed (also applies to what is omitted). Consider all inclusions and omissions e.g. surroundings, objects, clothing etc.
Colour, hue and tone In black & white images examine the use of contrast, light and darkness. In a colour image, colours are used to signify feelings and evoke a response. E.g. Red = passion, anger, hell, vitality, etc. blue = peace, harmony or coldness.
Contrast The arrangement of opposite elements (light and dark, large and small, rough and smooth) to create interest, excitement or drama.
Framing The same camera shots and angles relevant to film. Close ups, extreme close ups, medium shots, long shots, tilted up or down shots etc.
Omissions What has been deliberately left out.
Orientation, Point of view Relates to framing and angle: is the responder positioned above the image (looking down), below or at eye level?
Positioning Consider which objects have been placed in the foreground, middle ground or background.
Rule of thirds Divide an image into thirds from the top and sides and look at the placement of people and/or objects. An object in the top third is usually empowered whereas anything in the bottom third is disempowered.
Salience The part that your eyes are first drawn to in the visual. Colour, image and layout determine what the salient image is.
Symbolism The use of an image to represent one or more (often complex) ideas.
Vectors The line that our eyes take when looking at a visual. Composers deliberately direct our reading path through the vectors. E.g. If all of the subjects are tall, long and upright our eyes follow straight vectors that lead to the top of the frame. This could make the subject seem powerful or inflexible.

Below is an example of a response to a visual text, utilising some of the techniques listed in the table above.

 Lost by Frederick McCubbin

Example: ‘Lost’ by Frederick McCubbin, 1887

This painting presents ideas of belonging to place, specifically the Australian landscape, through feelings of vulnerability. It comes from the Gold Rush period, when interest in the local landscape was growing, as it was new and unique to European eyes. ‘Lost’ invites a visually sensory experience of this landscape in which much of the interpretation of the girl in the painting is left to the responder. One of the key techniques employed in the centring of the young girl; the blue of her dress almost blends into, as though adopting, the colour of the landscape, which has been foregrounded. Colour has also been effectively utilised, as areas of the canvas appear abstracted and flecks of colour are layered over each other. Hence ‘Lost’ encapsulates both the fascination with belonging to this new place as well as fears of being swallowed by it.

Below is a list of useful techniques for analysing a visual text. Try to think about how these techniques can be used in relation to belonging.

Techniques for Analysing a Written Text (AOS Paper 1)

Allegory Story with a double meaning: one primary (on the surface) and one secondary.
Alliteration Repetition of consonants at the start of words or in a sentence or phrase.
Cliché An over-used, common expression.
Consonance Repetition of consonants throughout a sentence or phrase.
Contrast Paradox, antithesis, oxymoron, juxtaposition, contrast in description etc.
Didactic Any text that instructs the reader or is obviously delivering a moral message.
Disjunction A conjunction (e.g. ‘but’ or ‘yet’) that dramatically interrupts rhythm of sentence.
Ellipsis A dramatic pause (…) creates tension or suggests words can’t be spoken.
Emotive language Words that stir the readers’ emotions.
Enjambment A poetic technique, when a sentence or phrase runs over more than one line (or stanza). This assists the flow of a poem.
Euphemism Mild expression used to replace a harsh one.
Exclamation Exclamatory sentence ending in ! to convey high emotion.
Form Purpose and features of a text influence its construction and will suggest its structure.
Figurative language & sound devices Metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole, simile, personification, assonance, alliteration, consonance, onomatopoeia, etc. These devices have a powerful impact as they work on our senses to strengthen the subject matter of the text.
Fractured/truncated sentences Incomplete sentences used to increase tension or urgency, or reflect the way people speak to each other.
Gaps & silences What is not said; whose voice isn’t heard and whose voice dominates?
Humour Incongruity, parody, satire, exaggeration, irony, puns etc. used to lighten the overall tone.
Icons A single person, object or image that represents complex ideas and feelings.
Imagery Vivid pictures created by words. Reader visualises character/setting clearly.
Imperative Voice Forceful use of the verb at the start of sentence or phrase.
Intertextuality A text makes a reference to other texts, may be explicit, implied or inferred.
Irony Gap between what is said and what is meant.
Juxtaposition Layering images/scenes to have a dramatic impact.
Level of usage of language Slang, colloquial, informal or formal.
Linear Sequential – in chronological order.
Metaphor Comparison of 2 objects where one becomes another – adds further layers of meaning about object being compared.
Modality The force the words are delivered at. High modality = forceful. Low modality = gentle.
Non-linear Non-sequential narrative, events do not occur in chronological order.
Onomatopoeia A word that echoes the sound it represents. Reader hears what is happening.
Parody Conscious imitation for a satiric purpose.
Person 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
Personification Human characteristic given to a non-human object. Inanimate objects take on a life.
perspective A particular way of looking at individuals, issues, events, texts, facts etc.
Plosive consonants Harsh sounds in a sentence or phrase.
Repetition Of words or syntax (order of words) for emphasis or persuasion.
Representation How a composer conveys meaning through textual features.
Satire Composition which ridicules in a scornful & humorous way.
Setting Location of a story – internal and external.
Sibilance Repetition of ‘s’ – can sounds melodious & sweet or cold & icy.
Simile Comparison of 2 objects using ‘like’ or ‘as’.
Symbolism When an object represents one or more (often complex) ideas.
Syntax – sentence structure Short, simple sentences or truncated sentences create tension, haste or urgency; compound or complex sentences are slower, often feature in formal texts.
Tense Present, past, future (events are predicted).
Theme Message or moral of a story – makes us ponder bigger issues in life.
Tone The way composer or character feels – conveyed by word choice.
Word choice or Diction Emotive, forceful, factual, descriptive, blunt, graphic, disturbing, informative etc. E.g. use of forceful verbs ‘insist’ & ‘demand’ can be very persuasive.

See Also: How to Analyse A Related Text to learn how to analyse texts in 4 steps.

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