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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)

AngleSee framing.
Body language and gazeFacial 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.
CompositionWhat 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 toneIn 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.
ContrastThe arrangement of opposite elements (light and dark, large and small, rough and smooth) to create interest, excitement or drama.
FramingThe same camera shots and angles relevant to film. Close ups, extreme close ups, medium shots, long shots, tilted up or down shots etc.
OmissionsWhat has been deliberately left out.
Orientation, Point of viewRelates 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 thirdsDivide 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.
SalienceThe part that your eyes are first drawn to in the visual. Colour, image and layout determine what the salient image is.
SymbolismThe use of an image to represent one or more (often complex) ideas.
VectorsThe 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)

AllegoryStory with a double meaning: one primary (on the surface) and one secondary.
AlliterationRepetition of consonants at the start of words or in a sentence or phrase.
ClichéAn over-used, common expression.
ConsonanceRepetition of consonants throughout a sentence or phrase.
ContrastParadox, antithesis, oxymoron, juxtaposition, contrast in description etc.
DidacticAny text that instructs the reader or is obviously delivering a moral message.
DisjunctionA conjunction (e.g. ‘but’ or ‘yet’) that dramatically interrupts rhythm of sentence.
EllipsisA dramatic pause (…) creates tension or suggests words can’t be spoken.
Emotive languageWords that stir the readers’ emotions.
EnjambmentA poetic technique, when a sentence or phrase runs over more than one line (or stanza). This assists the flow of a poem.
EuphemismMild expression used to replace a harsh one.
ExclamationExclamatory sentence ending in ! to convey high emotion.
FormPurpose and features of a text influence its construction and will suggest its structure.
Figurative language & sound devicesMetaphor, 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 sentencesIncomplete sentences used to increase tension or urgency, or reflect the way people speak to each other.
Gaps & silencesWhat is not said; whose voice isn’t heard and whose voice dominates?
HumourIncongruity, parody, satire, exaggeration, irony, puns etc. used to lighten the overall tone.
IconsA single person, object or image that represents complex ideas and feelings.
ImageryVivid pictures created by words. Reader visualises character/setting clearly.
Imperative VoiceForceful use of the verb at the start of sentence or phrase.
IntertextualityA text makes a reference to other texts, may be explicit, implied or inferred.
IronyGap between what is said and what is meant.
JuxtapositionLayering images/scenes to have a dramatic impact.
Level of usage of languageSlang, colloquial, informal or formal.
LinearSequential – in chronological order.
MetaphorComparison of 2 objects where one becomes another – adds further layers of meaning about object being compared.
ModalityThe force the words are delivered at. High modality = forceful. Low modality = gentle.
Non-linearNon-sequential narrative, events do not occur in chronological order.
OnomatopoeiaA word that echoes the sound it represents. Reader hears what is happening.
ParodyConscious imitation for a satiric purpose.
Person1st, 2nd or 3rd.
PersonificationHuman characteristic given to a non-human object. Inanimate objects take on a life.
perspectiveA particular way of looking at individuals, issues, events, texts, facts etc.
Plosive consonantsHarsh sounds in a sentence or phrase.
RepetitionOf words or syntax (order of words) for emphasis or persuasion.
RepresentationHow a composer conveys meaning through textual features.
SatireComposition which ridicules in a scornful & humorous way.
SettingLocation of a story – internal and external.
SibilanceRepetition of ‘s’ – can sounds melodious & sweet or cold & icy.
SimileComparison of 2 objects using ‘like’ or ‘as’.
SymbolismWhen an object represents one or more (often complex) ideas.
Syntax – sentence structureShort, simple sentences or truncated sentences create tension, haste or urgency; compound or complex sentences are slower, often feature in formal texts.
TensePresent, past, future (events are predicted).
ThemeMessage or moral of a story – makes us ponder bigger issues in life.
ToneThe way composer or character feels – conveyed by word choice.
Word choice or DictionEmotive, 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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