In this guest blog post, Matrix Graduate and former scholarship holder Chloe Beydoun, shares how to stay on top of your English Advanced study and ace Year 12.
Name: Chloe Beydoun
School: Sydney Girls High School (2018 Alumnus)
Uni Degree: Medicine at The University of Sydney (2nd Year)
As the only compulsory subject in the HSC, mastering the skills of the English courses is crucial to HSC success.
Contrary to popular belief, success in English is not reserved for those who are ‘naturally talented’, but is, instead, guaranteed for those who consistently work at it and approach it as less of a chore.
So, in this blog post, I will take you through some of the key steps I followed to ensure I could stay on top of my English Advanced studies.
Despite what you may be informed of by your peers, it is simply impossible to reach a deep level of understanding for the key concepts in English Advanced without actively engaging with the elected texts firsts.
The most effective way to read texts was to follow them along with a highlighter and pen in hand.
Each time I came across certain quotes or ideas that I felt were insightful, I would highlight them or jot down my initial thoughts.
This is performed, not strictly with the syllabus or themes of the text in mind.
Instead, I approached the text as if I were reading it for leisure.
You will soon find that much of what was striking to you, will more than likely underpin the analysis you will make.
In this way, you are approaching the text from a standpoint that is less singular, formulaic or done-before.
Instead, you are setting yourself up to engage with the text deeper than the surface level analysis or plot summaries offered by Sparknotes and the like.
You should ideally have read the text relevant for a given module before you begin studying it at school.
In the most ideal case, you will have come to the text twice:
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The first motivation for this step is the fact that all of the questions you will face over the course of the subject will be drawn directly from the syllabus.
The second motivation is that you now have a framework for drawing together all of your thoughts on the text.
Again, this is a step you want to have completed before the module begins being taught at school
At the beginning of each module, I would print out the English Advanced module syllabus for the relevant text and go along and highlight the key phrases or terms.
Be sure to have a dictionary handy as some of the words may be unfamiliar or may be phrased in such a way that makes them appear synonymous when in fact they are not.
For example, the terms ‘anomalous’ and ‘paradoxical’ (which appear in the Common Module syllabus).
A really handy tool for gathering your thoughts on English Advanced and staying on top of your studies is drawing a mindmap for each of your texts. This way, you can come back to it and annotate whenever you come across new ideas.
To do this, you need to elect an A3 page for each text.
Then, as you read the text, you can jot down some important character or plot information, as well as quotes and any other striking features of the text.
Similarly, when you begin to approach the text formally, you can add information about the themes to your mindmap.
At the end of the module, you will have a comprehensive mindmap which you can turn back to as a refresher in the lead up to assessments, trials and the HSC.
Contrary to the typical approach to English Advanced studies, the best way to stay on top of the workload is to form a study group – perhaps with your school mates or Matrix peers.
This will help you stay accountable for your work and with whom you can brainstorm ideas on the text.
In Year 12, I found it useful to form a study group with 5 other students in my class. We would meet up once a week for an hour or so, and run through a list of questions we each had devised over the week about the text.
This way, I was forced to actively engage with the text throughout the week, in order to make a contribution to the study group.
Furthermore, I was privileged to gain insight into the perspectives that other students had.
Often, our interpretation of the text is moulded by our personal experiences and values. So, it is always rewarding to listen to and consider the perspectives of others.
In these study groups, it’s also helpful to take an argumentative approach.
Instead of simply agreeing with each other, my study group members and I would actively attempt to play devil’s advocate for each other’s ideas.
This proves useful, given that the most successful English Advanced essays are those which are resistant to any counter-arguments as they are well-supported and thought-out.
Leading on from tip 4, a great way to keep on top of your English Advanced study is to consider ideas outside of your own.
I always recommend jotting down and trying to write an entire essay using your own ideas first.
Then take into account essays your peers have written.
My friends and I would always swap our essays during the term and give feedback on each other’s work.
The exercise was great as it meant another pair of eyes could critically consider your work. And, it meant that you could get insight into the other ways in which textual analysis could be carried out.
All in all, staying on top of your English Advanced study is about continuously engaging with your texts over the course of the year.
It’s a great idea to fully immerse yourself within a text before you begin to start considering analysing it.
Even something as simple as watching Youtube videos on the text or reading reviews while you make dinner or take the bus will prove helpful in the long haul.