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English 11-12

HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts

In this post, we explain what you need to do to nail Module B: Critical Study of Texts.

The HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts is considered the most difficult module in the HSC Advanced English course. And with good reason. The expectations are high! In this post, we’ll break down the HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts syllabus terms so you can approach your critical study in a systematic fashion.

This module requires students to engage with and develop an informed personal understanding of their prescribed text.

What is HSC English Advanced Module B really about?

HSC English Module B: Critical Study of Texts requires you to read or watch your set text. There are no surprises here. This is essential and you should aim to re-read your set text a number of times over the course of your HSC year. In your Module B essay, you will need to show a deep, sophisticated understanding of your prescribed text – a much deeper understanding than what is required in the other modules. The more familiar you are with your text, the greater your chances of performing well in your assessments and the final exam.

To engage with a text is:

  • to think about the ideas that it explores
  • to speculate about what these ideas mean for you
  • to consider whether you think these ideas are still valid today.

This process is challenging. You might not like your text and so engaging with the ideas is frustrating. You might find the ideas overwhelming when you first encounter them and worry you don’t fully understand them.

Overcoming these challenges is important.

If you don’t find the ideas in the text compelling, reflect on this – why do you find the ideas in the text off-putting? This process of self-reflection means you are engaging with the text!

It is normal to find the ideas in your HSC English Advanced Module B text challenging

Advanced English is all about complex ideas and you’ll find that plenty of your fellow students are also working hard to figure out the ideas in the text. Talk with your friends, your teachers, and your family about your text. This is a process of engaging with the text and will help you gain more clarity on the ideas. Return to your text and read it again with the new insights you’ve picked up from others – you’ll start to see the ideas leaping off the page!

The process of reading and engaging with the text will allow you to develop your informed personal understanding. This will not be a quick process and nor should it be. You need time to consider the text for yourself, to share and argue about the text with others, to re-read the text and reconsider your ideas in order to deepen your own understanding. This is a process that will take the whole HSC year – the best essays that you write for HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts will happen late in the year when your understanding of the text is at its peak!


Textual Integrity

Studying HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts requires you to discuss ‘textual integrity.’ ‘Textual integrity’ is a term that scares many students, it is central to Module B, but it is not as bad as it sounds. The integrity of a text is essentially asking you to judge how well the themes and techniques of the text come together to form a unified whole. You will be familiar with the sense that the parts of a text you love, like a film or an album, ‘all fit together.’ In HSC English Advanced Module B, you’re being asked to assess the extent to which your prescribed text has this quality.

Consider the following statement from the Module Outline:

Through critical analysis and evaluation of its language, content and construction, students will develop an appreciation of the textual integrity of their prescribed text.

Critical analysis is where you consider how the composer of the text has developed their ideas. This is where:

  • you take examples from the text and explain how the composer has used specific techniques to suggest a certain interpretation;
  • you make a judgement on the way the composer’s choices in terms of language and structure have added depth to the ideas explored.

Questions you can ask yourself that help build your position on the textual integrity of your text are:

  • Is the characterisation complex and compelling?
  • Do the ideas evolve in a meaningful way across the whole text?
  • Has the composer used sophisticated techniques to complement the plot, the ideas, and the characters?

The syllabus interested not only in your appreciation of textual integrity, but also the questions you might raise about it.

Textual integrity is something that you will be able to most easily judge once you are familiar with your text and have engaged with the ideas it explores over the course of your HSC year. You’re not expected to have a perspective on the textual integrity of your text straight away – this understanding builds over time.

For an in-depth explanation, you must read our Essential Guide to Textual Integrity.

Critical Perspectives

As you move further into the HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts unit, you’ll need to refine your perspective and understanding by conducting research. Consider the following syllabus point:

They refine their own understanding and interpretations of the prescribed text and critically consider these in the light of the perspectives of others 

What have other scholars said about your text? Aim to find reputable sources – ask your teachers for pointers in the right direction – and consider the ideas that others have had about your text.

Test out the ideas of scholars by returning to your text –

  • Do their interpretations seem reasonable given your own understanding?
  • Do you disagree with points in their interpretations?

Add quotations from other scholars to your study notes. It can be useful to cite a scholar in your Module B essay whose perspective you find persuasive or even a scholar whom you disagree with!

Seeking out the perspectives of others will allow you to develop the depth of your own perspective.



Context has a significant effect on the production of texts and the reception. The ideas and values of a period will influence what a composer produces as they either support or challenge the attitudes and values of that time. Similarly, context will shape an audience’s critical reception of a text. Consider the following point from the HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts Outline:

Students explore how context influences their own and others’ responses to the text and how the text has been received and valued.

 How do you do this?

  • As you research the perspective of other scholars, note down when they published their ideas.
  • You’re interested in how the interpretation of your text has changed over time.

Central to HSC Advanced English Module B is your consideration of how these different interpretations are influenced by context and then considering how your own interpretation is influenced by your context.

What texts are studied for HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts?

    • William Shakespeare Hamlet
    • Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre
    • Gail Jones Sixty Lights
    • Michael Ondaajte In the Skin of a Lion
    • Tim Winton Cloudstreet
    • Anton Chekhov The Seagull (Translated by Stephen Mulrine)
    • Orson Welles Citizen Kane
    • The Poetry of TS Eliot
    • The Poetry of Christina Rossetti
    • The Poetry of WB Yeats



Too long, didn’t read?

  1. Your informed personal understanding of the text going into your assessment or final exam is a combination of everything you’ve learnt.
  2. Your close reading and engagement with text is the first step in building a solid knowledge basis for Module B and should not be rushed.
  3. As you read your text, discuss the ideas it raises with your friends, your teachers, and family – this expands your understanding and means you’re engaging with your text.
  4. Build your study notes by exploring the text in detail and asking how well the text achieves complex characterisation, the degree to which there is a compelling evolution of ideas across the text, and the ways in which the text is still relevant today.
  5. Expand your personal perspective by reading the scholarship of others on your text. How are their ideas influenced by their context? How are your ideas influenced by your context?

A systematic approach to Module B is the key to performing well.

Make it a priority to read the text – everything else depends upon this step.

Build study notes early and clarify your ideas as you go. Discuss your text with others and review your notes and re-read your text in order to feel confident. Your ideas about the text can only be generated by reading the text yourself. If you want a guide to this process, read our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English!

Now you have got an understanding of the Module, you should expand your knowledge further.


Written by June Heo

June launched the popular Matrix Blog in 2011. Before working at Matrix she was a news producer at Sky News and Channel 7.


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