The Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English

To really reach your ATAR goals, you need to ace English Advanced. In this guide, we give you the step-by-step advice you need to get Band 6 results.

An Overview of the Beginner’s Guide To Acing Year 11 and 12 English

This Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English is designed to make the study of English practical and straightforward. We want to take the mystery and ambiguity out of Stage 6 English for you.

You can navigate through the different parts of this Guide using the panel on the left if you are on desktop, or the chapter drop-down at the top of your screen on mobile.

In this guide, we will show you how to approach the study of English for HSC success including:

  • How to understand the Modules;
  • Analyse and research texts;
  • Make effective notes; and then
  • Convert that to excellent written responses for
  • Essays, creatives, and other assessment tasks.

The journey from Year 11 through to Year 12 is called Stage 6 by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA, formerly BOSTES). Stage 6 is meant to be a steady transition from learning how to engage in an advanced study of texts in Year 11 through to a confident and more complex application of these skills in Year 12.

Many students feel that English is ambiguous or requires innate skills. This isn’t the case.

The study of English is as practical and straightforward as other subjects, like those from STEM subjects. You just need to be methodical in how you approach the subject. The most difficult part of studying English for Stage 6 is allocating enough time to the subject to study effectively and thoroughly.

Students need to be systematic in their approach to the subject if they want to succeed in Year 11 and then in Year 12 English. This means engaging with the subject in a step-by-step manner. This is why we’ve used step-by-step processes throughout this guide.

Students Currently in Year 12 will still find much of this guide very useful. In fact, the only part they should skip is Part 1: The Year 11 Modules.

The process we will guide you through can be visualised like this:


The Process for Studying English in Stage 6


Each Section of this guide focuses on an important aspect of Stage 6 and the process shown in the flowchart above:

  1. Part 1 introduces you to the Year 11 English Modules
  2. Part 2 guides you through how to read or view a text
  3. Part 3 gives you a step-by-step process for research
  4. Part 4 gives you an overview of writing practice essays
  5. Part 5 discusses editing practice and why you must proof your work
  6. Part 6 provides an overview of writing creatives
  7. Part 7 explains assessment notifications and assessment types
  8. Part 8 gives you advice on preparing for different types of assessments
  9. Part 9 introduces you to the Year 12 Modules
  10. Part 10 gives practical advice for preparing for short answer questions
  11. Part 11 gives you an over of the Year 12 Assessments and the HSC

A Brief Map of Stage 6 English

Before we get into the steps of the guide. It may help you to understand the structure of English in Years 11 and 12.

The 2018 English HSC

Current 2018 Year 12 HSC students will be on the following HSC Journey.


The 2018 HSC English Advanced Journey

The 2018/2019 New Stage 6

Those students currently in Year 11 or starting Year 11 after 2018 will take the following journey through Stage 6 from Year 11 to the HSC in Year 12:


The 2018 New HSC English Journey

Common Problems Faced by Year 11 and 12 Students

From teaching over thousands of students in the last 18 years, we have identified the common issues that Year 11 and Year 12 English students struggle with. Some of these issues stem from organisation skills, others from their approach to the subject.

Below is a list of these common issues, if you have a specific concern you need help with, click on the text below and that will take you to that specific part of the guide:



  • Students don’t draw on the resources available to them – Year 11 students must be proactive in their study. Students who don’t draw on the experience of their teachers, or peers, are wasting the opportunity to get insight into the subject. Developing these skills and habits in Year 11 is an important way to prepare for Year 12.
  • Students don’t understand how to identify themes in a text – The study of texts is the study of other people’s ideas. We often refer to these ideas as themes. Many students are unsure of what constitutes a theme or how to write about it.
  • Students don’t understand the Modules for Year 11 or Year 12 – Year 11 is structured as a series of Modules. These modules instruct teachers and students how to approach their texts. Not knowing what the modules require means that students can’t address them adequately.
  • Students don’t pay attention to their assessment notifications – Notifications give students clear guidelines about how to complete tasks and what they need to focus on. When students don’t pay attention to their notifications they can’t properly address the criteria.
  • Students don’t take the time to learn about the different types of tasks – Each task type for English requires different things from students. A speech has different conventions to an essay, a vive voce is different again. By not understanding the nature of the task, students cannot properly respond to the task.


  • Students don’t proof or edit their work – Proofing is a very important aspect of English. Students need to write clearly and concisely. An important part of producing work like this is editing and proofing their work. Far too many students don’t do this and needlessly throw away marks as a consequence.
  • Students don’t seek out criticism or take it poorly – Criticism is an important part of writing. Receiving criticism allows us to improve our writing and develop our ideas. Students who don’t seek out criticism, or take it personally rather than constructively, lose an important opportunity to develop their skills.
  • Students don’t learn from past failures – Students often get a poor result and toss the paper in the bin. This is a wasted opportunity to learn from mistakes and improve their marks!

This guide is meant to be practical. To that end, it follows the journey of Stage 6 English through to the HSC Exam. Wherever possible we have provided detailed examples and step-by-guides that utilise the experience that we have developed over the past 18 years in helping thousands of students realise their academic goals.

What Next?

Next, in part 1 we’ll give you insights into how Matrix students are taught to analyse their texts for Year 11 and 12.

However, if you are in Year 12 you will want to jump through to Part 2: Reading and Analysing Texts.

Want to learn more about acing English?

© Matrix Education and, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content


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