The New Year 11 and Year 12 English Assessments

In this post, we explain the changes that are happening for English Advanced as Stage 6 students begin the New 2019-2023 curriculum.

Written by:
Matrix English Team
year 11 and year 12 english assessments

Essays are out, multimodal tasks and imaginative recreations are in! But what does this mean for you? The Year 11 English Assessments have undergone a significant revision with the new Stage 6 Syllabus for English.

The number of assessments has changed and the types of assessments you will undergo has changed, too. These changes have been made to prepare students for the new HSC for English which has similarly undergone a substantial overhaul.

In this post, we will go over the new assessment tasks for Years 11 and 12.

What’s new with Year 11 English Advanced assessments?

The 2018 Stage 6 English Syllabus has specified the number and type of assessments that students will face throughout the year. While similar prescriptions used to exist in Year 12 English they are new to Year 11. From 2018, Year 11 English students:

What does this mean for you? Well, there is good news – fewer assessments – and bad news – more challenging tasks!

These changes to Year 11 assessments reflect the broader changes to the HSC for English that you will face in Year 12. The new HSC for English is designed to test student knowledge of texts and concepts in a way that actively prohibits memorisation and rote learning.

From 2019, the HSC will use questions that prevent students memorising responses!

The format for the HSC from 2019 moves away from the traditional essay questions about texts and techniques and instead focuses on compelling students to demonstrate their critical thinking skills and knowledge of texts. Year 11 is now geared towards preparing you for these new challenges!

What does this mean? Let’s have a look!


Old assessments vs new assessments

To understand the nature of these changes, we need to see what is changing in terms of the HSC questions and then take a look at the new tasks for Year 11 and the Sample HSC Papers produced by NESA. But first, to get an idea of how dramatic some of the changes are let’s look at an old HSC English paper.


The old Stage 6 assessment types

Previously, essays were the common form of assessment. Students in Year 11 would usually do several essays, and then in Year 12, the vast majority of assessment tasks would be essays. These essay tasks were based on the kinds of questions students would encounter in the HSC.

Currently, HSC questions usually take the form of:

  • A statement about the module or text, and
  • An instruction of how to respond to the statement.

If we take a look at the 2017 Paper 1, we can see the essay question for section 3 is:

‘Whether motivated by need, wonder or curiosity, discovery has the power to be transformative.’

How accurately does this statement reflect the view of discovery explored in your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing?

This question presents a normal essay question with a statement – a definition of the nature of discovery – and the question that asks you to discuss “How accurately” the statement reflects your texts.

Similarly, in Paper 2 of the 2017 HSC, the essay question for Module B Virginia Woolf is:

Woolf’s essays experiment with the essay form to explore the tension between participation and resistance. That is their strength. That is their weakness.

To what extent does this align with your view of A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas?

In your response, you must make detailed reference to your prescribed texts.

As you can see, this question also takes the form of a statement and then an instruction of how to engage with that statement. The essays for both papers, while they may have varied in difficulty, shared this standardised form. Consequently, many students attempt to game the system by memorising generic essays and moulding them to the questions they face.

Memorisation is a bad strategy for exams that means that students don’t answer the questions correctly or meet the learning criteria. Matrix English Students are taught the study techniques, critical thinking skills, and essay writing skills to craft individual responses to a variety of questions.

It is usually very clear that a student has memorised a response because it doesn’t address the question or only makes fleeting reference to the terms of the question. But it still persists as a common student practice. To tackle this hit and miss approach by students, the HSC essay questions in the past have simply become increasingly harder to try and deter memorisation and generic responses.

However, with the new English Stage 6, the whole approach to assessment is changing significantly and HSC assessments will be very different to what has come before. The new assessment tasks will focus more on critical thinking and the sample papers for the new English HSC are a significant departure from previous papers.

Let’s start by looking at the new assessment types.


The new Stage 6 assessment types

There are two new types of mandatory assessment tasks. NESA has included a multimodal presentation as a task to be assessed in both Years 11 and 12. Students will also face an imaginative recreation in Year 11 for a unit and will potentially need to produce one in the HSC for Paper 2 as well. While these assessment tasks are not new, the fact that they are compulsory tasks is.

Let’s take a look at these assessment types and see what they can involve!


Multimodal Presentations

In both Year 11 and 12, students will need to undertake one multimodal presentation. A multimodal presentation is a presentation that combines a variety of different modes. When NESA refer to modes they mean ways of engaging with texts or producing texts.

NESA provides guidelines for Assessment and Reporting in Stage 6. In the guidelines the following statement is made about multimodal assessments:

“The multimodal presentation is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills across all of the modes. A multimodal presentation includes at least one mode other than reading and writing such as listening, speaking, viewing and representing.

No specific weightings have been allocated to the modes to allow flexibility in task design and to meet the needs and interests of students in a range of contexts.”

The modes assessed throughout Stage 6 are:

  • Reading – reading a text and analysing it;
  • Viewing – watching or looking at a text (possibly an image, film, or other visual text) and analysing it;
  • Listening – listening to a text (such as an audio file or podcast) and analysing it;
  • Writing – writing a response (this includes any kind of written response);
  • Representing – producing a visual element that depicts an idea or aspect of a text or narrative;
  • Speaking – delivering an oral presentation of some sort, either in person or recorded.

These modes can be broken into two categories as can be seen in the following table:

The Modes of Communication

A multimodal presentation requires you to produce a presentation that combines two or more of these modes. That means the presentation will include reading, writing, speaking and at least one other mode including representing.

Imaginative Recreations

The other assessment task that you will need to do in both Years 11 and 12 is an imaginative recreation. This is a task that you will have encountered previously and could take a variety of forms.

NESA provides the following information about imaginative recreation:

“Through imaginative re-creation students deepen their engagement with texts and investigate the role of written language in different modes and how elements for example tone, voice and image contribute to the way that meaning is made.”

An imaginative recreation is when you take your knowledge of a text and demonstrate it by recreating an idea from this text. This can be a recreation in a different form or a recreation in the same form but using a different perspective. This type of task is very open-ended. Some of the potential forms this might take are:

  • An image capturing an idea from the text;
  • A newspaper article about an aspect of the text;
  • A letter or letters written between the characters from the text;
  • A diary entry from the perspective of a character in the text;
  • Restaging a scene from the text;
  • Retelling an event from a different narrative perspective;
  • Using a different textual form to retell the narrative.

It is possible that you might have to combine an imaginative recreation and multimodal presentation. For example, you may have to make an image about the text and then present it to the class and justify your choices.

In addition to these new assessment tasks in Year 11 and 12, the HSC is getting a revamp. Let’s see what that will involve for students from 2019.


The new HSC Papers One and Two

NESA (The NSW Education Standards Authority) has released its sample HSC English papers for the 2019 HSC as part of its introduction of the new Stage 6 Syllabus. By looking at these, we can see what assessments you will face in the HSC from 2019. Let’s see what they’ve changed and what it means for you.

The NESA Sample Paper 1 only has two sections:

  • A reading and comprehension section similar to what exists currently for Area of Study: Discovery.
  • An essay question that is specific to either the text or text type.

NESA has given three sample questions to illustrate the diversity that will be found in Paper 1. The sample questions provided by NESA are:

Example A (20 Marks – Textual Form Specific)

“How has your understanding of the challenges of the human experience been shaped by the director’s use of mise-en-scène in your prescribed text?”

Example B (20 Marks – Text-Specific)

“Analyse how the representation of the natural environment shapes your understanding of family in Past the Shallows.”

Example C (20 Marks – Statement Stimulus)

” ‘Through the telling and receiving of stories, we become more aware of ourselves and our shared human experiences.’

Explore this statement with close reference to your prescribed text.”

These questions are largely the same as the current HSC, only these questions are more in line with the complexity of those currently found in Paper 2.

Paper 2 will be very different and move away from relying solely on essay questions. Some of the sample questions provided by NESA in their Sample Paper 2 are:blog-english-year-11-and-year-12-assessments-NESA-2019-HSC-Sample-Paper-2-Module-A-questions

Source: NESA

The first question above is similar to the 2017 Paper 2 questions. However, you can see that the second question is also very complex. It presents a philosophical statement that students would most likely not have encountered before:

“Never again will a single story be told as though it is the only one.”

The only way to answer this second question is by engaging with the unseen text in detail and relating to it in detail. To answer this question effectively, you would need to explain how the idea of a single story never being the same relates to a pair of texts where the more recent text is a retelling of the older one. This question requires critical thinking skills and a detailed knowledge of the text. You would not be able to memorise a response to this question.


Source: NESA

Similarly, the Module B questions are very specific and rely on an unseen quotation. These questions are designed to foil memorisation.

The first question makes a controversial statement about a major character in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1.

The second question has two components.

The first part presents a quotation from Jane Austen’s Emma that offers an observation about the nature of truth:

“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.”

This is introducing a specific idea – truth and lies – that is central to the text. It presents this argument from a perspective that suggests that some lies are mistakes and others are only a little bit deceptive and that deception is an inescapable trait of all humanity.

The second component is the instruction to discuss this theme, of lies and misunderstandings, as a narrative device. That is, how does Austen use this to drive the plot, develop characters, and convey meaning?

This type of question relies on critical thinking and is impossible to prepare for by memorising an essay. The only way to successfully answer such a question would be to have a thorough knowledge of the text and practice at producing essays to a variety of different questions.

Section III: Module C is a different sort of assessment altogether:


Source: NESA

The above questions combine critical analysis, textual understanding, and creative writing. These questions require you to respond dynamically to the question rather than relying on a prepared response. Preparing a pre-written response to this question would be close to impossible, and would likely not address the question asked and yield a poor mark as a result.

The second question is particularly interesting because it requires students to produce a reflection statement to discuss their imaginative recreation and use of themes and techniques.

If you are interested in learning about addressing questions like this that ask for an Imaginative Recreation, you should read Part 9 of our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English.

Clearly, the new English Stage 6 HSC questions will be difficult and require a thorough knowledge of the texts rather than relying on prepared responses.

Remember, tasks such as the above will be forms of assessment that you will face in both Year 11 and Year 12.


Are you ready for your Year 11 Multimodal Presentations?

Develop your writing and speaking skills for mulitmodal presentations. In this 5-day intensive course, you will:

  • Learn how to produce a speech
  • Create visual accompaniments
  • Develop presentation and speaking skills that will give you the confidence to nail your oral tasks.

Find out how Matrix can help you ace your assessments.

Written by Matrix English Team

The Matrix English Team are tutors and teachers with a passion for English and a dedication to seeing Matrix Students achieving their academic goals.

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