Year 12 English Advanced Study Guide

New to Year 12? Unsure of the Modules? In this Guide, we give you in-depth explanations and advice for tackling the Year 12 English Advanced Modules.

All about the Year 12 English Advanced Study Guide

In this Year 12 English Advanced Study Guide, we’ll give you an overview of the Year 12 Modules and then break them down in detail.

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Do I really need to know about the Year 12 Modules?

Year 12 mirrors and builds upon what has come in Year 11. In Year 11, you took three modules – Common Module: Reading to Write, Module A: Narratives that Shaped Our World, Module B: Critical Study of Literature.

In Year 12, you will take four Modules. In this part of the Guide, we’ll give you an overview of the 2019 Year 12 English Modules for the HSC. We will then explain the purpose of each Module and what to expect from assessments.



The 2019 Year 12 English Modules

There are four English Advanced Modules set for Study in Year 12. They are:

The different Modules focus on different aspects of texts. Each Module requires students to study one or more prescribed texts. For some Modules, students will need to choose their own supplementary material as well.

In the HSC Year, students will only be set four in-school assessment tasks including the HSC Trial exams. This means that only three of these Modules will have an in-school assessment that is not a formal exam.

You can only be set one written formal assessment. This means that your only formal in-school exam will be the HSC Trial exam. Your other assessments need to take other forms, including a compulsory multimodal task. This doesn’t mean you will escape essay tasks or written exams, it just means that if they are set, they won’t be formal assessments contributing to your Year 12 marks.

This structure is intended to alleviate some of your stress as there will be fewer assessments. This will also afford schools flexibility in how they set tasks and organise their assessment schedules as some Modules can be combined. For example, Module C can be assessed alongside other Modules in assessment tasks.

Let’s take a closer look at what the Modules want you to do.


Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences

Year 12 students will study the Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences. It is a mandatory unit for English Advanced, English Standard, and EAL/D and optional for English Studies and English Life Skills.

All students must study the Common Module in Term 1

Students will face one assessment in Term 1. For both the HSC Trial exam and the HSC, students will sit Paper One for the Common Module.



What is the Common Module: Texts and Human Experience about?

The Common Module requires students to explore how texts are used to represent and convey the variety of “human experience” to audiences. Human experience is a very broad concept, it encompasses the whole range of common emotions and experiences of living and participating in this with other humans.

Students need to consider how composers go about representing ideas. They need to consider what techniques and structures are employed to convey ideas to audiences and how effective these are. Students will then need to employ these methods themselves to convey their own human experiences to others.

To complete this Module, students need to get to grips with the idea of “human qualities”.

Unpacking “human qualities” is the same as exploring what makes us human. It is a very broad and complex question, one that has been explored by philosophers since time immemorial. This is both good and bad for you.

On the positive side, it means that you do not have to adopt a prescribed view of what it means to be human and what universal human experience is.

But on the negative side, you have to engage with a vague and complex question that has been the subject of millennia of speculation.

The kinds of human qualities you may wish to explore could include:

  • The soul
  • Emotions
  • Rational Thought
  • Language Use
  • Love
  • Loss
  • Morality
  • Community

The list above is far from exhaustive and is merely provided to get you contemplating the things that could be argued to be unique to human existence and experience.

You will need to study your core text and explore how the ideas represented in it are shared by humans and are, perhaps, reflected in your own lived experience.


What texts will I need to study?

Students will need to read one prescribed text and also explore one related text of their own choosing. You will need to thoroughly study your prescribed text and then engage with a text that you feel shares similar themes or ideas to the prescribed text.

You will need to study texts from different mediums. For example, you will not be able to study two novels. Instead, you’ll need to study a film and a novel.

The prescribed texts set for the Common Module are:

Prose Fiction:

Poetry (p) or drama (d)/Shakespearean drama (S):

Nonfiction (nf), film (f) or media (m):

  • Winton, Tim, The Boy Behind the Curtain, Penguin, 2017 (nf)
    • ‘Havoc: A Life in Accidents’, ‘Betsy’, ‘Twice on Sundays’, ‘The Wait and the Flow’, ‘In the
      Shadow of the Hospital’, ‘The Demon Shark’, ‘Barefoot in the Temple of Art’
  • Yousafzai, Malala & Lamb, Christina, I am Malala, Weidenfeld and Nicolson/Orion, 2015, (nf)
  • Daldry, Stephen, Billy Elliot, Universal, 2000 (f)
  • O’Mahoney, Ivan, Go Back to Where You Came From – Series 1, Episodes 1, 2 and 3
    and The Response, Madman, 2011 (m)
  • Walker, Lucy, Waste Land, Hopscotch Entertainment, 2010 (m)


How will the Common Module be assessed?

The Common Module will be assessed three times throughout the year. You will likely undertake an assessment during Term 1 for this Module. However, the cap on assessment tasks means it is possible this Module may not be assessed until the HS Trial exam. This assessment could, theoretically, take any form – creative, short answers, presentation, essay, etc. However, because of the limits on formal written assessments, it is likely that it will be a creative task or oral task.

The sample Common Module assessment provided by NESA is a combination of two tasks. Students must write a creative piece and the produce a multimodal presentation that discusses their choices.

For the Trial HSC and the HSC, students will sit Paper One for the Common Module.


What will Paper One include?

Paper One will include two sections and be 1 hour and 30 minutes long. Each section will be worth 20 marks.

Section One will present students with several unseen texts, either prose, poetry, or images. You will need to read and then analyse these texts before answering a series of questions. These questions will be worth between 2 and 7 marks each.

Section Two will be an essay question on your prescribed text. The question might include a stimulus or an unseen text that you will need to engage with, too. For your Trial HSC you might be asked to discuss your related text in addition to your prescribed text. In the HSC, you will only need to respond to the question using your prescribed text. If you are provided with an unseen text, you will need to include references to it in your response.

NESA has provided a Sample Paper One so that students and teachers can familiarise themselves with it before the HSC Trials and HSC.

If you would like a more detailed breakdown of the Common Module, read our detailed Guide: 2019 Year 12 Common Module: Texts and Human Experience.



Module A: Textual Conversations

Module A is a comparative study of texts and their contexts. Students will study two texts from different periods that have a direct connection between them.

You will need to closely study these two texts and consider how they have differences but also commonalities. You will need to consider whether these are reflections of the different periods they were composed in or whether they reflect the different objectives of their composers.

The more recent text in each pair will be a reimagining of the older text.


What are the prescribed text pairings and how are they connected?

To get a better sense of what this Module will involve, let’s take a look at the text pairings that have been set for study:

Shakespearean drama (S) and film (f)

Shakespearean drama (S) and prose fiction (pf)

  • Shakespeare, William, The Tempest, Cambridge University Press, 2014 (S) – Shakespeare’s final fantastic play about a magician and his daughter stranded on a desert island.
  • Atwood, Margaret, Hag-Seed, Hogarth/Penguin Random House, 2016 (pf) – Atwood explores the themes and inequalities from Shakespeare’s original text in this intertextual novel about a staging of The Tempest.

Prose fiction (pf) and film (f)

  • Woolf, Virginia, Mrs Dalloway, Penguin Classics, 2000 (pf) – Woolf’s classic modernist novel explores a day in the life of High Society Woman, Clarissa Dalloway.
  • Daldry, Stephen, The Hours, Roadshow, 2002 (f) – Daldry’s film explores the ideas from Woolf’s novel through three characters. Woolf as she writes it, Clarissa as she lives a similar experience, and Laura as she reads the novel.

Prose fiction (pf) and prose fiction (pf)

  • Camus, Albert, The Stranger (translated by Matthew Ward), Vintage International, 1989 (pf) – Camus philosophical text explores what motivates us to act as we do and the conflict between humanity’s search for meaning in life and our struggle to find any.
  • Daoud, Kamel, The Meursault Investigation, Oneworld Publications, 2015 (pf) – A post-colonial retelling of Camus’ novel. It explores Mersault’s murder of the unamed Arab from the point of view of his brother.

Poetry (p) and drama (d)

  • Donne, John, John Donne: A Selection of His Poetry, Penguin Poetry Library, 1986 (p) – A selection of Donne’s metaphysical poems that explore his early loves with his later fear of mortality.
    • ‘The Sunne Rising’, ‘The Apparition’, ‘A Valediction: forbidding mourning’
      ‘This is my playes last scene’, ‘At the round earths imagin’d corners’, ‘If poysonous
      mineralls’, ‘Death be not proud’, ‘Hymne to God my God, in my sicknesse’
  • Edson, Margaret, W;t, Nick Hern Books, 2000 (d) – Edson’s play tells the story of Vivian Bearing who is dying of ovarian cancer. She contemplates her life through an exploration of Donne’s metaphysical poems.

Poetry (p) and film (f)

  • Keats, John, The Complete Poems, Penguin Classics, 1988 (p) – Keats’ poems, written after his diagnosis of tuberculosis, offer a renewed perspective on life and love.
    • ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, ‘To Autumn’, ‘Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art’
      ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, ‘When I have fears that I may cease to
      be’, ‘The Eve of St Agnes, XXIII’
  • Campion, Jane, Bright Star, Roadshow, 2009 (f) – Campion’s film explores his relationship with Fanny Brawne, from Brawne’s perspective, and the effect it had on his work.

Poetry (p) and poetry (p)

  • Plath, Sylvia, Ariel, Faber and Faber, 2001 (p) – Plath’s confessional poems reflect her own life, anxieties, and troubled relationship with Ted Hughes.
    • ‘Daddy’, ‘Nick and the Candlestick’, ‘A Birthday Present’, ‘Lady Lazarus’, ‘Fever
      103°’,‘The Arrival of the Bee Box’
  • Hughes, Ted, Birthday Letters, Faber and Faber, 1999 (p) – Hughes’ poems are a response to Plath’s earlier works after her suicide in 1963.
    • ‘Fulbright Scholars’, ‘The Shot’, ‘A Picture of Otto’, ‘Fever’, ‘Red’, ‘The Bee God’

You will have noticed that each of these pairings possess an intertextual connection. That is to say, that the more recent text is commenting and overtly interacting with the older text.

Some of these texts are retellings or adaptions of the earlier work. Some of them incorporate the earlier work in their new narrative. All of them take the themes and concerns of the earlier text and explore them from a different perspective. NESA argues that this relationship is like a conversation where the newer text is in dialogue, albeit a one-sided one, with the older text.


What do I need to analyse between these two texts?

In your study of this Module, you will need to explore the influence that context has had on each text.

Remember, context refers to the period and circumstances surrounding the text’s production. Context can include:

  • The historical events of the period when the text was written
  • The personal circumstances and/ or biographical details of the composer
  • The place where a composer lived
  • The beliefs or culture of the composer

You will need to think about how composers reflect the period they were living in and their own experiences in their texts. Composers usually explore these ideas through their use of structure, techniques, and content. The more recent texts in this Module, also develop meaning by how they engage with, retell, and comment upon the older texts that they are paired with.

In your study of these pairs, you will need to analyse and discuss how the more recent text comments on the older text and explore the similarities and differences that exist between these two texts.


How will I be assessed on this Module?

You will undertake one assessment during the term when you study this Module. Due to the limit on the number of assessments that you can be set throughout the year, it is possible that Module A might not be assessed until the HSC Trials.

In addition to a potential school assessment, you will have a comparative essay question on Module A in your Trial HSC and HSC paper Two. The comparative essay question will require you to explore how the two texts are connected and how reading them together contributes to your understanding of them both.

If you would like a detailed breakdown of Module A, read our detailed Guide The New Year 12 Module A: Textual Conversations.


Module B: Critical Study of Literature

Module B is a close study of a single prescribed text or group of texts such as a set of poems or series of speeches. Close study means that you undertake a detailed and thorough reading of the text and consider it in relation to context, the composer’s biographical details, the lasting appeal of the text, and whether or not it can be said to have “textual integrity.” Many students find Module B to be the most challenging of the Modules because of the complexity of the texts and the depth of study required.

Critical Study of Texts requires you to know the text intimately. The HSC questions are always specific to a theme from the text and these are not always the predominant theme. Memorising essays for Module B will leave you unprepared for the HSC question you will be presented with. This is why Matrix English Advanced students learn how to make thorough notes for Module B and write essays that respond to the requirements of theme-specific questions. The rubric for Module B can be found here on the NESA website.

Module B requires students to make value judgements about the text that they are studying. You will need to assess whether you feel it is worthy of study and deserves its label as a “significant text.” You will also need to decide whether the text demonstrates “textual integrity.” These judgements can only be made with a detailed understanding of the text, its context, and its reception over the period of time since its publication.


What’s textual integrity?

One of the challenging aspects of Module B is understanding Textual Integrity. Textual Integrity is a broad concept and one that many students struggle to fully understand.

NESA describes textual integrity as “The unity of a text; its coherent use of form and language to produce an integrated whole in terms of meaning and value.”

This means that a text consistently presents meaning through its thematic content and its structural composition.

For example, Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 is a text concerned with the tension between order and disorder. The first words of the play uttered by King Henry IV make this clear, “So shaken as we are, so wan with care.” The King, a figure of absolute power, is concerned with his grip on power and the stability of his kingdom. There is tension between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. In addition, the heir to the Throne, Prince Hal, is consorting with a corrupt and drunken figure – Sir John Falstaff. At various points throughout the text order, both social and governmental breaks down. This reflects the sense that many felt that Henry IV had ruptured the divine order of throne and tossed England into turmoil by deposing Richard II.

This turmoil is present in his own family. Hal is wayward and decidedly not Kingly at the start of the play – he is the disordered Prince and the play is the journey of his maturation. This idea is foreshadowed by Prince Hal in Act 1 where he makes clear his plan for besting Hotspur and taking the throne:

So, when this loose behaviour I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.

Henry makes it clear that all of his actions to follow are planned to plume up his reputation and make it sparkle next to Hotspur’s. However, in the interim, he is happy to maintain the illusion of his debauched behaviour.  It is only when he has acquired the common touch and understood how to relate to the common people that he is ready to take on the mantle of leadership.

It seems initially that Hal is going to play, that is, to perform, at being a king, rather than actually being kingly. But As such, this text becomes a consistent meditation on the qualities of leadership and what makes a good ruler. Henry IV gives us many examples of leadership – Henry IV, the drunken raconteur Falstaff, Hotspur, and the wayward Prince Hal. Rather than telling us which figure best represents the ideal king, Shakespeare lets the audience come to learn that Hal possesses the real ability to be a king.

By focusing on the nature of leadership and how leadership is crucial to national order or disorder, even embedding it in the comedic sub-plot of Hal and Falstaff, Shakespeare creates a unity of form and meaning in the text.

If you need a more detailed explanation of textual integrity, read our post: The Essential Guide to Textual Integrity.


What is “critical reception”?

Critical reception refers to the lasting value and appeal of the text. You need to assess whether the text you are studying is significant and merits, what is known as, “canonical status.” The list of texts that are considered to possess literary significance is known as the canon. Not all texts are considered significant and the significance of a text can vary depending on its context.

For example, the poetry of John Donne fell out of critical and popular favour during the Regency. The Modernist poet TS Eliot wrote at length on Donne’s work, and that of his contemporaries, and saw Donne return to critical favour almost 300 years after his death. From this, we can see that critical reception is not something that is fixed, but is rather something that changes according to a society’s values and attitudes. You need to assess whether the text you have been set for study is still relevant to your context.

You can read more about this in our blog post: Understanding Module B: Critical Reception, Context, and Significance.

If you would like a detailed breakdown of Module B, read our Guide: The New Year 12 Module B: Critical Study of Literature.


How will this Module be assessed?

As there is a limit on how many school assessments you can be set during the HSC year, there is a chance that you may not have a formal assessment until the HSC Trial exams. However, if your school does set an assessment for Module B it is possibly going to be a critical essay or some sort of presentation. The NESA sample materials suggest an essay or a multi-modal presentation, though schools are under no obligation to follow these assessment guidelines and you could be set an imaginative recreation.

For the HSC Trial Exam and the HSC, you will be set an essay question. These questions will be very specific to the text you have studied. It is likely that you will be asked to respond to a quotation from the text or another source and discuss how it is reflected in your text. Module B questions are often very specific to the themes and techniques present in the prescribed text.


What are the texts set for study?

Students will be set one of the following texts for study:

Prose fiction:

  • Austen, Jane, Emma, Penguin Classics, 2015
  • Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations, Penguin Classics, 2003
  • Ishiguro, Kazuo, An Artist of the Floating World, Faber and Faber, 2013

Poetry (p) or Drama (d):

  • Eliot, TS, TS Eliot: Selected Poems, Faber and Faber, 2002 (p)
    ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, ‘Preludes’, ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’, ‘The
    Hollow Men’, ‘Journey of the Magi’
  • Malouf, David, Earth Hour, University of Queensland Press, 2014 (p)
    ‘Aquarius’, ‘Radiance’, ‘Ladybird’, ‘A Recollection of Starlings: Rome ’84’, ‘Eternal
    Moment at Poggia Madonna’, ‘Towards Midnight’, ‘Earth Hour’ ‘Aquarius II’
  • Ibsen, Henrik, A Doll’s House, Nick Hern Books, 1994 (d)
  • Thomas, Dylan, Under Milk Wood, Phoenix, 2014 (d)

Non-Fiction (nf), Film (f), or Media (m):

  • de Waal, Edmund, The Hare with Amber Eyes, Vintage, 2011 (nf)
  • Nabokov, Vladimir, Speak, Memory, Penguin Classics, 2000 (nf)
  • Clooney, George, Good Night, and Good Luck, Icon, 2005 (f)
  • Armstrong, Gillian, Unfolding Florence, Icon, 2006 (m)

Shakespearean Drama:


If you would like to learn more about Module B, read our detailed Guide: HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts.


Module C: The Craft of Writing

Module C is not an independent unit but is rather a unit that will be taught and assessed throughout the year. Module C is focused on the process of writing. It is designed to make you a better writer by analysing and imitating other composers to make you a better writer.


What’s this Module about?

Unlike the other 3 Modules, this Module is less focused on the content of texts and instead with the construction of the texts. Students study a variety of short and medium-length texts and deconstruct how composers have developed and represented their ideas for audiences.

As the title of the Module suggests, this unit treats writing as a craft rather an art form. This is a very important distinction as it reflects the democratic notion that anybody and everybody has it in them to become an effective writer and written communicator. Writing in, this view, is something that is learnt through patient practise and dedication and is not an inherent skill.

This Module explores both fiction and non-fiction writing for the purpose of guiding students through the processes of planning, writing, and editing their essays and creative pieces. NESA argues that this is a recursive process, that is, the acts of drafting, writing, editing are circular – when we write we should be in a constant cycle of drafting, editing, and revising as we perfect our pieces.


What will I do in this Module?

In this Module, you will study two set texts chosen from a list of potential texts and couple them with your “own wide reading.”

The set texts must be chosen from the following list of prescriptions:

Prose Fiction:

  • Chopin, Kate, The Awakening
  • Harrower, Elizabeth, ‘The Fun of the Fair’
  • Kafka, Franz, Metamorphosis
  • Le, Nam, ‘Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice’
  • McCann, Colum, ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking’
  • McCann, Colum, ‘What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?’
  • Mistry, Rohinton, ‘The Ghost of Firozsha Baag’


  • Garner, Helen, ‘How to Marry Your Daughters’
  • Hustvedt, Siri, ‘Eight Days in a Corset’
  • Orwell, George, ‘Politics and the English Language’
  • Smith, Zadie, ‘That Crafty Feeling’


  • Atwood, Margaret, ‘Spotty-Handed Villainesses’
  • Brooks, Geraldine, ‘A Home in Fiction’
  • Pearson, Noel, ‘Eulogy for Gough Whitlam’

Poetry or Performance Poetry (PP):

  • Boey, Kim Cheng, ‘Stamp Collecting’ (p)
  • Harwood, Gwen, ‘Father and Child’ (p)
  • Stevens, Wallace, ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ (p)
  • Tennyson, Alfred Lord, ‘The Lady of Shallot’ (p)
  • Tempest, Kate, ‘Picture a Vacuum’ (pp)

You will need to read and analyse your chosen texts. What you need to do is deconstruct how these texts have been put together. You must explore what techniques the composer has used to convey meaning. You need to evaluate how writers have structured their texts. The point is not to offer a critical appraisal of the texts, but to use this process as the building blocks for your own writing process where you apply the lessons you have learned from studying the works of others.

The purpose of this is to make you a more effective writer. There is also the added benefit of you becoming accustomed to a recursive writing practice where you consistently reflect upon your own writing practice, learn from it, and produce more refined written pieces.


How will this Module be assessed?

The Craft of Writing might not have a formal assessment task until the HSC Trial exams. In addition, Module C can be assessed as part of an assessment for other Modules. For example, if a student has to produce a creative text for one assessment and a speech and reflection statement for another, the school can choose to allocate a portion of those marks towards Module C. Alternatively, you may be asked to produce a piece of critical or creative writing specifically for Module C.

In the HSC Trial exams and the HSC, you might face a range of different tasks. You may be asked to write a creative piece/ More challengingly, you may have a question where you are asked to write a short creative piece and then a reflective essay that explains why you made the creative choices that you have and connect these choices to influences from other texts. This is a challenging task and one that is impossible to prepare for directly.

Sample Module C HSC questions can be found in the Sample Paper 2 material provided by NESA.

If you would like a detailed discussion of Module C, read our Guide, The New 2109 Module C: The Craft of Writing.

If you would like to learn more about the different assessments types being adopted for the HSC, read our blog post The New Year 11 and 12 English Assessments.

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