Year 12 English Standard Study Guide

Need help acing English Standard for the HSC? Don't worry. In this Guide, we'll run you through the 4 Modules so you know how to analyse your texts the right way.

Beginners year 12 english standard guide mobile

All about the Year 12 English Standard Study Guide

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


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

Year 12 mirrors and builds upon what has come in Year 11. In Year 11, you took three modules:

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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 Standard Modules for the HSC. We will then explain the purpose of each Module and what to expect from assessments.



The 2019 Year 12 English Standard Modules

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

The different English Standard Modules focus on different aspects of texts and differing ways of analysing them. 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.

NESA states that:

  • A maximum of four assessment tasks
  • The minimum weighting for an individual task is 10%
  • The maximum weighting for an individual task is 40%
  • Only one task may be a formal written examination with a maximum weighting of 30%
  • Module C – The Craft of Writing must be assessed with a total weighting of 25%
  • One task must be a multimodal presentation enabling students to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills across a range of modes
  • Assessment of the Common Module must integrate student selected related material.

What does this mean for you?

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 brief look at what the Modules want you to do (we’ll do a deep dive in the following articles).


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.

Standard Module A: Language, Identity and Culture

Module A is concerned with analysing the relationship between culture and individual identity. You will study a longer prescribed text but also explore some shorter texts during the Module.

You will need to study your prescribed text and supplementary material and analyse how they represent the values and attitudes of a particular community or culture and the individuals within them.

The purpose of this module is to explore and discuss how texts represent a variety of cultures and identities as well as challenging the stereotypes that accompany them. A key part of this analysis is to unpack how texts represent the values attitudes of particular communities and groups with an eye towards depictions of gender or racial issues.

beginners guide to year 12 english standard mod a

What are the prescribed texts?

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:

Prose fiction

Poetry (p) or Drama (d)

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

  • Pung, Alice, Unpolished Gem (2006) (nf)
  • Perkins, Rachel, One Night the Moon (2001) (f)
  • Sitch, Rob, The Castle (1997) (f)
  • Merewether, Janet, Reindeer in my Saami Heart (2016) (m)


What do I need to analyse

You need to look at how the composers represent the experiences of culture in the text. Your main focus should be on the depiction of values and attitudes in the texts.

What are values and attitudes?

  • Values: The morals or beliefs that a particular group, society, or nation hold. these can include political, religious, cultural, economic, or philosophical beliefs (among others).
  • Attitudes: The perspectives that individuals hold towards a group’s values. Some individuals agree with their communities values while others challenge them.

You need to assess how the composer has represented the defining features of a culture or community’s values and the various attitudes towards them. You may, for example, explore how a group or culture is stereotyped and what the responses to this are.

If you would like a detailed breakdown of Module A, read our detailed Year 12 Module A: Language, Identity and Culture.


Module B: Close 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

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.

Close Study of Texts requires you to know the text in great detail.

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 Standard 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 “substantial text.”  These judgements can only be made with a detailed understanding of the text. You will look at how the composer of the text represents “people, ideas and situations” so you can understand how composers evoke responses from audiences. This a holistic study, you want to see how the form, use of techniques and devices, and medium of the text combine to develop meaning.

Your aim is to identify and discuss the “distinctive qualities” of the text.


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:

Poetry (p) or Drama (d):

  • Gray, Robert, Coast Road, (2014) (p)
    • ‘Journey, the North Coast’, ‘Flames and Dangling Wire’, ‘Harbour Dusk’, ‘Byron Bay: Winter’, ‘Description of a Walk’, ‘24 Poems’
  • Noonuccal, Oodgeroo NESA NSW Syllabus website (p)
    • ‘The Past’ ‘China…Woman’, ‘Reed Flute Cave’, ‘Entombed Warriors’, ‘Visit to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall’, ‘Sunrise on Huampu River’, ‘A Lake Within a Lake’
  • Rankin, Scott, Namatjira from Namatjira & Ngapartji Ngapartji – Two plays by Scott Rankin (2012) (d)
  • Shakespeare, William, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2014) (d)

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

  • Funder, Anna, Stasiland (2003) (nf)
  • Weir, Peter, The Truman Show (1998) (f)
  • Nasht, Simon, Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History (2004) (m)

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

beginners guide to year 12 english standard mod c


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:

  • Bradbury, Ray, ‘The Pedestrian
  • Carey, Peter, ‘Report on the Shadow Industry’
  • Cole, Catherine, ‘Home’
  • King, Stephen, ‘Crouch End’
  • Lucashenko, Melissa, ‘Dreamers’



Poetry or Performance Poetry (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, Standard English Module C: The Craft of Writing.


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