A guide to acing Year 12 English Advanced

This article discusses the essential strategies for excelling with a band 6 in Year 12 English Advanced HSC. Detailing the English HSC syllabus and modules!

7 months ago   •   6 min read

By KIS Academics

Doing well in Year 12 English seeming like a daunting and hopeless feat? Don't worry, we've all been there.

Let me walk you through exactly what Year 12 English is all about and more importantly, how you can easily SMASH A BAND 6 in this mystical and elusive subject.

Year 12 English Advanced is composed of four modules: Common Module, Mod A, Mod B and Mod C, each of which demands you to write about different concepts and in various structures. This subject is assessed through internal assessments, then in two papers during the HSC (yes unfortunately the English HSC is two exams over two days):

  • Paper 1 (90 minutes + 10 minutes reading time): Common Module
  • Paper 2 (120 minutes + 5 minutes reading time): Modules A, B and C

What to expect?

The Common Module  - Texts and Human Experiences

The very first topic is the ‘Common Module’, otherwise known as ‘Texts and Human Experiences’. The rubric for this feels frustratingly vague. To make it easier for you, here’s a quick rundown of the main concepts!

  • Human experiences: Any experiences involved in being human! (human connection, our desire for community, self-expression, our response to hardship, our survival instinct)
  • Human qualities: Things that make us human and thus shape our human experiences (emotions, love, empathy, self-expression, rational thought, community.)
  • Behaviours and motivations: Consider how our motivations influence our behaviours, and then what influences our motivations.
  • Individual vs collective experiences: The duality and tension between having unique individual experiences, and having common collective experiences (think about our desires to conform and belong but also our need to be a unique individual).
  • Anomalies, paradoxes, inconsistencies: This dives into the complexities of being human, we aren't all black and white. Most of the time behaviours and motivations don't quite make sense and they seem contradictory and misaligned with expectations, (The example above was a good one, how can we simultaneously want conformity and individuality at the same time?)

This module, as you've heard, is all about the human experience. But what does that actually mean? Well, from reading texts you are supposed to not only understand the plot but go deeper and understand what the composer is trying to say about humanity. The key takeaway from this module is that society and human behaviour are reflected in literature and it is in reading literature that we get a better understanding of how humans behave and interact with the world.

For the HSC you will be required to answer a series of unseen short responses and a 45-minute essay on your prescribed text.

  • Start practising unseen short-response questions early on in the year. It will quickly become second nature and you won't have to worry about learning it in the midst of exam cram chaos. It also sharpens your annotating and analysing skills which will help you in later modules. Do as many old HSC and trial papers as you can find and most importantly make sure you get feedback on your work to ensure you are improving every time!!
  • For the essay portion, it's good to start planning essays early. Rather than taking notes like you would in chemistry or business studies, create a quote table throughout the term and turn them into essay plans. This will put you miles ahead come final exams.
My fool-proof common mod essay planner. Fill it out for at least THREE ideas (these will form the base work for your body paragraphs).

Module A - Textual Conversations

Module A or ‘Textual Conversations’ is a comparative module where you study two intertextually connected prescribed texts, with the later text in some way influenced by the earlier. The aim is to understand how they align or collide upon common issues, values and perspectives. Why and how? Why did the later composers make the choices they did when they decided to mirror or reimagine certain aspects of the earlier text? Your essay should have a heavy focus on context and form and how they influence meaning in a text!

Likewise to common mod, you want to be compiling your quotes and ideas as you study the text throughout the term. This is a good template to fill out if you are unsure of how to structure your ideas and later on this will provide the perfect ground-work for you to construct your essays. Ensure a really good understanding of context and it influenced changes in the texts.

Module B - Critical Study of Literature

Module B deals with the ‘Critical Study of Literature’, which is simultaneously the most and the least straightforward module. This module requires you to explore your personal perspective on a prescribed text, as well as evaluate the opinions of others. (Quick tip: personal perspective does not mean you need to write ‘Yes I like this text. Fun read’, but rather that you are able to make insightful and unique points of analysis still in third person.) Module B also requires reading critical reviews to develop a deep and nuanced understanding of your texts and then supporting or countering these views in your own essay.

The main aim of your essay is to argue why the text has textual integrity, which we can define as these two aspects:

  1. How do all the different elements of the text come together to create a cohesive work/collection of work that has unity in its concepts?
  2. What makes the text significant? Why does it still have value? What sort of universal message does the composer communicate that makes the text timeless?

Module C - The craft of writing

Module C or ‘The Craft of Writing’ is exactly what it sounds like. We focus on the construction of texts, first by studying how composers represent their ideas in an extensive list of prescribed texts, and then through composing our own pieces of writing.

There are three main skills that you’re expected to develop in this Module:

  • Analysing texts and understanding how composers use various language techniques to communicate their ideas
  • Composing a short piece of writing. There are three main forms of writing that you’re expecting to be familiar with: the narrative, the persuasive and the discursive.
  • Being able to reflect on your writing process in a reflective paragraph. In this paragraph you should be able to discuss the main idea in your writing, the relevant language techniques you utilised to represent your idea, and how you drew inspiration from 2+ prescribed texts.

How do you prepare for the craft of writing? In my opinion, this one is the hardest to study for. I mean how is one supposed to study creative writing? Well, there is only one way and some of you might not like the answer - READING!! Unless you read a wide variety of stories (ideally short stories because that is what will be asked of you in the HSC) you won't be able to write well. You need to find inspiration, discover and employ unique stylistic techniques and understand the elements that go into making a good story. Otherwise, your work will sound vague, generic and cliche. My best advice is to find yourself an author whose writing style you really like and mimic it in your own work.

Some  recommendations are;

  • Samsa in Love by Murakami
  • The Second Bakery Attack by Murakami
  • There will come soft rains by Ray Bradbury
  • Hills like white elephants by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Lottery by Shirely Jackson

Want more personalised tips to drastically improve your English mark? A private tutor can make the biggest difference!

Written by KIS Academics Tutor for NSW English, Angela Wang. Angela is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine at UNSW and loves helping students reach their academic goals! You can view Angela’s profile here and request her as a tutor.

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