How to write full mark answers for HSC English short response (with examples!!)

This article is focused on crafting top-scoring HSC English short responses! Learn key strategies and explore 2022 HSC English paper 1 solutions to ace your exams.

7 months ago   •   6 min read

By KIS Academics

Need to master the art of unseen short-response questions? If that’s you, you're in the right place.

Let me walk you through a step by step process on how to write full-mark responses for 2022’s HSC English paper 1 short response section.

Before we kick things off let us quickly remind ourselves of how we should structure our answers.

  • Start with a topic sentence (a mini thesis if you will) essentially summarizing our argument/answer to the question in one sentence. Make sure you DO NOT REPEAT the question but utilize its KEY words.
  • Now the evidence. The general rule is number of evidence = number of marks - 1. This isn’t set in stone but it is a good guideline if aren't sure how much to write.
  • Lastly, finish it off with a strong concluding sentence. Prove to the marker you really answered the question and you know exactly what you’re talking about (If you went off track from what the question was asking, this is the place to redeem yourself).

Okay, now let's get into the paper.

Question 1 (3 marks)

Text 1 Poem

In what ways does Azzam celebrate togetherness?

Before I read the actual text I like to quickly annotate the question first to see what themes and techniques I should be looking out for. In this case, we have “celebrate” and “togetherness”. As I read the text, I think about HOW Azzam is portraying togetherness and WHY he is portraying it the way he is. Notice the abundance of alliteration and gustatory imagery he uses to draw us into his warm and lively experience. I’m getting hungry from just reading it.

Azzam’s poem captivates readers with his sensory illustrations (how) to celebrate the wonderful togetherness that culture can provide (why). The personification of his gustatory imagery in “Tango on the Tongue” conveys how the warm embrace of food makes it come alive, “stepping, stomping, swaying.” His use of alliteration brings rhythm to his words and mimics the festive celebration of a “global salute,” the metaphor expressing the united sense food provides.

Many students just state the technique and forget to actually explain why the composer used it. The personification conveys, the alliteration brings rhythm, the metaphor expresses. Always ensure your technique is combined with a doing verb.

Question 4 (3 marks)

Text 4 — Memoir extract

Analyze how Saramago conveys the value of memory in this extract?

The key theme to focus on here is the value of memory. As you read the text you are looking to answer the following questions:

  • What is the value of memory being conveyed (why does the composer think memory is valuable)?
  • And how is the composer conveying his idea about memory (what stylistic features is he using)?

Well, the extract talks about how his house is gone but lives on in his mind. We can interpret this in a few different ways, like:

  • The composer sees memory as a way for individuals to revisit the past and find comfort in nostalgia.
  • The composer sees memory as the vessel in which past experiences are used to construct present identity.
  • The composer sees memory as the way in which our minds make transient experiences permanent.

Note how there are so many different takeaways and there is no right or wrong answer. It’s your job to find your interpretation and explain with evidence why you think that’s what the composer is trying to say (in a formal third-person way obviously).

A good way to practice unseen response is trying to find multiple interpretations of a text to really challenge your ability to think on the spot and draw meanings out of texts kind of like what I just did with my three different dot points. ‌‌Now I will pick my favourite to analyse for you.

Saramago reflects on his childhood to establish memory as a valuable vessel used to revisit the past and enhance experiences through nostalgia. (Don't just say ‘Saramago conveys the value of memory’ but how and precisely what this its value was. Basically to add more detail to what’s already  in the question.) Though his childhood home has literally “disappeared beneath a mound of rubble,” it figuratively continues to live inside his mind with his ability to “rebuild its white walls.” (More sophisticated answers can seamlessly integrate evidence into their response. This makes the analysis sound less robotic and repetitive.) The motif of construction elucidates memories' restorative powers and the way it allows physically lost things to permeate into the present. Finally, the reflective and intimate tone in the narrator’s emotive statement “long ceased to cause me any suffering” highlights the comforting presence of nostalgic memories. Hence Saramago conveys how memories valuably allow individuals to revisit comforting moments of the past to relieve present experiences. (Here I just restate my topic sentence and summarise the main ideas of my analysis).

When looking for quotes, find ones that build off each other. Many student responses I’ve seen use quotes that do similar things and use up words without actually strengthening the argument. Find a logical structure to the evidence you are putting forward.

Question 5 (6 marks)

Text 5 — Nonfiction extract and Text 6 — Photograph

Compare how Falconer and Paine represent interactions between humans and the natural world.

This one is a tough one because the answer isn’t a whole lot obvious. Especially because the prompt is just a girl on a bike in the desert. What the heck is that telling me about the human experience?

Let's start off by discussing the structure for a comparative response. Your introduction should read something like ‘Both text 5 and text 6 [insert similarity]. However, while text 5 [insert a unique thing text 5 does] and text 6 [insert unique thing text 6 does].’

Yep, two sentences are all you need. Remember it's only six marks, don't go crazy. For evidence aim for 5-6. The general rule above tells you five but for some people, it may feel more natural to do 6 (three for each text). Splitting up the text into two paragraphs is also a good idea. Contains your ideas in a logical structure and makes things easier for yourself and the marker (so they can tell which text you’re referring to).

Hopefully, from reading the texts, you have at least gathered that they both explore how humans interact with the natural environment. Namely, they demonstrate the way we become captivated by the beauty and power of nature and it is in searching for natural worlds and immersing ourselves in them that we derive joy and meaning. But while they seemingly have the same overarching theme, they explore it in different ways. Text 5 takes on a more collective perspective while text 6 focuses on the individual. Text 5 celebrates glimpses of natural beauty in an urban landscape to demonstrate how its sentimental significance brings bliss and joyousness. Text 6 embraces the raw power of the Earth and the excitement of adventuring the natural landscape.

Both Text 5 and Text 6 represent how individuals interact with the natural landscape to derive joy and meaning from daily lives. However, while Text 5 explores how individuals search for nature in the urban world to appreciate the beauty and significance of life, Text 6 demonstrates the immersive strength of Earth’s captivating natural landscape to be all around us.
The desire for humanity to form a deep-rooted connection with nature is established in Falconer’s anecdote about how “each mother of a newborn” was given “a jacaranda seedling,” a means to intertwine nature with the cycle of life. She then contrasts the bright purple “bloom against the colonial sandstone wall” to further highlight how this continoual serach for natural beauty is a way of finding joy and bliss amongst urbanisation's aggressive mundanity. Ultimately they the jacarandas serve as a metaphorical “reminder of the transience of feelings,” encouraging humanity to embrace fleeting moments and continuously appreciate the beauty in life.
A different perspective is represented in Text 6 where individuals are permanently immersed by the raw power of the natural landscape, fueling the human experience with adventure and excitement. The vector lines created by the road leading into the distance allude to the vastness of the natural world while the crazed movement of hair demonstrates the unruly state of the wind with a mind of its own. Despite this, the salient young girl remains smiling and upright in the foreground. She is dressed in boots and goggles stating she is ready to revel against the Earth’s elements. This showcases how nature instills in humanity a thirst for adventure and excitement with its overwhelming raw power and immersive beauty.
Ultimately, while Text 5 explores the personal desire to search for joy and meaning in natural beauty and Text 6 demonstrates nature’s instillation of excitement and adventure as omnipresent, both texts establish the interactions between humans and the natural world as a positive means of deriving an appreciation for human and natural life.

Written by KIS Academics Tutor for HSC English, Thao Peli Nghiem Xuan. Thao is pursuing a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at the University Of New South Wales. You can view Thao's profile here and request her as a tutor.‌‌

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