Congratulations! You’ve made it to the seemingly pivotal moment of your schooling lives; the HSC English decision. Which level of English do you pick? Does scaling even matter in English?? I hate Shakespeare, do I have to study it?
Whether you’re in Year 10 and deciding on HSC subjects, or Year 11/12 and wondering if your choice was the right one, this blog is here to help you weigh up the pros and cons of Standard and Advanced English and help you decide which one’s for you. We’ll take a look at:
- English as a compulsory subject
- Standard English
- Advanced English
- Course Structure
- How to Decide on the right course for you!
Wait, English is compulsory?!
Yep, it’s the only compulsory HSC subject and that’s because it provides you with a pretty essential skill set that prepares you for life beyond the HSC - imagine a world where we are unable to communicate effectively! As such, it is important to pick the right level of English for you in order to maximise your ATAR.
If you’ve Googled ‘HSC English Standard’ then you’ve probably come across the NESA website, which describes Standard English as…
“provid[ing] students… with the opportunity to analyse, study and enjoy a breadth and variety of English texts to become confident and effective communicators”.
Essentially, that’s NESA’s jargon for ‘you guys will develop your writing and analysis skills pretty well, and be sufficiently prepared for your next step’.
Standard English is aimed at improving your ability to communicate effectively, discuss themes and ideas, and analyse texts. Your texts will be common literary ones, such as Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Daldry’s Billy Elliot.
Note that your teacher has the option of choosing a Shakespearean text, but DOES NOT have to. This isn’t really up to you though, so although you may get out of analysing Shakespeare in Standard English, you also might not - it’s best to talk to your school and find out what texts they teach.
During your time studying these texts, you will expand upon your ability to analyse and therefore understand each text and its text type.
Now if you’ve Googled ‘HSC Standard English’ and you’re still reading this article, chances are you’ve also Googled ‘HSC Advanced English’. As I’m sure you’ve found on the NESA website by now, in Advanced English…
“students… investigate complex ideas in challenging texts, to evaluate, emulate and employ powerful, creative and sophisticated ways to use language to make meaning”.
Basically, that’s fancy wording for ‘you’re gonna study texts in more depth than in Standard and, once again, be adequately prepared for your next step’. Also note the “sophisticated” and “powerful” descriptors; your learning is going to be more complex and thorough than in Standard English, and consequently it will take more time to study for Advanced than Standard (not heaps, potentially 1-2 extra hours per week).
Additionally, you ARE required to study a Shakespearean text as the dramatic text.
The table below shows the basic outline of Year 11 and 12 Standard and Advanced English.
As you can see, there are no extra subjects for Advanced, although note the variance in language like “critical” versus “close” when referring to the depth of study.
For the Common Module and Module C, the difference between Standard and Advanced is once again the depth of text analysis. Advanced also has one extra prescribed text.
What about Scaling?
Ahhh scaling; the beast that seems to make or break your ATAR. There is no doubt that English Advanced scales better than English Standard - Advanced is harder than Standard and the scaling system is literally designed to reward that. However, you shouldn’t pick a subject based on how it scales! You will always do better in the subject that you enjoy the most and/or are good at. Think about it, if you like the subject then you’ll be more motivated to do the work required. In saying that, if you think that you can give Advanced English a decent crack then I would go for it!
The typical example of scaling when it comes to English is as follows:
- If you can achieve the 30th percentile (top 70% or the state) or higher in English Advanced, you will achieve a higher scaled mark than a Standard student in the 90th percentile or lower.
Now… THE DECISION
Ok so now you actually need to decide which subject is for you. Ask yourself:
- Am I good at English?
This can be hard to tell, so ask your teacher! They will have a pretty good idea of how you’re tracking.
- What do I want to do after school?
Both Standard and Advanced can prepare you adequately for tertiary education, depending on what your next steps are.
- Are there prerequisites for my degree?
Some university courses will require certain marks in different English courses such as Education, which often requires a minimum Band 5 in English Standard or Advanced. Have a quick look into your dream course and find out what you actually need to achieve.
- Last but certainly not least, do I enjoy English?
Whether you’re in Year 10 and trying to decide on your HSC subjects, or in Year 11/12 and debating whether your English choice was the right one, this question is the most important. At the end of the day if you don’t enjoy the subject, you probably aren’t going to put the effort into it and consequently you won’t get the mark that you want. And that is completely fine! It’s important that you recognise and prioritise your interests when deciding between Standard and Advanced English, because that will ultimately be your deciding factor.
Finally, if you do decide on Advanced English and you work out halfway through Year 11 (or even Year 12) that it’s not for you, you can always drop to Standard! Note that you can’t really move up from Standard, so it's important to consider that as well. If you're still not sure, have a crack at Advanced with one of our amazing tutors and if you don’t like it, we’ll support you through your transfer to Standard!
Written by KIS Academics Tutor for HSC English, Sarah McIlveen. Sarah is currently studying a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering/Masters of Biomedical Engineering at UNSW and has received outstanding reviews from her past KIS Academics students. You can view Sarah’s profile here and request her as a tutor.