close study of literature

If you are unaware of the changes to the HSC English course, we’ve got you covered.

One of the most important change is to the modules that Preliminary HSC and HSC students will now be studying is changed.

Year Eleven Advanced English students will now be studying ‘Close Study of Literature’ as their new Module B.

So, let’s jump in a see what a ‘Close Study of Literature’ is all about!

What is a ‘Close Study of Literature?

The close study of a text is the staple of the English curriculum, but its selection as a distinct module within the Year Eleven curriculum has a number of implications which you will have to consider.

For this module, there is no related text, meaning that your critical attention will be focused upon your one prescribed text. You must understand this text at a deep level in order to sustain a whole essay about it.

In the Close Study of Literature you will “develop understanding of the ways that language features, text structures and stylistic choices can be used in literary texts.”

Essentially, this means that you will be looking at how form and techniques influence meaning.

However, this may mean different things depending on the medium of the text. For instance, you may be asked to study a play, which will use different techniques to a novel, or a collection of short stories. If you study poetry, you will have to study a selection of poems by the same author.

“Through their engagement with the text and their own compositions, students further develop their personal connections with, and enjoyment of the text, enabling them to express their personal interpretation of its meaning and importance.”

This part alludes to your engagement with the text, and potential ‘compositions.’ This refers to the fact that while you may receive an essay assessment task for the module, you are just as likely to have to create a multimodal response.

As an additional note, there are no set texts for this modules, meaning that the text you will study is dependent on the choice of your school’s English faculty.

Changes to number and values of assessment tasks.

Secondly, NESA has set firmer rules about how schools can assess you in HSC English:

  • There should be THREE assessment tasks set in Year 11
  • Each task can only weigh between 20-40%
  • Schools can only set ONE formal exam during the year

This is good news, because it means the number and type of assessments that students across NSW are given are relatively similar. In other words, this means there will be less variation in assessments between schools.

Assessment in the Close Study of Literature module will come in the form of the aforementioned compositions.

This could take the form of a visual representation paired with an in-class task, an audiovisual response made in a program like iMovie, or a recorded analysis of the text. Whatever the form, you will be judged based on your understanding of the text.

If you’re worried about finding resources for the new HSC English Syllabus, we’ve got you covered!

There’s a lot of information in the Module description, so let’s break down what you need to be able to do:

Step 1: Develop your Textual Knowledge

Having a solid grasp of the terms used often in English will assist you in how you handle the text, and ensure your composition on the text demonstrates an understanding that goes further than a surface reading.

Step 1: Familiarise yourself with literary elements

“Through their critical and creative responses to the text, students develop their understanding of the use and effects of elements such as style, tone and mood.”

It will be a great help to know more than the basics of techniques and language features. Print out a list of techniques and other language features, such as the one on Art of Smart’s website; https://www.artofsmart.com.au/english-literary-techniques-cheatsheet/

Step 2: Start practising writing analyses of your texts

“Students develop an understanding of the ways that language features, text structures and stylistic choices can be used in literary texts.”

As this is a close reading, it will help to annotate, analyse, and otherwise develop your understanding as you read. This could take the form of writing analytical chapter summaries or discussing ideas with friends and your teacher.

Step 3: Learn about the form.

“Students examine the conventions that are particular to their chosen literary form, and the ways that authors use, manipulate and/or challenge those conventions.”

As well as the linguistic features of the text, it will be useful to familiarise yourself with the conventions of the form you are set.

While by the senior years you will be familiar with the conventions of the novel, if you are set something like a suite of poetry or a play, familiarise yourself early with the conventions of those media.

Step 2: Conduct a Close Study of Your Selected Text

There’s no way around the fact that if you want to do well in this course, you need to have a deep understanding of your text. However, this isn’t as simple as memorising a few quotes and writing them down.

Step 1: Ask your teachers what text you’ll be doing a close study of and read it!

Ideally, you will have found and read your text before you need to have read it. It will also help you to read it more than once: at senior level, you should be rereading your texts anyway, but it’s particularly important for the Close Study.

Also, make sure that you’re annotating your text in some way while you’re reading.

Step 2: Research context

Your understanding of the context your text was produced in will improve your mark.

This goes beyond knowing things like important events and location, but how people thought at the time, and how this aligns with or is challenged by your text. It also means knowing what writing traditions your text belongs to.

Step 3: Get started on your TEE Tables

Now that you’re reading the text and understand the context, it’s time to apply that knowledge with some TEE Tables.

What’s useful about TEE tables is that they by creating them, you’re making yourself think analytically about the text at the same time you’re creating a pool of notes for you to later draw evidence for your arguments from.

This could be done in a number of ways: for instance, you could group them by themes.

If you need some help getting started on your TEE Table for Module B, we’ve got an awesome article to help you out – click here!

Step 3: Show your understanding of your text in writing!

Of course, in order for any of this learning to be useful, you need to learn to be able to write well in order to complete your compositions to satisfaction.

This means you need to develop the ability to write clearly, with specificity, and with a strong understanding of structure.

Step 1: Get a handle on structure.

“They express their ideas clearly and cohesively using appropriate register, structure and modality.

There are many ways you can structure your essay and its paragraph, but they are not made equal. While your analysis may be strong, it means nothing if it can’t be read in a clear and cohesive structure.

Art of Smart recommends, for paragraphs, the STEEL structure: Statement, Technique, Example, Effect, and Link. For more advice on STEEL and writing in general, click here!

Step 2: Practise!

“They plan, draft and refine their own written and spoken texts, applying the conventions of syntax, spelling and grammar appropriately for their audience, context and purpose.”

While there isn’t any practise questions from previous years at time of writing, this doesn’t mean that you can’t come up with them yourself, or, if you have a classic or otherwise all-known text, source them from the Internet.

For instance, if your test was ‘Jasper Jones,’ typing in ‘Jasper Jones essay questions’ comes up with a variety of sources you can use. You will also want to time yourself writing and write in pen, if you have an upcoming examination in the module. Learning to write at length to a variety of stimuli is a skill that will make your senior years much easier.

Step 3: Have your work read by others.

Once you’ve got some writing at length done, and checked over it yourself, have your teachers or peers read over it critically.

Having other people read it is important, as when we read our own work, we tend to overlook our own mistakes and fail to notice our bad writing habits. However, you can also try reading your work aloud to yourself, which is another way to make sure you’re making sense.

In summary…

–       The new ‘Close Study of Text’ module will begin for students beginning next year.

–       This new module has a focus on preparing your skills of close analysis of a text.

–       Assessment will concentrate on student’s understanding of a text, and how this is expressed.

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Cameron Croese completed his HSC in 2013, earning first place in his cohort in Advanced English, Extension English 1, and Extension English 2. Privately tutoring throughout his university career as an English and Education student, he enjoys helping his students at Art of Smart understand, write well on, and enjoy their texts, as well as assisting with other aspects of school life. He is a contributing editor to his student magazine, in which he has had reviews, feature articles, and short stories published.