Have you got questions about HSC Advanced English? Don’t worry, we all did! But don’t sweat it, we have trawled through forums, asked people on Facebook and consulted the students we teach to find these HSC Advanced English Frequently Asked Questions!

If you’re looking for general FAQs about HSC English, head over here!


1. Does doing Advanced mean I’ll get a good ATAR?

Truthfully no. While strong marks in Advanced English will result in a better ATAR score than strong marks in Standard English, it’s the ‘strong marks’ that’s important, not the unit. Just doing Advanced English isn’t going to ensure that you’ll do well or get good marks – that’s up to you!

In fact, it’s all to do with percentile, quartiles and scaling. Elizabeth has written quite extensively about it here, explaining why your cohort and your performance are more important to your success than the level you’re studying.

It also means that if you feel like Advanced English isn’t the best fit for you then you don’t necessarily have to stay there. If you know you could be at the top of a Standard class but are struggling to even pass in your Advanced class consider changing!

Ultimately strong marks in Standard English will score better than weak marks in Advanced.

2. Are Modules harder than Area of Study?

It depends on the person, but in my experience I’ve found modules trickier due to time limits. Unlike the 74 hours spent on area of study, you’ll only spend 25 hours on each of the modules you study. This means you have to learn much faster and often need to do some independent study if you want to stay on top of things.

Some students find this harder due to less class study time or they lose motivation because they have more class time dedicated to it.

The best thing to remember is that modules are what you make of them, so if you can stay on track, get teacher feedback on practice essays, etc. you’ll be able to smash out modules. If you slack off? Not so much.

3. Will reading sample essays actually help me?

If they’re good sample essays, yes! By reading over work that has marked well it’s a lot easier to pick up on the things that make it a strong essay, even though you (in theory) know what markers are looking for. When you can see it written out in an essay it’s much easier to identify points of strength and then emulate them in your own writing.

For example, if you struggle with essay structure, reading sample essays will give you great examples on how to structure your responses effectively. Likewise if your language choices aren’t up to scratch, seeing what language other people choose in their essays can really help.

Sometimes if your language is getting stale, seeing other people’s writing can reinvigorate your writing style. That’s why when authors get writer’s block, most of them stop writing and start reading!

Just keep in mind that not all sample essays are good ones, so make sure you’re getting them from past papers, marking feedback, etc. If you know any friends or family who did well you can even ask to read their old essays!

4. How long should my essay be?

It depends. Most essays sit within the 1,000 – 1,200 range, but some have been known to go ~100 words over or under. You definitely want to be aiming to hit the 1,000 word mark, as this is seen as a benchmark when it comes to ‘writing enough’, but it is more important to have good quality content rather than bad quality ramble.

You have to think of your essays in their value rather than a word count. If your essay is saying everything it needs to say and is saying it in an eloquent, sophisticated way, then you don’t need to fuss too much about word counts unless they’re massively over. Generally 800 words isn’t enough to get everything down, so if you’re under you know you haven’t said everything in detail or in a sophisticated way.

That being said, the girl who topped English in Elizabeth’s year at school generally wrote around 850 – 950 words but wrote darned good words. For the record, she got 99.95 for her ATAR.

5. How long should my creative writing be?

This is harder to answer, because a creative piece doesn’t really have a set structure or format, so you can’t say when is ‘enough’. Generally you want to look at time limits; if you have 40 mins for analytical and you write 1,000 words, you should be doing the same for creative because you have 40 mins for that as well. That said, it’s much less worry if you go under in creative writing, so long as your writing is still strong, makes a point and has some level of creative integrity.

I know for a fact that my HSC creative writing was shorter than my essay, but that didn’t worry me because I knew it suited the stimulus and made a clear point about the topic. You should aim to do the same in your writing. That said, anything under the 800 mark could be getting a bit too short.

Again, it is more important to producing good work rather than stale ideas. If you need help, you’ve got it right here with the Creative Writing Crash Course!

6. What’s Module A about?

We have articles for that!

Follow this link for Intertextual Connections!

Follow this link for Intertextual Perspectives!

7. What’s Module B about?

We’ll be releasing articles where you can teach yourself Module B in the next coming weeks so be sure to check back soon!

8. What’s Module C about?

As above!

9. How many quotes should I have?

I always recommend the minimum three-quote formula. It works like this; for each paragraph you have two quotes that you analyse for techniques and one you use as backup. Now you can mix this up by adding extra backup or technique quotes, but the point is two make sure that you have multiple quotes to analyse as well as one just to throw in there to prove you know what you’re talking about.


Shelly uses a frame narrative to juxtapose the characterisation of Victor Frankenstein before and after becoming the “author of unalterable evils”; he first appears as “a man on the brink of destruction”, however this hyperbole is quickly contrasted with his account of the vigour with which he practiced science in his youth. In describing Frankenstein as having been consumed by “one thought, one concept, one purpose”, Shelley highlights a lack of moderation or balance in his scientific ventures, and details the destructive effect of lacking these values.

In this section the first quote is just used to establish knowledge of the text, while the second two are deconstructed for analysis. That way markers will see that you know how to analyse quotes, but you can also use them outside of that just to support your understanding of the text.

10. Will they ask for 2 related texts?

It’s very, very, very unlikely but it is possible. There have been a few occasions where students have been asked to refer to two prescribed texts in the past, and though it’s not very common, you do want to prepare.

The best way to do this is by having a backup text. Choose a text you’ve analysed before (either from a different year or one you chose not to use) or one you know really, really well that suits the topic, If you can try to choose a text that suits multiple topics to try to cover some extra bases, but remember that texts aren’t one-size-fits-all. Once you know what text you’re using create a bunch of quick essay plans based on past paper questions (edit them to ask for 2 related texts) and just plan how you’d respond.

It’s not as tricky as it sounds and you probably won’t need it, but it’s always good to have your backup just in case. Mine was the film Fight Club by David Fincher, and it was my backup for Belonging, Conflicting Perspectives in Advanced English (two now gone topics) and Crime Writing in Extension 1. Elizabeth used Les Misérables by Victor Hugo for Belonging and Exploring Connections in Advanced English and Romanticism for Extension 1. I never had to use it, but I felt a whole lot safer having it under my belt.

Consider Buying Notes

If you need reliable notes or simply want to check your notes are right, take a look at HSC-Notes.com.

Their English notes are crafted by the 99+ ATAR Club and provide concise answers to the HSC Syllabus dot points with what you need to know for your exams. Diagrams, mind maps, tables, dot points, paragraphs, sources are included to aid your learning.

With these notes you can spend less time rewriting your textbook and worrying about whether your notes answer the syllabus dot points correctly and spend more time learning and practicing your skills knowing your notes are accurate and concise.

Head on over to HSC-Notes to get your HSC subject notes now

Have a question for us? 

Flick us a message on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artofsmart/), give us a call on 1300 267 888, or email us on info@artofsmart.com.au.


Maddison Leach completed her HSC in 2014, achieving an ATAR of 98.00 and Band 6 in all her subjects. Having tutored privately for two years before joining Art of Smart, she enjoys helping students through the academic and other aspects of school life, even though it sometimes makes her feel old. Maddison has had a passion for writing since her early teens, having had several short stories published before joining the world of blogging. She’s currently studying a Bachelor of Design at the University of Technology Sydney and spends most of her time trying not to get caught sketching people on trains.