How to Write a Killer Band 6 HSC English Essay
Learn how with our step-by-step proven guide
- How to Deconstruct your Essay Question
- How to Read your Text Quickly
- How to Quickly Analyse Your Texts
- How to Analyse Visual Texts
- How to Analyse Poems
- What does a Band 6 Essay Look Like?
- How to Structure Your Essay
- How to Write A Killer Thesis Statement
- How to Write a Body Paragraph
- How to Use a TEE Table
- The Complete List English Literary Techniques
- The Cheatsheet of Visual Techniques
- How to Find Kickass Related Texts
- Mistakes to Avoid when Choosing Related Texts
- How to Edit Your HSC English Essay
- How to Memorise Your Quotes & Examples
- How to Respond to an Unseen Essay Questions
- How to Study for Your HSC English Exam
- Need more help?
“Wow, I suck at English!”
Have you said these 5 words to yourself before? If so, you’ve come to the right place to get help. While it might feel like HSC English is incredibly subjective that requires some ‘special’ skill (that you feel you don’t have) this is far from the truth.
There is a FORMULA for excelling in HSC English and for writing killer Band HSC English essays.
Specific, repeatable, predictable. And over the last 10 years, using this formula, we’ve helped thousands of students from schools around Australia TRANSFORM their results at school for HSC English.
Take Emmerson for example. She transformed her results by 36% for HSC English in less than 6 months during Year 12. And Emmerson is one of thousands.
As a result, to help you transform your results for HSC English, we’ve put together the most definitive guide found ANYWHERE on the ENTIRE internet to help you learn how to write killer HSC English essays that score Band 6 results (that’s 90%+).
How is this guide structured?
This guide is structured in 4 Parts: Part 1: How to Structure Your Essay: This part will help you learn how to structure a killer essay that gets you a Band 6. It will do step-by-step through everything you need structurally to ace your essay writing.
Part 2: How to Analyse Your Text: An essay, however, is only as good as your analysis on your specific texts, and that’s why Part 2 will take you comprehensively through how to analyse your text, regardless of what type of text you have been assigned! We’ll show you how to write that sophisticated analysis that will help you get the marks!
Part 3: How to Polish Your Essay: Once you’ve written a draft HSC English essay, this is only the beginning. You now need to polish it into a Band 6 response, and that’s what Part 3 will help you with it! We’ll show you how you can tighten and polish your essay so you get top marks!
Part 4: How to Ace Your Assessment: Finally, you’ll need to write your HSC English essay in an assessment or exam, and Part 4 will equip you with the specific study strategies so you can go into your HSC English assessment and feel confident and ready to ace it!
Let’s jump in and get started on Part 1: How to Structure Your Essay below!
How to Deconstruct Your Essay Question
Before you start writing your essay, you need to break down your essay question. But, how do you break down and understand HSC English essay questions?
“Remember to always read the question properly.”
It’s something we’ve heard teachers say for years now: make sure you always read and understand the question you’re being asked before you try to answer it. But when it comes to understanding HSC English, it’s not quite as simple as reading the question – you have to interpret it as well. In this Chapter, we’re going to show exactly how to break down the different parts on an English question, understand them, and then put them back together to start writing and awesome HSC English essay. By the time you finish scrolling, you’ll know exactly how to understand and break down HSC English essay questions of even the trickiest kind!
The most common are people struggle with is in the analytical section of the exam. Often the questions seem too wordy, with a lot being written but not much being said. By identifying and understanding key vocab and ideas, however, it’s easy to work out just what the question is asking!
In order to understand HSC English questions, first and foremost read the question fully – this way you get an idea of what’s being asked and what you might need to do or include in your answer.
Go through with a pen or highlighter and break the question apart! If the question has two parts or ‘sections’ use a different colour for each so that they’re easier to identify.
Now we’re ready to start interpreting what the question is asking. You do this by taking each outlined section individually and defining the keywords. Then write a short sentence about what this means in relation to the question or topic! Seeing as the question is broken apart, we’ll analyse each part separately.
“Individual’s identity” Individual = one person, identity = who a person is. This means you’re going to be dealing with a single character’s identity and how they feel about themselves.
“They perceive” They = the individual, perceive = interpret, understand or regard. This means you’re going to be focusing on how the character understands, thinks or feels about something.
“Connections with others and the world” Connections = relationships or links, others = other people, the world = nature, the environment, society, etc. This means you’re looking at how the character relates to or feels about the people, places and society around them.
Summary – Red
By joining these explained meanings together, we’re able to create a rewritten question that’s much easier to understand;
“Who a character is, as an individual, is shaped by the way they understand their links to other people and nature, the environment and society.”
“How is this view represented” How = in what way, view = the concept/idea above, represented = shown. This means you’ll be writing about the ways in which the first section of the question (“An individual’s identity…”) is shown through different literary techniques, scenes, etc.
“Prescribed text and ONE related” This simply means you should be referring to both the text you were prescribed in class and one text you studied yourself. Make sure to include quotes and specific references.
Summary – Green
Again, join all the explanations together for an easier to understand the question;
“In what way is the idea above shown in your prescribed text and your related text?”
So what does it mean?
By looking at this in relation to the first section of the question we can then understand exactly what is being asked. Dot point out the key ideas or ‘asks’ of each section and you have exactly what you need to do!
What to Write
- Write about one specific character and who they are
- Write about how they feel about their links to people/places/society
- Write about how those feelings influence who the character is
- Write about specific scenes, techniques, etc. that show this
- Use quotes and examples from your prescribed and related texts
At the end, you’ll have about five dot points – which may seem like a lot, but really it’s just breaking the question into smaller, easier to digest ideas!
Now you get to try breaking down a question! Using the example below, try to break down it into sections, then simplify the terms and put it back together for an understandable question. Dot point your ‘What to write’ section and you’re ready to go!
Before you write your essay, you need to read your texts…
Reading any book that you’re not 100% interested in can be tough, but when you have to read it as a prescribed text for English it feels like every page is a some kind of cruel and unusual torture – there’s too much information to take in, and what are you supposed to be looking for anyway?
The key to reading an English text effectively and efficiently is to plan how you’re going to read it! This means figuring out:
- how much you aim to read per sitting
- what themes you’ll be looking for; and
- how you’ll be keeping track of things you find – like quotes!
All of this will make it 10 times easier to get the most out of the text, plus you’re far less likely to have to reread it later on. So let’s start planning for how to read HSC English texts!
Step 1: Choose Your Tools
This is actually a pretty fun way to start because you get to pick out cool stationery to help make the most of your reading!
Most students I’ve worked with have a tendency to just read a text then go back later to find important quotes or sections, which can work. A much more effective way of working, however, is to actually make note of things in a text as you find them, which you can do in heaps of different ways.
Some students are perfectly happy to mark up their books and like to use highlighters, fun coloured pens or plain pencils and biros to make notes straight onto the page. This makes it super easy to just add notes as you go, plus there’s no chance of a post-it falling out without you noticing!
Of course, a lot of English texts you read will be ones you’ve borrowed from a library, meaning that writing of highlighting in them isn’t the best idea. Plus, some people just don’t like writing in their books! In these cases post-it notes are your absolute best friends, and you can get them in all different colours and sizes based on how you plan to use them.
Image from finalssurvivalguide.tumblr.com
When it comes to actually using these tools there are a few things to keep in mind;
- Brevity – notes in your text should be short and sweet! Try to only fill a single post-it note.
- Colour – using even one or two different colours to categorise your notes will do wonders! Pink for quotes, blue for themes and green for characters was always my go-to.
- Personal – these notes are just for you, so feel free to make them personalised and easy for you to interpret. Use text talk, memes, you name it!
As you go on to read the next few steps you’ll notice that I mention essays. A lot. That’s because when you read any text for class you need to remember that you’re eventually going to have to write about the text, so thinking in terms of essays from the get-go is the best way to stay motivated to read effectively.
Step 2: Plan Reading Time
There’s no way around it; some, if not all of the books you read as related texts are going to be boring. Maybe they’re really long or written in old-fashioned phrasing that makes them dry and hard to read. Maybe it’s not a genre you like, or you find the main character annoying as all hell. Maybe it’s just not your cup of tea! The fact of the matter is that at least one of the books you read will be a pain in the ass, so learning how to time manage your reading is the best way to prepare for when that happens.
When it comes to planning your reading you’ll want to set it out in regular, equal blocks, but how you decide on the blocks is totally up to you. Usually, it’s best to split up blocks by pages rather than time, as some sections of the book may take you longer to read than others. Some of the most common setups are as follows:
Daily – plan to read a set number of pages each day!
Generally you can set yourself a small number of pages (15-20) and still get through the book in a reasonable time. This is good for if you take a bus or train to school and can use that time for reading.
Weekly – plan to get through a set number of chapters per week!
Some chapters can be very short or very long, so you can also do this by pages (e.g. read 70 pages each week) but generally it’s easier to keep track of chapters. This method requires a fair bit of motivation, as a lot of people who do this can fall out of the habit of reading and end up getting to the end of the week and realising they only read a few pages!
Time Plan – using key school dates plan out exactly how you’re going to read!
This is the most involved method and generally the best for people who find it hard to keep up regular reading. All you need to do is grab a calendar and mark out your upcoming English lessons and when your exam/assignment on the text will be.
From there count back to a week before your test – this is your absolute reading deadline! You have to finish the book by then to make sure you know the content well enough. If you don’t totally trust yourself to get it done then take it back two weeks to give yourself more buffer time.
Then mark when each of your English lessons is and divide the number of pages in your book by the total number of English lessons between now and your deadline.
Now you know exactly how many pages you have to read between each English lesson! If your lessons are unevenly spread out you may want to move some pages around (e.g. read 50 pages between a Monday and Thursday lesson, 10 between a Thursday and Friday lesson). You can also allocate more pages for gaps that include weekends, as you’ll tend to have more time then to read.
There are other methods as well, such as reading for 30 minutes each day or 20 pages before bed each night, but it all depends on your personal preference and how you like to read.
Some techniques that can work well also depend on the book and can be pretty odd! For example, when I had to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley I would just read until it put me to sleep. No, that’s not an exaggeration – the book literally made me drop off about every 35 pages, but hey, I got through it in the end!
When it comes to actually reading the most important time is when you first start reading the book – you really have to stay motivated! Once you get about halfway through you’ll be into the swing enough to finish the book without too much trouble, but the more you put off getting into it the harder it will be to actually make progress.
Step 3: Find Themes
Now we get into the action points – the things you actually need to do and look for while reading the text. I’ve started here with one of the trickiest tasks; finding themes. There are two ways to find and note themes in any given text and it’s always best to use both in order to get a full, rounded understanding of the text.
- Known themes – these are the themes you already know are in the text or ones that are relevant to your module/area of study.
- Found themes – these are the themes that crop up while you’re reading in the form of ideas or concepts that appear repeatedly in the text even though you weren’t necessarily looking for them
Both types of themes are important, as known themes are key to building strong essays and responses while found themes can show off your understanding of the text later on. In order to actually make note of these themes however you’ll have to make notes in different ways.
Making notes for known themes is fairly simple because you know what you’re looking for. All you need to do is list on a sheet of paper the themes you know are in the text or will be relevant to your study, then actively look for them in the text. This doesn’t mean just flicking through the pages and hoping to find themes, however – you need to take a more organic approach.
Do this by simply reading the text and using highlighters, post-its or a pen to mark down any time a quote or section of the text is relevant to one of the known themes. I liked to make my theme list on thin coloured paper and use it as a bookmark so that I always had it handy to remind me of what to look out for, but you can also use post-its or just write your known themes in the back cover of your text.
I sometimes refer to these as ‘hindsight’ themes, because a lot of the time you only realise they’re there after you’ve read the text. Because these aren’t themes you already know you can’t really look for them as you read, so instead, you look for them once you’ve completed the text. You could also look for them after each period of reading to make the process a little quicker, though this won’t always work.
The easiest way to find new themes is to simply read the text and make note of any sections/quotes that seem important to the story, characters or overall message of the text.
Then when you’ve completed the text go back and look at your notes and see how all these things you picked up on relate to each other – it’s more common than you think! Another way to find themes is to be on the lookout for repeated ideas, concepts or phrases in the text and figure out what theme they could relate to.
A really good example is ‘the role of women’, as any text with female characters is going to (knowingly or not) say something about the role of women in society or literature. If you notice that a lot of the female characters seem downtrodden or oppressed, maybe the text is saying something about gender inequality. If there are very few or no women in the text, perhaps it’s focused on the necessity of women in society by showing what happens without them.
Essentially you’re looking for themes that are specific to the text and not the topic, which in the end will enhance your essays by showing markers just how well you understand the text. If all else fails you can always just think up a bunch of other themes that don’t necessarily relate to your area of study and see if you can find them in the text – you never know!
Step 4: Explore Characters
This is the best part of reading any text in my opinion. A story can be interesting and have all sorts of twists and turns, but it’s the characters that really make or break a story. Likewise, it’s your understanding of characters that can really make or break your essays.
Not everyone writes essays focused on characters and their symbolism or dynamics and that’s fine!
However, I’ve found that it’s much easier to get to know a character and then write about them and how they interact with the themes of the text than it is to just go in with themes.
By really figuring out who a character is and what the author wants them to represent you’ll have a much easier time of understanding the themes and morals of the text.
The best way to take note of characters while reading a text is to literally just take note of them.
Whenever a new or important character is introduced highlight or post-it note their description for future reference. Do the same for important quotes about characters, key lines of character dialogue and interactions between characters.
Even though it can seem like a bit much and a bit all over the place, what you’re doing is building up evidence of who the characters are and how the author represents them, which will become really important when writing essays. From there you want to start building up character profiles.
These should be written or typed up separately to your in-text notes (which means they’re going to be a fair deal longer than a few post-its). These notes can be simple dot-point format but they should include the following things;
- Themes – what values, themes or ideas does the character represent?
- Context – is the text’s context important to the character? (e.g. characters written in 1920 will have different values than those written in 2015)
- Descriptions – how are they described in the text? Include visual descriptions (what they look like) as well as character descriptions (their personality, etc.)
- Quotes – what does the character have to say? These can be dialogue or internal thoughts.
You don’t have to make these note beautiful or amazingly formatted, all you’re aiming to do is get all your information in one place so you have a really solid reference sheet for the text’s characters. Naturally, you only need to include main characters, but if you want to make sheets for minor characters as well then go for it! Knowing how the little people matter is always useful for setting your essays apart later on.
Step 5: Make Notes
Before you roll your eyes and decide you’re not doing it, hear me out – this step is way simpler than it seems. I don’t want paragraphs. I don’t want analysis. I don’t even need quotes. Literally, all I want from this step is for you to periodically write down what you think is happening in the text and how it relates to the topic. Simple as that!
The best way to do this is at the end of each chapter or a couple of chapters depending on how long they are, or at the end of each week as you read. What you’re really aiming to do is just get your thoughts down on a page as you have them in order to make sure you remember key points in the text and how they made you react.
It’s a good idea to do these with your topic or key themes in mind so you can make sure you’re focussing on the important things you’ll later write about in essays, but feel free to include little things too. What this helps you do is remember key individual moments of the text as well as the overall story as a whole, as well as forcing you to look at things as you read them, rather than just accepting everything in hindsight.
This way you’ll be able to look back on all your original thoughts and see how they changed as you read, as well as making sure you didn’t forget any key ideas At the end these notes will be really useful in two major ways;
When it comes time to make actual notes about the text you’ll already have something to work from, making it much easier to begin your notes. Plus you’ll have a lot of information dumped there that you can just add to and refine.
By reading over your notes you’ll be able to see what themes or ideas stood out the most as you read, even if you didn’t notice them at the time. This again just helps you further your understanding of the text and will end up improving your choices of themes to explore when it comes to essays.
Read the book, duh.
Kidding! But seriously, if you take nothing else from this article just make sure that you really do read the text!
Trust me when I say that yes, the teachers can tell when you haven’t read the text, and yes, they can really tell when you just watched the film adaptation.
The TV series, The Man in the High Castle, despite sharing the same the same name as the Phillip K Dick novel, The Man in the High Castle, is completely different to the book – it’s that obvious when you’re discussing the film to the novel!
Please, just read the book.
Other than that the biggest thing to remember is that you’re reading the text with the intent of analysing it later, so the most effective way to read is to start analysing from the get-go. This means looking for themes, making character profiles and really digging into what the text is talking about. From there you just need to refine what you already know and you’ll be ready to start writing awesome essays.
So what are you waiting for? Get reading!
How to Quickly* Analyse Your HSC English Texts
One of the things you’ll need to do with HSC English is analyse various texts in a ‘thoughtful’ manner in order to draw meaning and understanding from core themes and commentaries… But what exactly does this mean?
When it boils down to it, that’s pretty much the question you should be asking of your texts: what does it mean?
You see, analysing and understanding a text is very much a three step process:
(1) Understanding the Topic
(2) Focusing your Analysis
(3) Engaging with the Text
It’s a pretty ‘DUH’ formula, isn’t it? Well, it is. The problem is that if you’re getting anything less than a Band 6, you’re probably not doing these three steps correctly in analysing your English texts. So, let’s start off at the top.
Understand the Topic and the Question.
Believe it or not, when most HSC students get a text, the first thing they do is analyse. The problem is, what exactly are you looking for when you’re analysing? Depending on your Area of Study, or what Module you’re doing, you need to understand the syllabus. If you don’t know what that is, there’s your first problem. You can find it here. If you needed to click that link, you’re welcome. The Syllabus usually contains key ideas and themes which are being dealt with in the overall topic.
Rewrite key ideas and themes in your own language.
For example, if you were studying Science Fiction, you would need to first understand the sorts of ideas and themes that the genre explores – in this case things like ‘the negatives of scientific advancement’, ‘the detriments of utopian societies’, ‘man’s usurpation of god’ etc. If that’s a bit difficult to get your head around in the starting period, look at it like this:
The negatives of scientific advancement ⟶ Why scientific progress is bad The detriments of utopian societies ⟶ The con’s of a perfect world Man’s usurpation of god ⟶ Man playing God
It makes it a little bit easier to understand, and as your understanding of these concepts develops, you can start to evolve your vocab with it to reflect exactly what the syllabus says. Thus, when it comes down to analysing your own texts, you’ll know exactly what to look for.
Focus Your Analysis
Once you’ve understood the topic and the question, you can start to analyse.
It’s all about cause and effect: how does this technique give this meaning? The problem with HSC students is that we spend so much time pouring over techniques that we forget why we’re doing it. Which leads us back to our first point: answer the question. Similarly, if the question on Science Fiction asks you, ‘Explore the ways in which (text) promotes a discussion on man’s usurpation of God’, you probably wouldn’t be answering why scientific advancements are bad.
If you’re not answering the question… you’re not answering the question. Thus, when looking for things to analyse in your text, it should be for a reason.
Find a key idea or theme and identify how it’s been communicated in the text through relevant techniques.
If we’re looking at the theme of ‘man playing god’, it would be easier to look at the dude trying to take charge of his own fate through undertaking scientific experiments, because that how ‘man playing god’ has been communicated. This is much easier than trying to squeeze blood out of a stone with the colour of the drapes being pathetic fallacy, and because of reasons, man thus plays god. Because that’s exactly what HSC students do. So don’t do that.
But what does analysis actually look like?
|Type||Description||Should you do this in your essay?|
|Summary||– None to very little textual reference. – Simply recounting the plot of the story, which is often used to support the argument. – Paragraphs are usually 3-4 sentences.||NO|
|Commentary||– Mentions textual reference and attempts to list language devices to back up the argument. – No explanation/critical analysis on how the language techniques convey meanings/manipulation to the audience in a way that backs up your argument. – Usually employs language techniques which are too commonly used. E.g. descriptive language, alliteration etc. – 5-7 sentences paragraph.||NO|
|Analysis||– Makes explicit utilisation of textual references which are often well-chosen and RELEVANT in the context of your argument. – Tears the quotes apart by interrogating them and examining in great detail on how every single device, word could change your manipulation. – Analysis should not contradict your argument; should be consistent to what you are arguing. – 9-12 sentences paragraphs.||HELL YESS|
Engage with the Text
Did you notice that I put an asterisk in the title? Well, this is where it comes into play:
* Do not be lame and look for answers on SparkNotes.
SparkNotes is not only lazy, but uncreative; if you’re doing it, so can 50,000 other HSC students, and if 50,000 other HSC students are writing about the exact same thing you’re writing about, how exactly are you going to stand out?
Protip: You won’t. When you’ve got your texts, prescribed or related, engaging with it is how you will shine.
Markers can tell if you’ve simply read a summary.
The way you engage with a text changes your writing, as reading a summary will only give a very limited understanding of the text. You see things very uniquely to everyone else – why not communicate that so you can stand out?
By you organically making the correlations between cause and effect, your analysis of the text will be superior to simply reading someone else’s notes.
Whilst this may seem like a general overview, it’s really not. If at any point you waver from this, you will notice that your marks will probably wane.
You don’t need to slog it out for English: what you do need is a framework. Make yourself a checklist of things to do when analysing a text:
(1) Identify a theme/idea
(2) Find the evidence
(3) Confirm the correlations
And that’s it! Three simple steps to analysing any HSC English text with relative efficiency and efficacy.
I will reiterate: if you have the time to spare, dispel the temptation to read a cheap online analysis. Conducting your own analyses is vastly more beneficial for your short-term understanding of the text as well as your long-term understanding of English as a HSC subject.
“Oh I’ve only got a poem for HSC English, poems are so much shorter and easier to analyse – I’m going to ace it!” Think about it again if that is what you are thinking when analysing HSC English poems. Look at the ‘analysis’ you have just written and ask yourself:
“Is this really going to separate me from 7000 other students and give me a Band 6?”
Although it is true that poems are much shorter to analyse than novels, there is still a significant amount of work that need to be done, in order for you to have the top band quality analysis. In this chapter, we will go step by step to show you how to exactly analyse HSC English poems powerfully.
Step 1: Read and Be Familiar With Your Poem
The most important part is to actually READ the poem. It will be even better if you could memorise them!! (forget about that if it’s 50 lines though). HSC English Poems can be slightly difficult to read due to their abstract nature. As a result, it is important to first have your own interpretation and highlight the parts which you think is important to use.
At this first stage, don’t worry too much about looking for literary techniques just yet – just try to find things that will be useful when it comes to analysing. Have a brief interpretation of what you think the poem is about. After reading the poems a several times, it is time to let the real thing going!
Step 2: Research The Context Of The Poet and The Poem
A great sentence which summarises the entire HSC English syllabus is the following:
‘Composer uses forms and features with interaction of context to manipulate our perception and shaped meaning on characters, situation, themes and ideas’.
Context Is What Shapes Every Texts
In another word, context is after all the catalyst which propels the composer to construct their text. The composer then utilises certain language techniques and forms in order to transcend the purpose of their text to us.
Thus, knowing the context for your HSC English poems/poets is extremely important as it tells you what exactly happened to the poet at the time in which the poem is constructed.
Consequently, the context has a tremendous impact on the ways in which poems are constructed. Thus, researching the context could help you a lot in understanding what the poem might actually be talking about.
A Great Example
For example, if you are studying ‘Among School Children’ by William Butler Yeat as your HSC English poem, the following context would be relevant.
The poem was written in 1928, when Yeats was almost sixty year old. At the time, he was confronted by degrading health and was facing the inevitable fate of death. His inspiration of writing the poem comes from his visit to St.Otteran’s School during 1926.
Now let’s look at how all these events can interconnect to the poem.
I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading-books and history,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way—the children’s eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.
From this first stanza, we can see that the poem begins by using blunt and direct language.
Yeats’ response to his ageing can be directly referenced through the euphemism in “a sixty-year-old smiling public man”. Yeats refers to himself using the euphemism “public man” to not only emphasise his current status, but also superimposing his age which ultimately underlines his realisation of the fleeting nature of life.
Such poetic contemplation is accentuated through Yeats’ employment of ottava rima style in the poem as well as the rhythm scheme of ABABACC. The ottava rima style was commonly utilised for heroic and epic poetry during Yeats’ contextual paradigm. Inevitably, such style is adapted by Yeats here as his medium which communicates his innate poignancy over his epic reflection upon the real value of life.
Furthermore, the regular rhythm scheme of ABABACC is connotative of his current inner contemplation. This creates a direct juxtaposition against the inconsistent rhythm scheme of ‘The Second Coming” and “Easter 1916”.
This notion is again heightened through the figurative connotation of “walk through the long schoolroom questioning” in which the usage of connotative “walk” emphasise that Yeats perhaps is pondering upon a reflection throughout the “schoolroom” of his entire life upon the notion of aging, which when coupled with the tension set at “Wild Swans At Coole”, demonstrates an obvious similarity upon such poetic process of realisation.
Note: See how I have also referenced to several of Yeats’ previous poem? By incorporating his previous poems, you can also highlight some noticeable change in the style of his poetry which can be impacted by his context.
Step 3: Analyse Analyse Analyse
If I could repeat this word 1000 more time in this article, I totally would!! This is what you are required to do for every single essays at the HSC English Exams. Yet, still 75% of the students sitting the exams fail to do that! Let’s see an example, using stanza 1 from ‘Among School Children’ again.
‘Explain how time and place are used in “Among School Children” to shape the reader’s understanding of the search for truth. ‘
Let’s begin by first using a simple T.E.E Table to help us with the analysis – see our chapter on How to Use TEE Tables for more on this!
|Discovery for truth/Reflection for life||‘..walk through the long schoolroom questioning’||-Interrogative tone -Low modality of ‘walk’||The emblematic usage of school as a setting ->Yeat’s seeking upon the purpose of life. The ‘school’ which he ‘question’ on = symbolism for the main stage of life where the children learn ‘to cut and sew, be neat in everything’. The employment of accumulative listing => important foundation of school on one’s education. =>ironically doubted through Yeat’s interrogative ‘questioning’. => Yeats intimidate these are subtle compared to the inevitable mortality of life.|
|Attainment of acceptance||‘ sixty-year-old smiling public man’||euphemism||the euphemism of “sixty-year-old smiling public man” to refer to himself directly => realisation of the reality his degrading health through the use of numerology as well as the connotation “smiling”. =>Yeats is able to bring upon his rejuvenation, but also his acceptance of aging and truth of reality.|
So we have identified our quotes, techniques and analysed them to some extent!
The only thing left to do is turn this table into an essay! The best way to integrate a whole lot of examples is to follow a linear progression, showing how one example introduces a point, then the following example proves it.
Put a statement at the beginning explaining your overall point or theme, and a sentence at the end that links everything back to the question, and you’re just about done:
Notice how in the first paragraph I have directly used the quotes from the poem to help me reach my analysis? Such method is called ‘seg-waying’ and is a great way of constructing your body paragraph when writing essays. This shows that you have extensive understanding of the poem and are able to use the quote from the poem to argue your point effectively.
If you are struggling to analyse a quote, making a TEE table could be a great way of learning it. Look at How A Simple TEE Table Will Get You A Band 6.
What Does a Band 6 HSC English Essay Look Like
The goal is to write a killer Band 6 HSC English essay. So we need to start with the end in mind BEFORE you start diving into the structure of your essay!
What do the ‘Bands’ actually mean?
Bands are how your HSC exams will be graded – instead of receiving a B+ or a mark out of 100, your exam results will be placed in a specific band. Essentially bands are categories used to identify how well a response fulfils specific criteria. There’s Band 1 through to Band 6, with Band 6 being the highest and most sophisticated band to achieve.
- Band 6 – 90-100 marks
- Band 5 – 80-89 marks
- Band 4 – 70-79 marks
- Band 3 – 60-69 marks
- Band 2 – 50-59 marks
- Band 1 – 0-49 marks
Obviously, we’re aiming for a Band 6 here, so the first thing we need to do is check out what’s actually required of us to achieve that mark. The best place to get that kind of info is Board of Studies! The Board of Studies describes the HSC English Band 6 criteria as follows;
“Demonstrates extensive, detailed knowledge, insightful understanding and sophisticated evaluation of the ways meanings are shaped and changed by context, medium of production and the influences that produce different responses to texts.
Displays a highly developed ability to describe and analyse a broad range of language forms, features and structures of texts and explain the ways these shape meaning and influence responses in a variety of texts and contexts.
Presents a critical, refined personal response showing highly developed skills in interpretation, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of texts and textual detail.
Composes imaginatively, interpretively and critically with sustained precision, flair, originality and sophistication for a variety of audiences, purposes and contexts in order to explore and communicate ideas, information and values.”
Now that is a lot to take in, so let’s break it down into some terms and phrases that actually make sense.
|“Demonstrates extensive, detailed knowledge, insightful understanding and sophisticated evaluation of the ways meanings are shaped and changed by context, medium of production and the influences that produce different responses to texts.”||You show that you have a strong, very detailed understanding of exactly how time and place (context), text types (medium of production) and other influences can shape meaning in a text. You can also evaluate these things (analyse them) in a sophisticated way.|
|“Displays a highly developed ability to describe and analyse a broad range of language forms, features and structures of texts and explain the ways these shape meaning and influence responses in a variety of texts and contexts.“||You show that you are very skilled and practiced at describing and analysing in detail many different text types, literary and visual techniques. You can then explain how they create meanings or ideas in different texts and contexts (time and place).|
|“Presents a critical, refined personal response showing highly developed skills in interpretation, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of texts and textual detail.”||You show that you can write a detailed, sophisticated analytical response with your own, developed ideas. You can effectively analyse and evaluate different texts and literary themes/techniques.|
|“ Composes imaginatively, interpretively and critically with sustained precision, flair, originality and sophistication for a variety of audiences, purposes and contexts in order to explore and communicate ideas, information and values..”||You write sophisticated analytical responses (ignore the imaginatively part for this section) confidently, using your own, detailed original ideas and with strong structure. You’re detailed in answering different questions about different texts, while looking at many different ideas.|
As you can see, the Band 6 is all about sophistication and refinement.
Sophistication isn’t only about using fancy words, however, as the criteria points out that your actual ideas and analysis must be detailed and sophisticated as well. Therefore you want to look at different, out of the box ideas, comparing and contrasting your texts in an effective way and structuring your response so that it all flows smoothly.
This basically means that if your response can answer with the question with detail and highly sophisticated language and structure, you’ll be able to get a Band 6! Of course, this only tells you what your finished product needs to be, not how to get there.
Luckily, the rest of this guide will have you on your way to smashing this criterion out in no time!
How to Structure Your English Essay
You’ve probably heard that writing an essay is like making a burger…
The bread buns are the introduction and conclusion, and the meat is the body… I hated this metaphor. But it’s correct.
The Structure of an HSC English Essay
The basic structure of an essay is as follows:
But let’s get more detailed than this so you ACTUALLY get clarity on how you need to structure your HSC English essay!
Let’s explore the parts one by one briefly, and then we’ll jump into each section and explore these in more detail!
Introduction – Overview of Your Argument
A great introduction is a window into your essay. A marker should be able to read your introduction and know exactly what your essay is going to argue and how it will be structured. In fact, most markers from reading an introduction ONLY can already tell if the essay will be a Band 4, 5 or 6. So it’s worth taking the time to nail your introduction! An introduction to your essay has 4 key parts:
Thesis Statement: This is your 1-2 sentence argument in response to the essay question.
Key Ideas: These are the supporting ideas/arguments you will discuss to prove your thesis statement
Texts: You’ll introduce your texts you are exploring these ideas in
Module Connection: Finally, you’ll also connect your introduction to the Module you are studying in HSC English and any key ideas, or requirements it has (e.g. textual integrity, context, multi-modal texts)
Body – Key Ideas to Support Your Argument
The body of your essay is where you state your case to support your thesis statement/argument. It’s also where your essay will either sink or swim! The body of your essay has 5 key parts:
Topic Sentence: This is your single sentence outline of the idea you are presenting to support your thesis + how your paragraph will answer the essay question
Example: You will usually need to include at least 3 examples from your text that support your idea in your paragraph.
Technique: What literary or visual technique has the text’s creator used in the examples you’ve included to create meaning?
Effect: How do the literary techniques and the examples combine to say something interesting about your idea that supports your thesis?
Linking Sentence: How does this all link to the question? Additionally, can you link this paragraph to the next paragraph to give your essay continuity?
To help students get confident with this essay structure, at Art of Smart, we teach students to use the S.T.E.E.L framework. See below for more this!
Conclusion – A Summary of Your Argument
The conclusion is where you remind your reader and the marker of what your argument was, the main ideas you used to support them, and how they have answered the question and connected to the module! A conclusion to your essay has 3 key parts:
Re-state your thesis: This is your 1-2 sentence argument in response to the essay question.
Re-state your key Ideas: These are the supporting ideas/arguments you discussed to prove your thesis statement
Re-link to Module: Finally, you’ll also connect your introduction to the Module you are studying in HSC English and any key ideas, or requirements it has (e.g. textual integrity, context, multi-modal texts) which you explored in your essay.
Fantastic, now that you’ve got the overall structure clear, let’s dive into the most difficult and most important part:
How to Write a Killer Thesis Statement
The thought of writing a thesis statement might make you feel like this…
Writing a killer thesis statement is absolutely KEY to writing a Band 6 essay. But how can you do it?
The answer lies in the Secret of Playing Devil’s Advocate…
Essentially, playing devil’s advocate means going against the grain and doing something that is NOT expected! With everyone who does the HSC ending up with the same questions, putting a twist on it or arguing against a question can really help set you apart.
Here are 5 reason’s to play Devil’s Advocate:
Reason 1: It sets your essay apart
Reason 2: Markers wont expect it
Reason 3: You’re creating your own thesis
Reason 4: Your ideas will be more complex
Reason 5: You’re showing a greater understanding of the text
So, how do you actually craft a killer devil’s advocate thesis statement?
When it comes to developing your own devil’s advocate answer there are a few different ways to go about it based on what and how you like to write, but a few things stay the same as well.
Step 1: Answer the Question!
The biggest mistake rookies can make when it comes to playing devil’s advocate is forgetting to actually answer the question. This happens in two ways;
- Your thesis becomes too complex and you lose the original point
- You ignore the question and make a totally new thesis
The biggest thing to remember when it comes to writing a devil’s advocate thesis statement is that you still have to answer the question – you’re not ignoring it, just twisting it.
This means that no matter what you do the question should always be focussed on the same idea or concept, just looking at it in a different way.
Step 2: Create a Response
When you’re coming up with your devil’s advocate thesis statement there are lots of ways to go about it, and most of the time it’ll come to you naturally.
That said, it’s still good to know the main two categories of devil’s advocate thesis statements; arguing against, creating a new thesis or twisting the question.
Arguing against is simply refusing to agree with the question – this may involve arguing that the statement is wrong, or that’s it’s not always right, or even saying that the complete opposite is true.
Twisting the question is more about giving it an edge or different spin by adding an idea, limitation or ‘twist’ to the original question and/or idea. These can take a little longer to think up but they’ll almost always be more complex and encourage you to tackle some tougher concepts as you write your response.
Step 3: Develop Your Thesis Statement
When it comes to playing devil’s advocate you can’t just jump in and start arguing the question because your markers will have no idea what you’re on about.
You want to surprise your markers, not confuse them.
The best way to make sure your devil’s advocate ideas get across flawlessly is to develop a really solid thesis for your response. This means coming up with a new statement based on the original question and arguing that statement throughout.
Remember, your thesis doesn’t have to be long and complicated (in fact you want to avoid that) it just has to state exactly what point you’re planning to make. The best way to do this is by following a checklist like the one below;
What is the original idea/concept?
How can I argue it differently? (argue against, put a twist on it, etc.)
How can I turn that into a snappy, succinct thesis?
It’s then just a case of going through and answering each of the questions for yourself!
Example – Devil’s Advocate Thesis
Question statement: Discovery is always shocking. Devil’s advocate thesis:Whether or not a discovery is shocking depends entirely on what is discovered.
Question statement: Not all discoveries are made for the first time. Devil’s advocate thesis:First discoveries are the most important, even when they aren’t recognised as discoveries.
Question statement: Discovery is a process of careful planning. Devil’s advocate thesis: The only true discoveries are those that are unplanned.
Now it’s your turn! Take your essay question, and use the below three questions to craft your killer thesis:
What is the original idea/concept?
How can I argue it differently? (argue against, put a twist on it, etc.)
How can I turn that into a snappy, succinct thesis?
How to Write Your Body Paragraphs
Does your body paragraph look a little like this?
Incomplete, a mess, and a mix of ideas, quotes and things that sounded good, but when you put them together, just don’t quite work? I have good news for you:
There is a simple formula for your paragraphs that will dramatically improve your essay writing called STEEL.
STEEL is the structure that will make or break your essay, as paragraphs that use it are always kickass, while those that don’t tend to flop. The thing about STEEL is that it’s so simple, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be using it!
Statement We want to immediately take a stance on the question, so our statement has to show what position we’re taking and hint a bit at how we’re going to go about arguing it
Technique + Example While this is where you’ll be bringing in your literary techniques, it’s not as simple as listing them off. Try to introduce your technique with the quote that acts as your example, as this makes your response smoother and more sophisticated.
Effect Here’s where you’re going to start talking about just how the techniques and examples you’ve chosen actually reflect your argument. This is the ‘why’ – why you’ve included them, why they’re relevant and why they prove your point.
Link Now you need to link back to the question as well as the other text if you’re writing a comparative essay.
Of course, STEEL isn’t just about structure – it’s also about content!
Without STEEL not only will your paragraphs have lame structure, they may not even have all the info you should be including. When you don’t create structured paragraphs it’s easy to end up with a recount rather than an analysis, where you tell the reader what’s happened in a text, but not why it’s important or what it means.
Check out these two example paragraphs. The first one used no structure, while the second one uses the STEEL structure – which sounds better to you?
“In The Hobbit by Peter Jackson shows that Bilbo feels a sense of belonging in the Shire, because he spends much of the film in his home. In the beginning Bilbo is seen in the Shire, where he appears happy and content, even though he knows a lot about the world outside the Shire. He doesn’t seem to need to leave the place he calls home, because he feels like he belongs there. He wears clothes that look like things in his house, with the same colours and materials, and he is shown doing things in his home, showing he belongs there. This just proves that Bilbo is happy where he is because he feels like he belongs there.”
[S] “The Hobbit looks at how one’s perspective of how they fit into the world can bring about a sense of belonging, as seen through Bilbo’s love of the Shire. [T] Props are used throughout the first few scenes of the film to establish that Bilbo has read widely of the world outside the Shire, [E] shown symbolically through his collection of maps and books on foreign places. [T] The fact that he is so interested in the outside world yet has no desire to leave the Shire clearly demonstrates that he feels he belongs there, and recognises that leaving his home would lead to severe alienation. This sense of connection to his home is cemented in Bilbo’s costuming, his clothes made of materials with the same worn textures and earthy colours that are seen throughout his home, Bag End. [L] Through this a visual link between him and his home is established and proves to the viewer just how connected to it he feels. These techniques are therefore used to demonstrate that while Bilbo is curious in his perspective of the world, he also recognises and is comfortable with where he belongs in it.”
As you can see, the STEEL paragraph has a much better structure, but it also has much better information because we know exactly what to include!
Those techniques and examples that are missing from the first paragraph is what really fleshes out the STEEL paragraph, while the analysis is much more advanced because of following the structure!
So, how do you write a kickass STEEL paragraph? Let’s jump into the next chapter below to find out!
How to Use a TEE Table to Write Your Body Paragraph
When it comes to writing your body paragraph for HSC English essays there are to be so many things to think about.
- What idea am I going to discuss?
- What quotes will you use?
- Where will you find them?
- What techniques will you look for?
- How should you analyse them?
When you’re trying to get yourself into gear to plan or write an essay, all these little questions can pile up into one big ball of confusion and can result in you procrastinating from writing your essay, and then when you finally write it, struggling to find all the key information you need to put into your paragraphs!
That’s why we have TEE Tables!
What is a TEE Table?
Before we can start using TEE Tables, it’s important to know what they are, why they’re important and how they work. This not only makes it easier to use them, it also makes sure you know why you’re using them, which will help you get the most out of them.
TEE Tables are based on the middle 3 letters of the STEEL acronym, standing for Technique, Example and Effect.
These are essentially the ‘filling’ of your essay body paragraphs, including the evidence that proves your point (your examples and techniques) as well as the points themselves (your analysis).
By creating a TEE Table you pretty much break this section down into an easily filled out set of columns that will build up to a super extensive collection of evidence for your essays.
TEE Tables are incredibly useful for preparing for essay writing, as they allow you to get all your info, evidence and analysis down simply in one place. Plus they make it way easier to figure out which quotes or examples are the strongest, or best suited to your essay.
Additionally, they are also amazing once you’ve finished preparing your essay for study, as your TEE Tables makes it super easy to remember just your key points and quotes (rather than memorising an entire essay!).
There are also variations of the TEE Table that may go by different names, but are pretty much the same thing.
The TEA Table is most common (Technique, Example, Analysis), while the VEE (Visual technique, Example, Effect) and FEE (Film technique, Example, Effect) Tables also pop up for more specific tasks.
Some people even use TTEE Tables, adding a ‘Theme’ column at the very start. Though these variations can be useful, we’ll just be sticking with the original TEE Table for today – but feel free to try out the others if you think they’ll work for you!
Overall TEE Tables are just super useful tools for HSC English, whether you’re starting to analyse a text, or trying to cram quotes the night before your exam!
Step 1: Technique + Example
So what first? Well, you’ll want to start by downloading our TEE Table Template, or you can make your own!
Once you’re ready to start writing you need to focus on the first two columns. Our effect/analysis will come later based on our area of study, topic or question – what we really need to start with is our examples and techniques.
Generally, most people start by finding a strong quote or one that works for their topic and work backwards to find the techniques within it.
And the best way to show this process is by using an example! In this case let’s look at the old module of Conflicting Perspectives, with the prescribed text of Julius Caesar.
We know that we want a quote with some strong language features, which can also be linked back to the idea of conflicting perspectives.
This one from Calpurnia is a strong contender, as it’s making a pretty clear statement about her perspective on the issue.
Now that we know the quote we want to use, we need to fill it into our Example column and pick out a technique or two for our Technique column. This is usually pretty simple, as most common techniques (similes, personification, etc.) are fairly easy to spot.
In this case, it’s a little trickier, as we could stick with a simple metaphor, but it would be smarter to look for a more advanced or sophisticated technique.
Metonymy is a technique where the name of one thing is replaced with a word that is associated with it by meaning. Calpurnia is not literally saying that confidence is eating Caesar’s wisdom, rather she’s using metonymy to say that he’s letting his pride come before his common sense.
Having now picked out an example and found the technique within it, we’ve filled out the first two columns of the table! It really is that quick and simple – all that’s left for the table is our effect/analysis column.
Step 2: Effect (Analysis)
Okay, this section is a little more than picking quotes, so pay attention!
The purpose of your effect/analysis column is to very briefly and simply get down what point or idea you’re proving with the technique and example you’ve already listed.
Maybe they give insight to the overall topic you’re studying, or perhaps they’re a bit more niche and highlight an idea that would suit a devil’s advocate answer?
In some cases you’ll already know what question or thesis you’re arguing for an essay – this makes your analysis column a little easier, because you know how you need to be analysing.
If your question focuses on the theme or betrayal, you already know that each of your ‘Effect’ boxes in the table need to link back to the idea of betrayal. At the same time, even when you don’t have one set question you want your effect column to be cohesive.
You can ensure this by making sure each of your ‘effects’ link back to the area of study or module you’re currently working on!
Regardless of your point or idea you’re analysing, you need to fill in this last column with a simplified explanation of how you’re going to do that. It’s easiest to show you what this should look like by using our example from before.
Here it’s really obvious what point we’d end up making – that Calpurnia’s husband won’t listen to her perspective, and it ends badly for him. Obviously, we would’ve read the text and know who her husband is, why things end badly, and how her perspective acts as foreshadowing, so we don’t need to include all that extra info in our TEE Table.
It’s already in our heads! While the effect/analysis column is definitely the most important, it’s not really that much harder to fill in than the other two, proving just how easy these tables are to use! Just rinse and repeat a few times and you’ll have a fully furnished TEE Table in no time.
Here’s an example of our TEE Table that’s been fully fleshed out!
If you’re wondering how many examples (and techniques and effects) you’ll need, we recommend at least 6 examples with identified techniques and analysis per text, but of course you can use more if you’d like!
Speaking of essays, let’s get to our next step – actually turning this into one!
Step 3: Essay Writing
The only thing left to do is turn this table into an essay! Okay, so I know that sounds a bit far-fetched, but it’s actually super easy. As we said earlier, the TEE Table is based on the middle letters of the STEEL essay paragraph structure.
You know what that means?
You’ve already got three elements of your essay paragraph ready to go! Obviously, you’re going to need a few techniques, examples and effects per paragraph, which you can integrate and condense to create one cohesive paragraph.
In most cases, 3 TEE rows should be enough to fill out a paragraph, but you can always go for more! Five is usually seen as about the limit (which we got to in our example) but it’s all about how you use your examples.
The best way to integrate a whole lot of examples is to follow a linear progression, showing how one example introduces a point, then the following example proves it. Put a statement at the beginning explaining your overall point or theme, and a sentence at the end that links everything back to the question, and you’re just about done!
Check out our example paragraph to see how it’s done!
Caesar’s marriage to Calpurnia is used to present the conflicting views within a marriage, with Decius’ intervention in their discussion of Calpurnia’s dreams (Act 2, Scene 2) leading to conflicts of opinion. Calpurnia begs Caesar not to go to the senate, describing having seen omens such as “Fierce fiery warriors fight upon the clouds,”, the alliteration and metaphor lending pathos to her argument. Caesar initially humours her perspective, however Decius is quick to undermine it, claiming “This dream is all amiss interpreted.”. The use of anastrophe ties to Decius’ ability to quickly sway Caesar’s views, using positive metaphors to parallel Calpurnia’s negative ones and have Caesar exclaim at “How foolish [her] fears seem now…”. Decius also appeals to Caesar’s pride, one of his tragic flaws, with the rhetorical question, “Lo, Caesar is afraid?” and thus inverts his interpretation of staying home from an act of love for Calpurnia to one of cowardice. This use of omens and rhetoric is typical of Shakespearean tragedies, and is epitomised in Calpurnia’s metonymic comment “Your wisdom is consumed in confidence.” The short statement not only reveals logical insight to Caesar’s character, but also hints at how his rejecting her perspective will lead to his undoing. Thus, it is clear that the scenes between the couples of Julius Caesar reveal the diverse perspectives of men and women through language choices and form.
Here’s our example placed against the TEE Table. Can you spot exactly where we slotted our techniques, examples and effects into the finished paragraph?
It’s that easy!
Are TEE Tables the best thing since sliced bread? (We certainly think so!). By using these tables you’ll find it so much easier to not only get into the analysis of your texts but also to construct your essays when the time comes! Simply print out a whole bunch and use them whenever you need to get your analysis on!
Plus, you can use the completed tables for quick refreshers and cram studying of your quotes and key points for essays. When it comes to TEE Tables, what’s not to love?
The Complete HSC English Literary Techniques Cheatsheet
Literary techniques are tough – not because they’re hard to learn, but because there just seem to be so many!
When it comes to sifting through your notes to find the definition of an oxymoron it’s usually you who ends up feeling like a moron for not having listed them all down somewhere.
Luckily for you, we’ve created this kickass cheatsheet that features all the Big Bads of literary techniques, along with definitions and examples of each one. We even mention which ones you’re more likely to find in poetry – check it out!
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