Planning your study for any exam can be tough, but extension subjects can feel like they’re in a category of their own. Luckily, we’ve got your covered with a 7 day HSC English Extension 1 study plan to help you keep your studies on track!

Complete each set of tasks within 3 hours over the 7 days leading up to the exam and you’ll be ready for anything.

For the sake of this study plan examples will be based on the Crime Writing elective, but all the techniques are easy to transfer to other areas of study.

Day 1: Consult the Syllabus
Day 2: Brush up on your Analytical Skills
Day 3: Creative and Reflective Writing
Day 4: Practice Papers
Day 5: Essay Notes (Elective)
Day 6: Common Module
Day 7: Final Revision

Day 1: Consult the Syllabus

To get off to the best start it’s good to know exactly what you’re meant to be doing for the Extension English 1 HSC exam.

While this does mean knowing how the paper is set out (which, for the new syllabus, is found here) and what kinds of questions you may be asked, it’s also about figuring out what you’re being tested on and what markers are looking for!

For this you’ll need to understand the syllabus and how your notes and study should fit to it.

Check the Syllabus

Use the English Extension 1 syllabus which you can find here (extension syllabus starts on page 38) to figure out exactly what concepts you should be understanding and expressing in your critical and/or creative responses.

While pages 39-43 are objectives you should be aiming to hit, page 44 contains the rubric, which is what the exam questions are based off.

Familiarising yourself with key words from the rubric and using them in your responses will demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the unit!

So, highlight the key words or phrases (from both the objectives and the rubric) to keep in mind when writing practice responses or gathering your quotes.

Optional: Rewrite your highlighted sections into brief notes on what you should be showing in your writing!

Rewrite and condense what you already know

Knowing what you’re aiming for in your responses, rewrite any existing notes (or start from scratch) for both sections of the exam, breaking down your notes into concept subheadings.

Aim for one page of notes per prescribed/related text, at least one page of notes on creative writing, and at least half a page of notes on creative analysis.

Any more than that, it becomes difficult to memorise and any less than that, your response will not be comprehensive enough.

Note, given the new syllabus, the (possible) critical response for the common module is largely based on your analysis on the day.

Hence, your notes on the rubric should suffice on the note-taking front; practice is the key to doing well (which is covered in later days!).

The example below shows the layout of notes for one concept/thematic idea for an elective related text.

Complete similar notes for 1-3 more concepts and you’ll easily have a page worth of notes on key ideas you can expand on in your analytical responses.

Example – Analytical

Your creative notes will be a little different as so much of your response will be based on the extract given on the day.

However, it is good to brainstorm conventions or techniques and how to use them. This gives you a bank of ideas to draw upon in the exam.

Example – Creative

Day 2: Brush up on your Analytical Skills

Today is all about nailing the analysis for your elective essay responses (section II).

While you’re not expected to have a perfected analytical essay on the tip of your pen quite yet, it’s time to start preparing for when you will have to answer practice questions and do your actual exam.

To build the foundations for this you’ll need to figure out what information you have and how you can set it out and use it to its greatest potential in your responses!

Analytical evidence

Spend about 1.5 hours going through your prescribed and related texts one by one and begin selecting and writing out quotes that you can use in your essays.

Look for quotes that will be useful for a range of questions (e.g. ones that link back to multiple themes) or that include more than one literary technique (e.g. a metaphor within a rhetorical question).

Aim for at least 3-4 quotes per text, as it gives you room to mix them up without having way too many to remember!

Table it

Now write up a 3-column TEE table (technique, example and effect table) for each of your quotes.

If you’ve never used a TEE table, you can check out our article here on how to use one!

Make sure you bullet information on the literary techniques used in each, as well as the effect they have within the text and on the reader.

This will make it easier to remember exactly why each quote is useful and how you can use it in your analytical response.

Neologism“Facecrimes”, “doublethink”.Forced surrender of free speech reiterates the absolute lack of autonomy and thus inability to form coherent rebellious ideals.

Optional: Add a ‘theme’ column to your table and identify what ideas or concepts that are unique to your area of study each quote exemplifies. For example, if studying Crime Writing, note down if quotes are examples of red herrings, police incompetence, etc.

Day 3: Creative and Reflective Writing

Creative writing can be tricky, and often people forget that it’s not just a case of sitting down and ‘writing a story’.

Today focuses on figuring out the most effective tools and techniques fro creative writing responses, which ones you can use or subvert, and how to lay them out for easy memory recall!

Creative writing examples 

Spend about 1.5 hours collecting any short stories or creative excerpts you studied in class and read over them again, highlighting the most effective phrases or techniques that relate to your  elective.

Start building up a list of these techniques you can use yourself.

By identifying what sounds good and works well in existing creative pieces you’ll be able to better incorporate similar techniques into your own creative piece.

Clean it up

Write up a 4-column table of example/convention/subversion/reflection listing the examples collected in the above task, what area-specific convention it plays into, how this could be subverted and a quick reflection on its effect.

This is also the time to condense the conventions collect on day one from school notes to place your creative writing preparation in one convenient table.

It’s good to know how to subvert, or flip a literary convention, as it helps prevent your writing from becoming clichéd.

By listing different ways to subvert well-known techniques, you’ll be better equipped to keep your creative response original.

Let’s use George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four as an example again.

Winston’s character is unequivocally morally right, with his criticism of Big Brother.Role of the hero - Winston’s values align with our own and create a juxtaposition to emphasise the oppressive regime of the fascist.- Make the hero morally ambiguous - make their values difficult to understand/contradictory to our own.

- Tell the story from the antagonist’s point of view who sees their actions as correct.

- Use unreliable narration to give the impression of a relatable protagonist.
- Rejecting the hero’s righteousness encourages audience’s introspection of their political beliefs.

- Emphasis on destructiveness of the delusional stubbornness perpetuated by ignorance and uninformed people of power.

Day 4: Practice Papers

Things are getting serious now, so it’s time to dive into some past questions.

This day is all about figuring out how to quickly draft out responses to unseen questions – both essay and creative.

This will help you figure out what themes or ideas you know best and should try to work into your essays and creative writing.

Practice Essay Questions (Elective Module)

For ample practice, you want to collect five analytical essay questions (plus one extra for the final day), making sure they are of a wide variety.

As this is the first time this syllabus is being tested in the HSC, past papers are impossible to come by. However, that isn’t an excuse to not do any practice for extension one English!

Some creative ways to get some practice essay questions are:

  • Ask your teacher. Many teachers would have formed practice questions for this very reason. Check your Google Classroom (or any other program you guys use) or even better, ask him/her yourself!
  • Ask you friends. Form a study group and have each person form a few questions from the rubric. Place into a random list generator and use it to choose an essay question for practice. This way, you guarantee that you have no previous thinking time.
  • Make up your own from the rubric. Use the NESA released practice paper as a guide.

Map out a rough, 10 minute essay plan for each question – try to jot down your main ideas, what prescribed and related texts you’d use to support it and how you’d tie them back to the question.

Mind maps are also great for this exercise, or you can record yourself briefly explaining your draft essay. Aim for 3-4 themes or concepts to explore per question. 

The example below is based off an elective from the old syllabus, though the format is the exact same to the preparation for the current syllabus.

Practice Common Module Questions 

This is basically the same as above, only now, you need an extract to accompany each question.

If you are sourcing your question from the teacher, it’s likely an extract has already been assigned. If not, grab a short story anthology and pull out extracts to accompany the questions sourced from your friends or yourself.

Make sure to specify what form you are required to write in, within the questions.

Collect five common module questions (and one extra for the final day) and map out rough, ten minute plans for each.

Include which themes or conventions you plan to employ or subvert in creative responses. Plan for analytical responses in a similar format as the elective module, basing your analysis on the randomised extract.

For reflective responses, include the conventions/techniques you intend to elaborate on. Again, mind maps or recording yourself planning these are great options if you want a change from note-writing. 

Example Creative

Question: Reflect on Text 1 and, in a sustained piece of imaginative writing, create a literary world that attunes and sensitises your readers to a significant aspect of the world around them. Your response should draw on your knowledge and understanding of the module Literary Worlds.

To answer this question, you can access Text 1 here!

Narrative: Main character lives in a futuristic world where sound has been eliminated for efficiency reasons (sound energy has been ruled as too wasteful and machines/devices have become so far advanced they do not produce sound). Protagonist loves silence, admires it, find beauty in it. Shows disdain for olden times (our time) for ample sound. Finds a discarded, highly malfunctioning music box and is entranced (discovers music for the first time). Ends with the protagonist finding a room of instruments and wondering of their use.

Recurring Themes and Reflection Notes

Go back over the plans and identify any recurring themes or concepts that you tend to focus on in your creative and analytical responses.

We tend to feel more comfortable writing what we know, so it’s highly likely that the themes you’ve looked at more than once are the ones you’ll write about most confidently.

For each convention, take notes on their intended effect and the criticisms formed. This will become the basics of your reflection statements.

Day 5: Essay Notes (Elective)

Today’s the big analytical push, all about condensing your information and turning it into an awesome practice response!

By cutting your essay notes down to key themes and ideas you’ll be much better at recalling them during exams.

Today we’ll also be getting some writing practice done under exam conditions which will build your confidence to write a kickass essay in your actual HSC!

Condensing essay notes 

Now that you’ve looked at what themes you’re most comfortable writing about, rewrite a condensed cheat-sheet of quote notes!

This should be just the bare basics of what you’d need for planning and writing essays under the heading of each of your prescribed or related texts.

Aim to cut them down to dot points of the quote, the techniques in it, the effect it has and what theme it ties into – try for 2-3 quotes per text.


Metropolis – Fritz Lang, 1929

Evidence: children abandoned to death by flood, following worker’s revolt.

Technique: Biblical imagery.

Effect: references the Great Flood, implying the rebellious proletariats should be ‘purged’, criticising dissent among the masses.

Theme: Rebellion. Lang implies violent rebellion is unwanted and ineffective to reflect the values of the Volkisch movement.

Timed practice essay question 

Using one of the questions from the previous day’s task and the essay plan you already prepared, write a practice response under exam conditions.

Set a timer for 1 hour and time manage by checking your remaining time at the end of each body paragraph of your essay so you know whether or not to speed up.


When finished, take half an hour to compare your notes to your practice essay to see what information you may have left out or should revise.

If you find your essay paragraphs on some themes or texts seem less detailed than others, go back and revise your original, longer notes on those areas and highlight ideas or information you could include next time.

Day 6: Common Module

It’s all about getting those techniques down pat, both to avoid cliches in creative writing or for analysing your text extract on the spot.

Bulletting ideas and themes will make them easier to implement in your own practice responses, and again, the mock exam conditions help build you up for the real deal!

Condensing notes 

Create a final, comprehensive list of any and all techniques/themes unique to your area of study that you have found effective in existing creative pieces, how they’re used and why they’re used (reflection).

Try to keep these in brief dot point form – you should know them pretty well by now!

Then go through and highlight your top 5 that you feel you could use in your own writing, aiming to avoid any clichés or overused tropes.


  • Femme fatale – female character uses her sex appeal to manipulate others.
  • Red herring – a false clue, usually too obvious.

Timed practice paper 

Creating an essay question like the previous day, write a rough draft narrative plan and write a timed creative/analytical piece with/without a reflection statement, aiming to include at least 3 themes.

Again, use a timer to manage your hour and check your remaining time at the end of each minor plot point.


Compare your practice response to the list of techniques/themes you wrote to figure out how many you actually used or subverted and which ones you left out. If you noticed any clichés in your practice response, highlight them and jot down how you could subvert them next time.

For some resources on how to write the perfect creative writing piece, check out some of our articles on it here!

Day 7: Final Revision

It’s the final hurdle, so today’s all about getting as close to the real thing as possible.

A full practice paper and some last minute revision make you as exam-ready as you can be, so by now your confidence should be right up there – you’re showing yourself that you can definitely take on this exam and win!

5 Second Rule

Go over your condensed notes from the past 2 days and apply the 5 second rule to both.

Read each subheading or section for 5 seconds, then cover it and see if you can recall the main points.

If you can, head straight on to the next step – if not, spend some time reading over or mind mapping your notes to keep those key ideas fresh in your mind.

Timed exam practice

Now it’s time for those two extra questions we’ve been saving from day four!

This is the closest you can get to taking the HSC Extension English 1 exam without actually taking it a day early, so make it as close to exam conditions as possible.

Find a quiet place to work, set your timer for 2 hours and go for it!

Final comparison

Having completed a full practice exam, give yourself a pat on the back and possibly a chocolate break – you earned it!

Then compare your practice exam responses to your notes just to make sure there’s nothing you missed.

If you were a little brief on some points, revise them again or get a family member to quiz you, just to get that extra memory boost.

What Next?

Congratulations! You’re now as ready for the HSC Extension English 1 exam as you can possibly be!

Even though it seems like a lot of work, essentially these 7 days work to build you up to the exam step by step.

In fact, by the end of these 7 days you’ve technically completed the Extension English exam twice through timed practices!

Plus, the fact that each day is based on about 3 hours of work means that it’s super simple to fit it into even the busiest study schedules, especially as you can split each day’s tasks up.

But for now it’s time to get to it and start studying!

Plan out your 7 day HSC English Extension 1 study plan, then you’re ready to start.

Good job for making it through, and good luck with your exams!

Looking for some extra help with HSC English Extension 1?

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We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today! 

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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.

Jacinda Yang graduated in 2018 with an ATAR of 98.35, scoring herself an entry to a Bachelor of Arts (Films Studies)/Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communication) at the University of Sydney. She has been an avid writer and reader for as long as she can remember, dipping into public speaking competitions, short stories, slam poetry and even the dark, unmentionable days of Wattpad fiction. These days you can find her watching old movies (Marlene Dietrich is amazing) or guiltily still indulging in young adult novels.