By the time your HSC English Trial and HSC Exams come around, it’s expected that you are able to respond to 5 unseen HSC English essay questions…

And in timed conditions, somehow, write an amazingly articulate, sophisticated response that actually answers the question (aka isn’t memorised).

Sound impossible?

We’ve got your back!

In this video, we share a proven step by step strategy used by HSC State Rankers for HSC English which is guaranteed to help you improve your results in ANY English assessment where you have to respond to an unseen question in timed conditions!

Step 1: Write a Draft Essay to a Practice Essay Question

The goal of this is to help you get all your ideas, quotes, examples and techniques into a single place and organised so you’ve got something you can refer to and use for Step 2!

First, find a broad essay question that enables you to include a wide range of ideas and examples in this essay as it’s essentially going to act as your notes for ongoing study and preparation.

It’s also going to help you learn how to develop a sophisticated response on this Module.

Secondly, get your essay marked and improve it until you are given +1 mark over your goal mark for the essay.

Why? This way you know you’ve written a killer essay in practice and you can use and rely on this to help you prepare for the exam!

You are now ready to progress to Step 2!

Step 2: Apply the Rule of 3

To effectively prepare for your unseen question in your HSC English assessment you want to:

  1. Be familiar with the types of questions they could throw at you – so you want to get good at pattern recognition
  2. Be able to respond to these questions quickly and adapt all your knowledge, and model essays, paragraphs and notes to the specific question
  3. Have all your themes, quotes, examples and more memorised

But the important question is… how do you actually do this?

Rule of 3

Over the last 8 years I’ve interviewed thousands of students who scored an ATAR over 98 (including numerous State Rankers in HSC English) in a quest to discover the specific strategies used to excel and kickass in the HSC.

Here’s the formula I discovered for getting a state rank in HSC English – it’s called the Rule of 3.

Here’s how it works:

The night (or day) before your exam do the following:

  1. Pick 3 practice HSC English exam questions – they need to all be unique questions!
  2. In timed conditions write a response to the practice question.
  3. Initially start open book for the 1st essay with your notes and your model essay available for inspiration.
  4. Move towards closed book for the 2nd run through. Meaning you only look at your notes when you really cannot remember something!
  5. On the final practice essay you complete move to complete closed book – so no matter what you cannot use your notes (this is key as you need to recreate exam conditions)

And that’s it. Simple right?

But, why does this work?

Firstly it gets you familiar quickly with the different types of questions they can give you. So it enables you get better at pattern recognition.

Secondly, rather than going in with a memorised essay, it helps you in timed conditions (so exam conditions) practice adapting your model essay and notes to any sort of question. So you’re simultaneously building your exam technique.

Finally, it the act of writing the essays (and moving from open to closed book) helps you memorise all the content!

Want more?

Find out more about the Rule of 3 and how you can apply it with this detailed step by step article we’ve also put amazing article together:

How to Study for HSC English the Night Before the Exam!

Looking for some extra help with HSC English?

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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!

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at info@artofsmart.com.au or check us out on Facebook!


Rowan Kunz is the founder of Art of Smart Education, an award-winning provider of 1 on 1 tutoring and mentoring. Rowan has spent the last 8 years conducting research with thousands of Australia’s top students who scored ATARs of over 98 and is the author of Secrets of HSC Success Revealed. Rowan has 10 years experience in tutoring and delivers workshops across Australia on excelling academically at school. Rowan’s videos on YouTube have been watched more than 1,000,000+ times.