How to answer English questions?


Whether it be responding to a short answer response or to an essay question, a majority of HSC students tend to not answer the question, rather opting to write convoluted, sophisticated responses with no clear aim in mind. The reason that so many English students struggle with this is because they are so focused on sounding smart that they forget to actually fulfill the purpose of any english question; to provide a thought-provoking answer to the presented question, and thats how you actually sound smart


Read the question twice:

Before you even consider writing, you must first read the question, sounds simple right? Wrong. First read the question to gain a holistic understanding of what is being asked of you. The second time you read the question is when you use an analytical lens in order to determine the key components which I talk about below.


Break down the verb:

A majority of questions in the HSC, regardless of subject or setting, will begin with a verb. All of these verbs are available on NESA website* for you to see. Once you acknowledge and understand what the verb means, then you will be able to answer the question put before you. Think of the verb as the rudder to your ship, the ship being your essay/answer to the question, it guides you and sets the tone for the journey ahead, thats why its so important to understand the initial verb. 


Highlight key words:

Now that you understand the manner in which you will approach the question, it’s time to figure out what words/phrases in the question are necessary inclusions in your response. How do we do this? Isolate the words/phrases which hold the most meaning, relate to your text, relate to your answer and/or embody your text. These words, when included appropriately and seamlessly throughout your response, will demonstrate to the marker that, not only have you read the question and understood it, but that appreciate the value and importance of the words of the question and how they act as a medium through which you are able to express your own personal interpretation of the text via the question. Its also important to note that, if those important words are related to your answer, they must be repeated throughout your entire response at least once per paragraph.


Determine your answer to the question:

Now that you wholly comprehend the question, you need to chronologically compile the  order in which you will craft your response. First, figure out a link between your prepared pieces of evidence/themes and the question and thus establish your answer. Once you have done so, begin thinking about possible thesis statements for each of your paragraphs that relate to both the question and your answer to the question. Once you have done so, begin writing your response


Use the rubric:

One of the easiest ways to add to the holistic quality of your response is to include words from the syllabus into your response, this is very important as it shows to the marker that you understand the basis of the module, have the right foundation for reading and analysing your prescribed text, and thus provide an answer centred upon the literary lens NESA seeks to encourage its students to read and understand their texts. 

Read the question a third time:

This part seems a bit overkill but it helps to ensure you’re on the right track. When you read the question for the third time, you make sure you have an answer that actually relates to the question and that you can actually write about with your chosen themes/evidence. Additionally, it serves as a form of psychological reassurance that you know what you’re doing and are ready to go. 


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