Preparing for English exams

As many students begin their year 12 journey, English tends to be a cause for concern due to previous experiences in younger years. In order to overcome these fears, let’s outline what we should do when preparing for these dreaded exams.


Adopt excellence:

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to expose yourself to exemplary responses. Most teachers will have access to exemplar essays from students they taught in previous years and they are invaluable resources for those who wish for a band 6. The best thing about these exemplar responses is that they are essentially a blueprint for success, all you need to do is adopt their structure, take note of relevant keywords they regularly use or that succinctly capture crucial points you may talk about, and understand how they actually answer the question using evidence from your respective text. That being said, it is of the utmost importance that you do not copy-paste the evidence and analysis of other students as this may hinder your ability to attain the HSC due to copyright infringements. Make sure any analysis is yours and your’s only.


Practise makes perfect:

As for all things in life, practise makes perfect. Once you learn about the context, structure and content of a text, don’t just sit there waiting for an exam to creep up on you, consolidate all that you have learnt and begin practising potential essay questions. Here, you have two options; you could create your own essay questions derived from the relevant rubric or could access past HSC and trial papers from different schools. I would recommend working your way up from smaller schools all the way up to the top 5 schools in the state. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I recommend that you research the HSC school rankings and determine where schools rank against each other. Once you find these papers and the questions you are looking for, complete time trials for these essays so that you can practise under exam conditions. If you are writing a common Module essay, give yourself 5 mins of reading time and 45 mins of writing time but if you are writing either a Mod A, B or C response, give yourself 1 min and 40 sec reading time with 40 minutes of writing time. If you can’t complete an essay in those timed conditions, don’t be discouraged by the result but rather, use it as motivation to continue perfecting your craft and strengthening your ability to answer the question. 


Apply feedback:

Regardless of how many past papers you may complete, if you do not get them marked, either by a peer, teacher or tutor, you will not be able to improve your marks and you wont highlight and fix the components of your writing that are letting you down. One of the benefits of giving your teachers a practise essay to mark is that, not only are you receiving feedback that you can employ in your own writing, but you are also demonstrating to your teacher that you are willing, dedicated and motivated to do whatever is necessary to improve in English. This kind of rapport with your teachers is key to succeeding in the HSC as these are the individuals who submit your marks to NESA so it doesn’t hurt to be on their good side. Once you receive your feedback, its not enough to just read it, you must actively employ it in your writing. This can be down by editing your essay with the teachers suggestions, thus cementing that piece of evidence in your mind so that you subconsciously avoid certain mistakes. 

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