Selecting pieces of evidence for essays

One of the most fundamental skills required of a HSC English student is the judicious selection of textual evidence to support their argument. Many students tend to just search “important quotes from (insert text’s name here)” and hope for the best but for those of us who want the best marks possible, it’s not gonna be enough. Let’s figure out what we can do to optimise our quote selection to help boost our marks.

1. READ THE BOOK

This is something I can’t stress enough! Reading the book is perhaps the most important step in quote selection as it provides you with an abundance of context to inform your decision on which quote to use. By reading the book, you automatically give yourself a heads up on your peer’s since most student just read summaries of the text and search up the ‘important quotes’ (a concept that is inherently flawed). It also helps you to form your own holistic understanding of the text whereby it fuels your ability to construct your own interpretations of the text. With your own interpretation of the text comes your own unique arguments, arguments that can only be supported by specific quotes that you would have come across in your reading. 

 

2. Relevance

Linking back to my previous point, one of the flaws in trying to Google ‘important quotes’ is that although a quote at face value seems to be an appropriate choice, you may have just simply misinterpreted it due to a lack of context which will most likely occur if you haven’t read the text. Not every quote is as it seems, context will reveal the true meaning of a quote, this is something that should inform everything you do in the HSC onwards. The HSC markers who have been assigned your school’s batch of papers have read the book themselves and/or taught it in the past so its very clear to them which students understand what they’re reading and those who don’t.

 

3. Not too long, not too short

A skill which you will develop throughout the HSC is figuring out what quotes are the perfect length. In general the aim is to have a quote that is neither made up of a few words or so long that it takes you more time to write it down than your explanation of the same quote. If the quote is between 1-3 sentences long (in terms of examination booklet sentence length) then its will suffice, as long as it is a quote that you can truly dig deep and flesh out its meaning.

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