This blog was written by Amber, one of Beyond's English tutors.
When it comes to studying for their English HSC trials, most students either underestimate or overestimate the necessary amount of work needed to excel.
Burning yourself out by trying to cram too much unnecessary information, or simply not doing enough background research due to the unexpected nature of the English exams, is what robs most students of the Band 6 results that they desire. However, lucky for you, we have narrowed down the steps required to ace those exams and be prepared for any type of questions.
Yes, you read that right! There is a way to study for English exams and here is how:
1. Reread your texts and watch your films!
By time trials come around, it would have been over six months since you studied your first prescribed HSC English text. You need to re- read or watch all your texts to remind yourself and refresh your memory!
This will help you immensely when forming an argument in response to the exam question because you will have a greater information bank to draw from. You also need to make sure you can argue your stance consistently throughout the entirety of your essay, and you can’t do so without having refreshed your brain with your texts.
2. Have all of your essays prepared
Have all your essays thoroughly checked by your teacher at least a month before trials and have them memorised at least two weeks before trials.
You should not be spending the night before and morning of the exams doing last minute memorising. In fact, you should aim to spend AT LEAST the fortnight before the exam completing hundreds of practice questions. Besides, you are going to have at least four other subjects to study for which can be really overwhelming if you leave it to the night before!
A great tip is to never let your prepared essay exceed a 1000- word limit; firstly, it will take FOREVER to memorise these for your English trials or English HSC exam. Secondly, you are going to need to re-shuffle your essay to better suit the exam questions. Therefore, you want to ensure you do not run out of time and are able to think clearly in the exam, so keep your prepared essays concise and to the point.
3. Make concise notes on your text
This will be the saviour that will help you achieve above average essay marks. Sure, you might have a well written essay prepared, but can you adapt it to the exam question? Simply regurgitating your prepared essay for English can achieve a 60% (if you are extremely lucky) in your trials or HSC. Having supplementary knowledge on each of your texts will help boost your argument so you can answer the question more comprehensively and get that band 6. Your notes should include:
- An understanding of all the main characters
- Being generally aware of secondary characters
- Understanding main settings
- Knowing prominent language techniques
The exam writers can create a question based on any of these and much, much more. You need to be prepared for anything!
4. Practice hundreds of reading response questions
Ask your teacher to provide you ALL the past English trial papers they can get their hands on. It is so important to expose yourself to a range of questions so you can prepare yourself to answer anything.
Not only will this further develop your analysis skills, but it will force you to revise countless English techniques so you can keep them under your sleeve when stuck analysing something that feels “technique- less!”
5. Practice answering as many essay questions as possible
Essays comprise a massive SIXTY PERCENT of your total marks! This will serve as a great way to test yourself on how you answer various questions. Getting feedback from your teachers will help you become aware of the most effective techniques to ace the essay section, as well as steering clear of all the things you should not do.
Answering as many questions as possible will also make you feel less overwhelmed when seeing your trial question. What’s more, is that this can help you memorise your essays faster since you will be writing them out repetitively. You can also check the standard of your handwriting and confirm whether it is legible enough for the exam markers.
6. Practice answering creative writing questions
Unlike the essay sections, the creative writing sections cannot be pre-memorised. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be prepared for! Going into the exam with a memorised creative piece will only give yourself extra pressure and stress. Creative writing is a skill. You need to make sure you master it before you walk into the exam room.
Try to complete at least one question under exam conditions each week and get your teacher or tutor to mark you on each one. Then, as you get closer to your trial period, begin to complete a few each week to really refine your skills. You can even engage in peer marking to get inspiration from your classmates!
7. Get feedback!
Book a few appointments each week to see your English teacher or tutor for feedback. They won’t mind! This is the most effective way for you to continue to improve and maximise your English marks. Show them every single reading response answer, essay and creative piece you have written and let them mark it for you. Make sure you understand all their tips and advice. Take on all their criticisms and keep in mind to avoid everything they marked you down for.
After each feedback lesson, go back and refine your work. Focus more on your weaknesses and study less for the aspects you are confident with. Ensure you make a consistent effort to see your teacher for feedback weeks before your trials, especially because they will most likely be booked out the week before.
8. Write, don’t type!
WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
Do not ever type! Exercise those hand muscles!
Your trials and your HSC are WRITTEN exams so you need to prepare yourself for hours of writing. Make sure your handwriting is legible but that you write fast enough to smash out your essay and questions in the limited time given!