The tricky thing with HSC English is that everybody has got to do it! And so if HSC English isn’t your strong suit, it can be quite a stressful weight, especially if you’re failing, because it counts towards your ATAR no matter what.
We’ve had a chat with Kiana who failed one of her HSC English assessments, but fought back, achieving 84% in Advanced English and 80% in English Extension 1! That’s over a 36% improvement in her mark, so today we’re going to find out how Kiana did this.
Let’s dive in!
How did it all start?
From receiving the first assessment mark, Kiana scored in the 60s. She didn’t stress too much at the time because it’s common to score roughly in the first assessment as you test the waters of Year 12.
Normally, by the second assessment task, marks begin to increase. However, for Kiana, it was the opposite and her marks plummeted below 50 and she was failing HSC English.
“I was gut-wrenched because… I was putting a lot of hours of studying into English. I was like, ‘How am I putting in more hours, but getting worse marks?’ So that was just extremely frustrating for me,” Kiana said.
Moving Forward and Improving
After receiving this failing mark, Kiana had a chat with her teacher to receive more feedback and find out what it was that she needed to work on.
“It kind of showed me a new perspective rather than just reading the written feedback… I think speaking with the teacher personally, one-on-one is really helpful just to see what they want from you,” Kiana said.
At the end of the day, these poor marks that made it seem like she was failing HSC English were internal, so Kiana had the opportunity to work her marks back up for the final two assessments and the HSC exam.
The best thing that you can do after receiving a poor mark is facing it head on, and actively looking to improve it!
As easy as it is to chuck at the bottom of your bag, or tuck it into the back of your book where you’ll forget about it, it’s more effective in the long run, to find out where you went wrong. And often, just being able to see where the mistake is made, is the main part of improving.
How did Kiana improve?
After talking with her teacher, Kiana worked on more practice essays and applied the advice and feedback she received. With more practice questions and short answer questions to work off, Kiana was able to practise more.
“I was a nuisance! I was emailing her every week just to send me more questions and handing it in the next week, and getting her to mark it,” Kiana said.
With perseverance and sticking through with the hard work, Kiana saw some improvement in her marks by the time Trials rolled around.
Having someone to provide her with feedback on practice essays, Kiana was able to consistently improve. Using the feedback as guidelines to frame your next response is a great way to make sure that you’re not making the same mistakes twice!
What were the one-on-one tutoring sessions like?
For Advanced and Extension 1 English, Kiana was working closely with her tutor, Steph, from Art of Smart. Having a tutor helped hold Kiana accountable, and motivated her to keep writing practice essays and getting used to all sorts of exam style questions.
“She [Steph] was a big advocate for doing timed responses, and that really helped me a lot, especially within the Trial exam… and it also helped me to think better and quicker as well, so my responses were better quality,” Kiana said.
For Kiana, she was aware that the short answer section was one of her main weaknesses, so it was a matter of getting used to reading texts under the clock and being able to interpret them to answer the question specifically.
“She [Steph] made sure that I actually understood what was given to me, and made sure that I could actually do them… and maybe if I had missed a few things, she’d go back and make sure that I understood what needed to be done,” Kiana explained.
What did Kiana do in the lead up for HSC English Exams?
Although there were evident improvements in time for her Trial examinations, Kiana continued to improve up until the HSC, as the 50% weighting helped pull her overall mark upwards.
Here’s a little summary of the different things she did to improve her marks:
In the last couple weeks, in the lead up to the HSC, Kiana was working on a lot of practice essays, especially by hand. Be sure not to underestimate how much longer it takes to handwrite essays, as well as the hand cramps!
Kiana said, “I saw that hand writing really improved my speed and got me memorising some of the quotes I needed to remember better than just typing them.”
Kiana also maintained the feedback loop with her teacher, by scanning handwritten essays and getting continuous comments for improvement. Not only would this help Kiana rectify her mistakes, but it also gave her motivation to keep studying as there were visible results of outdoing her personal best.
“For the short answer part, I was doing a lot of short answer practice, timed, making sure I was even under the time that I should be just so in the exam if I get stressed, I have time to spare.”
With the recent HSC English syllabus, it’s better to get into the habit of thinking and writing on the spot, as opposed to memorising essays and trying to make them answer the question.
“I just memorised quotes and the ideas that I wanted to put through for each text. Before I used to memorise essays, and obviously if you memorise an essay, and it doesn’t quite suit the question, you’re not going to get anywhere close to full marks… and I could see why I was losing marks,” Kiana said.
Preparing for Module C
The tricky thing with Module C in Advanced English, is having to prepare for discursive, imaginative, persuasive or reflection style questions, so memorising or rote learning answers are not an option when it comes to preparation.
For Kiana, she knew that discursive writing was her strong suit, so she planned some ideas but did not spend a lot of time practicing them.
For the imaginative, especially if a stimulus is provided, Kiana found that it was better to go in with a fresh mind and focus on following the question.
Essentially, Module C consisted of a lot of planning, so that you can enter the exam with ideas and a general gist of what you can write, but ultimately it weighs down on what the question asks, and having the ability to respond on the spot.
Also being an Extension 1 English student, Kiana had experience with writing reflections and imaginative pieces, and consequently, she felt stronger in those areas.
“Be proactive with your studying… and also use your teacher as a resource — go to them anytime you’re confused about something, need help with something, because that’s why they’re there, especially in Year 12. They’re there to help you,” Kiana shared.
So there you have it, a couple bad marks won’t drag you down, and there’s always room for improvement so you won’t be failing HSC English entirely. Seek feedback, advice, and always aim to resolve your mistakes!
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Nandini Dhir is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Marketing) and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), as a Dalyell Scholar, at Sydney University. She enjoys covering local issues in her area and writing about current events in the media. Nandini has had one of her pieces published in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald. In her free time, Nandini loves doing calligraphy, ballet, and sewing, or is otherwise found coddling her cats.