Let’s be honest, English can be one of those subjects that we sometimes love and dread. Whether you’re a big fan of reading or not a fan at all, when it comes to the HSC, knowing how to read your prescribed texts in a constructive way will help maximise your marks when it comes to essay writing.
We all want to be hitting above 90% marks so having a thorough understanding of your prescribed text is really important!
We’ve got 3 hacks to help you get through your prescribed text both quickly and effectively which will of course, also help improve the quality of your essay writing.
Let’s dive in!
Hack #1: Plan Before You Read
You’ve read it right! Before you even read the first page of your prescribed text, there is some planning that you’ll have to do.
Now, this planning will actually help speed up the time and quality of your reading. Sounds pretty good, right?!
It’s time to go and find the different types of essay questions you might get for this text. So that could be an essay question your teacher has given you, past essay questions at your school or any you can access online from previous HSC years.
This will help give you a better understanding as to what exactly you should be looking out for while reading the text. The questions you find might focus on context, characters or ideas/themes.
It could also be a comparative question where you’re asked to compare one text to another and then have to bring in context, characters and ideas/themes. The point of this hack is to help you know what to look out for when you begin reading because it will make the essay writing part easier.
If it’s a context-focussed question, it’s a good idea to research the context of the author and the time in which the text was written. That way, when you read the text, you’ll be able to better understand how the context relates to and informs the text.
Perhaps you’ve got an essay that is ideas/themes based. It’s a good idea to brainstorm and map out what some of those potential ideas/themes are so you know what to look out for.
Now, if the essay focusses on characters or a particular character, make sure you know who they are and remember to pay more attention to them when reading.
So, that’s how you prepare for reading the text! It’s time to move onto the next hack.
Hack #2: Break it Down
You’ve done the preparation and now it’s time to actually start reading. That’s right, you’ve got to pick up that book and read!
We understand that reading a big book can be overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be! If you’ve got a book with 250 pages, you need to have a good think about how many pages you can read comfortably.
You want to stick to this goal so make sure you set yourself something achievable. Let’s say, you’ve chosen to read ten pages everyday. That means it will take 25 days to read the entire book!
Now, this is really helpful because you have a plan and know exactly how long you’ll take to read the book, just under a month! It basically means that you won’t have to cram half of the book because you’ve got another exam coming up and haven’t had any time.
By breaking down the book, it suddenly feels a lot easier to actually read it.
Hack #3: Bookmark Key Areas As You Read
Just to recap: you’re now reading the text and you know what to look out for while reading — whether it’s context, characters and/or ideas/themes. Now, you want to have some coloured post-it notes to bookmark anything relevant for a particular essay question as you read.
Perhaps there’s a thematic essay you need to write for this text. Whether it wants you to focus on the ideas of love, power, loyalty or greed, for each different theme, you would assign a colour and use the relevant coloured post-it note to mark that theme every time it came up in the text.
That means, you’ll have a coloured coded text which allows you to easily see which parts of it relate to which theme. For example, all the blue post-it notes are examples of power, the pink ones are examples of love and so on.
This hack will make it much easier to write your essay because you won’t have to spend hours re-reading the text, just to find an example of love.
Now, it’s the same process for characters and context — colour code important characters whenever they say something meaningful and mark contextual references.
Colour-coding those key areas will help to speed up the process of searching for examples when you get to the essay writing stage.
And that’s it
There you go! Be sure to follow these 3 hacks on how to read your prescribed English text quickly and effectively. It will make the whole reading and essay writing process much easier and help you maximise your marks.
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Tanna Nankivell is a Senior Content Writer at Art of Smart Education and is currently in Germany completing a year of study for her double degree in Communications (Journalism) and Bachelor of Arts (International Studies). She has had articles published on Central News – the UTS Journalism Lab and wrote a feature piece for Time Out Sydney during her internship. Tanna has a love for travel and the great outdoors, you’ll either find her on the snowfields or in the ocean, teaching aqua aerobics or creating short films.