HSC English Paper 1

Unsure what to do to best prepare and complete the new HSC English Paper 1 Exam?

Not to worry, here is the guide you have been looking for!

We’re going to provide you with tips and tricks to preparing and acing Section 1: short answers and Section 2: essay.

So let’s jump in and find out how to ace HSC English Paper 1!

HSC English Paper 1 Section 1: Short Answers

What to do before the HSC English Paper 1 Exam

Tip #1: Understand the new syllabus and memorise the “Texts and Human Experiences” rubric.

The questions in this exam are going to come out of the rubric so it is extremely important that students are very familiar with it.

Some tips for memorising your rubric:

Highlight key parts of it and teach them to someone else


Write it out over and over again


Memorise it by using your voice, whether it’s walking around and reading it aloud or recording it and listening to your recording


Have it next to you when answering practice questions or doing any work in relation to the common module and keep referring back to the rubric in your writing

Tip #2: Practice Reading

You need to know how fast you can read to be able to manage your time well in the exam.

Practice reading the unseen texts from past papers to find out how quickly you can get across the content, meaning, and features of language.

The fiction and non-fiction texts are especially long, so get a good idea of how long it takes you, and then work to improve that.

Tip #3: Understand how to analyse different texts and the variety of literary techniques and devices used by authors

It’s important to have a strong understanding of not only techniques used in written texts but also visuals, as images can be one one of the unseen texts.

Here is a link to a cheat sheet of literary techniques.


In addition here is a link to a cheatsheet for visual techniques!

Tip #4: Make notes on techniques or the rubric to help you remember them

Creating notes is a good way to collect all your information or to identify things you are struggling to remember.

Palm cards are highly recommended and creating flash cards is a good way of testing yourself.

You can create digital ones on Quizlet and test yourself by making quizzes.

Tip #5: Practice, Practice, Practice!

The best way to master the above steps and prepare for this section is to practice.

You can check out NESA’s Sample Paper and 2019 HSC English Paper 1 exam which are good references for questions to practice.

You can also use the rubric to create your own practice questions and analyse all sorts of different texts.

But if that’s all a bit too hard…

We’ve got you covered with brand new practice questions for Texts and Human Experiences, which you can find here!

You can also practice while you’re on your way to school or anywhere. If you see a poster, newspaper, book or pretend whatever you see in front of you is a photograph, you can ask yourself ‘how could I relate this to “Texts and Human Experiences” and observe different techniques.

During the HSC English Paper 1 Exam:

Things to remember are…

1 mark = 1 new point + analysis. You should be able to underline where you’ve made a point and earned a mark, and its partner analysis comment.


Keep your answers as short as they can be. 1 or 2 mark questions will be a maximum of 2 sentences. You can’t get any more marks and you’re taking time away from the high-value questions.


The questions with more marks e.g 6 or 7 should be around ¾ page to 1 page in length. A very brief intro where you make your point, and then two paragraphs where you provide the evidence to back it up.

According to the sample paper it appears NESA may do fewer questions with more marks unlike past years were 1/2 markers were common. So it’s important to remember to MANAGE your TIME well.

HSC English Paper 1 Section 2: Essay

What to do before the HSC English Paper 1 Exam

Tip #1: Analyse your Common Module text

First of all this means you need to actually read or watch them.

Unsure how to analyse texts? Check out this helpful article!

Tip #2: Make notes and don’t memorise a whole essay

Top band answers do more than just topping and tailing a memorised paragraph. They’re convincing because the analysis of quotes and examples directly relate to the question.

As good as it is to have parts of an essay planned, a lot of the time students can get fixated on their planned response and are not able to adapt to the question.

So instead of memorising a whole essay, make notes and use them to answer different questions.

Unsure how to make solid notes for English? Check out this awesome article.!

Tip #3: Timed Essay Practice

Don’t underestimate the importance of timed practice, your alarm clock should become your best friend by the time the Trials happen.

The essay is important, but it has an equal value of 20 marks like Section I, so don’t let your essay writing go too over time.

Unsure how to write a Band 6 essay? Check out our step by step guide here!

What to do during the HSC English Paper 1:

Things to remember…

Aim to write around 1000-1200 words. Good students know exactly how much they can write in 45 minutes and top students usually manage to write around 4 pages.

Keep your handwriting tidy! Nothing alienates a marker like bad handwriting – you can also lose valuable marks because they can’t decipher it

Give a brief explanation of your related text, if it’s not well-known.

A statement like ‘Sid James’ 1997 short film Why am I here tells the story of a family funeral from the perspective of the eldest son, Brian’ makes things a lot clearer.

It’s impossible to judge how well you’ve analysed this text if you suddenly start talking about Brian and the funeral in the middle of a paragraph

Above all, remember that if a marker suspects that you’ve memorised your essay they can give it a maximum of 50%. Focus on answering the question and adapting your essay!

And that wraps up our tips for preparing and acing Section 1 and Section 2 of HSC English Paper 1! Good luck!

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Anna Dvorak graduated from High School last year and is now studying a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in media, arts & production and journalism, at UTS. Alongside studying, Anna works as an Academic Coach & Mentor at Art of Smart while also doing freelance work. She is very passionate about the art of storytelling and helping people fulfil their potential. In her free time, you’ll find Anna working on her craft, reading, watching Netflix, somewhere outside or catching up on sleep.