hsc english common module texts and human experiences

Can’t get your head around the HSC English Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences’?

Here is the 411 on the HSC English Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences!

What is the new Common Module all about?
How will I be assessed?
What will I study?
What should I be looking for in a Related Text?
What does Texts and Human Experiences even mean?
How do I write about Texts and Human Experiences?

What is the HSC English ‘Texts and Human Experiences’ all about?

Texts and Human Experiences is the new Common Module which focuses on deepening students’ understanding of how texts represent individual and collective human experience. This can include examining how texts represent human qualities and emotions associated with, or arising from human experiences.

This module takes up around a quarter of your course time in HSC English and as the name implies, is common to students of Advanced English, Standard English and English Studies.

It will likely be the first topic you study for HSC English, but hopefully not the hardest one.

If you’re lucky, your teacher may also integrate it with Module C: The Craft of Writing – but more on that later.


How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed on Texts and Human Experiences in both school-based and external assessment (HSC English Paper 1, held on the very first day of the HSC exam block).

The external HSC exam for the common Texts and Human Experiences module will consist of two sections:

  1. A short-answer section in which you respond to a range of unseen texts
  2. An essay about your prescribed text

Unlike in previous years, this exam will not be the same for Advanced and Standard but rather, it will comprise of two separate exams targeted at each respective course – an improvement, as it means the exam will be aimed specifically at your ability level and will neither be too easy or too ridiculously hard.

You can check out some sample papers for Texts and Human Experiences here!

If you’re looking for practice questions to brush up on your essay writing skills with, check out our Texts and Human Experiences practice questions here!

What will I study in ‘Texts and Human Experiences’?

Within the Texts and Human Experiences, you will study:

  • ONE prescribed text (check out the prescribed texts in the syllabus, here)
  • ONE related text of your own choosing (see below for tips on how to find it!)
  • And a range of short texts, likely given to you by your teacher

You will be assessed on your prescribed text in both school and external assessments however, you will NOT be assessed on your related text in your external HSC assessment (the HSC English Paper 1 Exam).

What should I be looking for in a related text?

Your related text should ideally have some connection to your prescribed text – it is a related text, after all.

However, try to think outside the box a bit in terms of what this connection is. Remember, this connection can take the form of a similarity or a difference (contrast in human experiences is a compelling point to raise) so you don’t necessarily need to search for your prescribed text’s long-lost twin.

Your related text is the one opportunity you will have in HSC English to choose your own text so you may as well pick something you actually enjoy.

Can’t find a related text? Check out our list of suggestions here! Or find out how to choose and use one, here!

What does ‘Texts and Human Experiences’ even mean?

The thematic focus of the Common Module is Texts and Human Experiences, drifting from the previous ‘Area of Studies; which tended to be a lot more conceptual in nature, e.g. Discovery, Belonging, Journeys.

The Common Module is notably vague in its rubric, so it’s important to be able to pin it down. Human experiences can encompass anything experienced by a human – huge, right?

Take a look at the first half of the rubric put out by NESA. Read through it carefully. All essay and short answer questions you complete for this module will in some way be drawn from this rubric so it’s super important to be familiar with it.

Thus, the next portion of this article will be spent breaking it down – so you don’t have to do it all on your own.

Have a read of the rubric:

hsc english common module texts and human experiences rubric

The first step in narrowing down the rubric is to identify and define key words. Below is a table glossary doing just that:

Key wordDefinition
TextsManifestations of human expression.

These can take the form of a novel, short story, poem, play, film, television series, song, artwork, etc.
ExperienceAn event or occurrence for which an individual is present and which leaves an impression upon said individual.

For example: Although HSC is a nerve-wracking experience for many students, it doesn’t have to be.
Human qualitiesDistinctive attributes or characteristics possessed by an individual.

For example: She shows strong leadership qualities.
Human emotionsStrong feelings deriving from an individual’s circumstances, mood or relationships with others.

For example: Grief is an emotion I know all too well.
Textual formAn umbrella term referring to various elements of a text’s construction, including medium, mode, structure and genre. The emphasis is on how the text is put together, rather than what the text has to say.

For example: Orwell manipulates elements of textual form to create a harrowingly dystopian text.
Textual modeThe style of a text, similar to genre. In order to follow a particular mode, texts display certain prescribed characteristics pertaining to setting, characterisation, and narrative structure.

For example: Billy Elliot navigates the bildungsroman narrative mode in order to connect with audiences both young and old.
Textual mediumText type – e.g. is it a novel? Poem? Play? Etc.

What differentiates one medium from others?
Anomalous behaviourBehaviour that is considered “abnormal” and different in relation to prescribed norms and conventions within a particular social context.
StoryAn account of real or imaginary people and events.

Let’s take another look at the rubric.

Keeping a glossary such as this one not only helps to condense a rather wordy rubric, but it also makes it easier for you to interpret different essay/short answer questions and word your answers in a way that is effective in meeting rubric requirements.

hsc english common module texts and human experiences rubric

Highlighted are a range of key statements you should know – both in analysing your texts and in preparing to tackle your assessments.

As with the key words, I’ve compiled a table breaking each of these down. Bear in mind though, these breakdowns are quite generic and may need to be broken down even further in order to connect with your prescribed text.

Key statementWhat does it mean?
Individual and collective human experiencesAn individual human experience is one experienced by one individual whereas a collective experience is shared.
Human qualities and emotions associated with, or arising from, these experiencesThe attributes, characteristics and feelings connected to/caused by human experiences.
Anomalies, paradoxes and inconsistencies in human behaviour and motivations
Anomalies, paradoxes and inconsistencies in human behaviour and motivations
Anomalies – Behaviour and motivations outside the norms and conventions of a particular social context.

Paradoxes – Behaviour and motivations which on the surface, do not make sense…

Inconsistencies – Behaviour and motivations which changes in some way.
To see the world differently, to challenge assumptions, ignite new ideas or reflect personallyThe ways in which the text affects the audience’s way of thinking – whether by exposing them to new ideas and practices, challenging what they previously thought to be true, creating new ideas or inspiring an assessment of the self.
The role of storytelling throughout time to express and reflect particular lives and culturesThe importance of storytelling in creating shared human experiences and creating a collective fund.


How can I write about human experiences in detail?

One of the most common difficulties in HSC English is going into enough detail in your writing.

Ever received any of the following comments on your work? 

  • Vague
  • Please explain
  • Such as?
  • Why?
  • ???

If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Heck, even I had this problem sometimes during my HSC year.

One way to get around this in the Common Module is to think about the dimensions of a human experience using the SPIES acronym, coined by one of our English teachers here at Art of Smart.

hsc english common module texts and human experiences

No matter the type of experience, it will involve each of these aspects in one way or another.

However, try and go a little further than simply identifying the dimension of the experience, e.g. A physical experience or An emotional experience. Develop a nice big bank of adjectives to describe these experiences.

Get started with your own list of adjectives, starting right here!

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the rubric and what it means, head on over to this article and have a go at practice short answer questions to put your skills into practice!

Looking for extra help with HSC English Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC English coaches and mentors!

We’ve developed a personalised HSC English Creative Writing Crash Course where our team of expert tutors & coaches work with you 1 on 1 at your home to help you craft a Band 6 creative writing piece!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today! 

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