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2009 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre – English Standard and Advanced



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 course in English. It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2009 Higher School Certificate examinations, indicating the quality of the responses and highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses.

This document should be read in conjunction with the relevant syllabus, the 2009 Higher School Certificate examinations, the marking guidelines and other support documents which have been developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning in English (Standard) and English (Advanced) courses.

Teachers and students are advised that, in December 2008, the Board of Studies approved changes to the examination specifications and assessment requirements for a number of courses. These changes will be implemented for the 2010 HSC cohort. Information on a course-by-course basis is available on the Board’s website.

General Comments

Candidates need to be familiar with the Board’s Glossary of Key Words which contains some terms commonly used in examination questions. However, candidates should also be aware that not all questions will start with or contain one of the key words from the glossary. Questions such as ‘how?’, ‘why?’ or ‘to what extent?’ may be asked or verbs may be used which are not included in the glossary, such as ‘design’, ‘translate’ or ‘list’.

English (Standard) and English (Advanced) Paper 1 – Area of Study

Section I

Question 1

  1. The better responses identified an aspect of the visual text and explained how it represented the concept of belonging. Weaker responses identified an aspect of the visual text in relation to belonging.
  2. Better responses provided an explanation drawn from the literal interpretation of the poem. They also provided a reason for the explanation. Weaker responses failed to establish a link between reason and explanation.
  3. In better responses, candidates grasped the concept of evocation and ways in which the experience of being at home was conveyed through an interaction with the landscape. Weaker responses identified language features or techniques without establishing how they were being employed.
  4. Better responses analysed effectively with apt textual references chosen to illustrate how language was used to communicate the nature of the relationship between home and belonging. Better responses looked at and responded to the text in an holistic way. Weaker responses described what the various aspects of home and belonging were.
  5. ‘Compare’ can involve similarities and differences. Stronger responses provided an integrated and sustained comparison based on a central notion that perceptions of belonging involve connections between people and places. Strong responses also addressed the ‘people and places’ aspect of the question. Weaker responses made a series of generalised statements about two texts without providing any points of connection or adequate textual referencing. Weaker responses also did not recognise the conceptual link or relationship between people and places.

Section II

Question 2

Better responses used the ideas expressed in one or more of the quotations and constructed an imaginative piece of writing, using language appropriate to their chosen form. They explored the ways relationships contribute to a sense of belonging with insight, complexity and/or subtlety. These responses displayed originality and artistry and the mechanics of language were applied skilfully.

Average responses tended to be more literal in their exploration of belonging. They tended to be predictable, linear or clichéd in their examination of the contribution of relationships to a sense of belonging. In these responses, the mechanics of language was controlled and writing structure was appropriate to form.

Weaker responses tended to lack structural direction, were simplistic and inconsistent in their exploration of relationships contributing to belonging and had a lack of credibility with limited appropriateness to audience and/or purpose. Flawed mechanics of language were usually a feature of these responses.

Candidates presented responses in a variety of forms, though narrative tended to be the dominant choice.

Section III

General Comments

The interpretation of ‘understanding’ varied, with many candidates taking it as a cue to discuss cultural awareness and tolerance, while others interpreted it in a broader way, discussing issues of self-awareness, understanding of societal dynamics or a more holistic sense of human connection and our relationship with the natural world. Depending on their interpretation of the quotation, and their texts, candidates then chose to focus on one aspect of the quotation, or both.

The better responses demonstrated the ability to engage perceptively with the comment and then apply their knowledge to develop a sustained thesis which linked their texts to their thesis in an insightful way. These responses sustained and built on their argument, augmenting their points with judiciously chosen textual details and astute analysis of both texts. An ability to craft a skilfully integrated argument also distinguished highly developed responses.

Another feature of the stronger responses was the discerning choice of one piece of related material. Related texts that enabled candidates to enhance or strengthen their argument through subtle comparison or stark contrast marked out these better scripts. It was evident from the responses that some candidates found it difficult to sustain a detailed argument because they had restricted themselves to related material that offered little scope for a discussion and analysis in light of the comment and question.

Adequate responses engaged with the quotation, and candidates used their knowledge to support their response to the question, without necessarily developing their response or sustaining it fully. These responses tended to shift between description and some adequate analysis of textual details and features to support their ideas. Many of these scripts approached the question in a structured way, without developing a more insightful answer. They often relied on textual overview and explanation as a means of discussion.

Weaker responses mostly referred to the quotation and wrote generally about the concept of belonging. Candidates experienced some difficulty in effectively using their texts to engage with the question and relied on retell as a means of building their response and making some points about belonging. Their references to textual features were limited and the discussion of these was superficial.

Highly developed responses demonstrated clear and purposeful control of language, establishing an insightful response to the question. Candidates crafted well-structured and integrated responses using textual knowledge to inform and support a logical and articulate exploration of the comment and concept. Candidates were able to skilfully develop strong relationships between texts.

Adequate responses displayed satisfactory control of language. Responses in this range tended to be explanatory or descriptive rather than analytical. Candidates often made simple connections between texts when they were first introduced but were unable to fully develop them.

Weaker responses were often colloquial, conversational and segmented, demonstrating a difficulty in linking the texts to the comment and concept. Candidates often presented disjointed responses with varying control of language. Some candidates were able to establish a thesis in their introduction but were unable to sustain or support it.

For the relatively small number of responses that referred to two pieces of related material, marks were awarded on the basis of the candidate’s stronger related text, as well as the overall merits of the response according to the marking guidelines.

Rote-learned responses generally failed to address all aspects of the question adequately. Candidates are reminded that a close knowledge of the prescribed text and a comprehensive answer based on the question are essential for this section.

Prose Fiction

Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

Stronger responses were skilful and insightful in addressing the quotation, using Tan’s narrative as a means of exploring both the sense of dislocation and the attempts to find some degree of cultural equilibrium in the wake of the family’s move to America. These responses established well-developed and sustained connections between textual features, such as structure, symbolism and visual imagery to create a detailed response to the comment and their own conceptual understanding of belonging. Better responses reflected upon the importance of relationships as a nexus for intergenerational or cultural belonging, while demonstrating empathy for the migrant diaspora.

Weaker responses tended to look at the text on a simplistic level, relying on retelling and a limited discussion of characters which failed to engage with the notion of ‘understanding’. Textual features were identified, in particular ‘flashbacks’, but not explained or connected with the comment or concept.

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

In stronger responses, candidates engaged with the quotation to form a thesis that enabled them to discuss a variety of issues, focusing on cultural ‘belonging’ and its link to the understanding of ‘self’. There was a stronger focus on the connections Gogol made through his relationships with women, particularly Maxine, and her family as representatives of the ‘American Dream’. Sensitive discussion of Ashima’s quest for belonging also featured in these responses. The choice of related material was also strongly aligned with the discussion of The Namesake and focused on aspects of both cultural inclusiveness and displacement.

Weaker responses presented the search for identity as their main argument. There was a strong focus on Gogol’s lack of connection to his name as the reason for him not ‘understanding’ where he belonged.

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Stronger responses handled the complexity and weight of the novel skilfully, while demonstrating an implicit understanding of the moral and social underpinnings of Victorian society. These responses demonstrated a clear appreciation of the rich characterisation developed by Dickens and the way the relationships between characters nourished or hindered understanding and hence a sense of belonging. This was evidenced particularly but not exclusively from Pip’s point of view, with some strong responses drawing perceptive connections between the comment and Miss Havisham, Joe, Estella or Magwitch. With so many intricate narrative strains, stronger responses wove the concepts of connection to place, self-validation or self-destruction, social satire and criticism, or the didactic nature of the text into their argument about belonging. Candidates included insightful analysis of how Dickens’ language forms and features such as structural, syntactical, grammatical and symbolic devices were used to emphasise a sense of belonging.

Weaker responses related the storyline of the text, drawing simplistic connections between the plot and the comment. These responses often relied on the first section of the text but evidenced little knowledge of the concluding chapters. Often, weaker responses lacked an examination of the complexities of this text in terms of characterisation.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust

Stronger responses engaged with the notion of understanding and nourishment from the quotation with particular focus on one or both of the parallel ‘narrators’ in the story. These responses often skilfully juxtaposed the experiences of these two women and supported their argument with some strong analysis of the way Jhabvala used a variety of language and structural devices to develop this contrast in the text. They pointed out, for example, the tension that is developed between the almost seamless transition between the two time periods and the obviously different ‘voices’ used to characterise the two women. Candidates used controlled and sophisticated language to engage both the question and the quotation. The concept of belonging went beyond a simple geographical or cultural focus and incorporated the idea of self-realisation as a prerequisite to genuine belonging to people, culture, or place. Textual evidence was used in a judicious manner with candidates delving into Olivia’s relationship/romance to explore and develop the notion of belonging and its associated struggles.

Weaker responses tended to focus on the idea of belonging without engaging the quotation. They took a simplistic approach, relying on retelling or generalised observations without dealing with the notions of ‘nourishment’ or ‘prevention’ through understanding. Engagement with the text tended to be narrowly focused on the idea of belonging being related to a sense of geography. These responses often did not develop textual features as part of their response.

Tara June Winch, Swallow the Air

Stronger responses used Winch’s narrative as a sensitive exploration of the concept of belonging and the devastating consequences of endemic cultural marginalisation. These responses developed and sustained insightful connections between the character of May and the comment and concept, supporting these with strong analysis of the textual features of the novel. They made discerning selections from the text, in particular, the lyrical qualities of the prose and the use of symbolism, ie the stingray, ancestor spirits and water, to establish an articulate and intelligent response to the question.

Weaker responses failed to adequately engage with the question, demonstrating a superficial understanding of belonging and tending to rely on recount and identification, rather than analysis of textual features. Many relied on superficial references to plot and did not clearly identify any significant textual details, relying on retell to demonstrate their limited understanding. Some attempted a thesis in their introduction, simply agreeing with the comment, and then made little or no reference to it in the rest of their discussion.


Raimond Gaita, Romulus My Father

Stronger responses engaged confidently with the quotation, skilfully connecting the experiences of the different characters with the notion of understanding, and evaluating the extent to which their sense of belonging had been ‘nourished’ in Australia. These responses tended to start with the central idea of belonging to, and understanding, a particular culture, but then developed their argument as they considered the relationships between the characters, the isolation of Christine, the connection of Raimond to the Australian landscape, or the transcendent sense of ‘common humanity’ that Romulus ultimately felt. Many also incorporated insightful discussion of the migrant experience and its differing impact on Raimond and the other immigrant characters in the text. These responses were discerning in their choice of textual support, demonstrating a strong grasp of the text as a whole, its structure and philosophical tone.

Weaker responses focused more literally on the notion of characters being understood or misunderstood without meaningful analysis of the consequences of this and with little or no discussion of the concept of nourishment. These responses tended to be more narrow in focus and limited to just one aspect of the text, for example Romulus and the landscape. These responses often relied on retell and where textual features were identified they were often not explained or connected to the concept or the comment.


Arthur Miller, The Crucible

Stronger responses focused on the question in terms of ‘understanding’ and ‘nourishing’ rather than reproducing a generic thesis on belonging. They developed and sustained their own argument with carefully selected examples from the text. They often incorporated notions of individuality, conscience, moral law, conformity and power into their responses, establishing a strong personal voice. Candidates approached the question in various ways, focusing on one or more of a variety of characters to argue their case or support their ideas on belonging or alienation. They demonstrated a keen awareness of this text as theatre and skilfully explored Miller’s use of theatrical devices to support their position regarding the question.

Weaker responses displayed a reliance on plot recount and/or explanation of language features rather than genuinely developing a thesis in response to the comment. Some candidates included contextual discussion regarding McCarthyism which did not enhance their argument but merely extended their response. Others wove such discussion to effectively show how we, as responders, ‘belong’ to the text through such understanding.

Jane Harrison, Rainbow’s End

Stronger responses examined the idea of cultural identity, and demonstrated an implicit understanding of the social context of the play and the history of Indigenous and non-indigenous relations in Australia. These responses skilfully examined Harrison’s use of distinct setting, historical events, characterisation, oral tradition, dramatic irony and humour in her portrayal of twentieth-century Aboriginal experience. Many candidates were able to link Indigenous community strength with ‘understanding’ and racism with a ‘lack of understanding’, often comparing ‘The Flats’ to ‘The Town’ community of Shepparton.

Weaker responses referred to the prescribed text in an elementary way. Responses were weak in their knowledge and understanding of the concept of belonging and struggled to articulate a connection between belonging and understanding. Weaker responses also relied heavily on recount and description.


Baz Luhrman, Strictly Ballroom

Stronger responses engaged with the quotation, developing and sustaining a valid thesis in response to the question. Most often they focused on the notions of cultural or social acceptance or rejection, and linked them to understanding. These responses often established a personal voice in supporting their argument through the careful selection and discussion of the characters, relationships or events in the film and the skilful integration of relevant textual features.

Weaker candidates avoided the word ‘nourishes’ altogether. Their interpretation of the quotation tended to focus on aspects of belonging or not belonging in the texts. Plot recount was common as was a narrow discussion of the characters, predominantly Scott and Fran. Textual features were identified or described, seldom in relation to an interpretation of the film. Limited control of language was a feature of many weaker responses.

Rolf De Heer, Ten Canoes

Stronger responses cleverly examined the distinctive quality of the text in response to the quotation. These responses were marked by a thoughtful consideration of the question in terms of the laws, values and kinship of traditional Indigenous communities. Other aspects addressed were in relation to culture, land, spirituality, individuality and identity, and how an understanding of these things could nurture a genuine sense of connection. This analysis was supported by a discerning choice of film techniques as a means of furthering their discussion, particularly with regard to the two stories, individual characters and their relationships. As well, candidates were able to cleverly integrate an analysis of the narrative of the film in terms of its features of spoken language.

Weaker responses re-told the story of the film in simplistic terms, relying on recount to illustrate their points. These scripts often evidenced a poor choice of related text, were undeveloped and showed little understanding of language forms and features or cinematic techniques.


William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Stronger responses skilfully explored the interrelationship between ‘understanding’ and ‘belonging’, developing and sustaining a thesis which evaluated the extent to which such understanding served to nourish or prevent a sense of belonging in the text. These responses developed a distinctive argument, often focusing on the notion of connection to the natural world or the need for self-realisation as a prerequisite for a genuine understanding of our place in society. Others discussed the importance of nourishing relationships for belonging and investigated different dimensions of belonging, including ‘sisterly love’, ‘romantic love’, ‘courtly love’ and community connections. These responses often demonstrated an awareness of the context, including the pastoral comedic aspects of the texts, without allowing such considerations to override their argument or textual analysis. These candidates were also able to support their argument with a skilful handling of the text, including its structure, language and dramatic techniques.

Weaker responses often relied on re-telling or identified some textual features without establishing a convincing connection to the comment. Some responses made only a limited or elementary attempt to address ‘understanding’.


Peter Skrzynecki, Immigrant Chronicle

In the stronger responses, candidates clearly and purposefully addressed the quotation, discussing how their selected poems illuminated aspects of belonging represented in the comment. These candidates successfully addressed the question, often by considering both sides of the quotation. The most successful responses tackled the notion of ‘nourishes’ as well as integrating the significance of ‘understanding’ in the development of genuine cultural, intergenerational, or social affinity. Enhancing their overall quality, many of these responses did not limit themselves to the poems which dealt with notions of cultural belonging, like ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’, ‘10 Mary Street’ or ‘Migrant Hostel’ but developed their argument in interesting ways by referring to the other poems, including ‘In the Folk Museum’. Stronger responses were characterised by a skilful textual analysis and the ability to develop insightful relationships to construct a convincing argument.

Weaker responses struggled with the quotation and tended to only address the latter part of the quotation. These candidates often dealt with their texts in an isolated manner and failed to link them in any meaningful way.

Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson

High-range responses used the poems to develop and support a perceptive argument in response to the quotation. While many of these responses discussed Dickinson’s personal context in light of the quotation, they did not allow contextual considerations to dominate their thesis or textual analysis. For the most part, candidates focused on the second part of the comment, the prevention of belonging through a lack of understanding, but many were also able to counterbalance this with a consideration of the poet’s deep sense of connection to the natural world. The brevity of many of the prescribed poems allowed candidates to discuss three poems to further their discussions or explore contrasting aspects of belonging in connection with the comment. Candidates integrated perceptive and insightful analysis of the textual features into their responses.

Weaker responses often discussed Dickinson’s context but with little direct reference to the poems. Many candidates struggled with understanding the complex issues in her poetry, focusing instead on a straightforward explanation of the poet’s feelings of isolation. Poetic devices were often identified without considering their effect on meaning. Many weaker responses ignored the quotation in the question.

Steven Herrick, The Simple Gift

Stronger responses established a convincing link between the comment in the question and the characters and relationships in the text, and then developed and sustained their argument. These responses generally managed to support their argument by weaving together Billy’s initial experiences of rejection and abuse with his affinity with nature and his subsequent, nurturing connections to Old Bill, Caitlin and Bendarat. These responses usually moved beyond a simplistic explanation of Billy’s growth to a more profound evaluation of the way all three characters were ‘nourished’ in their sense of belonging through an understanding of the power of acceptance and the courage to accept the past and self. Better responses often demonstrated an ability to round out their argument by contrasting Billy’s experiences with those of Old Bill and his initial refusal to confront his past. Incorporating an analysis of poetic techniques with their discussion enabled some candidates to explore the quotation skilfully, referring to symbolism, juxtaposition, multiple narratives and the verse-novel style of the text.

Weaker responses tended to re-tell events without developing their ideas or supporting them with effective textual analysis. These responses also struggled to engage with the ‘understanding’ aspect of belonging, choosing instead to present a discussion of belonging that was often not linked to the comment in the question.

English (Standard) Paper 2 – Modules

Section I – Module A: Experience Through Language

General Comments

Most candidates displayed a genuine understanding of voice/visual with good levels of literacy and well-structured responses being evident.

Responses were varied and therefore interesting in the ways that they approached the question. Many candidates were clearly well prepared and were able to shape their knowledge to answer the question.

Weaknesses were evident where candidates were clearly using old electives.

The use of one related text meant that candidates were expected to analyse in detail and with depth. There was a wide variety of related texts but better choices were those that were more relevant to distinctive voices or the distinctively visual. Candidates who made their own selection of related texts usually provided a more genuine and personal response, rather than a common or generic response. Candidates who demonstrated a deep engagement with the related text were often able to provide a purposeful answer to the requirements of the question.

Photographs, paintings, picture books and films were popular as related texts, and offered potential for a purposeful and integrated response in the Distinctively Visual elective. In the Distinctive Voices elective, popular choices were speeches, poems, songs, films and television shows. While also offering potential for purposeful discussion, they appeared more difficult for candidates to analyse and shape to the question.

Better responses analysed their related text in terms of the question and in relationship to the prescribed text or its ideas, furthering their thesis. Connections were made in a variety of ways in terms of experiences, ideas, themes, style and techniques. The use of their related text was purposeful, thoughtful, effective and relevant to the requirements of the question. Better responses demonstrated high levels of visual literacy.

Weaker responses were typified by a range of features including poor choice (especially in terms of relevance), brevity, weak links to the question, description rather than analysis, and failure to address composing techniques (eg cinematography in films, musicality in songs).

Question 1 – Elective 1: Distinctive Voices

  1. Pose Fiction – Marele Day, The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender

    Better responses compared different voices within the text and the ways in which the distinctive nature of the voices emerged due to the experiences of the characters. Some responses showed an over-reliance on the opening scenes of the novel in establishing the distinctive voice.
  2. Drama – George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

    Better responses showed an understanding of how voice expresses socioeconomic differences and explored the context of the texts in considering distinctive experiences.
  3. Poetry (ii) – AB Paterson, The Penguin Banjo Collected Verse

    Better responses showed an understanding of how voice expresses socioeconomic differences and explored the context of the texts in considering distinctive experiences.
  4. Nonfiction – Speeches

    Better responses made worthwhile and thoughtful conclusions about the subject matter. Weaker responses identified issues focusing on context (political and historical) rather than addressing experiences presented within the speech or those of the audience.

Question 2 – Elective 2: Distinctively Visual

  1. Prose Fiction – Henry Lawson, The Penguin Henry Lawson Short Stories

    Many candidates readily appreciated how Lawson’s stories painted a vivid visual experience through figurative techniques. Better responses linked visual techniques to experiences in the bush. Weaker responses often relied on recount and dealt with aspects of the hardships and monotony of the Australian bush with particular focus on ‘The Drovers Wife’ and ‘In a Dry Season’.
  2. Prose Fiction – Peter Goldsworthy, Maestro

    The better responses identified images that communicated experiences. Weaker responses had a tendency to recount and describe, and lacked depth in their analysis of the visual features in the text.
  3. Drama – John Misto, The Shoe-Horn Sonata

    Some responses included analysis of aural imagery, but the better responses used this to make the point that sound reinforces the understanding of the visual.
  4. Poetry – Douglas Stewart, Selected Poems

    Better candidates showed a personal understanding of the visual communicating the uniquely Australian experiences presented in Stewart’s poems.
  5. Film – Tom Tykwer, Run Lola Run

    Some responses focused on the analysis of a variety of key scenes, exploring symbolism, motifs and cut frame techniques to explore the experiences of Manni and Lola. Better responses related these experiences to their own world.
  6. Media – Deb Cox, Seachange

    Better responses focused on key scenes and explained the variety of visual techniques to create the Seachange environment and characters. Weaker responses related events and techniques without linking them to the question.

Section II – Module B: Close Study of Text

General Comments

Responses that demonstrated a thoughtful selection of material supported by relevant examples, and embarked on an exploration of the question that showed a genuine personal engagement were more successful than generic, formulaic responses.

Even detailed responses must demonstrate relevant textual knowledge to gain high marks.

Question 3 – Prose Fiction

  1. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

    The stronger responses explored the entire text and selectively used thematic and structural issues to support a thesis. They explored Haddon’s purpose in developing empathy towards people with disabilities, while outlining the impact of a significant character’s choices and actions through relevant choice of techniques and textual examples. The better responses invariably selected characters which were able to support their arguments. In addition, they recognised the potential for an impact to be felt both within the text and on its audience.

    Weaker responses were characterised by discussion of themes, techniques and characters, or mere recount of plot with little or no reference to the question.
  2. Jane Yolen, Briar Rose

    In better responses, candidates invariably selected characters whose choices and actions had a significant impact both within the text and on the audience. These candidates were able to combine in-depth textual knowledge with a clear understanding of how the techniques of the author worked to explore the impact of a significant character. These candidates supported their analysis with clear, well referenced and appropriate textual knowledge.

    Weaker responses tended to rely on recounting plot elements, superficial discussion of theme or generic responses which were poorly linked to this year’s question. While some responses clearly demonstrated familiarity with the text, they were restricted by narrow or insufficient analyses of how the novel was shaped by the choices and actions of a significant character.
  3. David Malouf, Fly Away Peter

    Better responses demonstrated a real engagement with the text and its characters. These responses effectively explored the choices of an appropriately selected character and demonstrated how that character’s choices impacted on others within the text and on the audience generally. Weaker responses appeared to struggle with the literacy requirements of this text. These responses tended to be brief recounts with little relevant reference to the question.

Question 4 – Drama

  1. Louis Nowra, Cosi

    In the better responses, candidates demonstrated a clear understanding of the play and were able to write a mature personal response on the impact of the choices and decisions made by a significant character. These responses chose their character wisely and clearly outlined the number of choices and decisions made by that significant character and how these in turn impacted on the play. These candidates were able to substantiate their thesis with thoughtful and well-selected textual detail and specific quotations.

    The better responses also cleverly linked the ideas and issues in the play with the decisions and choices made by the characters. For example, such responses discussed what a character like Lewis valued and this led to a clear and articulate argument that linked the issues of fidelity, friendship, loyalty and love to the choices he made throughout the play. Weaker responses did not make this same link and therefore tended to list a number of themes in the play and could not relate the decisions of the characters to these themes. Many of these same responses found it difficult to go beyond either a retelling of the narrative of the play or a listing of the different themes and issues explored in the play. Similarly, the less successful responses did not make wise decisions in the choice of the significant character and even less successful was their selection of textual evidence and quotations. Candidates are reminded that the text is a play and should be seen as a drama not a film or a novel.
  2. William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

    In the better responses, candidates wisely chose their significant character and were able to write convincingly on how that character’s decisions and actions which impacted on other characters and the course of the play. This play has a wide choice of characters who could be used to successfully address the concepts of choices and actions and their impact.

    Better responses had a strong thesis and sustained a coherent argument substantiated by some very impressive close textual knowledge. Weaker responses demonstrated a superficial knowledge of the play and a limited understanding of the idea of choices and decisions impacting on the play. Weaker responses did not substantiate their argument with textual references beyond some clichéd comments about racism and greed.

Question 5 – Poetry

  1. Wilfred Owen, War Poems and Others

    The better responses demonstrated effective explorations of ideas and emotions focusing on suffering and pity, and supported them with detailed, relevant textual knowledge and well-selected examples. They showed a keen understanding of how Owen had portrayed suffering. In general, responses were better at handling the concept of suffering than pity.

    Some candidates limited themselves by their choice of poems. Many candidates found The Parable a challenging choice, while Dulce et Decorum Est and Disabled were successfully handled by most.

    Less successful responses dwelled more on recount, paraphrasing and description, and tended to ignore the set question.

    While language and expression were generally adequate or better, the spelling, syntax and punctuation of many weaker responses limited their quality.
  2. Judith Wright, Collected Poems 1942–1985

    Better responses were most proficient in their ability to link the two concepts and then substantiate their thesis with some excellent textual detail. The selection of the two poems affected the quality of the responses as not all prescribed poems could be used equally effectively. Weaker responses struggled with the two concepts in the question and tended to rely on a retell of the poem’s content. Some of these weaker responses tried to explore the environmental issues of Wright’s poetry but did not link this discussion to the question.

Question 6 – Nonfiction

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Most candidates were able to focus on a selection of Chris McCandless’s choices and actions and, with varying success, the impact of those decisions. However, many of the weaker responses demonstrated confusion about the medium in which his story was told. Many of the candidates referred to the film rather than the book, noting the composer as Sean Penn rather than Jon Krakauer. This confusion automatically limited the candidates’ ability to respond to the question with accurate textual detail and language features.

Candidates are reminded to refer to the correct medium of the text in this module.

Question 7 – Film

Peter Weir, Witness

Better responses showed an effective understanding of how a significant character shaped events or reaction in themselves, other characters and/or the responders. They purposefully selected scenes which exemplified the character’s decisions and actions and how they impacted on the narrative. While the choice of the significant character was a discriminator, better responses could select one from a wide range in the film, although most focused on the protagonist. Better responses were cleverly crafted to link effectively the main issues of the film to the character’s choices, actions and their impacts. These responses thus addressed a wider range of issues and did not limit themselves to a clichéd or simplified version of the ‘clash of cultures’ or other issues.

Better responses also constructed a purposeful and confident argument which was well substantiated, with detailed close study, revealing an understanding of the contribution made by character in the shaping of the narrative. They also displayed a strong engagement with the text which enabled them to compose a sustained and informed personal response. While some candidates were able to use knowledge of film technique to amplify their argument, this was not a prerequisite for gaining high-range marks.

Weaker responses had little engagement with the question and while superficial references to its terms may have begun and ended the essay, the body lacked substantial references to it. Frequently they moved into description of aspects of the text rather than focusing on the impact of the choices and actions. Responses which did not address the question were limited to the lower range of marks despite many showing detailed knowledge of the text and film techniques and/or a fluent writing style. Many weaker responses struggled to apply their knowledge of the text to the requirements of the question and the module.

Section III – Module C: Texts and Society

Question 8 – Elective 1 –The Global Village

In the better responses, candidates demonstrated the ability to effectively synthesise ideas and clearly articulate their depth of knowledge of the texts, incorporating analysis of well-selected textual examples or features to support their thesis. The discerning choice of substantial related texts allowed candidates to fully explore the concepts of the elective and successfully address the demands of the question. An informed and persuasive voice was a consistent feature of the better responses.

Weaker responses made broad generalisations about the questions, the elective or the text(s). A literal retell or general assertions about obstacles and rewards often featured in these responses. The related texts were used simplistically or lacked relevance to the concerns of the elective. Candidates often dealt with texts in isolation and produced superficial responses to the question with shallow references to textual examples and features.

Question 9 – Elective 2 – Into the World

In the better responses, candidates engaged with the question on a conceptual level, recognising the significance of the social and historical context of their prescribed text. They were able to write a sustained response using well-selected textual features with an integrated reference to techniques while employing an informed, persuasive voice. They formed a thesis which discussed the interplay between ‘obstacles’ and ‘rewards’ in a discerning manner with strong, valid links between the text(s) and the question.

Weaker responses generally referred to two or more texts, though relying on simple narrative features to respond to the question. Often there was only a direct link to the question at the start and conclusion of the response. Texts were often treated in isolation from each other and the question, with the choice of supporting texts often limiting candidates’ ability to engage with the question and/or concept in a meaningful way.

English (Advanced) Paper 2 – Modules

Section I – Module A: Comparative Study of Texts and Context

General Comments

Elective 2 was the most popular elective with approximately 40% of all candidates attempting the question on Frankenstein and BladeRunner.

Better responses developed a thesis which addressed the question and demonstrated a strong conceptual understanding of the module and the elective. These responses embedded an evaluation of the relationship between text and context in the analysis of the texts and thus revealed a wide-ranging understanding of context and how that was reflected in texts. These responses also incorporated an analysis of the ways in which a comparative study invited deeper understanding of the concepts suggested by the question.

Weaker responses tended to make connections between texts often through lengthy description and recount. They were explanatory and narrative rather than analytical. These responses did not demonstrate evaluative judgements and treatment of context was often superficial or absent. Textual references were often not well selected or integrated into the discussion of the two texts studied.

Question 1 – Exploring Connections

Better responses demonstrated a conceptual understanding of the module and a deeper understanding of ambition, place, relationships or suffering and identity through detailed analysis and evaluative comments both implicit and explicit. The relationship between texts and contexts was evaluated and textual reference was detailed and selected discerningly. A discriminating feature was a candidate’s ability to engage with the terms of the question and shape a response accordingly.

Weaker responses adopted a more literal approach to the question and confined the discussion to the more thematic elements of the texts and making simple connections between texts. Treatment of context was not integrated into the discussion and was frequently a series of listed facts rather than an understanding of context as influencing the texts being discussed. These responses often lacked appropriate textual detail and occasionally showed an unbalanced treatment of texts.

Question 2 – Texts in Time

Better responses demonstrated a conceptual understanding of the module through detailed analysis of the interrelationship between the two texts studied. They demonstrated a clear understanding of how context influenced the values and ideas in both texts. These responses considered the key terms of disruption, aspirations or independence and identity as a basis for the thesis developed in their response.

Weaker responses tended to identify some similarities between these texts, often with a limited understanding of their significance. These responses often considered the key terms of the question in a superficial or generalised way and/or ignored them. Treatment of context was not integrated into the discussion and was frequently a reference to the time of composition rather than an understanding of how context is reflected in the construction and reception of texts. Textual support was often not appropriate.

Section II – Module B: Critical Study of Texts

General Comments

Stronger responses skilfully argued the extent to which their own understanding of the prescribed text reflected the view presented in the statement, using carefully selected textual references to support their arguments. These responses perceptively integrated a discussion of language and structure and presented a sustained analysis which demonstrated strong personal understanding of the text. Discerning responses used insights gleaned from how their text had been received and the context of its reception to strengthen the demonstration of their own understanding of the text.

Better responses were discriminating, fluent and tightly structured, revealing a strong personal voice as well as clarity of expression.

The notion of personal engagement was vital in addressing the question. Unfortunately, some responses relied too heavily on describing readings rather than developing an informed personal response.

Weaker responses were plot driven; incorporating only limited reference to the text and its language forms and features. They showed little appreciation of the complexity of the text and lacked development, reflecting a limited understanding of the demands of the question.

While literacy and expression were generally of a high standard, some responses lacked the structure and the vocabulary to advance a well structured and carefully developed response.

The emphasis must be on personal response with detailed reference to the prescribed text. An over-reliance on readings and productions should not replace an analysis of the text which reflects deep understanding and strong personal engagement with the text.

Question 3 – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Better responses reflected strong personal engagement with the text which was based on an insightful understanding of the issues central to the play. Textual references were drawn from all acts, facilitating an analysis of the development of loyalty and disloyalty in the play, and were used to support a strong, well-articulated thesis. Such responses explored different forms of loyalty, for example, family loyalty, loyalty within marriage, loyalty between characters, political loyalty, national loyalty and personal loyalty, and discussed the issue beyond simple definition. Language forms and features were discussed with strong, direct links to textual references, often with effectively integrated evaluations of loyalty.

Weaker responses adopted a narrow view of loyalty, confining their discussions to a limited number of scenes or relationships. They were often descriptive, making limited reference to the language of the text or drawing on less pertinent textual references.

In general, responses demonstrated less reliance than in previous years on the summaries of literary critics or descriptions of productions. Where critics and readings were cited it was usually to reinforce an informed, personal response.

Question 4 – Prose Fiction

Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion

Better responses presented an informed personal response which analysed the issue of honesty conceptually, perceptively drawing on Ondaatje’s postmodern portrayal of the untold stories of the migrant workers as a structural framework. They often explored the quest for identity as central to human experience and made effective use of detailed textual references to support their analysis.

Weaker responses tended to rely on recount and plot description, making limited textual references to the language and ideas of the text.

Tim Winton, Cloudstreet

Better responses presented a strong thesis and provided detailed textual support to inform a carefully considered personal response. They adopted a holistic approach to the text, discussing the idea of hope in relation to the broader concerns of the novel, notably reconciliation and spirituality.

Weaker responses presented a limited perspective, often confining their answer to a discussion of one or two characters and providing isolated examples of hope which lacked development and structural cohesion.

Gail Jones, Sixty Lights

Better responses demonstrated how Lucy’s life reflected the significance of endurance both as an individual and as a representative of her gender. Carefully selected and effective textual detail supported a coherent thesis.

Weaker responses relied on describing and listing episodes in Lucy’s life without reflecting an informed personal response to the text and the question.

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Better responses skilfully analysed the notion of resilience in Jane’s experiences from childhood to marrying Rochester. These responses provided well-chosen, detailed textual references from the novel.

Weaker responses tended to rely on recount, listing Jane’s experiences and describing her resilience in facing various challenges.

Question 5 – Drama

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House

Stronger responses addressed the notions of attachment and detachment in a clear and sustained manner. While the idea of attachment was often perceived in terms of gender roles within the nineteenth century, unnecessary discussion of historical context did not dominate better responses. Detachment was often presented as the struggle for individual identity, especially in the case of Nora. These responses provided a sustained analysis, drawing on textual references, dramatic techniques and the structure of the play to support an informed personal response.

Weaker responses often relied too heavily on an over-emphasis of historical details rather than presenting a sustained analysis which directly addressed the question. These responses made limited reference to the language and ideas of the play, hindering the development of an informed personal response.

Question 6 – Film

Orson Welles, Citizen Kane

Better responses engaged skilfully with the notion of perseverance and perceptively analysed how film techniques were employed to explore the concept. These answers also demonstrated strong personal engagement which allowed the candidates to link human experience to their own understanding of the concept of perseverance in the context of the film.

Weaker responses relied too heavily on the historical context of the film and lapsed into recounting the plot. A limited understanding of film techniques was also evident.

Question 7 – Poetry

William Butler Yeats, WB Yeats: Poems selected by Seamus Heaney

Better responses perceptively analysed the significance of desire as part of human experience and traced the development of this notion in Yeats’ poetry. These responses were characterised by a detailed knowledge of the ideas in the poem drawing on pertinent textual references to support their theses. Language analysis was sustained, well integrated and skilfully used to explore the significance of desire in Yeats’ poetry.

Weaker responses often framed desire in terms of biographical information about the poet’s physical and political desire. They tended to be descriptive and failed to address the notion of human experience.

Gwen Harwood, Selected Poems

Better responses presented a skilful analysis of the significance of memory to human experience through effective analysis which reflected strong personal engagement with Harwood’s poetry. These responses demonstrated a detailed understanding of the poems selected for discussion and linked this clearly to the notion of human experience reinforcing the significance of memory.

Weaker responses presented a limited interpretation of the significance of memory, providing examples of memories from selected poems rather than exploring the implications of the significance of memory. A feature of such responses was the tendency to identify poetic techniques rather than explain how they were used to reinforce the significance of memory.

Kenneth Slessor, Selected Poems

Better responses explored the notion of remembrance in terms of a conceptual exploration. This could involve an exploration of life’s brevity and the need to reflect upon the significance of loss to better understand the different facets of human experience. Carefully analysed textual references enhanced a thoughtfully structured response which argued a strong central thesis.

Weaker responses, reflecting an arbitrary selection of poems for analysis, often lapsed into a simplistic paraphrasing of the poems.

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that candidates must know all poems to ensure that they can best address the demands of the question.

Question 8 – Nonfiction – Essays

George Orwell, Essays

Better responses engaged in a strong conceptual discussion of the nature of Orwell’s idealism as reflected in the essays, providing detailed textual support and a balanced treatment of the essays selected for analysis. These responses skilfully integrated Orwell’s context and his idealism while in a fluent, coherent manner.

Weaker responses tended to ignore the essay form, often treating the essays as though they were speeches, offering rhetorical devices as textual support rather than showing how form and language were used to shape meaning. Some responses were also distracted from textual analysis, providing irrelevant biographical details about the writer; others confused textual integrity with notions of idealism.

Question 9 – Nonfiction – Speeches

Better responses presented a cohesive thesis to explore justice, defining it using variations such as social, political, historical and global justice. Arguing from a conceptual stance, notions of justice were often analysed in terms of justice for women, justice for ordinary people, and the injustice of oppressive regimes. These notions were then linked to broader issues such as equality, democracy, egalitarianism, peace and reconciliation. Stronger responses showed a perceptive understanding of the way the language and structure impacted on the effectiveness of the speeches as a whole through the analysis of stylistic features such as the use of language devices. Despite some perceptive use of complex rhetorical devices such as asyndeton, anadiplosis and synecdoche, it was not necessary to use these terms to achieve high marks.

Weaker responses relied on simple retelling of the content of the speech and unnecessary textual detail. They lacked a conceptual understanding of the question and often failed to provide a clear understanding of notions of justice. A feature of such responses was the listing and simplistic treatment of language techniques.

Section III – Module C: Representation and Text

General Comments

In the stronger responses, candidates demonstrated a skilful analysis and evaluation of the prescribed texts and judiciously selected related texts and how these shaped, supported and developed the line of argument articulated in the thesis. The stronger responses presented a sustained conceptual understanding of conflicting perspectives and history and memory with well-integrated, structured responses, demonstrating skilful control of language.

Weaker responses generally presented a limited and/or superficial understanding of the relationship between representation and meaning. These responses were descriptive rather than analytical and were limited by the treatment of the prescribed text and the selection of the text of the candidate’s own choosing. The chosen related text was not useful for furthering the analysis. The control of language was variable in the weaker responses and the development of a line of argument was not articulated, sustained or supported by reference to the texts studied.

Stronger responses integrated the analysis of the texts in order to demonstrate skilfully the relationship between representation and meaning. The related text of own choosing was chosen wisely and used judiciously to develop the thesis.

Question 10 – Conflicting Perspectives

In the case of the most popular prescribed text, Julius Caesar, some candidates considered the provocative insights generated by Shakespeare’s representation of the personality of a leader, and how a leader can be adversely affected by power; or they analysed the representation of a situation such as when an aspiring leader can deliberately provoke a coup d’état. The related text of own choosing was used to develop and challenge this aspect of representation, and further explore the diverse and provocative insights of their thesis.

Weaker responses superficially referred to aspects of conflict within texts rather than conflicting perspectives. They described the plot of their texts and superficially employed related texts that did not further the response.

Question 11 – History and Memory

In the case of the most popular prescribed text The Fiftieth Gate, some candidates considered the compelling insights generated by Baker’s representation of the Holocaust as an event, and how an understanding of recorded history and the memories of the survivors, their children and others can lead to empathy; or they analysed the representation of a situation such as the loss of innocence in war. The related texts of own choosing were used to develop this aspect of representation, and further explore the compelling and unexpected insights of their thesis.

Weaker responses superficially referred to aspects of history and memory. They described these aspects in relation to their texts and employed related texts that did not further the response.


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