2010 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre — English Extension 2
- Print Medium
- Sound Medium
- Visual Medium
This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 English Extension 2 course. It contains comments on the Major Works for the 2010 Higher School Certificate, indicating the quality of the Major Works and highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses.
These notes should be read along with the relevant syllabus and the marking guidelines. Reference should also be made to the 2002 English Extension 2 Standards Package.
Identification of the parts of the project
Candidates are reminded to label the discrete sections of the Major Work and to ensure that all pages are printed. The Reflection Statement should be at the end of the Major Work.
The role of the Major Work journal
Candidates submit their journal with their Major Work. Journals are not marked. However, journals document the independent investigation and the composition process. Candidates should not identify themselves, their teachers or their schools in the journals. Lists of texts used for the work may be attached to the Major Work but annotated bibliographies should be in the journal. Candidates are reminded that the journal should reflect the detailed process of their own research, investigation and development of the Major Work.
The role of the Reflection Statement
The Reflection Statement explains and evaluates both the process and the completed Major Work. The English Stage 6 Syllabus (p 131) and the English Extension 2 marking guidelines outline the requirements for the Reflection Statement.
The quality of the Reflection Statement has a significant impact on the overall success of the Major Work. Audience and purpose are integrally related and candidates must explicitly explain how they have manipulated form, feature and structure of text in order to position audiences. It is imperative that candidates identify the relationship between the investigation and the Major Work. Specific texts should be cited and the direct influence on the Major Work must be highlighted. Candidates are reminded that there needs to be a meaningful explanation of how the skills and knowledge gained in the Stage 6 English courses underpinned the Major Work. Reflection Statements should be synthesised works of prose rather than written in report style with subheadings and bullet points.
The use of footnotes needs to be kept to a minimum and should be justified in the Reflection Statement.
Links with the English (Advanced) and English Extension 1 courses
Candidates compose a Major Work as an extension of the knowledge, understanding and skills developed in the English (Advanced) and English Extension 1 courses (p 92, English Stage 6 Syllabus). Candidates need to demonstrate that their work is an extension of their other English courses and not an imitation of the modules and electives studied.
Better Major Works were characterised by:
- evidence of independent investigation in the Major Work and the Reflection Statement
- clear purpose
- consistent engagement
- sophisticated control of language
- fluency without overwriting
- powerful evocation of time and place
- skilful and fluent understanding of the form and audience and the interconnection of both to establish authentic engagement
- evidence of greater background reading; not just within the HSC confines.
Weaker Major Works were characterised by:
- fractured structure
- lack of coherence
- lack of originality
- consideration of an audience not always evident in the works
- uninventive concepts and/or treatment of concepts
- lapses in tone and voice
- lack of depth and variety of investigation
- unconvincing claims about intent and audience
- little evidence of research into form
- Reflection Statements that tended to be descriptive rather than evaluative
- claims about research (in the Reflection Statement) that were not realised in the Major Work.
Successful short stories were sustained, original and coherent and explored a clearly discernible central idea or ideas with insight. The most successful ones were consistently engaging and integrated their investigation with subtlety. They demonstrated careful narrative choices such as point of view, methods of characterisation and voice.
There was a variety of short story structures used including single linear narratives, dual narratives and series of linked shorter stories. There were strong and weak scripts in each of these categories: the stronger demonstrating sophisticated control of language, cohesion through the development of strong thematic threads and authentic voice/s; the weaker were more fractured in structure and less coherent overall.
Some of the topics covered in stories included:
- Alice in Wonderland
- vampire tales
- stories about angels
- ancient/dynastic China
- stories about death and family tragedy
- mental illness
- the effects of globalisation
- stories about violence and abuse
- WWI and other historical settings
- science fiction and dystopian worlds.
Candidates are reminded of the specific Board of Studies requirements for stories. The word length and formatting requirements must be adhered to and the short story should be substantially a prose work. While exploration of form can enhance a text, candidates should avoid including too much poetry or other text types which may interfere with engagement with the work. Bibliographies should not be added to creative pieces. They can be printed in the journal.
Candidates are reminded that independent investigation into the concept, form and style of the Major Work should be clearly demonstrated and detailed in the Reflection Statement.
In the Reflection Statement, students should explain the role of sources that have had a significant impact on the composition of the work, rather than just listing sources read.
Stronger Major Works showed:
- evidence of independent investigation in the Major Work as well the Reflection Statement
- strong characters, plausible plots and authentic and engaging voice
- sophisticated language
- clear purpose
- fluency without overwriting
- original plot lines or original uses of established conventions
- skilful use of imagery
- powerful evocation of time and place
- engagement with the reader through controlled communication of emotion not just through situation
- well-researched engaging narratives with a strong sense of personal involvement and authenticity
- deft handling of textual features such as recurring motifs
- stories that experimented with the form had a clear orientation – complication – climax – resolution, as well as strong characterisation
- Reflection Statements that presented a critical assessment of development of the Major Work and were highly self-referential
- evidence of a clear conceptual framework linked to audience and purpose, realised effectively through thoughtful manipulation of narrative techniques
- obvious sustained and rigorous investigation into concept, form and subject matter.
Weaker Major Works showed:
- lack of originality or engagement with ideas
- awkward construction and/or stilted syntax
- literalness and therefore a lack of subtlety
- simplistic investigation into countries/cultures/historical periods
- generic conventions employed without developing new insights
- overuse of predictable adjectives and similes
- lack of awareness of punctuation – especially of dialogue
- derivativeness of other works with limited acknowledgement in the Reflection Statement
- different text types employed without a significant reason
- lack of evidence of research into form
- indentation, fragmented and broken sentences used without purpose or without explanation
- lack of close editing
- use of non-linear time sequences in ways that confused
- problems controlling tense
- lapses in tone and voice into the sentimental or melodramatic
- lack of depth and variety of investigation
- Reflection Statements that offered recounts of process undertaken and stages of development of Major Work rather than evaluation
- little evaluation of narrative choices and few references to specific features of the Major Work
- reliance on Advanced and Extension 1 texts as research
- unconvincing claims about intent and audience
- annotated bibliographies which are not a course requirement.
A wide variety of concepts and subjects were explored. Most candidates submitted a suite of poems underpinned by a single conceptual framework. The more successful works demonstrated considerable skill in the purposeful manipulation of poetic form, style and language while exploring human experience and emotions.
Many works did not demonstrate a close knowledge of contemporary poetry, either national or international. A constant conversation with past and present poets is strongly encouraged, as is the reading of a wide variety of good poetry in diverse traditions. Candidates are reminded to investigate broadly so that they learn from the best contemporary poets as well as focusing on canonical 19th century poets.
Sophistication and complexity of ideas are important but candidates need to be aware that the work is marked on its success as poetry. Candidates are also encouraged to redraft and refine their work thoughtfully. They should also adhere to the specifications for A4 pages and double spacing.
Stronger works showed:
- maturity of vision
- evidence of structurally intelligent poetic resolution in the final poems, indicating a unity of design that afforded the work integrity, coherence and a satisfying sense of completion
- exceptional attention to rhythm, balance and lyricism in the suites as a whole, but equally so in the individual poems themselves which aided reader engagement
- coherence, even when experimenting with multiple voices and fragmented structures
- an ability to take risks and to leap off tall (conceptual) buildings
- an ability to engage the reader almost instantly with a powerful use of language and/or an authentic voice
- discerning and purposeful uses of imagery, rhythm, sound devices, form and structure to shape meaning and influence response
- imaginative, ambitious and resonant Major Works supported by rigorous investigation into form and content
- Reflection Statements that were evaluative and critical of the developmental process with explicit and specific details given of compositional and creative choices.
Weaker works showed:
- poor choice of topic or focus – often of the melodramatic kind, without offering fresh insights
- tendency to focus on English poetry and to neglect other traditions and/or poetry in translation
- insufficient focus on poetic forms and features
- tendency towards prosaic, flat and conventional forms
- over-reliance on cloying rhyme patterns
- misunderstanding of verse forms and the inner logic which these forms can possess, for example, the sonnet form and its potential to deal with ambivalence, or oppositions which can lead to some sort of resolution or revised perspective
- lack of consideration of the impact that the research had on the specifics of the work, ie how a particular writer/piece influenced the student to alter or develop the work
- Reflection Statements tended to be descriptive rather than evaluative and/or explanatory.
There was effective use of paradigms in the majority of responses. In the best responses, candidates applied these frames of reference to the contextual material selected for study in their response. Candidates had varied success in applying critical theory to either canonical texts or other material of their selection. The best responses in Critical Response demonstrated a strong literary connection.
Candidates who performed well demonstrated their ability to research and convey material with sophistication and flair. They also demonstrated an ability to draw on both their course work and research to reveal the scope and depth of their investigation and understanding.
Some students focused too much attention on the annotated bibliography and the essence of their argument could have been strengthened if they had included some of this knowledge of the text in the body of their work.
In better reflection statements, candidates addressed all the criteria. Such responses reflected on process as well as product and were conscious of how a specified audience has shaped their writing as well as to make clear how the investigation of form is evident in the Major Work.
- effective critical responses were well-integrated, concept-driven investigations of paradigms, genres and texts
- content, texts and methodology were clearly an extension of other Stage 6 English courses.
- Major Works had a clear thesis, evident in the critical response as well as in the Reflection Statement
- the thesis was elaborated systematically and supported by effective textual analysis
- careful selection of texts and a well-judged balance in their treatment if more than one text was chosen
- form was manipulated skilfully, providing structural clarity which enhanced coherence
- footnotes and bibliographies were pertinent and economical
- works were not an extension of the ‘knowledge, skills and understanding of English (Advanced) and (Extension) courses’. Many others would have been more suited to History or HSIE. It is important that the work has a literary focus and that this focus is sustained throughout the response
- some works began with an exploration into a literary or language-based topic but moved into an examination of social issues
- overly ambitious in terms of the Extension 2 Critical Response specifications
- failure to provide close textual support for their arguments and/or weak in critical methodology
- often failed to indicate, in the Reflection Statement, how research shaped the realisation of the Major Work
- confused structure
- overuse of footnotes
- description rather than analysis
- reference to literary theory without real understanding of the theory or its terminology
- simplistic concept and lack of depth in research
- failure to observe the word count requirements (minimum and maximum)
Popular issues, texts, themes and approaches in 2010 critical responses
- political power
- gender studies (varied focus)
- reader authority identity (Barthes)
- history topics
- children’s literature
- female voice in literature
- character analysis
- psychoanalytical theories (Freud/Jung)
- author analysis
- ‘supernatural’ responses
Scripts – Radio, Film, Television and Drama
Candidates are required to develop a script for an ‘intended performance time of 20–30 minutes’ (English Stage 6 Syllabus, p 133). While investigation into the longer and more readily available forms can be useful, research into the form of short scripts is essential and should be evident in the Major Work and discussed in the Reflection Statement.
Some candidates did not seem to be sufficiently familiar with the conventions of script writing. There was some mishandling of stage directions and screenplay writing conventions and a lack of integration of technical skills. Among these responses, some were far too complex for the form, involving too many ideas and too many characters to be able to be staged or filmed effectively in 20–30 minutes.
Script subjects included explorations into religion, family relationships, family tragedy, politics, domestic abuse, euthanasia, contemporary Australian social issues, and appropriations of fairy tales. Subjects were treated in a variety of genres including satire, absurdism, realism, naturalism and verbatim theatre.
The most effective pieces started with a clear and meaningful purpose. They had a real sense of audience. Moreover, they limited the short play to a few scenes and a few characters. Students should be reading a wide range of plays if they wish to write in the absurdist genre. Too many candidates rely on Waiting for Godot and replicating its themes, ideas, structure and characters without a depth of understanding.
There were a number of over-long scripts in 2010. Some candidates ignored or did not understand the translation of 20–30 minutes into words.
Reflection Statements were generally insightful and appropriate. However, some needed to be more detailed in their explanation of intention and audience. In other Reflection Statements, candidates described the process rather than critically analysing their choices.
- strong awareness of the form as both a written text and as it would be realised on stage, radio or screen
- candidates conveyed ideas with clarity
- clever interplay of dialogue and form, particularly evident in some play scripts
- skilful and fluent understanding of the form and audience and the interconnection of both to establish authentic engagement
- the best works were well researched and had a strong sense of character
- the voices in the plays were distinct and authentically reflected the ideas that the candidate was exploring
- motivated by a key idea, candidates knew their audience and had come to understand how a play can be realised in a 20 minute performance
- characters created with authentic dialogue for the stage
- strong command of conventions used in the chosen form (drama, film, television)
- detailed explanation of extensive research into short scripts and into the conventions of script writing
- candidates presented thorough investigation into concepts and form
- Reflection Statements were evaluative rather than descriptive in focus
- detailed consideration of audience through informed identification of particular theatre companies
- the use of the conventions of absurdist theatre without a depth of understanding of the form or an obvious reason for this use
- limited command of conventions
- the short form not managed well and difficult to imagine staged or filmed due to the number of characters, scene changes and unrealistic dialogue
- film scripts often lacked essential cinematic elements necessary for a shooting script
- ineffective stage directions
- scripts were motivated by personal passion but were too self referential and were not able to make the reader feel the same empathy
- claims about research (in the Reflection Statement) that were not realised in the Major Work
- lack of evidence of research into the short script form
- lack of judicious explanations of choices such as the use of projected images
- Reflection Statements presented a lack of evaluation of process and explanations of audience were perfunctory
Most speeches were engaging and delivered competently. There were some single speeches but generally candidates chose to submit a group of speeches, usually three. This allowed the presentation of a range of perspectives and personas and styles of speeches. This, however, is not a requirement. Candidates are encouraged to explore other methods of incorporating different perspectives into their Major Work. Weaker responses using several speeches, however, often did not delineate between the ‘voice’ and delivery of the different speakers. Stronger responses had clearly delineated audience(s) and effectively aligned purpose, style, persona(s) and rhetorical techniques to produce a highly engaging Major Work.
Candidates explored a variety of concepts with stronger responses effectively demonstrating the breadth of research into both concept and form. Some candidates explored concepts associated with their study of English, in particular literary texts and ways of responding. Topics were drawn from a wide variety of areas with an emphasis on History, Politics, English and Sociology with aspects of feminism, world conflicts and some historical figures and reflections on rhetoric being popular.
When they were used, sound bytes, interjections, special effects and music were seamlessly integrated in a professional manner. Use of software, including free public software, to vary voice (especially gender) must be documented in the Reflection Statement. Choice of accents should also be documented and used convincingly and for a purpose. All spoken text constitutes part of the time limit even if not presented by the primary speaker. The candidate must be the main speaker in the work.
- concepts were original
- arguments were well developed
- context was creatively constructed (from which the speeches flowed logically)
- the style of the speech was clearly delineated and appropriate for the purpose
- the text of the speech was clearly constructed with audience and purpose in mind.
- the choice of rhetorical devices was appropriate and developed the textual integrity of the Major Work
- the delivery of the speech was effective: using pace, pause, pitch, tone etc to enhance/highlight the message
- intellectual depth and rigour accompanied by extensive independent investigation
- an elegant use of special effects and/or soundscapes to authenticate the context
- the Reflection Statement was congruent and well written
- awareness and discussion of the dual nature of ‘form’ in term of Speeches (in relation to the construction of the text using rhetorical devices and in relation to vocal delivery)
- acknowledgement and discussion of applications used to modulate voices (essential in order to establish the student as the principle performer)
- extensive investigation into form (discussed in the Reflection Statement and evidenced in the construction of the Major Work)
- a sophisticated and critical analysis of the relationship between the concept, context, style and persona(s) created
- the concepts were broad and generalised
- concepts and/or treatment of concepts were uninventive
- lack of research into the concept and the form
- little awareness and evidence of ‘form’ both in the construction of the text of the speech and in the delivery of the speech
- the text of the speech was structured as an essay
- the delivery was simply a reading of text
- choice of context/persona inappropriate for the text of the speech
- a jarring use of special effects
- the text was a thinly disguised short critical responses, eg textual analysis presented as a ‘speech’
- lack of clarity in topic, structure, research often producing the impression of a last minute effort
- an attempt to represent different personas with different perspectives but little differentiation offered in ‘voice’ construction and delivery
- clarity of the speech was occasionally poor and volume very low
Candidates are required to write and produce a radio drama with a playing time of 10–15 minutes. Research into the form of short radio dramas is essential, as is an understanding of the elements needed in narrative construction, whether traditional or experimental, to shape meaning and to engage their listeners. Also, experimenting with form is only ever acceptable when the candidate is intimately familiar with the form in its purest sense.
The script copy of the radio drama should co-relate in every way to the candidate’s submitted compact disc. It should also be carefully proof-read.
Many of the radio dramas this year involved humour. Some were parodies of hard-boiled or cosy crime texts. Other projects explored social, historical and/or cultural issues.
Candidates must be more familiar with the conventions of a radio drama. This is best achieved by listening to short radio plays.
The more successful candidates, not only demonstrated adept control of dialogue, but they also integrated music and sound effects well, which enhanced their ideas and concepts within their individual major works. They were also able to justify and evaluate their compositional choices within their Reflection Statements.
- technically proficient in the use of technology
- effective use of humour to engage the listener
- insightful use of dialogue that shaped character and maintained the rhythmic flow of this aural medium
- a clear understanding of which radio station may broadcast the drama and a key sense of target audience
- transitions between scenes and characters were clear and consistent
- depth of research was broad, wide-ranging and crossed a variety of media
- effective use of intertextuality
- a lack or clumsy use of aural cues (that alert the listener to who is speaking and to whom)
- dialogue that was flat and showed little variation between voices
- little research into form, many candidates showing an over-reliance on The Goons as investigation into form
- no sense of drama (a series of dull speeches does not make an engaging radio drama)
- poor audio/recording quality
- predictable or confusing plots
Voice is a performance poet’s primary ‘instrument’. Students must use variations in pace, pitch, tone, speed, loudness etc to perform the work as part of the expression of meaning. The poetry should not be just simply read aloud. There was a correlation between poor poetry and poor performance.
Music, soundtracks and special effects complement and support the poetry but should not dominate it.
Some works extended the boundaries of the form by producing works intended for ‘publication’ on the internet or radio rather than as ‘live’ performances. This was seen as an acceptable extension of the form.
Candidates are reminded that Reflection Statements should be highly self-referential and critical and explain in some detail how the investigation has informed the work. Candidates are also reminded that the works must observe the specification regarding the time length.
- the poetic features of the Major Work were appropriate for performance
- alliteration, consonance, assonance, dissonance, rhythm, rhyme, half-rhyme, puns, word play, different voices were employed to enhance the aural effect of the work
- the poetry was coherent, the intent was explained in the Reflection Statement and was evident in the work
- strong technical production values
- broad investigation of performance poetry as a form (ie did not rely on poetry typically studied at school or in HSC courses as the sole investigation of form)
- candidates did not thoroughly investigate the form of performance poetry (ie distinct from poetry)
- limited use of expressive techniques and variation in voice
- some works had an over-reliance on background music and/or sounds to convey meaning or used them in such a way that they did not significantly add to the quality of the work
Students engaged effectively with the short film medium and there was evidence that TropFest and other short film resources have been effectively explored and ideas utilised.
More candidates chose to convey simple narratives rather than ‘Hollywood blockbusters’ in the allocated 6–8 minutes. There were no animated videos this year and generally less willingness to experiment with the form. A willingness to experiment with the form of the short film through successful manipulation of camera work, fast or slow editing, fragmentation and dynamic symbolism resulted in works of high originality. Candidates submitting a documentary should immerse themselves more fully into a consideration of the form and ensure they do more than have one voice offering an unscripted personal point of view on an issue. Claims of postmodernism were generally reflected in the work through hand-held and often dizzying camera work, disconnected and fragmented plot development and no dialogue. Many candidates showed little insight into these theories. Candidates should ensure that they understand and can describe the ways they have incorporated elements of film techniques and theory into their work.
Some videos were poorly filmed and edited. Lighting was a particular problem (minimal lighting or too much and under or overexposed). Candidates should build in time to cater for these problems in the pre-production planning.
In some cases, there were major inconsistencies between the script submitted and the work itself and a concerning number of videos had no accompanying video script (which is a requirement). Candidates are reminded to credit or reference the sources for images, music, programming equipment, software, or other aspects of filmmaking.
Viewing projects on an ordinary DVD player continues to be a problem, and candidates need to ensure that their work is accessible in this way. They should also remember that viewing a work on a wide screen TV means that videos which have been created on a computer screen may lose impact and clarity when viewed in this way.
- control of the medium was effective and well manipulated and accompanied by appropriate and well-integrated soundtracks which did not swamp the diegetic sounds of the action
- control of technical video/film elements was well handled and there was fluent integration of the three processes of film production (pre, shooting and post) which tended to result in a consciously developed structure and careful manipulation of pace and tone
- editing skills were strong, resulting in a fluent transition and logical progression between scenes and events
- construction of plot, characters and setting were well linked to a strong central concept
- camera work was fluent and thoughtful with intelligent use of varieties of shots (CU/MS/LS)
- the camera was a strong point of view and an integral part of the storytelling
- clarity of focus was outstanding in the best videos and the use of colour palette was effective and suited to the topic and concept
- age-appropriate actors were used
- use of sound, editing transitions and lighting was strong
- Reflection Statements showed insightful discussion of film theory and how it had been incorporated into the production choices of the video
- concepts were sophisticated and original and were clearly defined and discussed in terms of extensive independent investigation
- clear links were made to the work as an extension of Advanced and Extension English courses
- audience was sensibly defined and justified
- lacked a conceptual framework and were based on themes or topics and this diminished their textual integrity
- opening sequences tended to be long and drawn out for no purpose and interfered with engagement from the start
- an overuse of long sequences lacking tension or direction
- links to texts or rubrics from Advanced and Extension were often tenuous
- candidates sometimes claimed auteur theory or film noir through use of fuzzy filters, blinding lights, fast and constant editing or black colouring which added nothing to the concept and made interpretation challenging for the marker
- some candidates claimed to have made a documentary but this was sometimes accompanied with too much footage which had been downloaded and edited into the work
- long shots of actors walking into the distance with little purpose in terms of narrative, character or plot development
- actors were poorly chosen and did little to enhance the engagement of the video
- attempts to create effective twists, climaxes and resolutions were given little consideration in the planning and execution of many of the works
- limited shaping of some shots – overly used visual motifs or metaphors resulted in cliché; for example, clocks, mirror reflections, close-ups of eyes, fades to black and white to represent loss of hope, and water as a symbol of healing
- few candidates used credits or referenced the sources for images, music, programming equipment, software, or other aspects of filmmaking
- candidates offered limited discussion/analysis/investigation into film theory
- Reflection Statements often lacked discussion of extensive independent investigation of the concept
- many omitted mention of the work as an extension of the Advanced or Extension One courses
- limited reference to audience
Specific analysis of the visual elements, screen design, navigation and role of the reader needed to be more fully addressed. While some works were adventurous in their concept and use of the form, most did not fully exploit the potential of the medium.
Candidates’ reflections on the choice of multimedia need to be articulated, and to move beyond the identification of a younger audience that is used to information being digital. Reflections on the choice need to demonstrate the integral link between the text produced and the medium. Candidates are reminded to closely consider how the responder will navigate their web page and how this will shape the responders’ understanding of the text. Candidates are reminded to think creatively and originally about how they use the features of a digital text to shape our understanding of a concept/idea/theme.
Candidates are also encouraged during the production of the work to ensure that it is a clear extension of the Advanced and/or Extension 1 courses. The multimedia work should move beyond the creation of an information site of a topic of interest to the student, in order to fulfil the requirements of a Major Work in English.
Some of the 2010 Major Works did not:
- provide clear instructions to install and configure the application or a hard copy of the logic map
- clearly define navigation
- provide ‘home’ for website and ‘esc’ for other multimedia forms
- cite sources for all graphics used and acknowledge professional advice.
- original ideas exploring narrative
- clever use of technology
- authentic voices in creating blogs
- effective control of the media in combining sound, movement, images, written text and video into a well-designed piece of multimedia that illustrated elegant screen design and intuitive navigation
- the focus of the work was clearly articulated and sustained
- there was a self-conscious exploration of the potential of the medium in the creation of the work
- all materials used in the site, including graphics need to be acknowledged
- insufficient evidence of time spent researching digital and interactive texts and how this has impacted on the development of the work
- simplistic claims by some candidates that since they are creating a web-based text, their audience must be young
- no clear understanding of how the candidate intended the audience to navigate/interact with the text and what purpose this will serve
- greater focus needed on how candidates have realised their purpose through manipulation of form