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2010 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre – English (ESL)



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 course in English (ESL). It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2010 Higher School Certificate examination, indicating the quality of the responses and highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses.

This document should be read along with the relevant syllabus, the 2010 Higher School Certificate examination, the marking guidelines and other support documents which have been developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning of English (ESL).

General comments

Teachers and candidates should be aware that examiners may ask questions that address the syllabus outcomes in a manner that requires candidates to respond by integrating their knowledge, understanding and skills developed through studying the course.

Candidates need to be aware that the marks allocated to the question and the answer space (where this is provided on the examination paper) are guides to the length of the required response. A longer response will not in itself lead to higher marks. Writing in excess of the space allocated may reduce the time available for answering other questions.

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’.

Paper 1 – Language Study within an Area of Study

Section I

Question 1

General comments

Better responses drew clear connections between the concept of belonging and the language and visual features used to present ideas and information in the texts. Weaker responses, however, made limited connections between belonging and the features of the texts.

Most candidates limited their responses to the allocated spaces. In better responses, candidates interpreted the requirements of the questions accurately and responded both appropriately and concisely, taking into account the marks awarded for each question. A small number of candidates included unnecessary details or copied parts of the texts in their responses.

Specific comments
  1. Most candidates correctly stated one reason for the title. In weaker responses, candidates simply restated the question.
  2. In better responses, candidates explained Sarah’s changing sense of belonging and referred to two examples. Weaker responses often contained one or two examples without explaining the connection to belonging.
  3. In better responses, candidates clearly explained both parts of the quote. Weaker responses addressed only one part of the quote.
  4. In better responses, candidates identified two ideas about belonging that differed from their response for (c). In weaker responses, candidates often repeated their answers from (c).
  5. In better responses, candidates identified two visual features and explained the connection to the idea of belonging. In weaker responses, candidates identified visual techniques without explaining the connection to belonging or discussed the idea of belonging in general terms without identifying a technique.
  6. In better responses, candidates clearly explained the relationship. Weaker responses stated the relationship in a simplistic manner.
  7. In better responses, candidates identified two language techniques and explained the connection to the relationship identified in (f). In weaker responses, candidates identified the techniques but did not explain the relationship or stated the relationship without identifying a technique.
  8. In better responses, candidates used the ideas from at least one of the texts and produced an effective diary entry that communicated a changed sense of belonging. These candidates sustained the register of a diary by describing the feelings of a person who has overcome barriers which have prevented belonging.

    In weaker responses, candidates relied heavily on information from the texts and did not communicate a changed sense of belonging. Many of these responses analysed the texts and did not describe the feelings of a person who has overcome a barrier.

Section II

Question 2

Most candidates demonstrated a good understanding of the concept of belonging and the link between acceptance and understanding and an individual’s sense of belonging as represented in the texts. Overall, most candidates also showed good skills in interpreting texts and synthesising ideas. Some responses were in the appropriate form and structure. However, most candidates relied on the essay structure with evidence of the speech form in the introduction and conclusion only.

In better responses, candidates introduced a thesis to answer the question which they maintained and supported throughout the essay. They explained succinctly that composers of different texts conveyed experiences of acceptance and understanding that clearly shape an individual’s sense of belonging, demonstrating comprehensive knowledge of the texts and an insightful understanding of the concept. Examples were analysed and/or quotes were included to support discussion of the insights gained. Better responses also demonstrated a high degree of intertextual linking, fluency and sustained control of expression.

A number of candidates discussed belonging in general rather than specifically discussing how belonging or not belonging was conveyed in or through the texts studied. Others narrowed their discussion to address the question partially, describing and analysing acceptance and understanding represented in the texts without linking these commentaries to why acceptance and understanding are necessary for a sense of belonging. A number of prepared responses addressed elements of questions from previous years’ examinations.

Not all responses examined the prescribed texts in detail, hence the discussion of understanding and acceptance was at times narrow. Some candidates appeared to select a few key extracts from the texts rather than providing an in-depth discussion. Some candidates looked at the sense of acceptance and understanding in terms of the characters in the text, while others focused on their own sense of belonging gained through the texts as a responder. Not all responses addressed the idea of ‘acceptance and understanding’ but used terms like ‘knowing’ or ‘isolation’ instead. Some examined the notion in a superficial way by including the phrase ‘acceptance and understanding’ in the introduction, at the end of the discussion of each text, and in the conclusion. In many cases, brief attention was given to judging the extent to which the texts supported the idea that understanding and acceptance are necessary for a sense of belonging. At times this evaluative component of the responses was implied rather than explained; often the evidence to substantiate claims was lacking.

Most candidates interpreted the texts well, demonstrating understanding of the concept and the characters’ development in terms of acceptance and understanding. Some had difficulty explaining how an individual’s sense of belonging was communicated in the text. Most identified some of the techniques evident in the texts but many did not use these selectively to support the argument they were presenting in their response. In weaker responses, candidates retold or described the content of the texts rather than interpreting and analysing the techniques used by the composers to convey ideas.

Candidates are reminded to address the terms of the question, select examples, and integrate them into the discussion to support their thesis.

Candidates should not write about their own personal experience of a sense of belonging as a related text of their own choosing.

Where poetry has been selected as a prescribed text, it is advisable to refer to more than one of the set poems in the response.

Candidates should also consider the relevance and appropriateness of related texts in linking them to the other texts and the thesis.

Paper 2 – Modules

Section I – Module A: Experience Through Language

General comments

In better responses, candidates integrated their analysis and discussion of textual elements and forms into the overall response to the question. Weaker responses often provided a general description of techniques and did not relate this back to the question.

Candidates are reminded to read the question and respond to it appropriately. Candidates who relied heavily on prepared responses did not address the specific requirements and focus of the task. More effective responses displayed evidence of the time taken to plan and tailor knowledge and information to suit the question. These responses established an immediate and relevant response to the topic and outlined a clear thesis in their introduction.

Most candidates recognised the need to write in an explanatory style, and they sustained a formal register throughout their responses. Most candidates noted that the question did not require a related text. Candidates who did refer to a related text often found it difficult to relate the text to an analysis of the prescribed text. Weaker responses sometimes used wording from previous examination questions relating to the module and/or elective.

Specific comments

Question 1 – Elective 1: Australian Voices

Better responses demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the elective and the prescribed text. These responses developed a clear thesis and provided detailed discussion of how elements of the prescribed text are used to create a distinctly Australian voice. They made insightful distinctions between language forms and language features, and referred to specific examples to illustrate how a range of voices had been created in the text to reflect the beliefs, attitudes and perceptions of individuals and groups within Australian society.

In the majority of responses, candidates discussed how the composer or editor presented a range of voices and only superficially addressed how these voices reflected the beliefs, attitudes and perceptions of individuals and groups within Australian society. Some candidates relied heavily on examples of the use of slang, idioms and accent in the text to illustrate their conception of an Australian voice. More limited responses merely provided a recount of the text, either in full or in part, or provided character profiles or catalogues of techniques with little or no reference to the question.

  1. Prose Fiction – J C Burke, The Story of Tom Brennan

    Many candidates focused on the characters’ voices and how these voices changed throughout the narrative, instead of analysing narrative structure and features of language. Better responses included in their analysis how the composer presented a distinctly Australian voice and how this voice reflects the values, attitudes and perceptions of individuals and groups within Australian society, with particular reference to life in rural Australia. Weaker responses relied heavily on retelling the plot with limited analysis of language features and little or no reference to the elective focus.

  2. Drama – Katherine Thomson, Diving for Pearls

    Better responses effectively addressed the use of dramatic forms and features to create a range of voices which reflect the different modes of expression, and changing values and attitudes, both of the characters and of Australian society itself. Weaker responses tended to be superficial, lacking in specific examples and analysis and often giving a simple recount of plot details.

  3. Poetry – Komninos, Komninos by the Kupful

    In better responses, candidates discussed the forms and features of poetry and the persona’s voice. They explored the articulation of Australian attitudes and lifestyles in the poems and contrasted a range of attitudes and values presented. Weaker responses were often limited to an analysis of register and accent.

  4. Nonfiction – Carmel Bird (ed), The Stolen Children – Their Stories

    Most candidates considered the text as a whole, focusing specifically on the political and editorial responses to the stories and the voices of the Indigenous stolen children. Better responses developed a thesis, discussing in detail how elements of the text were used to give it a distinctly Australian voice. These responses compared and contrasted the different types of Australian voices presented by the editor, focusing on the issues of assimilation and egalitarianism. Weaker responses focused on a recount of the stories of the stolen children.

  5. Film – Rob Sitch, The Castle

    Better responses demonstrated a thorough understanding of the film as a whole and candidates developed a thesis, focusing on how the characters’ voices and relationships with one another reflect the values, attitudes and perceptions of a multicultural Australian society. Weaker responses relied heavily on plot recount, simple discussion of characters and relationships, and examples of dialogue, with little or no analysis of features of film.

Question 2 – Elective 2: Australian Visions

Better responses demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the elective and the prescribed text. These responses developed a clear thesis and provided detailed discussion. They made insightful distinctions between language forms and language features, and referred to specific examples to illustrate how a range of visions had been created in the text to reflect the beliefs, attitudes and perceptions of individuals and groups within Australian society.

Many candidates discussed how the composer created a range of visions but only superficially addressed the relationship between images and descriptions in the text and attitudes, values and perceptions. Some candidates discussed examples of images in the text without referring to how they can communicate a vision. Weaker responses referred to only a small portion of the prescribed text, or relied on retelling the story or describing characters and settings, with little or no discussion of textual forms and features.

  1. Prose Fiction – Peter Goldsworthy, Maestro

    Candidates who attempted this question tended to focus on different perceptions of life in Darwin and different attitudes to music. Better responses developed an analysis of how narrative structure and techniques were used to create a distinctly Australian vision. Weaker responses focused on the relationship between Paul and Keller or provided simple plot recounts and incidental descriptions of character and settings.

  2. Drama – John Misto, The Shoe-Horn Sonata

    Better responses integrated analysis of the use of dramatic techniques such as audio-visuals, songs and music, and voice-overs into a discussion of the Australian vision of mateship and restitution of past injustices. Most responses provided an overview of the relationship between Bridie and Sheila and recounted the characters’ experiences as prisoners-of-war, incorporating an analysis of the features of drama used in the play. Weaker responses often relied on simple plot recount.

  3. Poetry – Douglas Stewart, Selected Poems

    Better responses demonstrated an insightful understanding of how, through his poetic visions of Australia, Stewart also communicates Australian visions of egalitarianism, an appreciation of Australian flora and fauna, and respect for Indigenous rights. These responses showed an awareness of the poet’s social and historical context and often projected the visions disclosed in the poems onto contemporary Australian society. Most candidates demonstrated a sound understanding of poetic technique through their analysis of at least two poems. Weaker responses relied on a recount of the poems or a listing of techniques.

  4. Film – Baz Luhrmann, Strictly Ballroom

    Better responses integrated an insightful and detailed analysis of film techniques, including music, setting and costuming, into a discussion that focused on Luhrmann’s visions of individuality, conformity, competitiveness, persistence and multiculturalism. Many candidates focused on camera angles and camera shots and made generalised comments on their effect in communicating visual representations of Australian characters, places and situations. Weaker candidates recalled isolated scenes and relied on superficial analysis of character and dialogue.

  5. Media – Deb Cox, Seachange

    Better responses demonstrated an awareness of the elements of the text as a television series. These responses demonstrated an understanding of the development of Australian visions throughout the episodes chosen and made specific reference to at least two episodes. They contrasted the differing visions presented in the text by different characters. Most candidates explained the significance of the title and analysed the opening credits. Weaker responses relied on a generalised recount of the series as a whole with little or no analysis of film techniques.

Section II – Module B: Texts and Society

General comments

Candidates are reminded to allocate their time appropriately between both modules in Paper 2.

Specific comments

Question 3 – Elective 1: Living and Working in the Community

Many responses demonstrated a good understanding of the question, displaying a well-developed sense of audience and purpose, and effectively using the language forms and features of an informative and persuasive letter to the editor. These candidates imaginatively adopted the voice and perspective of a persona for or against the relevance and usefulness of the elective. Responses were persuasive, expressing knowledge of the module and insightful understanding of its value in the community.

Better responses presented their ideas in a persuasive style which was suited to the audience and specifically addressed the elective’s usefulness to the community. In these responses, candidates provided meaningful, relevant and detailed support of their perspective. They also showed creative flair in the presentation of their ideas and suggestions through the use of relevant examples and explanations. Sophisticated expression and an awareness of the conventions of a letter to the editor were evident in the presentation of ideas. There was a highly developed sense of context, purpose and audience which was sustained in the language register and form.

Responses in the mid-range were usually more general in their presentation and lacked detail, interpretation and creativity. They gave more generalised opinions that did not directly address the specified audience.

Weaker responses did not present knowledge of the module and/or did not respond to the question. They did not present an opinion and lacked knowledge of an appropriate audience. These candidates offered limited supporting detail, although many attempted to persuade by listing things they had learned in a general way. They also displayed a lack of control of expression.

Question 4 – Elective 2: Academic English

Most responses displayed an ability to organise, analyse and interpret the question to present a report addressing the requirements of the task. The responses generally reflected an awareness of the format, but varied in control of purpose, audience and language register.

Most candidates composed a report and identified the language structures and features of several texts. However, the more superficial responses showed little development in the analysis of the usefulness of the elective and/or did not fully address the reflective component of the task. These responses often lacked synthesis.

In better responses, candidates deconstructed and analysed three different text types and evaluated how the module was useful in understanding and improving their ability across a range of areas. They provided examples that linked to course demands, the syllabus and its usefulness to students. They demonstrated control of expression appropriate to a report and the metalanguage of Academic English.

In mid-range responses, candidates often addressed each text satisfactorily but did not adequately reflect on or support its usefulness with examples. Some responses lacked an evaluative voice. They also showed less control in their use of expression and register, listing ideas without supporting detail.

Weaker responses reflected prepared responses in a variety of formats. They tended to list information about things they had learned, rather than attempting to evaluate its usefulness and relevance to student learning.

Listening Paper

General comments

Candidates who performed well in the listening paper this year demonstrated an awareness that language is chosen and structured to achieve a specific purpose and appeal to a specific audience.

Better responses were supported by specific reference to the stimulus.

Specific comments

Question 1

Most candidates were awarded full marks for this question as they were able to identify two things Ben told the listeners about himself.

Question 2

Most candidates identified two ways Ben found out what young Australians thought. One mark was awarded to responses that identified one way.

Question 3

Most candidates correctly identified one issue that young people thought was important.

Question 4

  1. In better responses, candidates identified the metaphor and provided an explanation of its meaning with reference to the relevant part of the stimulus.
  2. Candidates had a range of techniques from which to choose without referring to the metaphor in question 4 (a).

    In better responses, candidates identified two of the most relevant language and/or voice techniques and explained with reference to the text how both were used by the speaker to communicate effectively.

    In weaker responses, candidates identified two techniques used by Ben to communicate effectively but did not explain the effect of each using specific examples from the text. Some candidates simply restated the phrase ‘communicate effectively’.

    Candidates who did not notice or misunderstood the key word ‘other’ in the question and repeated the technique of metaphor were not awarded marks.

Question 5

In better responses, candidates identified at least two specific elements and explained how these worked to provide information and maintain the listener’s interest.

Mid-range responses explained how elements of the text worked either to provide information or maintain the listener’s interest. Some candidates focused on one element only. Plurals in questions indicate that candidates need to demonstrate an understanding of more than one element.

In weaker responses, candidates referred to language rather than structural features or made general statements about the content of the stimulus. Generally, such candidates did not analyse ‘how’ elements worked to provide information and maintain audience interest, or restated part of the question.


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