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2010 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre — English Standard and Advanced



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 courses in English. It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2010 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 2010 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.

General comments

Generally candidates responded well to the range of texts and questions. Most candidates found the provided quotes to be a solid platform from which to begin their response to the questions, although in weaker responses, candidates failed to move beyond the use of this quote which limited their discussion.

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. In better responses, candidates engaged well with the visual elements of the text and established a link between the visual and how the concept of belonging or not belonging to family was depicted. Weaker responses attempted a description of the image without addressing the ‘how’ aspect in the question.
  2. In better responses, candidates clearly explained the nature of the relationship, using textual support to provide depth to the explanation. Weaker responses tended to provide a recount of the relationship.
  3. In strong responses, candidates focused on the portrayal of friendship as an alternative source of belonging. They used textual references insightfully to identify issues in the text and went beyond literal interpretations to provide points about the idea of friendship as an alternative to family in establishing a sense of belonging. In weaker responses, candidates tended towards explanation with less apt choices in textual referencing and made more generalised statements about friendship and/or families.
  4. In better responses, candidates examined elements of the text in order to interpret the text holistically. Explorations of the text’s meaning were supported by apt references that revealed the complexity of the speaker’s attitude. In weaker responses, candidates dealt with the text on a more literal level and often misinterpreted the attitude of the speaker or failed to refer to it at all.
  5. In stronger responses, candidates analysed the distinctive perspectives provided in the texts and understood that ‘ways’ could be conceptual. They avoided generalisations and effectively addressed all elements of the question and provided aptly chosen textual evidence in support. Weaker responses tended towards explanation and textual referencing was limited.

Section II

Question 2

Candidates presented responses in a variety of forms, though narrative was the dominant choice.

In better responses, candidates used language appropriate to their chosen form of imaginative writing. They explored the challenges of belonging and not belonging with insight, complexity and/or subtlety. These responses displayed originality and artistry and the mechanics of language were applied skilfully.

In sound responses, candidates tended to be more literal in their use of one of the quotations. They tended to be predictable, linear or clichéd in their examination of the challenges of belonging and not 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 the challenges of belonging and not belonging. These responses lacked credibility, with limited appropriateness to audience and/or purpose. Flawed mechanics of language were usually a feature of these responses.

Section III

General comments

Candidates’ approaches to the question varied, with many considering the statement as an opportunity to discuss the impact of the positive and or negative impacts of relationships on belonging, while others chose to explore an individual’s interaction with the natural world as having a significant impact on belonging.

In stronger responses, candidates engaged in a perceptive manner with the view expressed in the statement, establishing an insightful thesis, which was sustained throughout the response through a discerning selection of textual detail and an astute analysis of both the prescribed text and the text of their own choosing. The skilful integration of the analysis of both texts into the conceptual framework of their response was a distinguishing feature of highly developed responses. These responses were also marked by clear and purposeful control of language, with a judicious use of related material.

Some candidates found it difficult to sustain their argument as their chosen related material offered them limited opportunity to develop a strong argument or detailed analysis to support their ideas on the nature of belonging.

Sound responses engaged with the view expressed in the statement. Candidates used their knowledge to support their response, but did not develop the response or sustain their analysis in a rigorous manner. These responses tended to list rather than analyse textual details and features, and adopted a series of explanations. Many of these responses approached the question in a logical and structured way, but merely relied on an overview of texts and description as a means of discussion. Some of these responses were overloaded with textual analysis at the expense of a well-developed and coherent line of argument. Links between texts were evident, but remained undeveloped, and candidates did not sustain their conceptual discussion throughout the response.

In weaker responses, candidates generally attempted to respond to the view expressed in the statement, but experienced some difficulty in using textual evidence or features to support a discussion of the texts. Candidates often resorted to storytelling with intermittent reference to, rather than explanation of, textual features.

Weaker responses were often colloquial, conversational and segmented, demonstrating a varying control of language, and displaying an elementary knowledge of the concept and the texts studied. Some candidates established a simplistic thesis in their introduction but did not develop or sustain this throughout the response. These responses were often unbalanced in their treatment of the prescribed and related texts, most often being weaker in their analysis of their chosen text.

Prose Fiction

Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

In stronger responses, candidates clearly addressed the key terms of the question. They were often selective in their argument, developing a response which focused on a particular aspect of the question, either ‘enrich’ or ‘limit’. In stronger responses, candidates were judicious in their choice of textual features and examples from the lives of the four women, and fashioned a sophisticated argument in response to the question. These responses managed to bring together the ideas of cultural confluence, gender and family interactions, with detailed textual support underpinning the candidate’s central thesis.

In better responses, candidates effectively dealt with the contextual elements of time and place and showed a strong understanding of the narrative structure, ensuring that commentary on textual features supported their conceptual understanding of belonging.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to look at the text on a simplistic level, relying on recount or a simplistic discussion of culture and characters which failed to engage fully with the key terms of the question. Textual features were identified but not explained or connected effectively with the comment or concept.

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

In some better responses, candidates skilfully integrated their discussion of narrative structure and technical features with their consideration of the characters. Some responses were more personal in tone, candidates reflecting on how they had been enriched in their understanding of human nature and cultural aspects of belonging as readers. These responses were discerning in their choice of textual support, demonstrating a strong grasp of the text as a whole, its structure and spiritual tone.

In stronger responses, candidates engaged confidently with the quotation to form a thesis that skilfully enabled them to evaluate the role an individual’s interaction with others and the world around them had in enriching or limiting their experience of belonging. There was a stronger focus on the character of Gogol and the complexities of his struggle with his identity and place of belonging. These responses also discussed Ashima and her transition into society, her ability to be proactive in her decisions as a result of her enriching contact with people beyond her familial or cultural spheres.

Weaker responses focused more literally on the notion of characters searching for their identity. Many were limited to a repetitive focus on Gogol’s lack of connection to his name as the reason for him limiting his experience of belonging in America. These responses often relied on retell and where textual features were identified, they were often not explained or connected to the concept or the statement.

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

In better responses, candidates identified social barriers as a factor in interactions with the world. They used contextual discussion as a starting point for an evaluation of the impact of society’s attitudes on characters. These responses also identified Dickens’ narrative structure as a means of presenting social criticism and their line of argument was often elevated by a thoughtful consideration of the ability of the major characters to transcend the limitations to belonging. In better responses, candidates supported their thesis with discerning analysis of narrative technique, structure, characterisation as well as the elemental motifs that are a feature of the novel.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to rely on recount and description of character. They discussed simplistic ideas about belonging to place and people: Pip and London, Pip and Joe. A mark of these responses was a focus on the opening chapters with the absence of consideration of latter events and character development.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust

In better responses, candidates engaged confidently with the question, skilfully evaluating interactions from a cultural perspective. These responses tended to consider the bi-temporal time frame and the dual narrative structure. A consideration of the different cultural contexts was often accompanied by insightful commentary on Jhabvala’s ability to create distinct voices.

Many of the stronger responses placed a balanced emphasis on the way a sense of belonging can be limited or enriched by an individual’s relationship with others. These candidates demonstrated insight and perception in their evaluation of the impact of cross-cultural relationships and considered a variety of language and structural devices to support their responses.

In weaker responses, candidates limited their discussion by relying on retelling the plot. These responses also tended to place a focus on the way a sense of belonging is restricted for individuals in unfamiliar environments. Their discussion lacked the support of textual details or analysis.

Tara June Winch, Swallow the Air

In stronger responses, candidates engaged with the notion of ‘interaction with others and the world around them’ and skilfully evaluated to the extent to which these interactions could ‘enrich or limit’ an ‘individual’s experience of belonging’. These responses explored May’s ‘interactions’ with family and her Aboriginal culture with discerning selections from the text and an obvious appreciation of its lyrical use of motif and metaphor. They developed insightful comments about May’s troubled sense of dispossession and displacement, as well as her growing sense of universal belonging to the land, and supported these with skilful analysis of the textual features of the novel.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to be descriptive and often only managed a superficial engagement with the statement about ‘interactions’ and in particular with the notion of to what extent these interactions ‘enrich’ or ‘limit’ an individual’s sense of belonging. They relied on recount and references to plot without significant analysis of textual features or details.


Raimond Gaita, Romulus My Father

In stronger responses, candidates engaged confidently with the statement. These responses developed an insightful discussion of the familial interactions between Romulus, Raimond and Christine within the broader context of their migrant experience. Many developed their argument through consideration of the limitations that mental illness can have on an individual’s sense of self, and the consequent isolation from others and their community.

Belonging as a result of cultural interaction or prejudice was also a central focus, and many candidates incorporated an insightful discussion of the differing impacts of the migrant experience on the two generations. This was often integrated with a reflection on Raimond’s strong bond to the physical environment in contrast to Christine’s complete alienation and Romulus’ forced connection. Ultimately, Romulus’ capacity to belong as a result of his transcendent sense of a ‘common humanity’ was explored within the strongest responses. These responses were discerning in their selection of textual detail, demonstrating a holistic understanding of the text.

In weaker responses, candidates focused more literally on simplistic ideas about relationships between characters and their affiliation with their physical and social environments, identifying the consequences of these relationships as either enrichment or limitation. These responses tended to be narrower in focus, limited to just one aspect of the text, such as Romulus and the landscape, or Christine’s isolation. These responses often relied on retelling the story and where textual features were identified, they were often not explained or connected to the concept or the statement.


Arthur Miller, The Crucible

Stronger responses offered a perceptive balance between the ideas addressed in the question and the central concerns of the text. In these responses, candidates developed a relevant and sustained thesis, making consistent and discerning reference to textual detail in order to support and enhance their argument. Responses demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the text, exploring one or more characters and, where applicable, notions of individuality, conformity, morality, conflict and the effects of societal and institutional power. A feature of stronger responses was an appreciation of the text as theatre and an ability to discuss Miller’s use of theatrical devices, in conjunction with other points of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

Weaker responses reproduced a generic statement on belonging and relied on recount to demonstrate their knowledge of the text. These responses made scant reference to the question or to textual detail, often identifying and describing textual features or aspects of the text, and explaining how these displayed belonging. Some candidates made reference to McCarthyism as a point of contextual discussion. However, such inclusions did not enhance their ability to analyse the text, answer the question or develop an argument.

Jane Harrison, Rainbow’s End

In stronger responses, candidates identified social and cultural barriers as an inhibitor to belonging and integrated a skilful analysis of dramatic features to support their thesis. These responses often provided a thoughtful consideration of Dolly’s struggle to reconcile her own divided sense of belonging or the forces which served as a catalyst for other characters to maintain a connection to their own culture or seek a transcendent link to another. These responses demonstrated an effective understanding of the text and the notions of cultural belonging and our inherent need to belong. They explored examples, integrating them into their thesis in an effective manner.

Weaker responses tended to describe the family situation in which the three women found themselves, with no exploration in relation to the statement focus of ‘enrich’ or ‘limit’. There was a heavy reliance on recount, and often in a limited manner. These candidates found it difficult to identify or explain dramatic devices in relation to the concept.


Baz Luhrmann, Strictly Ballroom

In stronger responses, candidates engaged perceptively with the quotation to develop a thesis which demonstrated a sophisticated grasp of the central concepts of individuality and conformity and integrated it with a discerning analysis of the text and purposeful control of language. These responses focused on a holistic discussion of Strictly Ballroom as a film, providing a thoughtful consideration of filmic techniques, character development and visual metaphors to support their argument. They demonstrated a strong grasp of Luhrmann’s purpose, linking it to the notions of belonging presented in the question.

In weaker responses, candidates struggled to come to terms with the quotation, tending to focus on aspects of belonging and/or not belonging in texts. Plot recount was often driven by identification or description of textual features. Limited control of language was evident in weaker responses.

Rolf De Heer, Ten Canoes

In stronger responses, candidates addressed the question by observing the contemporary nature of the film, and in so doing, developed an examination of De Heer’s collaboration with the Indigenous people to create a work that enriched the responder’s understanding of belonging and a common humanity which stretches beyond cultural boundaries. Such responses were marked by a strong thesis sustained with carefully selected related material. While the argument in response to the question was sophisticated, it was also supported by a skilful integration of film techniques and a consideration of how the composer’s cinematography portrayed individual characters and their relationships.

Weaker responses had poor control of language, were under developed and often re-told the story, listing examples of events in the film. These responses often evidenced a poor choice of related text and showed little understanding of language forms and features or cinematic techniques.


William Shakespeare, As You Like It

In stronger responses, candidates skilfully explored the statement, weaving a consideration of familial and other relationships in the text with a reflection of the importance of the connections to their world and how all of this served to enrich or limit the characters’ sense of belonging. They assessed the juxtaposed worlds of the court and the Forest of Arden and how these affected or influenced the interactions of characters. They also looked at aspects of Shakespeare’s dramatic craft, exploring the humour, irony, use of disguise and conflicts within the play to illuminate the growth and development of character.

Some responses also discussed the characteristics of Jaques, and the reasons for his inability to interact with others, his ‘not belonging’ at the end of the play in contrast to the resolved conflicts in the relationships with others. Other responses explored the role of Rosalind (aka Ganymede) as a catalyst in enriching or hindering belonging between others.

Weaker responses tended to re-tell the plot with only a limited connection to the idea of belonging and without assessing Shakespeare’s dramatic techniques. They also tended to focus on Jaques and his desire to limit his sphere of belonging at the expense of a wider exploration of the play. Some of these responses relied on a simplistic understanding of equation of the court as limiting and the country as enriching, but did not take their ideas any further.


Peter Skrzynecki, Immigrant Chronicle

In the stronger responses, candidates successfully addressed the question, often by considering both sides of the quotation. The most successful responses tackled the notion of ‘nourishes’ and integrated 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.

In weaker responses, candidates 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

In stronger responses, candidates used the poems to develop a sophisticated and thoughtful discussion of the poet’s relationships with others and with her world and then supported it with carefully chosen references to the natural and commonplace imagery that forms the metaphoric centre of her poetry. While many of these responses displayed an awareness of Dickinson’s personal context in light of the question, they did not allow contextual considerations to dominate their discussion.

For the most part, candidates focused on the social structures and interactions that limited the poet’s experience of belonging, but better responses counterbalanced this with a consideration of the enrichment that is found in the poet’s deep sense of connection to the natural world. While many stronger responses discussed two poems, the brevity of many of the prescribed poems allowed some candidates to discuss three poems to further their discussion, or to explore contrasting aspects of belonging in connection with the quotation. I had been hungry all the years, I gave myself to him and This is my letter to the world were most frequently discussed, yet many strong responses considered other poems.

In weaker responses, candidates often discussed Dickinson’s context but with little direct reference to the poems or the quotation. Many responses at this level struggled to demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of Dickinson’s poetry, focusing instead on an explanation of the poet’s feelings of not belonging, but failing to relate it to interaction with others and the world around her. Poetic devices were often identified without considering their effect on the meaning. Many weaker responses ignored the quotation in the question.

Steven Herrick, The Simple Gift

In better responses, candidates established a thesis that explored how and why interactions with people and the world might enrich or limit a sense of belonging. This examination of the process of belonging through interacting with others, and the causes of enrichment or limitation, was generally organised around a comparison between Billy’s initial rejection at home and school, which limited his sense of belonging, and his subsequent acceptance by Old Bill, Irene and Caitlin in Bendarat where his identity, place in the community and sense of direction were all strengthened.

Better responses may also have included a thoughtful consideration of the connections of the characters to the enriching aspects of the natural world. In support of their answer, candidates often used both the recurring poetic features of the text, like the symbolism of the simple gift and the key, the use of imagery and aptly used figures of speech, as well as narrative features like contrasting settings, multiple narratives and character development. Some highly developed responses tied the free verse structure of the poetry with the way the main characters were able to liberate themselves from societal or familial limitations to construct their own network of mutual acceptance and transparent honesty and trust.

In weaker responses, candidates often resorted to plot recount, relying on retelling the story without exploring how the text works as a representation of the concept of belonging. In these responses, candidates often struggled to examine the effects of interacting with others and the world on belonging and chose instead to present a discussion of belonging that was often not linked to the given statement.

English (Standard) Paper 2 – Modules

Section I – Module A: Experience through Language

General comments

Successful responses embedded an understanding of the language of the module and the elective in their response. Weaker responses lapsed into a simple recount of both texts with just a passing reference to the question in the introduction or conclusion. The choice of related text was often a discriminator in this question.

Question 1 – Elective 1: Distinctive Voices

  1. Prose Fiction – Marele Day, The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender
    Better responses made comparisons within and between texts and addressed how the voice was created with specific textual references. Emphasis was generally placed on Harry and Claudia’s voice and how each was distinctive and different from each other. Some responses addressed the concept of the voice of Sydney and drew parallels with the voice of Sally. A few candidates also considered the voice of Mrs Levack and how it was a counterpoint to Claudia’s feminist voice. The textual evidence used was often restricted to the opening pages ‘blond in the bed/Jack Daniels/ashtray’ or Claudia’s legs as her ‘best weapon’. There was much discussion of post-modern and feminist perspectives but this was not always linked to the question and made relevant. Some responses were a discussion of themes and voice with little reference to how the voice was created or shaped.
  2. Drama – George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion
    Candidates demonstrated how the voice of Eliza altered. However, some had difficulty effectively explaining how voice was created. Many responses confined themselves to a social commentary, hence a discussion of how Higgins’ voice was different to Eliza’s in terms of class. Discussion of Fabianism and early nineteenth-century class structure was not always linked to the question or made relevant. Some responses considered the voice of Eliza’s father and how it was a counterpoint to the voices of Higgins and Pickering.
  3. Poetry – Joanne Burns, On a Clear Day
    Responses generally engaged with the ideas of Burns’ poetry and made comparisons between and within texts. Stronger responses displayed an understanding of context and an awareness of Burns’ ability to parody and mock not just Australian society but herself. Specifically, understanding of the ideas expressed by Burns was evident through their affinity with the contemporary Australian context.
  4. Poetry – AB Paterson, The Penguin Banjo Collected Verse
    Many responses identified Paterson’s voice as the voice of the texts. Responses appeared to favour A Bush Christening, Clancy of the Overflow and Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, justifying this selection through an identification of Paterson’s attitude to the bush. This comparison was then purposefully explored against the opposing views of Lawson as a related text by a number of responses. Weaker responses provided a simplistic analysis of the poems without connections to the question.
  5. Nonfiction – Speeches
    In better responses, candidates thoughtfully and effectively incorporated an understanding of the construction and delivery of the speech into their analysis of techniques used. Understanding of the speeches as a body of work that could be tied together through ideas and techniques was apparent in the better responses.

    Weaker responses analysed the speeches as a written text rather than appreciating that these texts were intended to be spoken and heard. Many of these responses focused on a description of context rather than an analysis of the distinctive voice and how this is shaped by a number of rhetorical techniques, such as voice of a generation, voice of a child, the marginalised voice, voice of a preacher, and so on. When rhetorical devices were addressed, responses tended to describe rather than analyse how this technique aided in delivery. Weaker responses often struggled to make the connection between speeches, which impacted negatively on the overall cohesiveness and purposefulness of the response.

Question 2 – Elective 2: Distinctively Visual

  1. Prose Fiction – Henry Lawson, The Penguin Henry Lawson Short Stories
    Candidates were aware of the visual elements of Lawson’s stories and techniques used to create these elements, including adjectives, narration, setting and characterisation. Better responses made clear the comparison through well-selected detail and often contrasted the use of humour and irony within and between stories. They illustrated how techniques created engaging visuals within the reader’s imagination. Weaker responses tended to imply comparison through listing or brief description of obvious techniques with an emphasis on recount.
  2. Prose Fiction – Peter Goldsworthy, Maestro
    Better responses reflected candidates’ informed choices in selecting details from the text to analyse clearly and explain in terms of how these created an effective image. They were explicit in discussing various images and comparing how they represented ideas. These responses more thoughtfully engaged with the text by carefully selecting evidence. Weaker responses tended to limit themselves to the opening of the novel and were descriptive or reliant on recounting plot.
  3. Drama – John Misto, The Shoe-Horn Sonata
    Better responses clearly identified production elements such as projected images, lighting, symbolism and other devices as ‘distinctively visual’. Some candidates included analysis of aural imagery and were effective at explaining how this technique enhanced the emotional reaction of the audience. In better responses, candidates often considered comparisons within the text, such as the past and the present; Bridie versus Sheila, and the hotel room versus the television studio settings. Many candidates utilised a thematic approach to make clear the comparisons and contrasts of the ways ideas are explored. In weaker responses, candidates made less informed textual selections and therefore struggled to address all aspects of the question.
  4. Poetry – Douglas Stewart, Selected Poems
    Responses demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the thematic concerns of Stewart’s poems such as an appreciation of the power and beauty of nature, drawing conclusions about humans’ relationship with the environment. Some responses provided a critical technical analysis of the poems, resulting in a loss of focus on the ‘distinctively visual’ elements of the elective. To move beyond the self-evident, candidates needed to address elements of comparison between poems and /or related material. Typically, responses used related texts that were thematically similar to Stewart’s, identifying a uniquely Australian experience. Lady Feeding Cats and Wombat were the most popular poems.
  5. Film – Tom Tykwer, Run Lola Run
    Better responses were characterised by a thorough and detailed engagement with the film’s personal philosophy, generally thematically based. Candidates explored the ‘distinctively visual’ aspects of the texts in a comprehensive, thoughtful manner through analysis of film techniques, in particular, recurring imagery, symbolism, subversion of genre and the impact of colour. In stronger responses, candidates addressed the various audience responses to the main ideas presented in the text well, often relating to them in a personal and therefore more meaningful way. Related texts included graphic novels, picture books, paintings and other films.
  6. Media – Deb Cox, Seachange
    Responses showed sound knowledge of the different episodes and what they communicated to the audience. Weaker responses lapsed into recount rather than addressing the question. Some candidates, however, used descriptive recount effectively to convey vivid images. Responses tended to focus on the opening montage as their analysis of the ‘distinctively visual’ and then utilised character analysis to explore aspects of comparison. Candidates typically analysed the episodes Playing With Fire and Manna From Heaven.

Section II – Module B: Close Study of Text

General comments

In stronger responses, candidates demonstrated a thoughtful selection of material supported by relevant examples, and answered the question with confidence and a sense of personal engagement. Weaker responses were often detailed but demonstrated little relevant textual knowledge. Others were generic and formulaic and had little relationship to the question.

Question 3 – Prose Fiction

(a) Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

In stronger responses, candidates identified the important ideas in the extract and thoroughly explored how, in this extract, Haddon’s purpose in developing empathy towards people with disabilities was introduced. These candidates invariably supported their analysis with clear, well-referenced and relevant textual knowledge from the text as a whole. Weaker responses were characterised by a general discussion of themes, techniques and characters, or mere recount of plot, with little or no reference to the question. These responses were often restricted by narrow or insufficient analysis of how the important ideas were introduced through this extract.

(b) Jane Yolen, Briar Rose

In stronger responses, candidates identified how the important ideas were introduced in the extract provided, and skilfully explained the metaphorical nature of the fairytale narrative, and how those motifs were employed to explore powerful themes. These candidates invariably supported their analysis with clear, well-referenced and appropriate textual knowledge. Weaker responses tended to rely on recounting plot elements, or a superficial discussion of themes. These responses were restricted by narrow or insufficient analysis of how the important ideas were introduced through this extract.

(c) David Malouf, Fly Away Peter

In better responses, candidates supported their analysis with clear, well-referenced and relevant textual detail from the entire text. 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

(a) Louis Nowra, Cosi

In stronger responses, candidates demonstrated an appreciation of the distinctive qualities of Cosi as drama and considered such elements as tension, conflict and the importance of the opening in establishing a number of important ideas. These candidates expressed an understanding of such ideas as human achievement, courage and personal triumph rather than the more formulaic ‘illusion versus reality’ and ‘love and fidelity’.

Many responses did not sufficiently make use of the extract which provided a rich source of dramatic features as well as some introductory features of some characters and certainly some key ideas of the play.

In weaker responses, candidates confused characters, misquoted and strayed into either recount or formulaic discussions of the themes rather than linking these ideas to the extract and the events that follow the opening scene.

Weaker responses tended to be superficial recounts of the narrative, with little reference to the opening scene and minimal relevant textual evidence.

Selection of relevant and rich textual detail was a challenge for many candidates. It is essential that candidates aim for accuracy in quotation and choose quotes that are relevant to the question.

(b) William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

The extract from act 1, scene 3 enabled candidates to explore such ideas as cultural differences, conflict, vengeance, morality, mercy and racism. Weaker responses made simplistic comments about Jews and Christians and did not demonstrate understanding of the complexities of the cultural and religious differences.

In stronger responses, candidates analysed the dramatic features of the extracts and presented a sustained discussion of other parts of the play and how the ideas were explored. Weaker responses relied on recount, and often focused on sections of the play which were not introduced in the extract.

Question 5 – Poetry

(a) Wilfred Owen, War Poems and Others

Most candidates developed a sustained discussion of two poems. Most included a detailed treatment of the extract and one other poem.

In stronger responses, candidates demonstrated an ability to select evidence both with discernment and economy. Stronger responses had a clear thesis which gave coherence and unity to their answers and these candidates often integrated references to the extract in their discussion of the other poems. Many responses demonstrated a genuine understanding of the techniques used by Owen to shape the readers’ responses and the purpose of these techniques.

Many weak responses were often clearly pre-prepared answers that were not well connected to the question.

(b) Judith Wright, Collected Poems 1942–1985

In stronger responses, candidates identified and linked Wright’s passion for the environment to a sustained discussion of the extract and either the rest of this poem, or two separate poems.

More direct analysis of the extract could have assisted some candidates with their responses.

Weaker responses were quite superficial in their understanding of Wright’s themes or were confused in their understanding of her purpose, and were often formulaic.

Question 6 – Nonfiction

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

In stronger responses, candidates identified a range of important ideas such as Chris’s desire to escape, to take risks and challenge himself. Discussion included his fractured relationships with his family and the opportunities that his adventure afforded him to make new connections with people like Wayne.

Weaker responses discussed the film or simply provided a simple recount without genuinely engaging with the extract or the important ideas. In weaker responses, candidates did not discuss the ways in which narrative devices were used to shape meaning and explore ideas.

Candidates frequently made reference to the film as opposed to the prescribed prose biography.

Question 7 – Film

Peter Weir, Witness

Candidates attempted the question in two ways: some used the images as a springboard into the text as a whole; others used the images as the sole focus of their response. Most candidates were able to analyse the frames, although a significant proportion were limited in their response because they did not move beyond the frames provided. Over-reliance by some candidates on formulaic learned responses resulted in minimal engagement with the question. For example, many candidates struggled to link ideas such as forbidden love with the frames provided. A generic, superficial analysis of scenes that tended to rely on basic technical details like the use of close-ups limited the scope of some responses.

In stronger responses, candidates identified how the important ideas were introduced in the frames provided. They effectively integrated a purposeful selection of scenes and ideas that dealt with the extract. These responses synthesised ideas from the text as a whole through a close analysis of the frames provided, often engaging with the film’s more sophisticated themes and ideas. Candidates understood that the question required a more thorough and detailed exploration of other scenes from the film and linked the ideas with the frames provided.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to limit their discussion to a literal description of the frames provided and showed only limited or inaccurate knowledge of the text. There was a tendency to list techniques, while others ignored the frames altogether. They relied heavily on narrative or recount to carry their response with no reference to ideas or film techniques. Therefore, while candidates were clearly familiar with the text, their responses were restricted by narrow or insufficient analysis of how the important ideas were introduced through this extract.

Candidates are reminded that related material is not required for this module.

Section III – Module C: Texts and Society

Question 8 – Elective 1 – The Global Village

In better responses, candidates developed a thesis which clearly addressed the question and demonstrated a strong understanding of the elective based upon a detailed knowledge of the prescribed and related texts. Thoughtful choice of related texts allowed these candidates to integrate their discussion often on a conceptual level. An informed and confident voice was a consistent feature of the better responses.

In weaker responses, candidates made simple generalisations about the concept of the elective which often led to a superficial or literal retelling of the selected texts. The related material was often associated with technology in a generic manner, as opposed to specific texts which explored concepts associated with ‘The Global Village’. Weaker responses often did not engage with the question.

Question 9 – Elective 2 – Into the World

In stronger responses, candidates effectively constructed a thesis which clearly addressed the question and articulated their understanding of the concepts of the elective, often using a confident personal voice. These responses drew upon a substantial related text, often presenting a holistic discussion based upon judiciously selected evidence from the prescribed and one other related text.

Weaker responses, despite sometimes engaging with the concept of the elective, were often a superficial or literal retelling of the text(s) with only a direct link to the question at the start and conclusion of the response. Many related texts were only tenuously linked to the prescribed text or the concept of ‘Into the World’. Weaker responses did not substantiate their discussion with appropriate textual reference.

English (Advanced) Paper 2 – Modules

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

General comments

In better responses, candidates developed a thesis which addressed the question and demonstrated a strong conceptual understanding of the module and the elective. They embedded an evaluation of the relationship between text and context in the analysis of the texts. These responses demonstrated an understanding of the term ‘values’ and also showed a discerning use of textual references.

Weaker responses tended to make connections between texts 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 recognised the significance of context in understanding the shift in values between the texts. 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 through clear, concise arguments and shape a response accordingly.

In weaker responses, candidates adopted a thematic approach to the question and confined the discussion to issues rather than values and made parallel connections between texts. Treatment of context was not integrated into the discussion and was treated in isolation. These responses often lacked appropriate textual detail and occasionally showed an unbalanced treatment of texts.

Question 2 – Texts in Time

In better responses, candidates considered the key notion of individuals challenging established values and produced a shaped response that developed and sustained a thesis which genuinely addressed the question and which used a discerning selection of textual references.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to identify some similarities between these texts, often with a limited understanding of the significance of these similarities. They often considered the key concept of established values of their time in a superficial or generalised way or ignored it. 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. They often relied on a few basic or inappropriate references to texts.

Section II – Module B: Critical Study of Texts

General comments

In stronger responses, candidates carefully considered arguments and thoughtfully selected, detailed textual references to support a perceptive thesis.

Insightful responses demonstrated a strong sense of personal engagement which was developed through an evaluation of a variety of interpretations. Very few responses simply relied on interpretations of others and ‘readings’.

Weaker responses tended to be descriptive and made limited reference to the language and ideas of the text. They lacked development and did not sustain a coherent and detailed argument. These responses also reflected a limited understanding of the demands of the question.

Question 3 – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Better responses demonstrated a deep understanding of the relationship between dramatic form and notions of struggle and disillusionment, adopting a conceptual approach which reflected strong personal engagement with the text. These discerning responses did not merely rely on referencing critics or productions but demonstrated a critical appreciation of Hamlet which was based on insights gleaned from an evaluation of the perspectives of others in the light of a personal response to the play.

Weaker responses tended to be descriptive and relied on recount to advance a narrow point of view. Textual references were often obvious, characterised by limited development and analysis. These responses did not demonstrate sufficient understanding of the play and showed little awareness of the impact of dramatic features in conveying ideas about struggle and disillusionment. Weaker responses also lacked a unifying framework and consequently were fragmented and lacking in cohesion.

Question 4 – Prose Fiction

Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion

Better responses presented a skilful argument about the concepts of isolation and uncertainty in the novel. Most focused on the role of Patrick Lewis to further their discussion and explored the isolation of the immigrant workers within the contextual framework. These responses were very insightful in viewing the text as a reflection of the human experience and presented an informed personal response to the text which was aided by a perceptive view of the narrative form.

Weaker responses tended to rely on recount with limited textual reference and little or no appreciation of the narrative form.

Tim Winton, Cloudstreet

Better responses presented an informed personal response to the question in terms of hardship and optimism. These responses took a holistic approach to the text and presented a perceptive understanding of the way Winton used his narrative form to advance these ideas. They chose relevant textual details to support an insightful discussion.

In weaker responses, candidates presented a limited view of the text, often confining their discussion to one or two characters and their hardships, or retelling the story to show the nature of the characters’ hardships. Often these responses lacked development or an overall awareness of the narrative form.

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

In better responses, candidates engaged skilfully with the key words of ‘expectations’ and ‘love’ within the novel. These responses were characterised by a detailed knowledge of the novel and of Bronte’s narrative treatment of Jane’s nineteenth-century world. Examples of ‘expectations’ and ‘love’ were well selected and supported by a strong personal voice and thesis.

Weaker responses tended to list examples of ‘love’ within the plot, particularly Jane’s struggle to find true love. ‘Expectations’ was often defined as the nineteenth century expectations of women’s roles, and while this may have some relevance to the question, an overwhelming focus on Bronte’s context did not necessarily support a thesis about the narrative treatment of ‘love’ and ‘expectations’.

Question 5 – Drama

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House

In better responses, candidates developed an informed personal response to the play to present a skilful view of the treatment of the concepts of entrapment and release. These candidates had a very perceptive view of the contextual influences on the characters and extrapolated this to view the play from a contemporary perspective. Textual support was well chosen and there was an insightful understanding of the dramatic treatment of these ideas.

In weaker responses, candidates often focused on the plot or a discussion of the context rather than directly addressing the question. These responses made limited reference to the play and had little appreciation of the dramatic impact of the text.

Question 6 – Film

Orson Welles, Citizen Kane

In better responses, candidates perceptively analysed the central ideas of ambition and corruption. They supported this understanding with detailed textual references which incorporated a skilful understanding of filmic techniques.

Weaker responses were limited to an outline of the historical context as well as a simplistic understanding of the plot of the film.

Question 7 – Poetry

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

In better responses, candidates analysed the ideas of conflict and beauty in addition to providing detailed analysis and evaluation of poetic language, form and features. They also acknowledged how these ideas engaged an audience and demonstrated a strong sense of personal voice in arguing how the question resonated with their understanding of Yeats’ poetry. These responses demonstrated a detailed and sustained knowledge of the ideas within the poems and skilfully used appropriate textual responses to support a clearly articulated thesis.

Weaker responses concentrated on contextual and biographical information such as Yeats’ relationship with Maud Gonne. They tended to be descriptive and often relied on recount. Some showed little understanding of beauty and conflict and did not provide a balanced treatment of these concepts.

Gwen Harwood, Selected Poems

In better responses, candidates explored the conceptual importance of loss and consolation in a skilful and synthesised manner. They developed a strong thesis which was supported by effective and appropriate textual references which demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of poetic techniques. These responses were also characterised by a strong sense of personal engagement.

In weaker responses, candidates demonstrated limited understanding of the notions of loss and consolation. They lacked detailed textual references and did not explore the significance of poetic techniques.

Kenneth Slessor, Selected Poems

In better responses, candidates evaluated the concepts of mortality and mourning, showing an insightful understanding of how poetic techniques were used to convey these ideas. They supported their answers with detailed textual references, allowing for a perceptive conceptual analysis.

In weaker responses, candidates often provided a sequential outline of the poems rather than carefully integrating selected textual references to support their answers.

Question 8 – Nonfiction – Essays

George Orwell, Essays

Better responses engaged with all aspects of the question, demonstrating a confident and informed personal understanding of Orwell’s context, concerns and writing style. These responses carefully selected the essays used for discussion and supported their thesis with close textual analysis and evaluation.

In weaker responses, candidates struggled with some aspects of the question and tended to summarise Orwell’s subject matter rather than answer the question. They demonstrated some understanding of Orwell’s concerns but often did not select the most appropriate essays for discussion. Candidates need to be familiar with all prescribed essays in order to discuss those most relevant to the question.

Question 9 – Nonfiction – Speeches

In better responses, candidates composed sustained arguments which perceptively explored the notions of human aspirations and beliefs in the speeches. These responses reflected a deep knowledge of rhetorical techniques in the speeches and showed an understanding of oratory, rather than simple language techniques. An array of complex rhetorical devices was sometimes referred to, but this was not necessary to attain high marks. Stronger responses used detailed, judicious referencing and responded to all aspects of the question by incorporating a sense of context from when the speeches were delivered to the present day.

In weaker responses, candidates did not explore or expand on ‘human aspirations and beliefs’ in the speeches and often described the content of the speeches rather than evaluating them. Treatment of language or rhetorical devices was simplistic, often with errors and flaws in expression. Such responses often failed to select the most appropriate speeches for discussion.

Section III – Module C: Representation and Text

General comments

Many stronger responses demonstrated an awareness of the constructedness of texts and how the choice of form and its associated language features connected with the composer’s purpose and context. A carefully constructed thesis was developed through skilful analysis and seamless integration of the prescribed text and well-chosen text or texts of own choosing. Judiciously selected textual evidence was used to support the evaluation of the form and its distinctive features.

Weaker responses were largely descriptive and limited in scope. Some understanding of the act of representation through form was evident; however, the treatment of the prescribed text and the text or texts of own choosing was superficial and inconsistent. Some of these responses did present a simple line of argument, but it was not developed further through the textual references. Generally, the text or texts of own choosing were not used to make connections with the prescribed text and to demonstrate understanding of conflicting perspectives or history and memory.

Question 10 – Conflicting Perspectives

Many candidates developed responses that examined conflicting perspectives within the world of a text and/or across the prescribed text and the text or texts of own choosing.

In stronger responses, candidates integrated their evaluation of how the conflicting perspectives were represented by the form of the prescribed text and texts of own choosing through a perceptive exploration of an event, situation or personality.

Weaker responses focused on conflicting perspectives rather than on evaluating how these perspectives were represented by the composer through the form and its textual features. They described the conflict between individuals within a text rather than consider the ways that conflicting perspectives on an event, situation or personality were represented.

Julius Caesar

Responses to this question varied in their choices of an event, situation or personality. The evaluations ranged from how Shakespeare represented through the form of an historical tragedy the personality of a leader, and how a leader can be swayed by power; the situation of a clash in political values and beliefs; or an event such as the assassination of a leader.

In stronger responses, candidates demonstrated an understanding of how the form of a play and its distinctive dramatic features is by its very nature a vehicle for conflict. These responses conveyed a holistic understanding of the drama as it unfolded, and used well-chosen scenes or extracts to support their argument as they examined an event, situation or personality, and the influence of context. The text or texts of own choosing that were cleverly chosen, focused on similar or contrasting leaders. These responses integrated a skilful evaluation of the language features that were distinctive to the form of Julius Caesar and the related text or texts.

In weaker responses, candidates relied on a few scenes from the play to describe the conflict between characters, such as the clash between Caesar and Brutus, or simply looked at the funeral oration and the rhetorical techniques. The heart of this module’s rubric representation was not a consideration. As the scenes were described, a list of language techniques were presented without an analysis of the meaning conveyed.

Ted Hughes

The textual form of poetry was conceptually and skilfully evaluated in stronger responses. These responses varied from an evaluation of the representation of conflicting perspectives through the situation of a volatile marriage or having a relationship with someone suffering from mental illness, or the personality of the vulnerable artist. In stronger responses, candidates varied in their use of texts of own choosing. Some skilfully employed Plath poems to evaluate the personalities of Hughes and Plath that led to conflicting perspectives, while others focused their line of argument on the situation of a volatile relationship through different texts.

Weaker responses were limited by their superficial description of Hughes as a misogynist and his relationship with Plath. They listed a raft of language techniques. The form of the poems and of the texts of own choosing was not evaluated.

Question 11 – History and Memory

In stronger responses, candidates concentrated on the concepts of ‘History and Memory’ and communicated a judgement about how effective particular texts were in representing these concepts through their textual form, contributing to their illumination. They then justified these judgements through effective comparison of textual features and ideas.

The Fiftieth Gate

In the case of The Fiftieth Gate, many candidates considered textual form in a very broad sense to include medium of production and language techniques. Many responses viewed Baker’s representation of the Holocaust as an event, and focused on an understanding of how the interplay between recorded history and the memories of the survivors, their children and others can lead to empathy, thereby furthering their understanding of the concepts. In stronger responses, candidates employed texts of own choosing to develop this aspect of representation, to and further explore the ways in which various language techniques contributed to their understanding of ‘History and Memory’ and related this to their thesis.

In weaker responses, candidates 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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