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2011 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre – English (Standard) and English (Advanced)



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 course in English (Standard) and English (Advanced). It contains comments on candidate responses to the 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 Higher School Certificate examinations, the marking guidelines and other support documents developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning in English (Standard) and English (Advanced) courses.

General comments

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

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

Section I

General comments

Candidates demonstrated a clear understanding of the length required for each question and this translated into more effective responses across the paper as a whole.

Question 1

  1. In better responses, candidates selected an aspect of the visual text and explained clearly how it offered a perspective on belonging. Some candidates struggled to adequately explain how the perspective was presented through the visual text.
  2. In strong responses, candidates showed a clear grasp of the way or ways personal insights into belonging to places were conveyed in the transcript. Weaker responses tended to focus on personal insights into belonging without discussing how that insight was conveyed. Conversely other candidates discussed how meaning was conveyed without identifying an insight.
  3. Better responses explored Jack’s understanding in greater depth with aptly chosen textual references. Weaker responses relied heavily on paraphrasing and retelling.
  4. Stronger responses discussed – with aptly chosen textual references – the importance of memories to the character Eilis’s sense of belonging. Weaker responses discussed Eilis’s experiences in Brooklyn without addressing the importance of memories, or retold aspects of the text.
  5. Stronger responses dealt with the dual concepts of place and identity and supported this with effective references to both texts. Weaker responses dealt superficially with the texts and relied upon description rather than analysis. These candidates struggled to develop the relationship between place and identity.

Section II

Question 2

In better responses, candidates used language appropriate to their chosen form of creative writing. They explored the significance of remembered places to the experience of belonging with insight, complexity and/or subtlety. The interpretation of place was often metaphorical which allowed for a broad representation of place. These responses were well crafted and evocative, displaying originality and artistry and the mechanics of language were applied skilfully.

In sound responses, candidates were often more literal in their representation of place. They tended to be predictable, linear or clichéd in their examination of the significance of remembered places to the experience of belonging. In these responses, the mechanics of language was controlled and writing structure was appropriate to form.

Weaker responses tended to lack structural direction, were simplistic and inconsistent in their representation of place and mentioned belonging in a literal manner. These responses lacked credibility, were generally inappropriate for the audience and/or purpose. Flawed mechanics of language was usually a feature of these responses. Memorised, pre-prepared responses and responses to questions from past papers featured at this level.

Section III

General comments

Candidates’ approaches to the question varied, with many considering the statement as an opportunity to discuss the positive or negative impact of place on one’s sense of belonging. Other candidates offered the view that a connection to place alone was not the sole determinant of belonging, suggesting that ideas of place are inextricably connected with notions of identity and human relationships, among others.

Stronger responses demonstrated the candidate’s ability to skilfully engage with the comment and apply their knowledge to develop a strong thesis. Better responses sustained this thesis throughout the response through a discerning selection of textual detail and a perceptive analysis of both the prescribed text and a text or texts of their own choosing. These candidates applied conceptual ideas to their responses and used textual details as a means to support their level of conceptual understanding. They showed a discerning choice of texts, using related materials that clearly demonstrated insight into the concept of belonging and the question being examined.

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

In weaker responses, candidates attempted to consider the importance of place in affecting one’s sense of belonging, 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 an analysis of, textual features.

Weaker responses were often colloquial, conversational and segmented, demonstrating a varying control of language and displaying an elementary knowledge of the concepts and the texts studied. Some candidates established a simplistic thesis in their introduction that was not sustained or developed throughout the response.

Another characteristic noted was the tendency of some students to list techniques in their introduction. This serves no real purpose and potentially limits the opportunity for candidates to develop a more personal response to the statement. Text selection was noted as a potentially discriminating factor, with some candidates finding that the complexities of certain texts limited their ability to engage in an effective and sustained manner with the concept and question.

Prose Fiction

Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

‘Place’ was interpreted on a number of levels including culturally, psychologically, socially, metaphorically and in memory. Candidates discussed physical environment as both a barrier to, and enhancer of, belonging. Some argued that belonging to place and culture primarily occurred through relationships.

Better responses dealt with the duality of place that underpins the novel in a skilful and perceptive manner. In these responses, students focused on the ways in which geographic transitions influenced familial bonds. Their responses brought together the tensions that ‘place’ can exert on one’s desire to both affiliate and yet maintain a sense of self. Conflicting societal barriers were seen to create difficulties for the daughters, but also opportunities to confront where they stood in the world.

In weaker responses, candidates relied on recount to illustrate ideas, identified techniques, made links to the idea of ‘place’ but on a superficial rather than conceptual level.

Jhumpa Lahiri,The Namesake

In stronger responses, candidates established a thesis that allowed for a considered, analytical treatment of the text. This thesis was often embedded in notions of identity and culture and firmly linked to ‘place’. Candidates were then on firm ground to deal with the conflicts which beset characters, Gogol in particular. Place became a metaphor for attempting to belong in either America or India.

Weaker responses relied too heavily on the ‘movements’ of the characters from location to location without attempting to connect this to the question. Quite often, too, names and Gogol’s changing of his name became the focus of the response without any real exploration of the symbolic significance of names and naming as intrinsic features of the idea of ‘place’. A reliance on retelling also limited many responses with too little attention given to textual features. When included, they were identified but not often explained or connected to the concept of ‘place’.

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

In better responses, candidates explored how perceptions of belonging were influenced by connections to places. Often these places, such as the marshes, the forge, London and Satis House were discussed as symbolic representations of aspects of Victorian England. This was often linked to relationships or identity being shaped by connections to place or the search for a true sense of belonging being influenced by connections to places.

Many of the stronger responses balanced a discussion of belonging and not belonging being influenced by connections to places through a range of characters. Candidates supported their thesis with discerning choices of textual detail and appropriate and seamless integration of narrative techniques, structure, characterisation as well as other language devices.

Weaker responses tended to rely on recount and description of characters and places, for example Pip and the marshes or Pip and London. They tended to lack detail and textual analysis.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust

In stronger responses, candidates developed a thesis which cohesively considered the role of cultural tensions in perceptions of belonging and not belonging. They used the contrasting experiences in the dual narrative structure to skilfully explore the effect of ‘place’ on identity and a sense of belonging. A mark of these responses was the candidates’ perceptive conceptual discussion supported by discerning analysis. Another feature was a consideration of the distinct attitudes of characters to place and culture and the subsequent impact on notions of belonging. Judicious choice of related material to enhance the conviction of their argument was also a feature of stronger responses.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to be descriptive, relying on recount and references to plot. They often limited their discussion to a more literal interpretation of place. This discussion often lacked the support of relevant textual references and analysis. Some responses limited the effectiveness of their discussion through poor choice of related material.

Tara June Winch, Swallow the Air

The better responses developed a thorough exploration that linked their texts to their thesis in an insightful way and developed their comments around May’s emerging sense of belonging to the land. These responses sustained and built on their argument, augmenting their points with judiciously chosen textual details and astute analysis of the prescribed text and other related text or texts. They skilfully analysed textual features in all texts.

Weaker responses failed to adequately engage with the question, demonstrating a superficial understanding of belonging and tending to rely on recount rather than analysis of textual features. Many relied on superficial references to plot and did not clearly identify any significant textual details, relying on retell to demonstrate their limited understanding. These responses tended to be descriptive and did not engage with the question.


Raimond Gaita, Romulus My Father

In stronger responses, candidates developed an insightful discussion of how affiliations to the natural landscape and relationships with others can provide a connection to the broader society. Others developed their argument around the notion that a connection to place is not always necessary in shaping one’s sense of belonging, instead focussing on Romulus’ social integration and connections to his community, as well as his growing understanding of a ‘common humanity’. Furthermore, these candidates skilfully contrasted the experiences and changing perceptions of Romulus, Christine and Raimond and the subsequent impact of these perceptions on their sense of belonging.

Belonging or not belonging to place as a result of cultural heritage was also addressed and many candidates incorporated an insightful discussion of the differing impacts of the migrant experience on the central characters. This often focused on the incompatibility of Australian culture and landscape and their Romanian heritage. This was contrasted with Raimond’s strong affinity with ‘place’ resulting in a heightened sense of belonging. A judicious selection of related material assisted candidates in the development of their argument. These responses were also 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 belonging and not belonging being dependent on embracing or rejecting one’s physical environment or surroundings. These responses tended to be limited to just one aspect of the text, such as Romulus’ belonging being restricted by an unfamiliar environment and Christine’s disconnection to place as result of mental illness. These responses primarily relied on elements of retell and – where textual features were identified – they were not analysed or explained within the context of the question.


Arthur Miller, The Crucible

In strong responses, candidates interpreted place as both physical and metaphorical, evaluating how the beliefs and values of society can connect or alienate an individual. In these responses, candidates developed a relevant and sustained thesis, making consistent and discerning reference to textual details in order to support and enhance their argument. Responses demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the text, exploring one or more of the characters and/or setting to establish a thesis. Notions of individuality, acceptance, conformity and morality shaped connections to place. A feature of stronger responses was an appreciation of the text as theatre and an ability to discuss Miller’s use of theatrical devices.;

Weaker responses reproduced a generic statement on belonging and relied on recount to demonstrate their knowledge of the text. These responses made limited reference to the question or textual detail, tending to identify literal places, such as Salem and the court, and describing textual features that did not further their argument. Some candidates referenced Miller’s context without making meaningful connections to the question.

Jane Harrison, Rainbow’s End

In stronger responses, candidates identified social and cultural aspects, which facilitated belonging or provided barriers to belonging to place, and integrated a skilful analysis of dramatic features to support their thesis. These responses provided an insightful analysis into both the physical aspects of place, such as land and the community – both Aboriginal, white and the family unit – as well as metaphorical and spiritual aspects of place. Many responses engaged with Dolly’s struggle to reconcile her own sense of belonging to place as pivotal to an exploration of the forces which allow or inhibit connections for the other characters. Responses demonstrated a perceptive understanding of the text and incorporated pertinent textual examples which were integrated seamlessly into their thesis.

Weaker responses often recounted aspects of the story with superficial links to the concept of place, whether literal or metaphoric. They tended to describe the family situation of the three women without a specific focus on how this situation related to a sense of place and how it either provided opportunities for them to connect to their environment or alienated them from it. These candidates did not engage in any meaningful analysis of how place and belonging were conveyed through the form of the text, although some dramatic features may have been simplistically identified.


Baz Luhrman, Strictly Ballroom

In stronger responses, candidates 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 a conceptual understanding of belonging in terms of self-actualisation or individuality. Clear and purposeful language was a feature of developed responses.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to focus on aspects of belonging and/or not belonging in texts on a literal level. In Strictly Ballroom the focus tended to be on belonging/not belonging to the Dance Federation. 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 developed a skilful thesis reflecting that belonging and not belonging can be influenced by connections to the natural world. Candidates demonstrated evidence of a thoughtful consideration of the power of the land and physical environment to significantly influence the shaping of identity. Responses focused on the physical and social forces that shape belonging when people share a common history and laws that include a spiritual connection with the land. These responses addressed the didactic quality of the narrator’s concerns: the values and kinship derived from connections to places. Candidates incorporated discerning scene selection and cinematographic discussion to support their response.

Weaker responses listed examples of scenes where connections to places were evident, recounting events candidates had seen in the film as support. These responses were limited in their language and lacked the support of textual analysis.


William Shakespeare, As You Like It

In stronger responses, candidates skilfully engaged with the question by exploring a range of reasons for belonging or not belonging to places – which included both concrete and more abstract examples – to demonstrate how such connections shaped characters’ perceptions of belonging. These candidates explored the juxtaposition of the court and the forest as a means of showing how characters’ perceptions are influenced by physical surroundings, political intrigues, sibling rivalry/fraternity and class divisions.

Stronger responses established a clear thesis relevant to ‘place’ and connected this to both As You Like It and their related text(s). These candidates also skilfully evaluated Shakespeare’s use of dramatic devices.

Weaker responses tended to recount the plot and list dramatic features without explaining the effect of these in terms of belonging or not belonging to place. These responses also treated the play literally and/or one-dimensionally, ignoring Shakespeare’s comedic purpose, style and language.


Peter Skrzynecki, Immigrant Chronicle

Stronger responses established a valid and insightful interpretation of place: physically, culturally and emotionally. Some stronger responses explored the significance of emotional connections attached to their defined places. These students evaluated the influence of place in the persona’s struggle to belong in the context of conflicting values and attitudes. These responses demonstrated a sensitive appreciation of the poet’s personal struggle to find a satisfying sense of belonging. Stronger responses were characterised by skilful textual analysis and well-developed persuasive arguments.

For the most part candidates adequately demonstrated the influence of significant places such as the hostel, home and school on Skrzynecki’s sense of belonging and alienation. The most frequently discussed poems were: Migrant Hostel, Feliks Skrzynecki, 10 Mary Street and St Patrick’s College.

In weaker responses, candidates limited their argument to physical places and only made superficial or descriptive comment regarding the cultural place. These responses tended to be narrow in their exploration, referencing their argument with one salient point from each poem.

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 relationship with the notion of place then supported it with carefully chosen references to the natural and commonplace imagery that forms the metaphoric centre of her poetry. This notion of place was interpreted broadly to include: a concrete place, place in society, place in nature, spiritual place and so forth. While many of these responses displayed an awareness of Dickinson’s personal context in light of the question, they did not allow contextual consideration to dominate their discussion.

For the most part, candidates focused on the social structures and interactions that limited the poet’s experience of belonging to a particular place, such as society. Better responses counterbalanced this with a consideration of the sense of place found in the poet’s deep sense of connection to the natural world and the sense of place this presented.

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 question. I had been hungry all the years, This is my letter to the world and Narrow fellow in the grass were most frequently discussed.

In weaker responses, many candidates 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 any sense of place – metaphorical or otherwise. Many struggled with the notion of ‘place’. Poetic devices were often identified without considering their effects on the meaning. Many candidates simply attempted to paraphrase quotations or discuss in general terms with little textual evidence. Many weaker responses ignored the term ‘place’ in the question.

Steven Herrick, The Simple Gift

In better responses, candidates established a thesis that explored how and why the nature of place was significant to a sense of belonging and not belonging. These were generally organised around a contrast between Billy’s initial alienation from his home and school environments, and his subsequent connection with the more welcoming settings around Bendarat, as well as the people like old Bill, Irene and Caitlin who were part of those places. The effect of these places and people gives Billy a more mature outlook on life and a sense of connection to his new world.

Better responses included a thoughtful consideration of the way the natural world and the homely environment Billy finds in Bendarat have built his sense of belonging in social, psychological and even spiritual ways. They may also have widened their discussion to include examination of the effects of place on other characters, such as old Bill and Caitlin. Better responses often expanded the literal places the characters experienced into a more symbolic and metaphorical sense of place that could look at the idea of a place in society, a spiritual place of belonging and being grounded in new realities. In support of their answer, candidates often used the recurring poetic features of the text, such as the range of imagery combined with deft figurative language to establish the power of place, as well as narrative features, such as contrasting settings, multiple narratives and character development to reinforce the significance of place.

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 and not belonging. In these responses, candidates often struggled to examine the effects of place on belonging and not 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, addressing all aspects of the question in a purposeful way. Weaker responses were typically based on a recount of texts and revealed difficulty in shaping knowledge to the elements of the question. A wide variety of related texts were chosen with better responses using these to further develop the discussion. Weaker responses tended to make only a brief reference to the related text and often did not refer to elements of the voice or the visual in the text.

Question 1 – Elective 1: Distinctive Voices

  1. Prose Fiction – Marele Day, The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender
    Better responses addressed all aspects of the question and made use of well-chosen textual detail from throughout the novel. The voices of Harry, Claudia and Sally were often emphasised and effective reference to techniques was employed to demonstrate how these characters were ‘brought to life’ and had an impact on the reader. Weaker responses often did not move beyond references to the opening pages of the novel. These candidates did not shape their response to the specifics of the question.
  2. Drama – George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion
    Better responses showed how Eliza’s voice altered as a result of her experiences and often compared this to the unchanging voice of Higgins. A link to the social class or gender discrimination furthered this discussion. Weaker responses often struggled to demonstrate how the techniques used by the composer brought the character and their experiences to life. Some candidates confused the film version of the text with the one set for study and consequently made reference to visual techniques in their analysis.
  3. Poetry – Joanne Burns, On a Clear Day
    Many candidates struggled to demonstrate an understanding of the poetry in terms of the elective and the question. Better responses discussed the poet’s purpose linked to a range of distinctive voices. Weaker responses lacked detailed knowledge of the poems and made general statements not linked to the question.
  4. Poetry – AB Paterson, The Penguin Banjo Collected Verse
    Responses generally engaged with the experiences of the characters in Paterson’s poetry, especially in relation to the conditions of the Australian bush. Many candidates identified a range of different voices – the speaker, the narrator or the character – but had difficulty in discussing how the poet creates these distinctive voices. Better responses usually drew on more than one poem to develop their answer. Weaker responses tended to ignore the question and present a generalised recount.
  5. Nonfiction – Speeches
    Better responses demonstrated a sound and often detailed knowledge of rhetorical devices and language. The candidates linked this to a personal response to more than one speech. Contextual background was often used in a discussion of how the speaker and their experiences were brought to life. Weaker candidates relied on a brief discussion of the text, often referring to contextual information at the expense of analysis or engagement with the question.

Question 2 – Elective 2: Distinctively Visual

  1. Prose Fiction – Henry Lawson, The Penguin Henry Lawson Short Stories
    Better responses engaged well with the question, the experiences and the elective. They developed a thorough discussion of technique to convey the often-harsh experience of living in the Australian bush and related the impact of this on the reader. Weaker responses were characterised by a lack of textual knowledge and an inability to shape their response in terms of the experience, the question or the elective.
  2. Prose Fiction – Peter Goldsworthy, Maestro
    Better responses used thoughtfully chosen extracts and examples that clearly engaged with the distinctively visual. Setting and language devices were often the basis for a sustained analysis of the experiences of Keller and Paul. This analysis was often successfully linked to the ideas in the novel. Weaker responses were limited to a generalised reference to the opening of the novel and the setting of Darwin.
  3. Drama – John Misto, The Shoe-Horn Sonata
    Candidates generally responded well to the question and identified experiences through characters (Bridie and Shelia), through themes (war, friendship and hope) and through the distinctively visual (lighting, symbols and projections). Better responses engaged with the text as a visual piece and were able to explore the impact of dramatic technique in bringing the characters to life. Weaker responses presented a generalised and superficial discussion of the plot, identifying – but not explaining – the impact of the distinctively visual. Description or recount was substituted for conclusion making.
  4. Poetry – Douglas Stewart, Selected Poems
    Better responses clearly referred to the various elements of the question and the elective through a purposeful discussion of how techniques are used to create the distinctively visual. Many candidates focused on an analysis of the poems, losing sight of the question and the elective.
  5. Film – Tom Tykwer, Run Lola Run
    Better responses focused on the experiences of Lola and Manni, and the messages conveyed through the distinctively visual about time, love and chance. A detailed knowledge of the film and techniques allowed candidates to engage with the specifics of the question and make well-founded observations. Weaker responses focused on recounting the plot and describing some scenes without connection to the question or the elective.
  6. Media – Deb Cox, Seachange
    Better candidates successfully identified a number of people and experiences. These responses used examples from throughout the text to explain how visual techniques were used to convey ideas. Weaker responses lapsed into recount, describing one or two scenes and often only referring to the opening montage. Consequently there was little awareness of the development of ideas throughout an episode.

Section II – Module B: Close Study of Text

General comments

In stronger responses, candidates effectively addressed the issue of the composer’s perspective through thoughtful exploration of the distinctive qualities of the texts, supported by relevant examples. These candidates answered the question with confidence and a sense of personal engagement.

Weaker responses were often relatively detailed recounts offering little relevant textual knowledge. Others were generic and formulaic with minimal relationship to the question.

Candidates are reminded that even detailed responses must demonstrate relevanttextual knowledge to access higher ranges. In simple terms, they must answer the question. A mere demonstration of textual knowledge and techniques unrelated to the question will limit the response to one of the lower ranges.  

Candidates are also reminded that the question required reference to only one text – the text they studied closely in class.

Question 3 – Prose Fiction

  1. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
    In stronger responses, candidates identified Haddon’s perspective on personal challenges and thoroughly explored how his novel conveyed those ideas. These candidates invariably supported their analysis with clear, well-referenced and relevant textual knowledge from the text as a whole. Perceptive theses, such as Haddon’s perspective of the character Ed’s challenge of being a single father were often competently crafted.

    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 superficial analysis of personal challenge and by literal paraphrasing of the text.
  2. Jane Yolen, Briar Rose
    In stronger responses, candidates identified Yolen’s perspective on personal discovery and thoroughly analysed how her novel conveyed such ideas. They skilfully explained the metaphorical nature of the fairytale narrative and how those motifs were employed to explore the concept of personal discovery. These candidates invariably supported their analysis with purposeful selection of clear, well-referenced and appropriate textual knowledge. Explorations of Josef Potocki’s personal discoveries were composed particularly well.

    Weaker responses tended to rely on recounting plot elements or a superficial discussion of themes and character. These responses were restricted by narrow or superficial analysis of how ideas about personal discovery were exposed by Yolen and by literal paraphrasing of the text.
  3. David Malouf, Fly Away Peter
    In better responses, candidates identified Malouf’s perspective on personal hardship and 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

  1. Louis Nowra, Cosi
    In the best responses, candidates clearly articulated Nowra’s perspective on personal relationships to develop and support a clear thesis. These candidates selected significant, relevant and rich extracts to support a detailed and sustained discussion of perspective on personal relationships. These scripts also demonstrated fluency and excellent control of language in an effective structure.

    Less strong responses tended to emphasise the semi-autobiographical nature of the plot at a literal level.

    Weaker responses sometimes used a thematic approach that did not allow full access to the demands of the question. These answers could often be identified as prepared answers to previous HSC questions. Other weaker answers were plot-driven and often related to the film not the play.

    In some weaker responses, candidates demonstrated that the concept of the perspective on human relationships was challenging. Some responses equated relationships only with the sexual, thus limiting the quality of their response.

    Weaker responses tended to be superficial recounts of the narrative and deficient in textual details and evidence; they were often self-limiting in their brevity. Some candidates found it difficult to shape their thematic knowledge into the concept of human relationships, therefore ideas such as love, fidelity, change and growth were often only tenuously linked to relationships.
  2. William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
    The best responses often demonstrated that ‘justice’ had different meanings for different characters. Others contented themselves with more narrow definitions (‘justice’ was often seen as synonymous with ‘vengeance’). Less successful responses had difficulty in arriving at an economically articulated definition of the term or failed to do so at all, obviously adversely affecting the ‘argument’ that ensued.

    Succinctly expressed theses were supported by discerningly chosen evidence (both quoted and paraphrased) and consistently reflected a deep understanding of the play’s major concerns, seamlessly integrating a discussion of techniques used by the playwright into their argument. These responses were logically organised, mechanically sound and used language commensurate with the responders’ sophistication to formulate their viewpoints.

    Weaker responses fell into two distinct categories. In the first, candidates found it almost impossible to define the word ‘justice’ and – because they were unable to shape a thesis – their responses lacked cohesiveness. What followed was generally brief and littered with linguistic and textual inaccuracies. Attempts to examine techniques at work in the play were mechanistic and provided little meaningful connection to points being made. The second group found the notion that they should define ‘justice’ equally bemusing: rather than answer the set question they substituted their own. Many of them fell back on ‘prepared’ responses that were often well organised, well documented and well written, but completely invalid responses to the ‘real’ question.

Question 5 – Poetry

  1. Wilfred Owen, War Poems and Others
    Most responses simply equated ‘human conflict’ and ‘war’ although the question allowed for other interpretations such as personal or social. Many candidates demonstrated that they had personally engaged with the content, themes and language of Owen’s poetry and that their understanding of the important ideas in Owen’s poetry was impressive. Many candidates genuinely understood the purpose of Owen’s poetry and this enabled them to write with confidence and conviction. Knowledge of Owen’s context was strong and genuine.

    Stronger responses demonstrated that they could select evidence well and use quotes effectively. They frequently blended all aspects of the question holistically. They addressed the question of Owen’s perspective explicitly or implicitly.

    A sustained discussion of two poems was in the range of most candidates. Most chose Dulce et Decorum or Anthem for Doomed Youth, although Disabled was a choice that some better respondents found offered greater depth of connection.

    Weaker responses tended to list techniques without addressing the question. While most responses showed an understanding of war, in weaker responses candidates did not address ‘perspective’.
  2. Judith Wright, Collected Poems 1942–1985

    Stronger responses clearly identified Wright’s perspective on the Australian landscape in a sustained discussion. These responses displayed a strong sense of critical and personal engagement, displaying effective textual knowledge and identification of poetic techniques to support a substantial thesis. Effective language control and structure were in evidence.

    Weaker responses were quite superficial in their understanding of Wright’s environmental themes in some of the poems chosen eg Train Journey and South of my Days. Not all the prescribed poems were successfully explored in relation to the poet’s perspective on the Australian landscape. For Precision and Request to a Year, in particular, limited some candidates’ scope to respond.

    Candidates are reminded that this is Close Study of Text and that – while the question required candidates to make detailed reference to at least two poems – the text in this instance is all the prescribed poems.

Question 6 – Nonfiction

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Candidates frequently made reference to the film as opposed to the prose biography. Stronger responses identified a range of important ideas related to Chris’s desire to express his individuality through escape, risk taking, an alternate life style and rebellion. Discussion included his fractured relationship with his parents, his rejection and escape from the mainstream and the opportunities that his adventure afforded him. These candidates at times noted both the advantages and disadvantages of the way Chris chose to express his individuality and the connection that Krakauer revealed regarding his own formative years as a young adventurer and individualist.

Weaker responses discussed the film or only provided a simple recount without genuinely engaging with the question or the important ideas. Weaker responses also failed to discuss Krakauer’s perspective and how it shaped the text.

Question 7 – Film

Peter Weir, Witness

While many candidates attempted the question with considerable success, over-reliance on learnt responses by some candidates resulted in minimal engagement with the question. For example, many candidates did not effectively link obvious themes and ideas, such as forbidden love, clash of cultures and two worlds with the concept of individual struggle. Narrow thematic approaches limited student’s opportunities to explore the text as a whole. A generic, superficial analysis of scenes that relied on basic technical details, such as the use of close up, tended to limit responses and deny students access to marks in the upper bands.

Stronger responses considered the significance of Weir’s purpose and made connections between his perspective and the construction of the film as text. An important discriminator was the ability of the candidates to discuss Weir’s and/or the film’s intent. The stronger responses discussed a range of struggles or offered a detailed analysis of an individual struggle. They skilfully integrated a purposeful selection of scenes, characters and ideas that effectively discussed the notion of individual struggle.  

Stronger responses were able to synthesise ideas from the text as a whole, often engaging with the film’s more relevant and appropriate themes and ideas. These responses understood that the question required a purposeful selection of elements from the film. Stronger responses purposefully adapted prepared material in order to answer the question asked.

Weaker responses tended to limit themselves to a literal description, listing or superficial recount of incidents depicting struggles and showed limited or inaccurate knowledge of the text. Some responses had a tendency to rely heavily on narrative or recount to carry their response with little or no reference to individual struggle. Therefore, while candidates were clearly familiar with the narrative of the text, their responses were restricted by narrow or insufficient analysis of how the individual struggles were depicted.

Section III – Module C: Texts and Society

Question 8 – Elective 1 – The Global Village

In better responses, candidates developed a thesis that clearly addressed the question and demonstrated a strong understanding of the elective, based on 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. Some responses were driven by an explanation of techniques rather than an engagement with the ideas of the module.

Some candidates relied on related material that did not facilitate their engagement with the elective or the question. Related material for these candidates was often simplistic or irrelevant. Some candidates selected material derived from historical contexts that were not congruent with ‘the global village’. The responses of these candidates seemed to be more fitting with a previous elective from this module: The Individual and the Institution. Weaker responses often did not engage with the question.

Question 9 – Elective 2 – Into the World

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

Weaker responses sometimes engaged with the concept of the elective, but were often a superficial or literal retelling of the texts, or assertions without evidence. Many related texts were tenuously linked to the prescribed text or the concept of ‘into the world’. Related material for these candidates was often simplistic. Weaker responses did not substantiate their discussion with appropriate textual reference or technical discussion.

English (Advanced) Paper 2 – Modules

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

General comments

In better responses, candidates developed an argument that addressed the question and demonstrated a strong conceptual understanding of the module and the elective. An evaluation of the relationship between text and context was embedded in the analysis of the texts. These responses demonstrated an understanding of the distinctive features of composers’ contexts and also showed a discerning use of textual references.

Weaker responses tended to make connections between texts through sometimes lengthy description and recount. They were explanatory and narrative and made few, if any, evaluative judgements. Treatment of context was often absent, superficial or did not clearly relate to any argument. 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 when comparing the ideas and values between the texts. The relationship between texts and contexts was evaluated and textual reference was detailed and discerningly selected. A discriminating feature was a candidate’s ability to engage with the question through a clear, concise and well-shaped argument.

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

Question 2 – Texts in Time

In better responses, candidates considered how a comparative study highlighted composers’ contexts. They produced a sustained response, developing a thesis that genuinely addressed the question using a discerning selection of textual references.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to identify some similarities or differences between the texts, often with a limited understanding of their significance. They considered the comparison of texts in a superficial or generalised way. 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

Question 3 – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Better responses argued conceptually, demonstrating a strong personal engagement with the play and a perceptive understanding of the final scenes. They were informed by an evaluation of other perspectives, but not preoccupied with them. They demonstrated an insightful understanding and evaluation of context, language, form and ideas – and produced detailed textual references in a sustained argument.

Weaker responses tended to be descriptive, with less emphasis on the closing scenes of the play. These responses were often structured around discussion of themes or characters and displayed limited textual reference and a lack of cohesion.

Question 4 – Prose Fiction

Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion

Better responses focused on the role of Patrick Lewis to further their discussion and explored, for example, his role as storyteller as well as his personal growth or the development of character relationships within the contextual framework. These responses were very insightful in considering the text as a reflection of the human experience and presented a perceptive personal response to the text aided by a sustained view of the text as a whole.

Weaker responses tended to rely on recount with limited textual reference and minimal or no discussion of the closing scenes of the novel, as well as little or no appreciation of the text as a whole.

Tim Winton, Cloudstreet

In better responses, candidates presented a perceptive understanding of the way Winton used his text to advance his ideas and incorporated detailed textual analysis to support an insightful discussion.

Weaker responses presented a limited view of the text, often confining their discussion to aspects of the text such as themes or relationships that were not linked to the closing scenes. These responses often lacked development or an awareness of the text as a whole.

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Stronger responses skilfully argued the extent to which the closing scenes of Jane Eyre informed their judgement of the novel as a whole. These responses demonstrated a clear and sustained personal thesis using well-selected textual references with a clear and consistent link between the ideas expressed in the closing scenes, the novel as a whole and the novel’s language, context and structure.

Weaker responses tended to deal with Bronte’s nineteenth century context, particularly in relation to gender inequality, without always making the connection to the closing scenes of the novel. Some candidates focused exclusively on the character of Jane, showing little appreciation of the complexity of the text.

Question 5 – Drama

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House

In better responses, candidates had a perceptive view of contextual influences on the characters and extrapolated this to explore the play from a contemporary perspective. Stronger responses developed an insightful understanding of the dramatic treatment of Ibsen’s concerns and provided detailed textual analysis to substantiate ideas.

Weaker responses often focused on a discussion of context or plot, rather than directly addressing the question. There was therefore little, if any, judgement of the play as whole. These responses made limited reference to the text and had little appreciation of the dramatic impact of the play.

Question 6 – Film

Orson Welles, Citizen Kane

In better responses, candidates sustained a skilful argument concerning the major ideas of the text and supported this through perceptive analysis of film techniques.

Weaker responses tended to neglect a discussion of the closing scenes. They were descriptive, made limited textual reference and were characterised by recount rather than analysis.

Question 7 – Poetry

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

In better responses, candidate perceptively argued how the final stanza of Among School Children informed their judgement of the poem and Yeats’ poetry as a whole. These responses were characterised by a strong personal voice, sustained thesis, detailed textual evidence and a skilful and evaluative analysis.

Weaker responses tended to be descriptive, often discussing each poem in isolation with limited textual reference. These responses made minimal reference to the closing stanza of Among School Children.

Gwen Harwood, Selected Poems

In better responses, candidates presented a skilful analysis of how the closing scene of The Violets informed their judgement of this poem and others by Harwood. They demonstrated a detailed knowledge of the poems selected for discussion. Carefully analysed textual references enhanced clearly structured responses, which skilfully argued the significance of the closing stanza. These responses demonstrated a clear personal engagement with the poems.

Weaker responses focused on describing moments in the poems. They lacked cohesive argument and detailed textual reference. Poetic techniques were often treated in a simplistic manner.

Kenneth Slessor, Selected Poems

In better responses, candidates explored the closing stanza of Five Bells in an evaluative manner, skilfully arguing how their response to this stanza informed their understanding and judgement of the poem as a whole and to Slessor’s work. These carefully structured responses argued a strong central thesis based on an understanding of the closing stanza.

Weaker responses often paraphrased the poems or offered a limited account of Five Bells without evaluating the significance of the closing stanza. Textual references and discussion of poetic techniques were limited.

Question 8 – Nonfiction – Essays

George Orwell, Essays

Better responses demonstrated an informed and confident understanding of the ideas expressed in Orwell’s essays, paying particular attention to the closing statements in Why I Write to inform their own judgement. These responses demonstrated a skilful construction of argument and made thoughtful, perceptive connections between the requirements of the question and Orwell’s context, language and ideas.

Weaker responses tended to rely on providing a summary of Orwell’s subject matter and often did not refer in any detail to the prescribed essay Why I Write. In some responses there was a tendency to discuss Orwell’s context and his biographical details to the detriment of providing a detailed judgement of his work.

Question 9 – Nonfiction – Speeches

Better responses strongly engaged with the closing statements of Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech, perceptively linking the language, rhetorical devices and ideas to the speech as a whole – and to at least one other speech set for study. These responses treated the ending as a powerful exemplar of the overall speech and evaluated the textual integrity of each speech in a sustained and conceptual way. They employed detailed textual references throughout.

Weaker responses tended to describe the content of the speeches without evaluating them. Aung San Suu Kyi’s closing statements were treated in a simplistic way with limited or no relationship to the speech as a whole or to other speeches. These responses contained limited discussion of language and rhetorical devices and few textual references.

Section III – Module C: Representation and Text

General comments

Stronger responses demonstrated a perceptive understanding of how composers use different ways to construct meaning and evoke responses through textual features and details. These responses presented a cohesive, focused and incisive thesis that dealt confidently and directly with the demands of the question. The analysis and evaluation of the textual evidence from the prescribed text – and text of own choosing – were used skilfully to consider how the unique act of representation in both texts evoked responses. The exploration of how the text’s form, medium of production, language features and purpose shape meaning was seamlessly integrated and used to further the thesis. Masterful control of language was evident as these responses developed the thesis through strategic-topic sentences, a confident and informed approach to both texts and clear consideration of the key ideas. It was evident that the selection of the text of own choosing – and how it was used to respond to the question and connect with the prescribed text – influenced the quality of the response.

Weaker responses focused more on an exploration of the prescribed text and text of own choosing through the elective rather than the focus of the module – the act of representation. The responses were largely descriptive and limited in scope, and the exploration of the unique ways of representing history and memory or conflicting perspectives was superficial or largely ignored. Some of these responses did present a simple line of argument, but it was not developed further through relevant textual references. Generally, the text of own choosing was inappropriate and not used to further the response to the question.

Question 10 – Conflicting Perspectives

Candidates responded to the question through an exploration of conflicting perspectives in a range of ways. One approach was to deal with the notion of conflicting perspectives in the world of the texts through a consideration of characters whose perspectives clashed. Other responses considered how composers conveyed inner conflicting perspectives in response to an event, situation or personality, or how the texts’ and/or composers’ perspectives conflicted with the respondent.

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

Julius Caesar

Stronger responses demonstrated a deep and holistic understanding of the entire play rather than focusing only on limited scenes or incidents, such as the funeral orations. These responses used well-chosen scenes or extracts to further the thesis as they examined the unique way that Shakespeare represented conflicting perspectives and how his representation evoked a response. One such example was how Shakespeare’s representation of the personality of anti-hero Brutus generated ambivalent conflicting perspectives within the respondent.

Weaker responses revealed a limited engagement with the play, as the textual evidence was restricted to one or two scenes that were not used as textual evidence to explain how the unique ways evoked a response. Analysis of the form, medium of production as well as dramatic and language features was limited to a description of techniques.

Ted Hughes

Candidates dealt with the unique ways that conflicting perspectives were represented in a range of approaches. These varied from an exploration of how Hughes evoked thought through his inner conflicting perspectives towards the tragic situation of living with someone with mental illness – then losing this person through suicide – to a consideration of how the volatile and complex personality of an artist will ultimately lead them to have conflicting perspectives of life and relationships with others.

Stronger responses perceptively and holistically analysed and evaluated Hughes’ poetry using the text of own choosing skilfully to explore the unique ways that the act of representation through the lens of conflicting perspectives evoked a range of responses.

Weaker responses were limited by their superficial description of Hughes’ volatile and destructive relationship with Plath. Rather than explore how representation conveyed meaning, these responses described a range of poetic techniques.

Snow Falling on Cedars

Stronger responses perceptively considered the conflicting perspectives between the characters and holistically explored how the microcosmic world of the novel represented the perspectives of humanity towards significant issues, such as xenophobia. Many responses explored the situation of war and how – when individuals are threatened – their judgement of others – generated by fear and ignorance – is distorted, leading to conflicting perspectives.

Weaker responses lapsed into a recount of events and key incidents or of relationships between characters in the novel. There was some evidence of an attempt to analyse the form, medium (if production) and language features, but this was sparse.

Question 11 – History and Memory

The unique ways that history and memory are represented to evoke a response were largely considered through an exploration of the significance of a composer’s purpose and perspective. Candidates engaged with the very personal nature of memory and how history – when considered reciprocally with memory – creates an informed understanding of the past.

Stronger responses skilfully dealt with the demands of the questions through well-chosen textual details and features from the prescribed text and text of own choosing that were integrated seamlessly and used insightfully to further the thesis.

The Fiftieth Gate

Stronger responses established a perceptive thesis, which enabled a skillful exploration of the elements of the question and the act of representation. The responses dealt implicitly with the notion of uniqueness through a perceptive evaluation of the particular qualities of textual form, medium of production and language features as well as through an integrated and sustained consideration of how these shaped meaning. The judicious textual references were used confidently to explore the amalgamation of history and memory. Many of the stronger responses used the focus on the event of the Holocaust, the situation of being in a war or experiencing trauma, as a framing device that aided cohesion and invited a deeper and more detailed analysis of the prescribed text and text of own choosing.

Weaker responses dealt superficially with how history that is objective and impersonal needs the subjectivity of memories. These responses did not further this exploration through an analysis of the textual details and features. A limited description of one or more incidents with some reference to representation was evident.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History September 11 Website

Stronger responses confidently articulated the unique features of a website and explored specific aspects of the website that were particularly evocative. They perceptively considered why and how they were evocative and unique.

Weaker responses described the content of the website and tended to deal in a fixated manner with how the website was biased because it was pro-American.

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