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When approaching the critical analysis component of the first section of your exam, many students struggle to formulate a response because of question unfamiliarity and not having a strong plan. We’ll take a look at two questions in different mark values to highlight some key components you should consider when tackling such questions. I will use two examples from the NESA HSC Sample Question Paper for English Extension 1 (2018/19).
First, let’s take a look at a 25-mark question:
“Evaluate how effectively, in the light of the extract from his Nobel Lecture, Orhan Pamuk invites the reader into the world of the novel in the opening of Snow.
Your response should draw on your knowledge and understanding of the module Literary Worlds.”
I have highlighted the keywords that you should be looking out for in any question you approach in English Extension 1. These are the key direct terms, concepts, ideas or hints that you should highly consider and emulate within your critical response. Identifying this vocabulary should come naturally by the end of the year because of practice and refinement. This question is referencing an extract that was provided and hence you must thoroughly read and understand the key elements of this text before
jumping right in. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll be looking at this question independently. As this question is the whole of Section I, being 25 marks, you should spend time planning to ensure you answer the question to the best your ability; this critical response is very similar to any English Advanced essays and so the analytical writing component shouldn’t be anything new.
When analysing a question, you should circle, underline or just make clear of the keywords to ensure you don’t miss anything and find out halfway through your response that you forgot to include an integral component. You can use a couple minutes to plan your response on the first page of your writing booklet, listing out your structure and ticking off the keywords you circled in the question paper.
Now let’s take a look at the key components of the above question in more detail.
“Evaluate how effectively”
The directive term ‘evaluate’ and its relationship with the effectiveness of what will be asked is an open-ended and subjective question that should stimulate your own unique views. Evaluating something in English Extension 1 means you must sophisticatedly express how the linguistic and stylistic features of the text are related to how the writer invites the reader into the world of the novel. The first few statements or thesis of your introduction for the critical response should directly state whether what is being asked has been done effectively; you are the judge in determining the degree of effectiveness, followed by your body graphs that evaluate this judgement.
“Light of the extract”
This simply means you must consider the key ideas and concerns of the text and how they relate to the other components of the question. This is extremely important and is hinting to you that you must constantly be referring back to the text and the question as a whole throughout the essay.
“Invites the reader…world of the novel”
Some key elements to consider:
· Define the world(s) of the novel
· Provide evidence of this
· What literary or language techniques are used?
· How well has the author done this?
This component and the ‘light of the extract’ are interdependent and is what must be assessed in relation to your evaluation of its effectiveness.
“Knowledge and understanding…Literary Worlds”
Your ability to refer to phrases, ideas or even terminology from this module is integral to show the marker that you know what you are explaining and more importantly, its relation to the syllabus.
Next, let’s take a briefer look at a 10-mark question from the same sample paper:
“Critically analyse the way in which your creative choices in your writing for part (a) invite the reader into your literary world and explain how these choices borrow or diverge from the stylistic features of Joyce’s text.”
Instead of ‘evaluate how effectively’, this question asks to ‘critically analyse’. This means you must look in-depth at the stylistic and linguistic features within your own creative and how it invites the reader into the literary world you have created, whether that be private, public and/or imaginary. Your creative choices are hence the features you have included into your piece that make it unique. It is thus important that you read this question before writing your creative to ensure that you are actively including creative elements so you have sufficient evidence to write about in the following section. The last part of this question asks you to explain how such creative choices are the same or differ from those choices within Joyce’s text. You need to explain the similarities and/or differences and how they shape an engaging piece that invites the reader into your literary world(s).
To achieve the higher mark range for this question between 9-10, it requires you to ensure that your creative choices are “clear” in establishing the world you create and how the features in Joyce’s text “contribute to this world”. You can look at essentially anything that enhances your response in depicting this, such as tone, imagery, perspective, voice and setting. Overall, you need to evaluate (with sophistication) how creative choices create a sense of purpose in relation to the module through “control of language”.
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