A lot of my challenges with English stemmed from its supposed ‘subjectivity’ – in hindsight, this is what gave me the liberty to articulate my perspectives and ideas, maybe you’ll start feeling the same after reading! Despite English possibly seeming tedious and challenging with multiple revisions of the same essay and drafting up concepts, hopefully the following tips will aid you with the marathon that is year 12 English!
1. Understand what you are writing to achieve
Each module has its own respective keywords you should sprinkle throughout your essay, for example, the Mod A rubric below necessitates you to include “resonances”, “dissonances”, “reimagining” and so on. However, be mindful to not spam the words to leave room for analysis and to avoid seeming like you’ve copied and pasted the rubric! That being said, know it inside-out – to reiterate its importance, take note how the
marking criteria incorporates parts of the rubric.
2. Time management
I found it easy to dwell on a singular sentence for 15 minutes, scouring Thesaurus.com and debating whether “supplements” or “bolsters” works better when it didn’t make a difference. To avoid this pitfall, I’d like to introduce you to Parkinson’s Law. It’s the idea that work expands to full the time that we allocate to it, ie. if you give yourself 2 whole hours to edit a paragraph, inevitably, it’s going to take 2 hours – on the other hand, if you
allocate half an hour and fill up the remaining 1.5 hours with other things, you are more likely to finish within the allotted time. So the actionable advice here would be to leverage artificial, self-imposed deadlines eg. when blocking out time for a task, it ensures that it will be completed as opposed to having it lay around on a to-do list without a deadline, where it would inevitably take a long time to complete.
3. Practice, practice, practice
There are multiple reasons why I found this approach beneficial:
a. Practising inadvertently reduces the amount of time you need to spend memorising since you are constantly familiarising yourself with your essays – by practising on a regular basis, you may save yourself from stressing and hand cramps the few days before the assessment since you already know them, maybe allocate that time to your other subjects in your exam block.
b. I was able to assess my handwriting – HSC markers go through many, many scripts each day, make sure it’s legible so it’s easier for them! At the end of a day, a messily scrawled 20/20 won’t be of much use if it can’t be read.
c. Constantly writing with pen and paper accustomed myself to exam conditions
d. Writing on a regular basis allowed me to identify weaknesses and focus on improving them e.g. you may find yourself spending too long adapting your essay to questions that mandate a specific theme.
e. Improved writing speed
4. Don’t be afraid to exhaust your resources
a. I found that peer-marking via Google Docs often left me with new insight and valuable feedback – work with your cohort!
b. I had initial reservations about sticking around after classes whether it be at school or tutoring to briefly ask my teacher to go over a few sentences o re-explain an idea, at the end of the day, they’re here to help.
5. Don’t ‘top and tail’
a. I’m sure you’ve heard to include keywords from the question into your thesis, topic sentences and linking sentences, and whilst that is true, I found that making sure to include them throughout the body paragraphs too ensured that the question was answered sufficiently. Merely manipulating the first and last sentences may make it seem like you’ve word-vomited your memorised with little regard to the question.
b. When including the keywords into your thesis, I double-checked that there wasn’t a part of the question I neglected – address and engage with the entire question (all throughout the essay!) to ensure you’ve completely answered it.
6. Know your capacity
From practising, I was able to roughly gauge the amount of words I could write in the given 40 minutes. Writing a 1.3k essay if you aren’t comfortable with completing it within the time limit may cost you marks – however, some of my peers found it easier to write a long essay but only write select parts of it during the exam, you know yourself best – do what you think will work! Be mindful that your word count will fluctuate depending on the type of question asked/mark allocation (in the case of Mod C) e.g. if a Mod A question includes an extract (which may happen since it hasn’t been done yet!), you will need some wiggle room in your time allocation to ensure you are; sufficiently analysing the extracts on top of your pre-prepared work/able to sophisticatedly synthesise the extract with the essay
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