Writing a 20/20 HSC Essay

Ugh, 3 essays in under 2 hours? That’s impossible!

Regardless, you go into the exam armed with [Insert Paragraph Acronym Here] and a bunch of quotes that were written about 400 years ago and seemingly don’t have any relevance to your life or what you plan to do in the future. You go in, write your essays and then come out.

A couple weeks pass and marks come in. Module A is a solid 15/20 Module B is 8/20 (That’s when you took a mini nap cause you stayed up all night memorising Hamlet Quotes) and then Module C is a mediocre 11/20. You’re disappointed but you blame the range of your marks on the subjectivity of English and that the markers are retarded and simply didn’t understand your ‘argument’.

Fortunately for you, English can be conquered with a little bit of work in the right areas. Read this guide if you haven’t done so. Whilst that guide helps you frame an approach to English, in this article I’ll spell out exactly what you need to do to write a 20/20 essay 80% of the time.

Part 1: Introduction

Your essay has to start with an introduction. Fortunately, writing an effective introduction is very simple. However, most people don’t realise this and instead over complicate their introduction beyond the point that it becomes incredibly convoluted and doesn’t actually say much.

So to answer the question, your introduction should be as short as possible. My personal preference is 3 sentences.

WHAT!? 3 Sentences? What about the contextual/framing/brief summary of texts/mini creative/xyz sentence??

Unfortunately, chances are your English teacher has overcomplicated writing introductions for you and told you that you MUST do something to make your essay stand out. Moreover, they’ve probably said something like “Your final mark is decided by the time the marker finishes reading the introduction” and so your first reaction was disgust at the unjust nature of English marking and then, since you’re such a diligent student pulled out all stops and wrote an incredibly complicated introduction in order to sound smart.

This is true in part; a more accurate statement is probably “Your final Band is decided by the time the marker finishes reading the introduction”. In the English guide I wrote about the importance of being concise when writing your essays. This applies to the introduction as well. Any overstuffed and over complicated introduction simply detracts from the point you’re trying to argue, ie your thesis. As such 3 sentences is more than enough to fulfil the markers requirements of placing you in the top band.

Introduction sentence structure:

  • Thesis: Your first sentence should be your thesis. Aim to link your Module/Area of Study to your text whilst answering the question.
  • Introduce texts: Here, you introduce your texts/text types and composers. Relate your texts to the question and you can list themes that you’ll discuss.
  • Module/linking statement: This sentence just concludes your introduction nicely by answering the modules requirements whilst relating to the question. Eg: for module b you can reference textual integrity here.

After those three sentences you’ve saved about 100 words in comparison to your peers as well as making sure that you address the question, the module and introduce your texts which is all an introduction is supposed to do.

Fairly easy right?

Activity:

  • Self Marking: Pick up some old essays and try to rewrite the introduction in 3 sentences. See the difference between your old intro and your new one. Which sounds more succinct and direct?

Part 2: The Body

Your body paragraphs are probably pumped with insane amounts of fluff and follow [Insert Paragraph Acronym Here]. You’ve probably used the synonyms function beforehand to stock up on intelligent sounding words and various phrases that you want to use.

Unfortunately, none of this preparation is really helping your English mark. Writing and structuring your body paragraphs is slightly different for each module so I’ll segment it based on that, but for the most part, everything is quite similar.

Area of Study: Discovery

Firstly, for discovery you’ll have your prescribed text and 1-2 related texts. You really only need 3 paragraphs to fully answer any question and they follow a pattern like this:

AOS Paragraph Structure:

  • Prescribed text: For this paragraph if you are doing poems, then focus on 1 poem and for other texts, focus on an idea/theme
  • Related Text: Analyse your related text here. You don’t need to analyse your entire related text but rather just the sections that pertain to discovery and the question. I advise you to choose a short related text so you can cover it in as much breadth as possible.
  • Prescribed text: Same as above.

You can switch around the related text paragraph and the second prescribed paragraph but, I like to have it like a sandwich as it allowed me to draw similarities and differences between the texts easily.

So, that’s the paragraphing order done, what about what actually goes in the paragraph?

For this, I’ll demonstrate how you should actually use the Paragraph Acronyms (PETAL).

AOS Paragraph Sentence Structure:

  • Topic Sentence (P): As always start off with a topic sentence which spells out the relationship between text and question.
  • Sentence 1 (ETA): Start your analysis here. No contextual statements, no summaries just straight into applying ETA or quote (Example), technique and analysis.
  • Sentence 2 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 3 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 4 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 5 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence N (ETA): Personally, 5 sentences are enough to conclude your analysis but if needed add as many sentences as you’d like.
  • Concluding Sentence (L): Finally, after all that analysis you can now link your point back to the question and the module.

In terms of what to actually write in each ETA sentence, it obviously depends on your text, but I usually approached structuring my analysis like a path. You start from one point and you help guide to reader to the final conclusion. This helps ensure you make no logical jumps and also keeps your thoughts on track. Also, for Discovery it is necessary to reference the composer’s context whilst analysing (I add this in because for most people it isn’t apparent).

Side Note: A lot of schools mark based on the number of quotes and techniques in your essay. However, due to the lack of organisation in most English faculties, they fail to tell you this key criterion in your assessment notification. Thus, in order to get 20/20 most times, you’ll need to include at least 20 quotes per essay (small quotes count as well), so roughly 6-7 per paragraph. This may seem excessive, but in order to get the marks it must be done. This is for every Module.

 

Module A: Intertextual Connections or Perspectives

For module A you have a couple ways to approach your paragraph structure. Either alternating paragraphs or intertextual paragraphs (2 text in each paragraph). Note, neither structure utilises ‘contextual’ paragraphs. I’ll discuss why later.

Module A Paragraph Structure:

Alternating paragraphs:

  • Text 1: Analyse theme/idea 1.
  • Text 2: Analyse similar themes/ideas as text 1. Draw similarities and differences.
  • Text 1: Analyse theme/idea 2
  • Text 2: Analyse similar themes/ideas as text 1. Draw similarities and differences.
  • Text 1: Analyse theme/idea 3.
  • Text 2: Analyse similar themes/ideas as text 1. Draw similarities and differences.

Intertextual paragraphs (2 texts at once)

  • Text 1 and 2: Analyse theme/idea 1. Draw Similarities and differences between texts.
  • Text 1 and 2: Analyse theme/idea 2. Draw Similarities and differences between texts.
  • Text 1 and 2: Analyse theme/idea 3. Draw Similarities and differences between texts.

Both methods have their pros and cons. Alternating texts allows you to get deeper into each individual text but it is difficult to compare and contrast between each text without repeating your point multiple times. Furthermore, you have 6 paragraphs and so being concise is incredibly important otherwise you’ll probably end up waffling for too long.

Analysing two texts at once allows for easy side by side comparison. You can alternate from text 1 to text 2 on adjacent sentences which will make your point a lot clearer. However, the depth of analysis is not the same as what can achieved with alternating texts and analysing 2 texts at once can get complicated if you don’t have a good grasp of language and expression.

Personally, Intertextual paragraphs made more sense to me, as our aim for module A is to compare and contrast the texts. However, choose the method that you feel most comfortable with and just remember that it is imperative that you analyse each text with respect to the other.

Now, for an in depth look at paragraph and sentence structure. Module A focuses upon context as well as comparison, and by combining both many students get incredibly confused as to what they actually need to do when writing their paragraphs and sentences.

Module A Paragraph Sentence Structure:

  • Topic Sentence (P): As always start off with a topic sentence which spells out the relationship between text and question.
  • Sentence 1 (ETA): Start your analysis here. Using Quotes, techniques analyse the text. In order to incorporate context into your argument, you should it pair with your analysis of the quote. Eg “As the hope for “equality, fraternity, liberty” of the French Revolution descended into the ‘Age of Terror’, Frankenstein’s hope for completion of the Enlightenment project symbolically collapses in the grotesque monster, as using visual imagery, “the beauty of the … ” Here you can see that the analysis incorporated discussing the context. It is absolutely not needed to have a contextual paragraph which is just going to waste your time in the exam. Instead by relating context to quotes and analysis your overall argument is strengthened further whilst still responding to the module’s demands.
  • Sentence 2 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis. If you are using the 2 texts at once approach, refer to your 2nd text every alternating sentence. This allows you to closely compare or contrast the texts. For alternating paragraph’s you’ll need to insert certain references to the other text throughout the paragraph.
  • Sentence 3 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 4 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 5 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence N (ETA): Personally, 5 sentences are enough to conclude your analysis but if needed add as many sentences as you’d like.
  • Concluding Sentence (L): Finally, after all that analysis you can now link your point back to the question and the module.

Structuring your analysis is incredibly important for Module A as you have to compare and contrast the texts. That’s why cutting out the widely recommended ‘contextual’ paragraph allows you to focus on what the module actually wants.

Module B: A Close Study of Texts

Module B is probably the hardest module of them all. You will be asked questions that are incredibly specific and thus require specific answers. Fortunately, the paragraph structure of Module B is simplified as there is only 1 overall text. If you are one of the few that has a multi text allocation (speeches or poetry) then simply substitute thematic/idea analysis for separate analysis on your speeches or poems.

Module B Paragraph Structure:

  • Paragraph 1: Discuss theme 1
  • Paragraph 2: Discuss theme 3
  • Paragraph 3: Discuss theme 3

Some people like to have more paragraphs to delve deeper into the text, but 3 paragraphs should be more than enough to argue your point completely. This means that our paragraph structure for Module B is fairly easy to remember and easy to implement. Likewise, each paragraph is also structured fairly simply.

Module B Paragraph Sentence Structure:

  • Topic Sentence (P): As always start off with a topic sentence which spells out the relationship between text and question.
  • Sentence 1 (ETA): Start your analysis here. No contextual statements, no summaries just straight into applying ETA or quote (Example), technique and analysis. Same as Module A incorporate context into analysis.
  • Sentence 2 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 3 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 4 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 5 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence N (ETA): Personally, 5 sentences are enough to conclude your analysis but if needed add as many sentences as you’d like.
  • Concluding Sentence (L): Finally, after all that analysis you can now link your point back to the question and the module.

Module B was my favourite module, but most people don’t enjoy it as it seems way too analytical. As such you should structure your entire argument like a path where each paragraph connects in some way to each other. Furthermore, you should probably try working through your argument logically from sentence to sentence to prevent logical inconsistencies as well as showing the marker you actually analysed the whole text rather than just the start or mini chunks in the middle. I’ll stress the importance of actually knowing the text in detail for module B. You must provide quotes from the start, middle and end of the text that you have been prescribed.

Module C: Representing People and Politics and Representing People and Landscapes

Module C is probably the easiest out of all the modules. There aren’t really any module specific things you need to pay attention to. Just plain analysis and answering the question well is enough to get you a high band 6 mark. However, just like the area of study, you do need a related text for module C.

Module C Paragraph Structure:

  • Prescribed text: For this paragraph if you are doing poems, then focus on 1 poem and for other texts, focus on an idea/theme
  • Related Text: Analyse your related text here. You don’t need to analyse your entire related text but rather just the sections that pertain to discovery and the question. I advise you to choose a short related text so you can cover it in as much breadth as possible.
  • Prescribed text: Same as above.

Pretty much the same as Area of Study, you can switch the 2nd prescribed text paragraph with the related text paragraph. Likewise, the paragraph structure is also similar to area of study.

Module C Paragraph Sentence Structure:

  • Topic Sentence (P): As always start off with a topic sentence which spells out the relationship between text and question.
  • Sentence 1 (ETA): Start your analysis here. No contextual statements, no summaries just straight into applying ETA or quote (Example), technique and analysis.
  • Sentence 2 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 3 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 4 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence 5 (ETA): Same as above, further your analysis.
  • Sentence N (ETA): Personally, 5 sentences are enough to conclude your analysis but if needed add as many sentences as you’d like.
  • Concluding Sentence (L): Finally, after all that analysis you can now link your point back to the question and the module.

The key to Module C is to just answer the question properly and to ensure that you acknowledge the requirements of the syllabus in your essay. There really isn’t much to it meaning that you should be able to get the most marks in Module C.

Part 3: The Conclusion

Finally, we reach the conclusion. Just like your introduction your conclusion should be simple and shouldn’t last more than a couple sentences. By now your marker has probably decided on the mark your essay is getting and the conclusion just provides a nice ending.

Conclusion sentence structure:

  • Summary: Sum-up your argument as succinctly as possible, preferably in 1 sentence or 2. Listing your themes is enough in most cases but it doesn’t hurt to be a little more detailed.
  • Link to syllabus: After your summary, you can link back to the syllabus again just to emphasise it. This sentence isn’t mandatory but doesn’t hurt either. Keep it short and sweet.

Conclusion writing isn’t too hard and so you shouldn’t waste too much time on it. Keep it short and keep it simple, no more than 3 sentences just like your introduction.

That brings this guide to an end. Hopefully breaking everything down as far as possible helps you structure your essays well. If you do need more help, feel free to comment below or contact us using this form.

For more HSC English guides, take a look at The Definitive Guide to Discovery Section 1, Conquering HSC English in 6 Steps and Writing a 15/15 Discovery Creative.

Despite being incredibly thorough in this guide, for more tailored feedback on your essays,  head on over here to our Essay Marking Service where we will mark your essays in under 48 hours whilst writing an essay (in excess of 500 words) about your essay. Such personalised and detailed feedback isn’t available anywhere else (including your school teachers).

Divider

Let's Talk

Get Started Today!

Give our friendly team a call at 0401 996 272 or follow the steps below to book your FREE Consultation Lesson today!

  1. Fill in the Form below
  2. We’ll match you with the perfect tutor
  3. We’ll book you in for your FREE consultation.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Writing a 20/20 HSC Essay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s