1st in HSC English Ext 1 & 2! A state-ranker’s top 7 tips to achieve Band 6 results

The following article has been written by Marquis Education’s Abi Kugendran.

Imagine this. You're about to enter your senior years, and it's time for you to focus your efforts and get serious about the way you're going to approach English. You know that it's going to count towards 20% of your final HSC mark, and everyone is telling you to start drafting practice essays, constructing quote tables, and reading your text's a million times. You know you want that Band 6, but can you really do it with all this doubt?

I can guarantee that every student feels this way, no matter how prepared or unprepared they think they are. With English being a significant part of the HSC, it is completely normal to feel a little confused or even helpless.

I will never forget the feeling of entering Year 11, with butterflies in my stomach and a cloud of doubt in my head. Honestly, I have not always been a top student. But with motivation and patience, I completed my HSC at Baulkham Hills High School, scoring a 99.55 ATAR, receiving first place in English Extension 1, Extension 2 and Visual Arts during Year 12. I ended up pursuing my dreams, initially being offered a place in Law and then earning a B Lib. Arts & Sciences (Education & English Major) from the University of Sydney, where I was also a Dalyell Scholar in English.

I understand the stress and struggles, but I have also learned so much from my HSC experience. Not only about English, but about myself. Fuelled by my passion for educating, I created Marquis Education to help students achieve success through accessible and transformative education. I hope through my experience that I can pass on my knowledge and skills to you.

Here are a few tips that helped me to jumpstart my journey.

1. Making the right choice

English is the only compulsory HSC subject, with two of your English units being counted, regardless of your mark. In Years 11 and 12, you repeatedly think and rethink your decision – Standard, Advanced, Extension 1, or Extension 2?

Before you make this decision, there are three essential questions to consider:

What is your relationship with English?

It is paramount that you understand yourself and your relationship with the subject. Do you find yourself excelling with the subject's analytical, critical, or imaginative aspects?

What prerequisites are required for the course you want to pursue at a tertiary level?

Consider what you would like to do in the future and if your desired course has any English level requirements or assumed knowledge.

What are your capabilities and competencies?

Scaling should also be a considerable factor in determining which level you should choose. If you are highly proficient in English, studying at an Extension level can be advantageous as it is higher scaling. If you are less confident in English and deciding between Standard and Advanced but think you are capable of both, I advise you to choose English Advanced. A student performing in the top 10% will lead to a scaled English Advanced mark of 41.9/50, compared to an English Standard mark of 31.9/50 (a 10-mark difference). You can always go from Advanced to Standard quite easily, but the other direction may be more difficult.

Work smart and hard and make the right decision to achieve your unique potential and the most outstanding marks you can.

2. Maximising productivity

As obvious as it may sound, time management is one of the most significant factors in ensuring success within the HSC. Progressing into senior years, the workload can be intimidating, which is why it is vital to organise your time and prioritise your study schedule.

Set time aside each day to study and aim for consistency over perfection.

High achieving students consistently set aside time in their calendar to dedicate to studying, whether it be working on assessments, revising concepts learnt in class, or doing homework.

In your study period, you should: Write out your study goals, break them down, and prioritise.

Everyone is different, so do what works for you and maximise your productivity – from time and study location to setting regular breaks. In your study period, write your goals down. Once your goals are on paper, you can go through them and start to break them down into smaller, more doable tasks.

Be proactive in your holidays by reading your texts, watching informative videos, researching online, reading journal articles, writing out your notes, thoughts, and analyses.

Use your holiday time to be proactive. To gain a thorough understanding of your HSC texts, take the initiative to read through the texts in the holiday before your upcoming term. Break up your reading by watching enlightening videos and reading other reliable online sources; this can help encourage your interest in your texts. While reading, write out your notes, thoughts, and analyses; this way, you will be ready once school resumes.

Focus on getting ahead and using your time wisely to eliminate stress throughout the term.

3. Nothing is impossible

Success is a process and understanding yourself as a learner is vital in adopting a growth mindset which enables you always to do your best.

As a student, it can be disheartening to see a mark that doesn't meet your expectations or may sit below the curve. However, it is crucial to try to see challenges, failures, or criticisms as a springboard for growth. By taking every obstacle as an opportunity to become better, it positively impacts your relationship with success and failure.

The saying, "hard work pays off", is incredibly applicable to the HSC. People who work hard and smart achieve incredible things. It is essential to understand yourself as a learner and adopt a growth mindset.

To have a growth mindset is to thrive on challenges and see them less as a barrier and more as a platform to learn from. Failures and criticisms stop becoming indications of 'not smart enough, but instead as an opportunity for growth and for stretching your abilities.

Ultimately, try to adopt this mindset and perspective, and this will reflect on your approach and behaviour towards the HSC.

4. Transform your understanding

It might not seem like it sometimes, but HSC English develops your skills for the future. English can be transformative – and it starts with understanding yourself.

In HSC English, exploring pivotal and important texts will help you grow as a person and allow you to differentiate yourself from others, especially when it comes to university, extracurriculars, your careers, and just communicating yourself to others clearly, concisely and with confidence.

In our increasingly technological world, the ability to communicate your message and have creative thought is an essential skill. From employers to friends to colleagues, communication skills and the ability to creatively problem-solve are becoming highly valued traits.

5. Curiosity breeds intelligence

Albert Einstein explained his genius when he said, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."

Curiosity is often undermined within the HSC years but can be vital in allowing a positive learning experience and continuous growth.

As it turns out, curiosity is a quality most of us can activate within ourselves. Teaching ourselves always to ask more questions or seek more than what meets the eye, we build self-efficacy and the right foundation to: find fact-based information → assess the quality of the information → and then creatively and effectively use this information to accomplish a goal.

Time and time again, students prove that those of any age can conjure extraordinary solutions, and this trait is something that will allow you to stand out amongst your peers.

6. Passion is the genesis for genius

Can you imagine curling up in bed with a book in hand? Longing for more with Mrs Dalloway and being terrified for Winston Smith, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, seeing through Scout Finch's eyes – so many things happen on pages.

It is always important to remember that an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. Read and research related texts, critics, literary theories, and analyses for your texts.

Treat reading as a gift rather than a chore. It is a phenomenal moral illumination that allows you to voyage through time, providing experience and knowledge that inspires, thrills and consoles. This will allow your essays and writing to reflect on what you are interested in and what you want to say. Your passion will come across to the reader and marker.

For example, in Module C, you are required to choose to write in a specific form. If your strength is critical writing and you have an analytical mind, you should hone your persuasive skills. On the other hand, if you love exploring imaginative worlds, complex characters, and interesting concepts, then write an imaginative text.

Your efforts and essays will reflect your passions to the reader and marker and enable a stronger output.

7. Building a support network

No one succeeds alone.

Having the right team of family, friends, teachers, educators, mentors, etc., is the key to success.

It is essential to work together, which is never truer than during the HSC. Therefore, it is more productive to think of your cohort as advocates rather than competitors.

After all, behind every successful person is a great team.

Good luck!

After reading through my tips, I hope you feel more motivated and prepared in tackling HSC English (and all those practice essays). At Marquis Education, we do not promise a 99.95 ATAR for everyone.

Instead, if you follow and trust our process, show up and do the work, I know that you will reach your full potential and achieve your personal best.

We will be there to guide you through each step of the HSC and support you through your personal journey to HSC success. To transform and achieve, maybe even beyond what you know yourself.

Learn more about Marquis Education here.


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