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Extension 1 English Essays

There are no shortcuts to doing well in the HSC, so putting in a lot of time and effort is essential.
If, however, you have already overcome the initial hurdles of finding motivation and practising self-discipline, here are a few tips to make your essays stand out from all the rest.

1. Do more than what is required

It’s late on a Friday night. The marker is at his desk. He is exhausted and can’t wait to get home to watch the latest episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and feed his cat. There are 395392 more essays to mark. The marker takes an essay from the top of the pile and slowly peels it open. He reads the first paragraph before tearing the paper in half, throwing his head back and unleashing a thunderous cry.

It is the stuff of nightmares – yet another stock-standard, B- range essay. This may seem obvious, but in order for a marker to notice your essay or creative out of the hundreds that they have already ploughed through at the marking centre, you need to demonstrate that your depth and breadth of understanding is spectacular. What I mean by this is: if your teacher tells you to research what one critic says about your text, research five. Read as many critical analyses on your core texts as you can and read a wide range of other texts to find the perfect related text. Have a strong understanding of the underlying assumptions/values/contexts/forms of the elective that you are studying. If you go above and beyond the bare minimum, your marks will reflect the extra effort you have put in!

2. Talk to your teachers/friends/tutor/mum/uncle

Show people your work (camp outside the staffroom and refuse to leave until your essay is marked). Ask for feedback. Draft and redraft and redraft again. Be constantly refining your essay and creative pieces throughout the year, and adding to them as you learn new things. Don’t be afraid to discuss your work with your friends, as they may have something to add to your creative that you hadn’t even thought of, and in turn, you may be able to help them.

3. Be interesting

Just like in part 1, don’t contribute the psychological deterioration of HSC markers by writing good analysis, but having no real argument. Take a unique point of view that reflects what you are interested in, whether it be feminism, postmodernism or Freudian psychoanalysis.

The same goes for creatives – don’t write a cliche story in which anybody wakes up from any type of dream (unless you have some sort of postmodern, feminist, freudian psychoanalytic dream interpretation to go with it…). Don’t be afraid to be weird and conceptual and explore uncharted territory, because chances are, your English teacher and marker will enjoy things that are weirder and even more conceptual (and hopefully they will love your work!).

Good luck!


Want to Know More About Year 11 English Advanced?

Now we know what the module is asking you to do, you need to think about some effective approaches to studying the module. To give you some ideas about how to do this, why not check out some of these links:


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Some seven million years ago, our human ancestors jumped off the primate family tree, leaving their chimp-ish ancestors in the African dust. Striding along their new evolutionary pathway, they made simple stone and metal tools, and all is good and well, until the human brain got a major circuit upgrade.

Long gone were the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ at breaking open a shell, and in came intellectual creativity. Crowded around a fire, they told stories, sang songs and wrote poetry, leaving their mark in world history.

And it is exactly this creativity, this lasting impact, these ways of thinking upgrade that the English Extension 1 course requires of its participants.

English Extension 1 is a highly rewarding course that challenges students creatively and logically. The HSC exam consists of an essay and imaginative writing piece, each worth 50%. However, the creative component of the Extension 1 exam is unlike the English Advanced Area of Study creative writing task!

The English Extension 1 HSC exam has a 1 hour allocation for the essay, and for the creative. As a standard, students are expected to write 1200 words! This extra time, and by extension (no pun intended) word limit, means a lot more is expected of students.

If you’re interested in getting a holistic grasp of what is expected of you, then I strongly recommend reading the ‘Notes from the Marking Centre – English Extension 1’ for your respective electives from the various years. If you wanted to use the HSC questions for practise without having seen them before, then I recommend not reading the notes, as they are the epitome of ‘spoiler alert’!

Personally, I only chose English Extension 1 because I thought it’d help me improve in Advanced. I mean, the same logic as Maths should follow, right? By doing Maths Extension 1 you’re putting yourself at an advantage at Maths Advanced.


Trust me in saying that the same logic doesn’t lend itself to English.

That’s why coming into Year 12, I promised myself that I would focus on English Extension 1 more. To be honest, it is that one subject that you can just neglect over the year saying to yourself, ‘Oh, I know my texts and the rubric, that’ll be enough.’

My experience with the subject – which may not reflect your own! – has been a little shaky. That’s why I intentionally set aside time in Year 12 to work on English Extension 1. I didn’t want to walk out of my exam not knowing which end of the polar mark spectrum I’d end up on. I wanted some security, especially with my creative.

Personally, I’m a very logical and straight-thinking type of person. I admire and logical art form of Maths and Science! That being said, I do struggle with my creative side, especially with writing a 1200 word creative for English Extension 1.

I knew I had to focus on my creative for Extension, but I just wasn’t sure how.

That’s when my teacher brought the entire class fancy notebooks labelled ‘Creative Writing Journal’.

RIP to the chemistry text book that I tore apart for my title page for my Creative Writing Journal.This is the secret weapon to acing the imaginative writing section of the exam! Here’s how it works:

Here are three easy ways you can use your English Extension 1 journal to ace your exam!

Step 1. Nail the Basics

I’m sorry to all the trees that have suffered at my hands. While I do not advocate the wastage of paper, for me, Ineed things in hard copy. If there is some file on my laptop, I assure you it’ll happily sit there unopened until I stumble upon it years later – cue the internal groan of regret.

That’s why the having a literal journal works best for me.

On my laptop, I’ve got about three different documents with remnants of creative brain dumps splattered on it. However, if I continued digitally, then I’d simply open up a new document and all my old ideas would get lost within layers of files. I wouldn’t even try to dig them up come HSC!

If you’re more of a technocrat, then I recommend using Evernote. It’s a free app that allows you to store all your notes in one place. I find that it gives you a little bit more freedom to type, note-take and actually draw/sketch your ideas in a single document rather than the traditional Word or Pages.

But if you’re a little behind the times and still prefer hard copies, then this idea is perfect for you.

Looking at your hard-copy journal will remind you that you’ve got to work on your creative – you can’t just hide it within layers of folders and documents!

Step 2. Be Artistic

I’m not an artistic person at all. I barely scraped a C in Year 8 Visual Art after breaking my clay teapot three times.

But recent scientific studies have shown that simple artistic activities like colouring can help alleviate stress and the onset of numerous mental disorders. The HSC is an extremely stressful year, and while we just need to grit our teeth and keep pushing on, we do need a take time off. For ourselves, for our family and our mental wellbeing.

Let us never forget that our mental and physical wellbeing comes before the HSC.

The journal, similarly to my bujo, provides me with this escape. After doing some structured study, I like to just work on some simple art pieces in my journal.

For example, here is work-in-progress that I created for the ‘After the Bomb’ module:

Well that’s all dandy, but how does that help me with my creative writing?

That simple artistic piece, other than helping me de-stress, is a compact reflection of my understanding of the ‘After the Bomb module’.

  • The brightly coloured writing amid nuclear hell is the hope and faith in humanity that kept humanity afloat within existential questioning and doubt in the purpose of humanity.
  • The flowers represent two different aspects:
    • The drooping flowers demonstrate the degradation of the natural world amidst exponential scientific and technological human advances (e.g. the atomic bomb).
    • The single upright flower symbolises the resilience and source of escape humanity sought during the Cold War. I had a friend who drew skulls on the stems rather than flowers to represent the loss of hair (and faith in humanity) caused by the Hiroshima bombings.
  • The dead bird is symbol of the human cost of the war. Since birds are often associated with freedom (physical, social and belief-wise), a dead bird clearly demonstrates the loss of them.

I hope you can see from this that a simple diagram that help consolidate your understanding of the module and let you have a little down time. What could be better than that?

Step 3. Track Your Work

I inherently find creative writing to be hard. I love science and maths. Things with definite solutions and logical reasoning appeals to me.

English offers none of these securities.

I really do question why I do this subject sometimes. I’ve contemplated many times dropping English Extension 1, but being on 10 units is something that I don’t think I can come to terms with yet.

So being able to track my work and progress is reassuring.

Whenever I’m having doubts about the course, I flip open my journal and think ‘I’ve put in [this] much work already; I’m sure I can push along to the next assessment and rethink this then.’

Other than that, the Creative Writing Journal is almost like an extensive set of notes. Within it, you can put:

  • The rubric, broken down and analysed (like in the mind-map image above).
  • Creative brain dumps – personally I use an A5 notebook since it’s small and easy to carry around with me anywhere. You really never know when inspiration will hit.
  • Quotes – There are an amazing addition to your Creative Writing Journal; they are a compact embodiment of the atmosphere and political/social/economic/scientific (paradigms!) ways of thinking of that time.

Here’s are some more examples of a ways I like to jazz up my journal!

  • Artistic doodles – Are you that person who’ll be swayed into doing work for a subject they don’t even like simply because it’s aesthetic? Because I am for certain! That’s why having cute After the Bomb related doodles around my journal helps. Not only goes my journal look pretty jazzy, but it also motivates me to work on it. An added bonus? You might just inspire your friends to get into journalling too! Don’t forget: if we all do well, then we all do wellHere are some doodle ideas:
    • Visually represent context – It’s no secret that the markers love context, especially in Ways of Thinking essays AND creatives (that’s After the Bomb, Romanticism and Navigating the Global). One way I like to remember my context is to draw it (okay… fine, I trace it). An E4 creative must show evidence of research and references to the context of the time.
      • For example, to remember the world leaders during the Cold War, I’ve drawn each leader on a page and surrounded him with significant things he has said, contributed to the war effort, and any other political / social / philosophical / economic changes caused or influenced by him.
    • Key ideas – While this isn’t the launch point for the ever recurring to-memorise-or-not-to-that-is-the-question debate, I personally remember the key ideas only for my creatives. By the time trials will come around, I’ll have multiple creatives that I’ll be able to pull bits and pieces from to extensively engage with the question. However, with all my other subjects, remembering all the details can get very tough, so I create silly doodles that I associate with certain parts of my creative.
      • For example, in my preliminary creative (our topic was Existentialism), I drew a gnome/Santa hybrid as my Existential representation of a God who has lost his sense of surpose of meaning. For others it may not make any sense, but for me it was enough to trigger a cascade of ideas!
  • Creative drafts – Having hard copies are great, but if you’re anything like me, then you’re going to be pulling our hair out every time you make a mistake and grudgingly have to put a strike though a word… or worse, a sentence! So, I generally type up my creative, making edits and fixing it up. Once I’m happy with it, I copy it down into my journal (writing slowly and consciously to make no mistakes!) and submit it for feedback. I love getting my journal back with handwritten comments and feedback all along my creative. I really helps in making my next draft an even stronger one.
  • Reflections – Anytime you can flip back to older drafts and see how you’ve improved and how your ideas have changed over the year! Before the HSC, you could skim all your ideas and have them at the back of your head ready to pull bits and pieces from each to suit the question.

That’s all from me this month! If you try the Creative Writing Journal, then please comment down below how you’re using yours; we’d love to know!

Happy With Your Advanced English Notes?

If you need reliable notes or simply want to check your notes are right, take a look at HSC-Notes.com.

Their English notes are crafted by the 99+ ATAR Club and provide concise answers to the HSC Syllabus dot points with what you need to know for your exams. Diagrams, mind maps, tables, dot points, paragraphs, sources are included to aid your learning.

With these notes you can spend less time rewriting your textbook and worrying about whether your notes answer the syllabus dot points correctly and spend more time learning and practicing your skills knowing your notes are accurate and concise.

Head on over to HSC-Notes to get your HSC subject notes now

Good Luck!

Have a question for us?

We’ve helped over 3,000 students achieve an average mark increase of 19.41%! Flick us a message on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artofsmart/), give us a call on 1300 267 888, or email us on info@artofsmart.com.au.

DharniPatel is not really limited to being a 2017 HSC student; she’s a certified science nerd and baker, and to her knowledge, still holds the record for the most missed basketball/netball/anything-ball shots in her community. When she’s not buried in textbooks and gripping her beloved calculator Calci (4 unit maths does that to you), you’ll find her grazing the pages of Cosmos, playing with her 11-month Labrador Tyson or just planning how she’ll walk to accept her Nobel Prize in Chemistry (but she’ll settle for a Nobel in biology or medicine if she must).

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