Exam Preparation Comparative Studies and Context | HSC English

Exam Preparation Comparative Studies

Tegan explains about Exam Preparation Comparative Studies.

  • How to use your Autumn holiday

    At this point in your studies, you are half-way through the HSC. You should already have many pages of notes, typed by you and saved on your computer, that include:

    • 40+ study paragraphs that cover all fourteen aspects and questions of Discovery in texts.
    • edited practice essays you have written on Discovery.
    • 3-5 edited narratives on the 5 different aspects of Discovery.
    • a dot-point list of techniques and quotes from your prescribed and additional texts.


    Today, we are going to add to this checklist and finalise your Comparative Studies for the HSC. You will not have time to go back and finish off this work later as the Advanced HSC course only becomes more demanding and intense from here.

    By the end of this term and associated holiday, you must have completed all work for Comparative Studies AND Discovery. If you have not, you should be concerned about your study habits, and should consider reallocating your study time just to English for a while in order to catch up.

  • Write 12-20 ‘What Why Fact How’ Study Paragraphs.

    Each paragraph should have a heading for easy reference, for example ‘The Perception of Propaganda in Nineteen Eighty-Four’. This title should make the linking perception or connection clear, identify the idea at play, and name the text. Then, all the information you have about ‘propaganda’ in Nineteen Eighty-Four should be analysed, from most relevant point to least relevant point.

    You should include all relevant techniques and quotes in this analysis – and should end up with one or even several paragraphs which you might be able to use later in an exam. Keep reviewing these paragraphs and adding more quotes to them,  or refining them as you go on, as the act of continually writing the notes is what is ‘teaching’ you this subject, and so is just as important as the paragraphs themselves.

    You should still be improving these study paragraphs right up until the week before the final HSC exams.

  • Write Historical Study Notes:

    You probably have several different sources of information about the historical context of your text, including hand outs, websites, and academic essays. You need to create a ‘best of’ set of notes which synthesises all this information together.

    Write general notes with headings like ‘religion in 1920s America’, ‘politics in 1920s America’, ‘rights of women in 1920s America’ and so forth, as well as special events like ‘The 1532 Fall of the Florentine Republic’.

    Once again, every fact, or relevant historical persons, books or artworks should be mentioned in these notes, and the contextual values that these facts point to should be emphasised.

    For example, the string of invasions and leadership changes in Florence in the early 1500s may have led to a contextual value for national pride, or political stability. Sometimes creating a time-line of important events can be helpful in charting the development of contextual values.

  • Write Biographical Study Notes about the composer:

    For every prescribed text you have, in every module, it is important to get a sense of the character of the person who made it. Since most texts are made because the author thought they had a message that society needed to hear, it is much easier to understand the text if you understand the values of the author.

    For example, Shakespeare was interested in democracy, rather than monarchy, because as a Catholic, he hated Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, who had become a bit tyrannical in her later rule. Authors may well draw from their own life experiences in their texts too – for example F. Scott Fitzgerald used much material from his wife, Zelda’s diary to furnish his literary characters – and its important to recognise this and point it out in your analysis.

  • Write ‘elemental’ notes on the prescribed texts:

    The basics of English also need to be analysed in each of your prescribed texts. Thus you should also write notes about: characterisation, genre, textual structure, themes, uses of language, setting and plot.

    Provide techniques and quotes for this analysis too – you’d be surprised how often a comparison of ‘forms and features’ is asked for as a Comparative Studies question. For instance, the HSC might require you to compare the form of a Victorian sonnet to a ‘cinematic’ Modernist novella for an entire essay.

  • Compile an Extended Quotes List (1 A4 page per text)

    • You should know more techniques and quotes than you ever intend to use in your exams. These should be quotes you have never used before in any other paragraph. Create a dot-point list of ‘Quote + Technique’ each one linked briefly to a contextual value. For example:
    • ‘Whilst my physicians by their love are grown / Cosmographers, and I their map…As west and east / In all flat maps—and I am one—are one, / So death doth touch the resurrection.’ Metaphysical conceit. (Means that a map can be folded to bring east and west together – i.e. opposites may have a kind of similarity or union.) Links to science of cartography which was developing in the early 1600s.
  • Essay Practice

    Acquire and work through at least 3 practice Paper 2 exams in the holidays. Do them timed first, and then when your time runs out, work back through them and produce a full answer, taking note of where your time ran out. Acquire at least 10 practice essay questions and practice analysing the question: underline, annotate, write synonyms, and make a five-point plan.

  • Edit your practice essays

    Edit all your essays, including those marked by teachers, old assessment tasks, and your timed practice essays. Use the editing guide you were give, and leave this task until after you have written your study notes, as you will gain depth of ideas and sophistication from those activities which you can pass on to your essays.

    This will help you write better first drafts or exam essays, and improve the sophistication and surety of your module ideas.

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