Achieving excellent grades in HSC English is something that not all students believe that they can achieve. The reality is that every single paper can be distilled into a few core elements…. And you know what the good news is?
There is a formula that you can learn.
All the good work of your teachers is often not as effective as it should be due to the limitations of the system. You are one student in a class of potentially thirty and your teacher doesn’t have the time to make sure that every single student is up to speed. Even if you have incredibly supportive teachers, you might miss some key elements. I’ve met extension 2 students in the HSC who had never been sat down in a class to thoroughly explain how to create a powerful and effective thesis statement. So as you scramble together your original ideas and bundles of notes (if you’ve gotten that far!) to come up with that Band 6 essay you’ve coveted almost as much as that cute guy or girl from 4th period maths, we’ve prepared article to remind you of the top 5 most important factors which will give you a band 6 essay.
The HSC English syllabus wants you to come up with your own response to the themes explored in whatever module you’re studying. Your essay should commence with a thesis statement, a sentence that includes your primary argument which you will explore and develop throughout the rest of the essay.
There’s a difference between being smart, and cutting so many corners that whatever metaphor you’re looking for is condemned to non-existence, and you leave yourself with a poor essay. Conducting thorough research will mean you’ll fit as many of your own great observations, literary techniques and evidence in your essay as you can.
Don’t start writing your essay willy-nilly! The marks you get will heavily depend on how well you plan, and structure your essay – decide what point, theme or issue each paragraph will deal with, and introduce it with a strong topic sentence. The success of your essay body will depend on the decisions you make here, and the best essays will slowly build the case for how compelling the thesis is.
Your markers want you to display reflection and insight into the complexities of the issues explored. But that doesn’t mean being long-winded and verbose. Even some very prominent writers don’t necessarily do this all the time. So be concise, to the point, and back up everything you say with a piece of textual evidence. And lastly, show a bit of flair. Not the out-dated denim style, or what your friends obnoxiously let off at a Wanders game, it’s that bit of stylistic panache, the “je ne sais quois” and flavour in your writing and argumentation.
Cap it all off with a strong, conclusion that serves as a recap of your thesis and the main points explored in the structure of your essay. Don’t introduce new arguments, and end with a tone of finality and resolution.
So there you have it, 5 simple tools that you can use to improve your essays.
You need to see what a Band 6 Discovery essay looks like before you can write your own. That’s why we’ve included one below. We recommend reading it carefully and breaking down what it does so successfully. How is the introduction structured? How does the student analyse evidence? And how do they bring it all together in the conclusion? Once you’re finished, apply the strategies you uncover to your own AOS: Discovery essays. We also have a detailed overview of how to write creatives in our Our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English – Part 6: Writing Creatives.
‘An individual’s experience of discovery is determined by their context.’ To what extent is this statement reflected in your prescribed text and ONE text of your own choosing?
Band 6 Discovery Essay
The unique context of an individual is what defines their process of discovery and in so doing, shapes their perspectives on interpersonal relationships, personal identity and existential outlook. These ideas are exemplified in both Robert Gray’s poems, Diptych and The Meatworks, and Matthew Thorne’s short film, Where Do Lilacs Come From. We see in these texts that discovery can only take place when our context challenges us, whether it is a change in context or the confronting nature of situational context itself. Only then can transformation occur.
The contexts in which the interpersonal relationships of an individual take place are what fuel discoveries to occur. In Gray’s Diptych, elements of the persona’s family life are embedded throughout, in particular the ongoing tension between the persona and his father. The father’s dialogue, “Nothing whingeing. Nothing by New York Jews; / nothing by women,” provides insight into the personality and character of the father. The anaphoric repetition of the harsh, despairing “nothing” portrays the father in his limited relationship with the persona, denoting the disconnect between the two and the persona’s negative perceptions of his father as a result. However, the transformative powers of context are revealed after the character experiences the death of his father. It is only after this event that he discovers newfound feelings towards his father and reconsiders their past relationship. His death provokes a newfound acceptance and nostalgic fondness within the persona. The accident, “my pocket knife slid / sideways and pierced my hand – and so I dug with that one / into his ashes,” is central to the persona’s final emotional discovery. The mixing of his blood and his father’s ashes symbolically unifies the two, highlighting the change in perspective that has occurred with this change in context. Therefore, it can be argued that an individual only truly discovers his feelings towards others when their relationship is challenged by a change in context. The experience of loss following the death of his father caused Gray’s persona to reflect upon their past relationship and in doing so, he discovers feelings of clarity and acceptance that replaced past feelings of resentment and hostility. In other words, contextual experience has the potential to re-determine one’s interpersonal relationships.
Similarly, Matthew Thorne’s film Where Do Lilacs Come From explores the transformative powers of context. Much like Gray’s Diptych, Thorne depicts a change in context, in particular one that challenges an individual’s personal beliefs, as a fast catalyst to self-discovery. The film follows Chris, an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, as he struggles with the strain his condition places on his relationship with his son, Michael. This is symbolised by the reoccurring large spaces which separate the two characters in each frame, implying their emotional disconnect. A tracking shot of Chris chasing his younger self down a long, brightly lit corridor symbolises his desire to rediscover his lost memories. The responder is able to gauge from this Chris’ perspective on his condition. Senility is a burden on his identity. However, at the end of the film Michael discovers he is able to reconnect with his father by showing him home movies. The movies, displayed as hand-held camera footage with a muted colour palette evoke the same sentiment of nostalgic fondness that changed the persona’s perspective in Gray’s in Diptych. The restorative experience of bonding is shown by a return to the metaphor of distance as the space between two characters is breached and the pair embrace. Not only does this show the characters re-discovering their love for each other, but the discovery they are still able to bond is a revelation within itself, one that allows Chris to view his Alzheimer’s in a new context. He is able to challenge and transform his personal beliefs of his condition, coming to terms with his ageing as he rediscovers hope. Therefore, not only can a physical change in context shed new light on interpersonal relationships, but the way in which an individual contextualises their unique experience within their own mental framework can transform one’s very identity.
However, a change in context is not the only determining factor of personal discovery. One’s contextual environment alone has the immense ability to provide incentive for internal transformation through the process of discovery. In Gray’s poem, The Meatworks, the persona’s existential contemplation of life and death is entirely due to his experience working at a slaughterhouse. The self-discovery commences at the start of the poem, as the persona reflects upon the other workers and their disregard for the lives of the animals. The compounded sensorial imagery of the passage, “Most of them worked around the slaughtering / out the back / where concrete gutters / crawled off / heavily, and the hot, fertiliser-thick, sticky stench of blood / sent flies mad,” establishes and sustains an oppressive sense of death. The use of alliteration in ‘s’ and ‘h’ creates a cacophony of emphatic sounds which combine to create a disturbing synesthetic response, illustrating the violent nature of death. It is this horrid setting that facilitates the persona’s inner discovery of existential turmoil, and with it a renewed appreciation for life in all its forms. The symbolic gesture of hand washing in, “I’d scoop up the shell grit and scrub my hands, treading about through the icy ledges of the surf”, illustrates the persona’s desire for purification following his change in perspective. The use of personification in the poem’s last line further conveys the persona’s changing belief regarding the lives of animals: “the ways those pigs stuck there, clinging to each other”. The persona discovers that in death, animals and humans are the same. This revelatory, existential experience perfectly exemplifies how the process of discovery is shaped by an individual’s contextual environment. It shows the true transformational power of context to shape an individual’s outlook and their very understanding of life.
In conclusion, it is highly evident that an individual’s context, whether it be their physical environment, or the experience of a change in context, determines their process of discovery. Robert Gray’s poems Diptych and The Meatworks, and Matthew Thorne’s short film Where Do Lilacs Come From, all convey these ideas to a great extent. In these works responders come to understand how the relationship between context and individual experience define the discoveries which impact interpersonal relationships, personal identity and one’s very perceptions of existence. Only when our context challenges us can we discover, and it is the impact of our discoveries that define who we are and our unique, individual experience.
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