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So you’ve done the Trial HSC, your papers have been marked and returned to you. You have moved up or down in the rankings (or you’ve remained static). You’re either joyous or in despair.

What do you do now?

Hold onto those trial papers. Grab a sheet or two of paper and rule up four columns. The first two columns should be skinny, 2-3 cm wide, and the second two should be wide. Title the columns as follows:

  1. Section
  2. Mark
  3. Things I did well
  4. Things to improve

Start with Paper 1 Section 1. Write P1S1 in the first column and your mark out of 15 in the second column. Then read over the mark sheet and your paper for comments. List the positives in dot point form in the third column and the negatives in the fourth. It should end up looking something like this:

Section Mark Things I did well Things to improve
P1S1 11
  • Identifying poetic techniques
  • Answering the question
  • Using quotes
  • Identifying visual techniques

Rule off that row when you’re done and do the same things for Sections 2 and 3; then start on Paper 2.

When you’ve got comments down for each section, read over your table. Grab a highlighter and highlight any comment that appears more than once. For example, you may not have quoted enough in Section 1, Section 3 and Module C. It can be trickier for Section 2; however, if a Section 1 comment was that you didn’t identify sufficient literary techniques and a Section 2 comment was that you didn’t use enough literary techniques, count that as a double comment because identifying and employing are two sides of the one skill.

Once you’ve finished analysing and highlighting, make a to-do list. This list may include filling in gaps in your summaries and notes, practising a particular skill, or memorising quotes. Example:

To Do

  • Memorise more quotes from Hamlet
  • Add film techniques to summary of Blade Runner
  • Learn more visual techniques
  • Practise writing integrated paragraphs

Turn this list into an action plan and plug it into your study schedule.

Monday

  • watch youtube clips of Hamlet’s soliloquies, read along
  • re-read Mrs Langford’s Blade Runner viewing log and add film techniques to notes

Tuesday

  • write 3X ten-minute paragraphs for Belonging, submit to English teacher for feedback
  • review list of visual techniques from glossary

ETC

Note: If your Trial HSC papers don’t have much in the way of comments on them, give them to your English teacher or tutor and ask for more detailed feedback.

 

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A study of context can be arduous, particularly for students not enamoured of history; however, an understanding of a text’s context—along with its audience and purpose—is integral to developing an understanding of the text. With modern texts this is easier, the context is similar to your own, but it is much more difficult when it comes to a context that is far removed in either time or space. Elizabethan England is a particularly complex and turbulent context to study but it is also one of the most important because it’s Shakespeare’s.

There is one Shakespeare play in each module of the current Advanced English HSC Syllabus.

Area of Study: As You Like It
Module A: Richard III (with Al Pacino’s Looking For Richard)
Module B: Hamlet
Module C: Julius Caesar

Understanding the political, social and personal context surrounding the plays you study can help you in a number of ways. The texture of the world can influence the texts produced within it. As You Like It can seem simple if you don’t know that the original Rosalind would have been a boy actor, playing a girl who is pretending to be a boy. Hamlet’s delay makes more sense in the context of the religious anxiety of the Reformation. The ghosts and portents that foretell the death of Julius Caesar echo the eclipse that some believe signalled the end of Elizabeth’s reign. The demonisation of Richard III becomes a clear political move when one understands the family relationship between the Tudors and the House of Lancaster.

But how do you learn all this stuff? Enter American author Bill Bryson and his biography of William Shakespeare.

Bill Bryson’s biography of Shakespeare is a comprehensive guide to Shakespeare’s life, Shakespeare’s world and Shakespeare scholarship. Bryson shot to authorial fame with his travel writing about journeys in England, America and Australia. His Shakespeare reads like a travelogue to Elizabethan England. Bryson neatly weaves known facts, supported by historical and literary evidence, with speculation and educated guesses.

The book is structured chronologically, beginning with an introduction to the world into which William Shakespeare was born and ending with the speculation surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.

Read this book before the Trials. It will strengthen your contextual and scholarly understanding of your Shakespeare text.

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