Area of Study Discovery is the big scary phrase that you will be accosted with for a good portion of the year. This portion of the syllabus relates to your first HSC examination or as it is more notoriously known ‘Paper 1’. This paper is broken up into three sections.


Section 1: Comprehension

Throughout your high school experience, teachers have been spitting information at you in the hopes that it has been absorbed. Six years of high school is now going to translate to approximately 40 minutes of testing whether any of it has stuck. Preparing for this section of the exam is the long-game solution. What will help you the most will be an appreciation for art and culture.

The simplest way to improve your comprehension is to watch movies that you like, listen to songs and read books while thinking about what they mean for you and the world at large. This is a skill that you must cultivate, it won’t come overnight but if you focus on things that are meaningful to you as textual mediums, you will find it much easier to comprehend what you are studying. Over time links will pop up and you will see meaning in things that before just seemed confusing and meaningless. The bigger your general knowledge, the more links you can make in your brain.


Section 2: Creative Writing

With creative writing you are in one of two camps. Either you find it really easy to come up with unique ideas that are compelling or you struggle to find coherent structure in your stories, interesting characters and conflicts that are believable. Regardless of which camp you most closely associate with, there is a way to cook up a coherent story that makes sense.

A short story in the higher school certificate should be roughly 800-1200 words in length and contain a fairly simplistic plotline. All that is meant by plotline is creating a particular conflict or problem that arises for the characters. It doesn’t need to be all that original, you aren’t expected to be writing to the standard of Mark Twain but do try to avoid clichés that are over-used. This could be something like writing in a love triangle, which reads like every other teen romance or having the character wake up and learn that everything that happened in the story was a dream. A cliché can also be the language that you use. Avoid phrases like ‘he fell asleep at the wheel,’ ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel,’ ‘call it a day,’ ‘climbing the walls’ and a whole host of others. If you are worried that your story has a cliché in it, use your millennial ingenuity to find out how to fix the problem. Google common clichés and you will get a clear picture of exactly what not to say in a story. The reason why this point has been hammered home so spiritedly is because writing in a cliché is the fastest way to turn a high range creative writing piece into a just-pass – and nobody wants that.


Section 3: Extended Response

Extended response is essentially code for ‘essay under exam conditions.’ The terms in your mind should be interchangeable. The word ‘Area of Study’ also shouldn’t scare you. It is just the theme that will be being used from 2015 to 2018(20). The good news is that this is one of the easier essays to write due to the broad nature of the topic. Paper One is designed to ease you into the HSC. It is not only the first exam for English, it is also the very first exam of the entire HSC.

Let’s breakdown an excerpt from the Area of Study section of the syllabus:

In the Area of Study, students explore and examine relationships between language and text, and interrelationships among texts. They examine closely the individual qualities of texts while considering the texts’ relationships to the wider context of the Area of Study. They synthesise ideas to clarify meaning and develop new meanings. They take into account whether aspects such as context, purpose and register, text structures, stylistic features, grammatical features and vocabulary are appropriate to the particular text.

The key phrase to focus on is ‘synthesise ideas to clarify meaning and develop new meanings.’ What the Board of Studies is saying here is that they want you to think about a range of ideas surrounding the Area of Study, think about what those ideas mean to individuals, cultures and societies and then to bring together these ideas along with your own thoughts on the topic.


This post contains an excerpt from ‘The Band 6 Formula: The Ultimate Guide to Essay Writing Success‘. Click the link to download a copy.