The creative writing component of an exam can often be a vague and somewhat confusing. Also, it’s a little bit hard to prepare for a task that presents you with an unseen stimulus and question, which you could have never predicted. Here are a few strategies that can help you conquer creative writing in your next exam:
1. Don’t panic
Even though you may have never seen the stimulus provided, it’s important not to panic. Most stimuli are often pictures or short extracts from a longer text. You are not expected to analyse every minute detail of the stimulus provided. Rather, you need to understand the main message of the text and what it is communicates about the topic you are studying (discovery for HSC students this year). Also, to ease your nerves during an exam, it’s a good idea to take a look at some previous stimuli past papers so you have a good idea of what’s in store.
2. Use the reading time wisely
Most exams have an allocated reading time. For example, the HSC Paper 1 English exam has a ten minute allocated reading time. It’s important to use this time wisely by reading over/analysing the stimulus and formulating your own ideas about its main message and meaning. This is also the best time to pick a stimulus if you are given an option. Think about your idea and then consider which stimulus would most logically fit best into your response. By using these extra minutes efficiently, you’ll be able to interpret and answer the question with greater accuracy when it comes to writing.
3. Make sure your writing is logical
As time goes on, you may find yourself lost as you continue to write. Your piece may have started with a young man in space, but has quickly become about the Antarctic icebergs! To avoid this, it’s important you have the general start and end to your story in mind, and also to keep your writing logical and cohesive throughout. This way, the marker will be able to understand exactly what’s going on without confusion.
4. Keep track of the time
The mark allocation for the creative writing section is important to keep in mind. In high school, many exams with a creative writing component also have other parts, meaning that it’s essential to manage your time effectively so that you don’t lose site of the other sections and miss the opportunity to showcase all of your abilities. For example, focusing on the creative writing section for too long in HSC English Paper 1, may find you with only 10-15 minutes to write your entire discovery essay! A good way to make sure you won’t run out of time is by practicing your piece beforehand to make sure you can get it all down in the exam.
If you approach creative writing calmly and with a strategy in mind, you’ll easily tackle any questions that are thrown your way!
In May, year 3,5,7 and 9 NSW school students will be sitting their NAPLAN exams. The NAPLAN tests examine students’ reading, writing, grammar and numeracy levels, allowing parents to understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are a few pointers on how to best interpret and utilise your child’s NAPLAN results to further assist and nurture their education.
1. Understand the format of NAPLAN results
For each year group sitting the NAPLAN there are different minimum standards, which can be seen in the image below. The results also provide parents with the state average for each section along with their child’s school average. A more detailed explanation of interpreting NAPLAN results can be found at https://www.nap.edu.au/results-and-reports/how-to-interpret/national-literacy-numeracy-assessment.
2. Identify strengths and weaknesses
After understanding how to read and interpret NAPLAN results, it’s important to identify the areas in which your child excelled and the areas in which they need some assistance. You can do this by determining how your child performed both against the state and their school peers.
3. Take action
It’s important to encourage students in the areas they performed well by supporting their learning in those areas. It is also equally important to address the areas in which your child did not perform to their potential. You could do this by speaking with your child’s class teacher or by personally working with your child on certain areas.
With this support, your child will be able to gain valuable knowledge about their own educational outcomes, and as a parent, you too can understand the needs of your child better.
As we’re nearing the halfway point of term 1, many students maybe facing exams in just a few weeks. Whether you’ve just started high school and developing your study habits, or you’re in year 12 and have it sorted, here are a few tips to ensure that the time you spend studying is productive:
1.Learn and understand the content
It’s important to ensure you know all the content in your upcoming exam by reading the syllabus and relevant chapters of your textbook etc… However, it is also important that you understand the content that you have learnt so far. To do this, try and explore the subject area beyond the textbook by having a discussion with your teacher or by reading online summaries. This will allow you to consolidate and expand your knowledge via multiple sources.
2.Find answers to things you cannot understand
After trying your best to understand content, there maybe a few things you don’t understand, which is completely normal! However, it’s important you sort out these issues to ensure that they don’t affect your understanding of other parts of the course. You could speak to your school teacher, search for the answer in other textbooks or by booking some sessions with a Capra tutor. By asking someone for help, you’ll be able to solidify your understanding and tackle the relevant exam questions that may come your way.
3.Practise, Practise, Practise
Once you’ve understood the content in your exam, it’s important to put it into practice. One of the most productive ways of doing this is through past exam papers or questions from various textbooks. Through practice, you will be able to apply the knowledge you have learnt and effectively answer questions, leaving you calm and collected during your exam. It’s also a good idea to imitate exam conditions by timing yourself to ensure you are able to complete the exam in the required time.
4.Take time to relax
While it is important to study regularly for exams, it’s also important to take breaks and enjoy yourself. Excessive stress may hamper your performance also affect your physical and mental health. Taking some time out to relax is a good way to reflect upon the content and also restore your energy for more study.
Following these tips and engaging in consistent study will allow you to have more productive, effective study sessions and get you better equipped for your exams this term – after which you can begin planning for the holidays!
Apart from starting their final two years of schooling, Year 11 English students also face a new syllabus in 2018. What’s so different? Well, let’s break it down further.
1. You will study three modules
There are three specific modules year 11 English students will be studying in 2018:
a. Common Module: Reading to Write
– Focus on reading texts closely and analysing them for their themes and techniques
– Develop an understanding of how and why texts represent complex ideas
– Develop an understanding of the effect of features such as tone, syntax and imagery
b. Module A: Narratives That Shaped the World
– Develop an understanding of the various contexts in which texts are written
– Develop an understanding about how storytelling influences the way in which communities and individuals
– Discover the various ways in which texts can be re-imagined or re- conceptualised for a new audience
c. Module B: Critical Study of Literature
– Closely read a text and research it’s cultural/literary value
– Develop their own complex ideas about a text
– Discuss and express specific language features of a text
2. You will have three assessment tasks
– One of these tasks must be of a multimodal format
– One task will be a written assessment
3. The format of questions for HSC 2019 will change
The reason for all these changes to the Year 11 2018 English syllabus is because the format for the HSC from 2019 will change. The HSC English paper will move away from essay based questions and rather, focus on encouraging students to demonstrate their critical thinking and imaginative skills. In other words, questions will be focused on your understanding of the texts you are reading.
On a final note, remember that despite all these changes, one thing will still remain the same: regular study and revision will always be beneficial. Still need some help? No worries, click here to out find out how CAPRA can help you in your HSC year.
Section 1 of this paper consists of four unseen texts, which can be anything from a painting to an extract from a play or novel, and are usually a mixture of different text types, both visual and written. Following these, there are five questions, four of which are in response to individual texts, and the last which will ask you to compare two of them.
It is easy for students to dismiss this section of the paper due to the short length of the answers required, but it is important to remember that is is worth as many marks as the essay and creative writing sections. These are easy marks to gain and to lose!
Even though the answers in this section are short, it is important to remember to fully explain your ideas by using the PEEL (Point, Example, Explain, Link) structure, and to include specific references to the text, such as quotes or techniques. Answers which do not flesh out their ideas or include examples are heavily penalised, as the marking criteria only gives full marks to answers which explain in detail.
A simple guide to how much detail each answer needs is to look at the number of marks it has been allocated. The number of techniques you should use in your answer should correspond with how many marks it is worth, with the exception of the comparative question, where you should ensure that you refer to the two texts equally.
The 2014 notes from the marking centre indicated that candidates needed to improve in meeting the requirements of specific questions (for example, using the correct number of texts asked for), choosing the most appropriate quotes or textual features to support their arguments, and in analysing the texts with clearly explained textual references. In order to succeed, it is important to remember to cover these areas in your responses, as the markers will most certainly be looking closely to make sure students are improving!
The Area of Study covers a range of different kinds of discovery, including those which are emotional, creative, intellectual, physical, and spiritual. It encourages students to examine the personal, cultural, historical and social values and contexts of the texts they encounter. It also covers rediscovery of that which has been lost, forgotten or concealed. It is important to look back at the prescriptions list to ensure that your understanding of discovery covers all areas, and that you are confident using a range of different elements of discovery in your responses.
Finally, allow yourself to take the full forty minutes available to you for this section. It can be tempting to rush through it in order to give yourself more time for the essay and creative writing sections, but as each section is worth the same amount of marks, there is no sense in sacrificing it for the others.
Oliver Moore- Capra English Tutor
I am a mechanical engineering student at the University of New South Wales. As part of my degree I have been given the chance to do a lot of fun and interesting activities. For example, I have been on teams that have designed catapults, garbage-bots, pumps, coffee machines, satellites, trains and drones. This, I should mention, only covers one school of engineering.
There is a culture among high school students and high school leavers which is centralised around a student’s ATAR. Once you arrive at university, you will discover that your ATAR, and any remnants of its importance, is a thing of the past. This does not, however, suggest the ATAR is unimportant for you right now.
I wanted to do engineering and I wanted it to be at UNSW. I was quite lucky to get in: my ATAR was insufficient but universities often run further application processes. My path to entry involved an interview with a UNSW engineering academic who assessed my personal desire to study engineering and my performance in the relevant HSC subjects.
I got in to my chosen degree, but if I had acquired a stronger HSC result then my entry into university would have been significantly less troublesome (in fact, it could have been guaranteed). The big picture is while you may get an ATAR sufficient to get into your desired degree, a stronger ATAR can open more opportunities (such as scholarships). Perhaps you have multiple interests for study and your current results will only give you one of those opportunities. Will a higher ATAR solve this problem for you?
Achieving a strong ATAR tells an employer more than about your ability to write an essay or take the second derivative of a function. A strong ATAR will say you are a hard worker, you apply yourself and you are committed to doing something well. This, more than your academic abilities, is what your future employer is looking for.
Phillip Hamilton- Capra Tutor
My philosophy for learning.
When I’m teaching, one of my fundamental beliefs is that every child can succeed if they are given support, challenge and carefully chosen educational nourishment. Carol Dweck, a psychologist working at the University of Stanford, developed a new way of interacting with students in 2006 which she named ‘Growth Mindset’. The main aim of this theory was to empower learners by convincing them that they could learn anything and retain it, if their attitude was positive.
It sounds like a very simple idea, but the key to its success was in the clear language used to get this message across. When I teach, I tell the children that they ‘worked extremely hard’ to solve the problem, rather than that they were ‘clever’. Persistent, enthusiastic and hard-working learners will improve more than children who assume their intelligence is fixed. I encourage my learners to take charge over their own success by making them believe they can do it in the first place.
Adopting the Growth Mindset
My experiences have taught me that no one theory or idea can develop a child on its own. The vast range of personal, environmental and societal factors within the life of a 21st Century child makes learning a difficult task. The demands of testing and developing peer relations only makes the job more onerous. Turn the tables and try to master a video game or new app which a child finds so easy. How long would it take before you start to feel frustrated? How long before you give up? As adults, we know that to get something right, we have to practise and persevere. Too often we assume that children understand this concept too.
Learning is a fascinating, lifelong skill. The earlier a child finds their most effective strategies to learn, the better the results will be. But this can only happen if the child believes they are capable of learning in the first place. Part of my job is to teach new knowledge, but another part is to give children the confidence to become independent learners so that my role becomes that of the facilitator, instead of teacher.
Niall Hope- Capra Teacher
At some point, your teacher has probably handed you an essay with a comment like ‘you need a stronger thesis’. This is common. In fact, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t seen a comment like this, whether on a friend’s essay or your own. It can be baffling. There’s no clear mistake on the page—you can’t put your finger on anything you’ve done wrong—so it can be hard to say just what you should have done differently. I want to talk about this here.
Let’s start by acknowledging two different kinds of essays: essays that just show off what you know, for which you might score 17/20 (in one of the advanced modules, let’s say), and essays that also sustain a strong argument, for which you might get full marks. I’ll call the first kind an expository essay, and the second an argumentative essay. Obviously, you should aim to write argumentatively. If you’re used to seeing comments like ‘you need a stronger thesis’, there’s a good chance you’re writing expository essays. What’s more, if you write expository essays, ‘you need a stronger thesis’ might be the only substantial criticism you see. If that’s the case, the detail of your textual analysis is probably fine. What’s missing is the argument that frames your analysis, and the greater part of that argument is having a strong thesis. Your thesis, remember, isn’t just a few lines in your introduction. Your thesis is the thing you’re arguing for.
So what’s going wrong?
In most cases, the problem is that your thesis doesn’t differ enough from one that’s implicit in the question. It’s likely, in other words, that your thesis is basically a reformulation of the question. I’ve seen some students decide that this is a good approach. It can seem safe, and certain questions even appear to invite it—questions that ask ‘to what extent do you agree’, for example. If you want top marks, however, it’s not a good idea just to repeat what’s given to you. By themselves, most questions are far too simple to produce an interesting argument, and, more importantly, a decision to reformulate the question ignores the fact that novelty is a crucial part of any good thesis. Interpretation is what gives you something to argue for; you have to specify what you take the terms of the question to mean. Precisely because they’re couched in such simple terms, HSC questions cry out for it. If you don’t do this basic interpretive work, you’ll end up telling your reader—your marker—something that they already know, something that almost certainly goes without saying. In short, you’ll end up showing off what you know, rather than defending your understanding of it; you’ll end up writing an expository essay. A thesis doesn’t need to be radically original—just try writing something original about Hamlet, I dare you—but it does need to depart from the question.
Take as an example the questions given to extension students in the 2014 HSC. In every elective, students were asked to analyse how texts ‘engage us both intellectually and emotionally with significant ideas’. Imagine you had to answer this question. Clearly, it’s not enough simply to acknowledge that texts do engage us in this way. Before you can hope to answer this question, you have to let the reader know what the relevant ‘significant ideas’ are, and you have to specify what you take ‘intellectual and emotional engagement’ to mean. This isn’t something you can read off the question. Now, you’re probably tired of being reminded to ‘answer the question’, but it’s important to remember that answering a question involves more than leaving a trail of someone else’s terms scattered throughout your essay. Argumentative writing, after all, is also creative writing. When you sit down to write your introduction, it’s up to you to decide which ‘ideas’ qualify as ‘significant’, and to say what this significance consists in (this is why improvising introductions is invaluable exam practice). Writing stories is about naked invention; writing essays is about the novel articulation of an argument.
Once you know what you’re arguing for, you need to sustain the argument. I know that the word ‘sustained’ causes some confusion. It’s likely to puzzle you if you think that your thesis is something on the page—if, for example, you think ‘you need a stronger thesis’ is a comment about your introduction alone. This is a natural assumption if you think that a thesis is like a topic-sentence for the whole essay. It’s not. While it’s not a bad idea to conclude your introduction with a thesis-statement (in fact, it’s a good idea), a thesis-statement is no more a thesis than a punchline alone is a joke. Expository essays seem to want to get the thesis out of the way to make room for as much analysis as possible. The business of an argumentative essay, on the other hand, is to defend a thesis. So the whole of your essay must serve the thesis. Linking sentences are crucial here (I’m sure you’ve also seen the comment ‘refer back to the question’). They aren’t just recitations of the question; it’s no good writing this: ‘in this way, texts engage us intellectually and emotionally with significant ideas’. A linking sentence is meant to tie your paragraphs to your interpretation of the question. In other words, they’re meant not to remind the reader of what question you’re answering, but to draw the reader’s attention to how what you’ve just said contributes to your argument. This is what makes essays cohere. Each new paragraph represents another point in support of your thesis. Sustaining an argument is nothing more than making sure your paragraphs work together to this common end.
The take-home message of this post is a sort of holism: if you find yourself struggling to write a good thesis, you probably need to think about writing a different kind of essay. As you move through your final years of school, you need not only to show your reader what you know, you need to convince them that you understand.
Sam Lewin- Capra English Tutor
1. Show all working out. Ensuring that all of your reasoning and working is written down is crucial to obtain partial marks if your final solution is incorrect. Writing down all your working out also allows you to easily review and follow your solutions when checking your answers at the end. The marker can only mark what you have written, so don’t forget to include even the simplest of steps and calculations.
2. Substitute your answer back into the equation. When you solve an equation or inequality, check your solution by substituting your solution back into the original equation. Not all questions will allow you to do this, but where applicable, substituting the answer back in can minimise silly errors.
3. Look at the number of marks available. Check the amount of marks each questions is worth. If a question is worth only 1 mark, it will most likely require substituting a value into a formula or equation. If you find yourself writing half a page for 1 mark, then you are probably answering the question the wrong way. Stop and think before you start writing long solutions for 1 or 2 mark questions.
4. Use your reading time to interpret diagrams or graphs. At the start of reading time, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the last question, just to ensure that you answer every question up to it an including it. After you have familiarised yourself with the paper, turn to any questions that have graphs or diagrams. This will give you time to read the question thoroughly and start forming a solution. In 2 unit and 3 unit, you can start answering the geometry questions in your head before writing time has even started!
5. When questions say hence or otherwise, almost always use hence. Unless you know of a particular technique to solve the problem using less time, which is more accurate, always refer to the previous parts of the question. The examiners structure the questions to test your ability to combine different elements of the mathematics course. Normally, you will have to substitute or rearrange a previous part in order to answer the next part of the question.
6. Bring the correct equipment. This includes at least 2 calculators and a ruler. Try to make graphs and diagrams one-third to half a page in size. Use pencil for graphing functions and drawing diagrams so you can easily change them if you incorrectly draw them. Pen should be used for the rest of the paper.
7. Flag questions which require a high amount of calculation and come back to them at the end. It is quite easy to make a mistake when substituting values into the calculator. In general maths, when asked to compute the median or standard deviation of a set of data, or when integrating to find area or volume in 2 unit or 3 unit, it is very easy to make a computational error. Re-do the question after you have finished answering the paper, comparing your answers to ensure the calculation is correct.
Lindsay Ingram- Capra Maths Tutor