English Paper 1 Essay Lengthener

Cian Menton and Olivia Cunningham from Trinity Comprehensive in Ballymun as they prepared before their first Leaving Cert exam. Source: Leah Farrell

THE FIRST PAPER of this year’s Leaving Cert is done, and overall students seem quite happy.

So as students stream out of schools and discuss how the exam went – what did teachers make of English Paper One, which contains questions on essays, reading comprehensions, and functional writing.

So how did it go?

“Leaving Cert students seemed quite happy with both the Ordinary Level and Higher Level papers,” says Kate Barry of the Irish National Organisation for Teachers of English.

“The general reaction seems to be ‘Not too hard, not too easy’ because they like something that will challenge them.”

“In Higher Level, the texts were lovely, especially the first text. The second was a bit harder, and the third one was very nice.”

Celine Gallagher, Higher Level Leaving Cert English Student at Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Enniscrone said the texts were easy to discuss and relevant.

“I found it easy to talk about, given that we’re living through it and we’re always talking about. Text 3 on childhood memories, made it easy to take a personal approach and include funny anecdotes.”

The ‘Question b’s were “what we’d expect” Barry said. One of those questions asked for students’ opinions on relying on the internet for news updates, which was “topical and positive for those that read up on current affairs”.

Question b about poetry was “different and new”, and gave students a “nice opportunity to write about poems that they wouldn’t use tomorrow”.

The essay questions were “very very nice”, according to Barry.

“They were well-pitched, not too juvenile, as sometimes they can be a bit too teenager-y, but there were questions about advertising, democracy, and on how scientists and writers contribute to society.”

There was one ‘silly’ question though: imagine it was the Stone Age and you’ve just invented the wheel.

Source: English Paper One

Barry pauses after reading it out.

You might be able to write a humourous piece… but hopefully not too many people chose that question.

Leaving Cert Ordinary

Lorraine Tuffy, Studyclix Expert Teacher and English Teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Enniscrone said that a well-prepared student would have been happy to see the first question.

“The article for inclusion in a school magazine offering advice to Leaving Certificate students on how to develop study skills, maintain a healthy lifestyle and balance in the build up to exams will be welcomed by many Ordinary Level candidates who are well equipped to answer this question.

A question on Text 3 proposes that all teachers in Irish schools will be replaced by robots. Candidates were asked to write letters to the Editor of a newspaper giving reasons why they do or do not support the proposal.

“This question undoubtedly invited some humorous considerations on the student’s part. I’d be interested to read what some of my students wrote for that one.”

Kate Barry agrees.

“The text was really good – it was about school and schooling, which was really nice and positive. Often kids read negative things in the media, so this was something positive, without being gushy.”

First year of Junior Cert changes

File photo. Source: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

The significance of the first year of controversial changes to the Junior Cert exam, obviously wasn’t lost on the State Examinations Commission who chose ‘mystery’ as the theme of the paper.

The Higher Level paper has been cut down from two papers to one, and Barry says that the issue with that are evident straight away.

“An exam paper is a bit like a political poll – you want an evenly spread random sample from the course. But parts of the course didn’t appear on the paper – there was no fiction question.”

Barry says that she’s aware that one paper would save costs for the State, but said that teachers would have reservations that the breast of the course wasn’t being assessed.

But they were aware that this was the first time students would have been doing the exam, so there were no nasty surprises and students are mostly happy.

So was it a good start to the first day of exams?

“Oh yes, very much so,” Barry says. “The Leaving Cert is a nice examination in that the format is the same every year, but the content changes a lot.”

But tomorrow is the day for the big Leaving Cert paper, English Paper Two, which contains questions on novels, plays… and poets.

English Paper One went well enough, but it's Paper Two tomorrow that's the real worry for me 💀 #LeavingCert

— Danny Brennan (@DannyBrennan72) June 7, 2017
Source: Danny Brennan/Twitter

“Well they’re worth the same in terms of marks,” Barry stresses. “The second one, if they’re well-prepared and done the work on five poets, then they’ve nothing to worry about.”

Exam time: Here’s how your breathing and imagination can help during your exams

Exam advice for parents: How to support your child during the Junior and Leaving Cert

Oh God!! HSC English Paper 1 is in two days…and I haven’t studied for it at all!

If this is you right now, don’t freak out too much because I am sure there are heaps more students in the situation shown below.

The HSC English Paper 1 Exam is the ONLY exam, which will be taken by every single student in NSW (that is approximately 7000 students!). Therefore, this is the only exam for you to stand out from all the other students and impress the markers with your superbly crafted responses.

In this article, we will go in extreme depth for every single type of possible questions that could be asked. Hopefully, after reading the article, your mark will be bumped from a 5/15 to a 15/15.

Part 1 Unseen Texts

Part 1 of Paper 1 is designed to get you ready for HSC exam. Consisting of a number of short answer questions, this section is your chance to show off your amazinginsight into how several unseen texts present different ideas about discovery.

You will be asked to do a number of different things when answering questions. We will give a detailed explanation of exactly what to do when you are asked each type of question to get full marks.

Get ready to delve in! There is quite a lot!


  • This can be the key word of the last question which expects you to base your answer on 2 or more texts.
  • Identify the components and the relationship between the text, exploring how techniques convey concepts of discovery.
  • NOTE: such question is usually around 3-5 marks and requires at least 10 lines (written).
  • Expected to analyse 2-3 (only 2 if you analyse in DEPTH) techniques in depth as well as relating it to the question or aspects of discovery asked.
  • Usually requires minimum 8 lines (written).

Example: ‘Analyse how composer represents the sense of culture and belonging’ -3 marks


The character feels he does not belong at school, but he feels more comfortable at home. The character initiates “I couldn’t seem to learn anything or win anything”. The usage of first person instigate an intimate reader-author relationship. Consequently this resonates the reader’s feelings with the author. Also, by starting the prose with a satirical tone, this encompasses the idea of the author not feeling belonged at school.


When being asked to read what the character did in the summer, the character supplied a three page essay full of misfortune, the teacher later exclaimed “but I don’t think we’ll have time today”. Sarcasm was used by the teacher which was juxtaposed by her saying “and do some colouring until playtime”. Thus greatly evokes a negative attitude from the teacher. Ultimately, this illustrates a negative tension between the teacher and the student.


As a result, the composer effectively represented how clashes within cultures could jeopardise one’s sense of belonging. Such representation is immensely articulated through the usage of judicious language devices.

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  • Also very likely to be the key verb of the last question (3-5 mark).
  • Establish the value of a particular idea or text.
  • Expected to have at least 3 (depends on mark distributed) analysis on 3 techniques that relate to the aspect of discovery asked by the question.
  • REMEMBER: you MUST give a judgment on your assessment of how good the text conveys meaning with reasonable judgment made upon your analysis in your conclusion.
  • Minimum 8 lines (more if 4-5 marks).
  • Need a concluding sentence summing up your assessment of your text.

Example: ‘Assess how TWO of the texts explore the concept of belonging”- 5 marks


The concept of not belonging is depicted by highlighting the misfortunes of such peril to a group of people. Thus, this provides the reader, in reverse psychology, a better understanding of learning to accept one another instead of rejection. Texts one and four are examples of the consequences of exclusion and denial. Both composers portrayed this through the character’s perception. Ultimately, this emanates empathy from readers which heighten how a lost of belonging could severely impact of ones sense of well being.


Text one explores effectively the idea of being rejected within society. The composition of the artwork of a salient man with sticks protruding from his body in the midground and silhouettes of people with sticks in the background is etched within a ripped page. The corrugated edges makes the page seemed used and uncared of. The metaphor implied of a single page emphasises a forgotten event in the story of the character, being a synecdoche of one book gives it an effect that there are more pages to come. This provides the viewer with hope that this may be one page but there may be other pages that may portray the character’s act of resilience. Set in the foreground is an animal creates a shift in perception that the viewer is the animal, small and helpless. The mouse-like creature is symbolic of a bystander, something that can only watch but doesn’t act. The viewer is juxtaposed as the mouse to depict the artist’s portrayal of the bystander effect. This further strengthens the viewer’s empathetic emotions. Space is utilized as the character is surrounded by blankness, this creates salience but also demonstrates the character’s loss of power and feelings of loneliness. Thus the artist illustrates broadly the signs of rejection revealing the consequences which was substantial for empathy providing society a better understanding of acceptance.


Text four highlights the consequences of denial from relationships between people. The author establishes a setting in description of “at school, I couldn’t seem to learn anything or win anything”. This creates a pessimistic mood, making the readers empathetic to the character. The use of colloquial language and a monotonous tonality associates the character with the reader, this creates a more engaging appeal for the reader to relate. The character reads the written essay “I played the tambourine and Elsie Norris brought her accordion…we’re going to have a jumble sale in the autumn” depicts what he did in the summer holidays. The use of anecdote or a story within a story creates a juxtaposition of contrasting mood between the diegetic classroom and non-diegetic home. This accentuates the non-diegetic as strengthened by the mood created among the classroom as static and boring already established from the beginning contrasting the dynamic and fun activities the character experience at home. This provides the reader an incite of the two types relationships within the character and feels empathy for the character’s urge to rather be at home instead. Thus, the reader is engaged within the story by being exposed to the effects of being denied to establish bonds with other individuals.


Conclusively, the  authors of text one and four demonstrated the consequences of not belonging to a group of people. This is demonstrated through highlighting the characters misfortunes. Thus, this gives access for the audience to support acceptance instead of catalyzing rejection and denial for an individual.



  • Show how things are similar or different. (2-5 marks)
  • Expected to have at least 2 (usually) analysis on EACH TEXT that’s been asked in the question.
  • Must show similarity and difference within the texts regarding the concept of discovery being asked (depends on the question).
  • Needs a clear argument/ thesis on the contrast of your texts at the beginning and the end of your response.

Example: ‘Compare how composer of text 2 and text 4 illustrate their view of discovery”-3 marks


Both composers effectively employ distinctive visual techniques to highlight the cornerstones and fundamental processes, which take place on ones venture to discovery.


Text two utilises extreme dark pencil shading with immediately evokes a tension of omen and despair to the audience. This is amalgamated by the use of medium shot in the artwork to effectively capture the unified, solemn expression of all the people in the painting. Consequently, this highlights how obstacles and the need to reach out of one’s comfort zone play a central role in discovery.


Text four on the other hand, uses brighter colour instead to capture audience’s attention. Without even having to delve into the image, viewers are already embraced by the multitudinous aspects of discovery through the effective use of synonyms of discovery, which are highlighted through bold front.



  • Estimate the worth of a text in a range of contexts and justify that estimations and it’s process. (3-6 marks)
  • Also can be the last question
  • see ASSESS


  • Relate cause and effect, make the relationship between things evident; provide why and/or how (2-4 marks)
  • Can be based on comprehension or how texts convey idea
  • Depending on what’s been asked, you can ignore the analysis part if you are out of time. BUT ANALYSIS ALWAYS RECOMMENDED

Example: ‘Explain how Jennifer develop a sense of place in the text. In your answer, refer to 2 examples’ -3 marks


The sense of place is skilfully crafted in the text from the dexterous usage of setting and visual imagery.


The setting seems to be “amid the impudence of summer thighs”. The use of synecdoche in ‘thighs’ suggests the proximity amongst people. This emphasises rapid flashes of images experienced by the character portraying a place full of people.


The character seems to be incomprehensive of the street-names that depict “formless collision of letters”. Visual imagery in ‘collision’ suggests the character is in mobile, moving so fast that street-names are not readable, seemingly colliding onto each other.



  • Recognise and name(max. 2 mark)
  • Can be an one word answer (recommended)
  • Can use one sentence maximum for explanation or conservative purpose (HIGHLY not recommended under time limit)

Example: ‘Identify 2 different techniques used by the poet to convey a sense of belonging”-2 marks


Two techniques used are the repetition of  impossibly in“impossibly black…obscure…dark…departed” and sibilance of “great silences of sea and sky” .


  • Needs an introduction that brings your idea on each text briefly.
  • 2-3 body paragraphs with analysis (2-4 techniques for each text)
  • A reasonable conclusion summing up your idea

(see the assess example)


Remember- When explaining/analysing how a concept is being explored in a text, you must

  1. Identify the technique being used. For AOS list of English Language Techniques, see: Literary and Visual Techniques Cheat Sheet.
  2. Give a quote to support the technique.
  3. ANALYSE how that technique and quote demonstrate the aspect of discovery, how does it manipulate your own perception.

Always Remember: use the marks allocated for each question as a guide to how much you should be writing.

A one mark question requires a fairly brief response, where a five mark question requires an in depth analysis of one or two text and the use of a high degree of textual evidence to support your argument.

Below is a rough guide indicating approximately how much time you should spend on each question based on marks allocated:

Action Point

  1. Read the questions carefully, paying particular attention to the key verbs and aspects addressed.
  2. Scan the texts for quotes/evidence/techniques.
  3. Use the marks allocation to guide you on time spent on each question.
  4. Write your answer.
  5. Read over after completing all sections of HSC English Paper 1.

Part 2 Creative Writing

And to master the Creative Writing aspect of the exam, be sure to check out our Art of Smart Creative Writing Crash Course Series (9 Episodes) 

Part 3 Essay

A well thought out and carefully structured piece of writing that answers the question will always gain the best marks. Remember to use formal, sophisticated language, and be careful of your spelling and grammar. Keep sentences concise and always link your paragraphs back to your main argument. Before submitting your work to be marked, use this checklist to ensure you have followed the conventions of essay writing.

Before Writing

  • Underline or highlight the key words in the question
  • Write a brief plan that includes your thesis, your body arguments and conclusion
  • Choose the quotes/evidence carefully


  • Answer the question to the fullest (not rewording the question, but provide your response to it using verbs relating the question)
  • Elaborate on different aspects of discovery that the question is asking for EACH TEXT, you must discuss all of them later in the essay
  • Introduce your prescribed and supplementary text with appropriate formatting (movies and novels usually requires underlining because they are main texts, poems and short story requires quotation marks)
  • Explain how each text present ideas about discovery through your thesis with synthesis (how the two texts differ or relate)
  • Your thesis must cover scope, depth and rigor : How to Write a Thesis Sentence for HSC English
  • Scope shows your understanding of the concept of discovery and how your text represents this aspect of discovery. Is it easy to argue? Are you able to back this up with your body paragraphs in a sustained way?
  • Rigour: How specific your argument is? Your introduction should show the extent you have thought about the question

Body Paragraphs (3 main points)

  • Topic sentence that answers the question and gives concise indication of the direction your paragraph will be going in- MUST address the thesis
  • Detailed discussion of how the composer explores the concept of discovery in the text
  • Explicit detailing of techniques used
  • Close textual evidence to show your argument and link back to the question CONSTANTLY
  • Detailed, in depth analysis of how your techniques and supporting textual evidences present a particular aspect of discovery. You should be interrogating and tearing the quotes apart
  • Concluding sentences linking your discussion back to your main argument
  • Each paragraph deals with a clearly defined separate point
  • Each topic sentence links back to the previous paragraph, building on your argument and connecting the question
  • You synthesise/compare your prescribed and related text CONSISTENTLY


  • Restate the terms of the question
  • Explain how analysis of each text demonstrates the aspect of discovery that the question asks

Action Plan

  1. Read the question thoroughly and think how you can fit your essay in a way that still answers the question explicitly.
  2. Plan out your introduction, body paragraph and conclusion.
  3. Include synthesis between your texts and always write analysis in your body.
  4. Read over your essay after you finish for minor grammar/spelling errors.

For more amazing tips to ace your HSC English Paper 1 essay, check out How to Write a Kickass Band 6 HSC English Essay.

Common Mistake Checklist 

Before submitting a piece of work, ask yourself the following questions. Does your response:

  • Bases its answer on one prescribed text only?
  • Includes several other texts?
  • Answers the question posed?
  • Explains what text says about the aspects asked by the question?
  • Have a balance in the treatment of each text?
  • Compares and contrasts ideas and themes?
  • Draws all these ideas together and synthesis them into an argument?
  • Uses formal and sophisticated language?
  • Have a clear and logical structure?
  • Uses correct spelling, grammar and punctuation?

So that is the complete guide on how to nail the HSC English Paper 1. Remember always look at this guide the night before the exam because it will save your life!!

Click here to download the HSC English Exam Techniques! 

Always have a good night sleep the day before the exam and by correctly using this guide, we can guarantee you that you will absolutely nail it!!

Looking for Notes on This?

If you need reliable notes or simply want to check your notes are right, take a look at HSC-Notes.com.

With these notes you can spend less time rewriting your textbook and worrying about whether your notes answer the syllabus dot points correctly and spend more time learning and practicing your skills knowing your notes are accurate and concise.

Head on over to HSC-Notes to get your HSC subject notes now

Good Luck!

Have a question for us?
Flick us a message on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artofsmart/), give us a call on 1300 267 888, or email us on info@artofsmart.com.au.

Yifan Shen completed his HSC in 2014 and is currently studying the Bachelor Of Economics/Advanced Mathematics at UNSW. Apart from nutting out equations and helping out students with their academic pursuit, you will find him either reading thriller novels or introducing a range of new people to the intricate and mysterious world of mathematics as the marketing representative of UNSW MathSoc. When he is drained from all of these work, you will also see him hiking, planking and water bending in his recovery mode.

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