7 Day HSC Study Plan for HSC Standard & Advanced English

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With your HSC Standard & Advanced English exam right around the corner, you don’t want to be slacking off or cramming: you want to be studying to get the best marks you can possibly score. But it’s not about rewriting notes or remembering your essay word-for-word, it’s about practice.

Here’s your 7 Day Study Plan for Acing HSC Standard & Advanced English!

Make sure you also check out our other HSC 7 Day Study Plans!

Day 1: Know Thy Enemy

Familiarise yourself with HSC Past Papers – 10 minutes

Here’s a list of all the English Standard and Advanced past papers from 2010 – 2016 so you can get used to the format and structure of the exam itself. You’re welcome.

Paper 1 - Area of Study Paper 2 - Standard Paper 2 - Advanced
AOS 2017 Area of Study - Standard and Advanced AOS 2017 -
Paper 2 (Modules) - Standard
AOS 2017 -
Paper 2 (Modules) - Advanced
HSC 2016 Area of Study - Standard and Advanced HSC 2016 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Standard HSC 2016 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Advanced
HSC 2015 Area of Study - Standard and Advanced HSC 2015 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Standard HSC 2015 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Advanced
HSC 2014 Area of Study - Standard and Advanced HSC 2014 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Standard HSC 2014 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Advanced
HSC 2013 Area of Study - Standard and Advanced HSC 2013 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Standard HSC 2013 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Advanced
HSC 2012 Area of Study - Standard and Advanced HSC 2013 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Standard HSC 2012 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Advanced
HSC 2011 Area of Study - Standard and Advanced HSC 2011 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Standard HSC 2011 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Advanced
HSC 2010 Area of Study - Standard and Advanced HSC 2010 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Standard HSC 2010 - Paper 2 (Modules) - Advanced

Organise your notes – 15 minutes

Organise all the notes you have on Area of Study and Modules, including any quotes, essay materials, extra resources etc. Divide them into Area of Study, Module A, Module B and Module C.

Prioritise your notes – 15 minutes

Go through your notes and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are these notes to do with the key themes of Discovery/(Module)?
  • Can I use these notes in an essay?

If you answered no to either of them, put them in an ‘Irrelevant’ pile. The rest of them, you can keep.

Identify your weaknesses – 45 minutes per Paper

  • First, get your trial HSC paper out for English, and go through and write down your marks and feedback from your teacher for each section – to improve your marks you’re going to need to change what went wrong in your Trials.
  • Second,  select ONE Area of Study and ONE Modules past paper from above. Given the Area of Study (Discovery) is new, we’ve put together this list of 20 practice essay questions for Discovery for you to use!
  • Mark down any questions with which you might struggle. Look up key HSC Verbs that you may not fully understand. Jot down any themes which would come to mind when reading a question.
  • After going through your trials and a past HSC questions and writing down feedback, key verbs, and difficult questions you’ve now got a focus area for each section of the paper you need to work on over the next week!

Day 2: Area of Study – Discovery (Essay)

Determine your strongest themes – 5 minutes

Choose your three top themes shared by both your prescribed text and your related text/s.

Construct a TEE Table for each text you have – 5 minutes per text.

A TEE Table is a table which explores the Technique/Example/Effect of a snippet of your text. You should have at least 4 pieces of evidence per text. For example, the film Zaytoun can be used for Discovery. For the Discovery theme of ‘Rediscovering something which was once lost‘, the TEE Table for it should look like this:


Technique Deep focus of the camera upon the contrast between Yoni and Fahed at the abandoned fairground in war-torn Beirut.
Example Director Eran Riklis places Yoni in the foreground, walking determinedly without distraction to find his way back to Israel as a normal adult would whilst Fahed plays in the background upon a large waterslide, screaming with laughter.
Effect The juxtaposition of the one-tracked-mind Yoni against Fahed playing innocently upon waterslide in amongst bomb craters elicits an emotional response from the viewer as Fahed rediscovers what has been lost - his childhood.


Except with 4 pieces of evidence instead of one.

Choose whether to memorise or write your essay.

You have two choices to make about how you complete your essay in the HSC:

Method 1 Method 2
Memorising a pre-written essay: this method is a hotly debated one, but one that has been used and abused by HSC students for a long time. This method revolves around creating a polished, high-quality essay and memorising it word-for-word before entering the exam room. All you have to do is then adapt your pre-written essay to the question by changing a few things around and inserting the thesis. Preparing quotes, themes, and ideas: this method revolves around memorising quotes, themes, and ideas in your texts in order to adapt to the proposed question in the exam. This method requires students to engage deeply with their texts and understand the thematic ideas in a sophisticated way.
Pro: High quality essay, Easy to rattle off and adapt mid-exam (little thinking required). Pro: Grants you the freedom to choose the best pieces of evidence to support your themes at any time, Often results in an appropriate, tightly structured essay.
Con: Difficult/boring to memorise, Can result in a formulaic and sometimes misguided essay, if done poorly. Con: Requires a lot of study – assumes deep familiarity with the texts used, Sometimes difficult to adapt on-the-fly mid-exam.

Thus, you can choose to either write and memorise your essay (method 1) OR familiarise yourself with key themes, ideas, and evidence (method 2).

Complete Practice Essay Questions – 5 minutes planning, 30 minutes writing per essay.

  • Put your work into practice and complete practice questions using your TEE table for each text. Mel has written a bunch of practice questions for Discovery which you can use to write your practice essays.
  • Do at least two of the practice essays using the materials that you have prepared. The more you do the better as this will help you lock into your memory your quotes, themes and examples + it will also help you develop exam technique so in the exam on the fly you’ll feel comfident responding to any question that get’s thrown at you!

Why 35 minutes only for each practice essay? If you can write an essay in 35 minutes in practice, in the exam when you have 40 minutes, you’ll feel like you’ve got all the time in the world!

Day 3: Module A | Day 4: Module B | Day 5: Module C

The instructions for Days Three, Four, and Five are identical: spend each day preparing an essay for each respective Module.

Yes, it seems dull and repetitive, but this method works! Follow the steps outlined in Day Two to aid your preparation for each Module. So go through and create a TEE table for each text, covering your main themes.

Remember: the more familiarity you have with your texts, the better! Memorise themes, quotes, and key ideas regardless of which method you use.

Complete Practice Essay Questions – 5 minutes planning, 30 minutes writing.

Complete at least 2 practice questions for each Module from the Past Papers up above.

Day 6: Area of Study – Discovery (Comprehension and Creative Writing)

After four days of continuous essay preparation, it’s always good to shake things up with a bit of comprehension and creative writing.

Comprehension – 40 minutes. 

Revise visual and textual techniques. Increasing your technical vocabulary is a sure-fire way to simplify the comprehension section of the English paper. Review techniques like: alliteration, enjambment, Rule of Thirds, symbolism, synecdoche, imagery, colour psychology. 

Find an advertisement. Write down at least two techniques used to give meaning to what the advertiser is trying to sell using visual and textual language.

Creating Writing – 45 minutes

Was your creative salvageable from your HSC trials?

If so, use these tips to proofread, edit and polish your creative writing 

  • Identify five language techniques you have used in your creative piece.
  • On a scale of 0-10 (0 being none at all, 10 being completely obvious), how identifiable is a theme of Discovery addressed in your creative piece?
  • What themes of Discovery have you covered?
  • What mark would you give yourself?
  • Read more on marking your own creative here.

If you give yourself anything less than 10/15, go over it again and continue to improve it using this guide here.

Need to re-write your creative from scratch?

Don’t stress – we’ve put together a step by step guide here. 

Day 7: Fine Tuning & Last Minute Prep

  1. Get a new Area of Study Discovery question (from here) and in 35 minutes write (closed book) a practice essay
  2. Get a new stimulus for creative writing (from here) and practice adapting in 30 minutes your creative writing story
  3. Use a past HSC paper from the above list and (closed book) do your best to answer each question and write your essay (35 minutes each). Running out of time to do this? Just write in dot-points!
  4. Spend 20 minutes revising Comprehension – do a past paper on Belonging and change all the questions to ‘Discovery’
  5. Mark your practice past paper exam according to the BOSTES Marking Rubric.
  6. Revise all your materials again
  7. Finally, get some sleep!

Good Luck!

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Jack Theodoulou
 studies a double degree of Education/Arts majoring in English at the University of Sydney. Previously an instructor of classical guitar, Jack began coaching at Art of Smart in 2015. In his spare time, Jack often finds himself entangled in a love-hate relationship with fiction-writing and a (possibly) unhealthy obsession with video games.

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