Hsc English Essay Length For Common

Everyone makes mistakes. So , what are the 8 common mistakes HSC English students make in exams that you don’t want to? Read on and find out!

Common Mistakes

1. Skimming over the question

You need to read every question carefully! Essay questions often contain a number of components that need to be addressed in your response.

For example:

“To what extent do the texts you have studied reveal both the emotional and intellectual responses provoked by the experience of discovering?

In your response, refer to your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing.”

This question requires the student to address a number of components in their response.

  • ‘To what extent’ – Make a judgement on the influence of different textual forms on the way messages are conveyed.
  • ‘reveal’ – This asking you to discuss how the texts demonstrate ideas.
  • ‘emotional and intellectual responses’ – This instructs you to focus on particular parts of the syllabus outline. They are –
    • “Discoveries can be fresh and intensely meaningful in ways that may be emotional, creative, intellectual, physical and spiritual. They can also be confronting and provocative. They can lead us to new worlds and values, stimulate new ideas, and enable us to speculate about future possibilities. Discoveries and discovering can offer new understandings and renewed perceptions of ourselves and others. “
    • “The impact of these discoveries can be far-reaching and transformative for the individual and for broader society. Discoveries may be questioned or challenged when viewed from different perspectives and their worth may be reassessed over time. The ramifications of particular discoveries may differ for individuals and their worlds.”
  • ‘the experience of discovering’ – general themes and ideas of the module.”

If you are unsure of how to approach essay questions, you should read this part of the Beginner’s Guide To Acing HSC English.

2. Failing to write a rough essay plan

Jotting down a brief essay plan will give your essay focus and make it clear where each paragraph is going. This is key to achieving high marks and will prevent you from wasting time by writing paragraphs that don’t contribute to your argument.

During the reading time, figure out your essay plan in your mind and then at the start of the exam, quickly write a few notes on the question paper. It will help you to sketch out the rough structure of your argument, this way you have something to refer back to as you work.

3. Forgetting about the time limits

This is an important one. During the two exams you have 2 hours to answer three sections. this works out to 40 minutes per section with some extra reading time. Students should allow themselves 35 minutes per section. This will allow you 5 minutes up your sleeve per section.

You need to stick to this 35 minute time limit in order to sufficiently answer every question. Check the clock after you finish writing every paragraph if you have to. Remember, because you have 5 minutes spare for each section you can use this to go back to a question that you haven’t finished, or reread your responses and give them a final edit!

4. Rewriting an essay from memory

Students writing from memory usually fail to adequately address the question. This relates back to the first point. A pre-written essay will never directly address a question for an exam. You must Instead, focus on memorising quotations, techniques, and their effects to craft them into a sustained argument!

5. Providing more content than analysis

The marks are in the details! Don’t spend more than one sentence per paragraph providing an overview of your text and never use examples from the plot to support your argument unless they are connected to quotations or techniques. Remember, your focus should be on techniques and how these represent the ideas in your texts!

6. Being messy

Your markers need to read your essays to give you marks! Try to be as neat as possible under the pressure of the exam. Illegible paragraphs will not give you any marks. It is also better to start a new page rather than drawing confusing arrows all over your paper.

7. Don’t get a full night’s sleep

Don’t stay up all night cramming! You’ve made it this far. Have faith that all the knowledge you’ve absorbed over the past year will serve you well and allow yourself to rest up the night before the exam. This will help you think clearly and not crack under the pressure.

8. Forgetting to write their student number on the booklet

Markers must know who the marks belong to! It may sound obvious, but this is a common mistake. Make sure you write your student number on the front before you start writing inside each booklet.

Want to take your English skills to the next level?

  • © Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Essay writing is the most important skill you need to develop in your HSC year. Success in HSC English will depend on your ability to write convincing, powerful essays that convey your understanding of both the Area of Study and Modules units. It’s understandably daunting to think that so much of your mark revolves around one skill but fortunately, with a bit of direction and structure, a Band 6 essay is achievable.

When marking an essay, teachers and HSC markers want to see that you’ve developed a complex and in-depth understanding of a text (or pair of texts, as the case may be) and in order to show them this, you need to express your ideas clearly. As such, nothing is more important than simplicity and structure!

The first is self-explanatory – if you misuse complex words because you think they’ll make your essay look more intelligent, you’re more likely to lose marks on account of their misuse. If you get a point across using straightforward language you’re guaranteeing that the marker will understand you and you’re more likely to get marks that way. If you are not confident about how to use a new word, it’s best to leave it out and replace with a word you are comfortable with.

Structure is another story altogether. A good essay is a circular (in that the conclusion always links back to the introduction), self-sustaining (in that all arguments put forward will be thoroughly explored in the essay) beast, one that gives the reader everything they need to know. In order to achieve this, you need to structure the following elements.


The introduction is the first impression your reader will get, so it’s the most important part of an essay. You need to answer the question asked within the thesis statement then expand on your thesis in the introductory paragraph by introducing the texts, the themes within the texts and their relation to your Area of Study or particular Module. You also need to give an overview of the key techniques you will discuss later.


Question: How does the comparative study of two texts from different times deepen our understanding of what is constant in human nature?

Introduction (the thesis is bolded):

The comparison of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s 1992 film Blade Runner  the Director’s Cut  facilitates the examination of transforming societal values and the human condition. An examination of the transition from early 19th century England when Romanticism was challenging aspects of the dominant Enlightenment discourse founded upon science and rationalism to late 20th century America, a period influenced by Reaganomics and rampant scientific development in cloning and technology, reveals a shift in societal values.

However, both texts explore similar aspects of humanity including humanity’s pursuit of  progress and power, questioning of the human identity and refusal to consider the morality of their actions, albeit in different paradigms. Thus, as texts are a reflection of their context and its values, it is evident that aspects of human nature remain constant irrespective of context.

If you would like more detailed information on how to write introductions, you should look at our essay writing series. Read the first post How to Write a Thesis Statement – a step-by-step guide and we’ll explain why a thesis statement is so important, and walk you through the process of creating them.


Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph must deal with a particular theme or text, and must start with a topic sentence. A topic sentence, similar to a thesis statement, will tell the reader what you plan on discussing. From there, you must justify your statements with evidence. A basic tool you can use is the T.E.E. system – highlight a technique, identify an example and explain the effect – the effect will relate to your topic sentence, which in turn relates to your thesis! The conclusion of a body paragraph must sum up your argument for the paragraph and relate it to the thesis once again.

In terms of what should be in your body paragraphs, you should aim for analysis which is insightful and informed. It is not always easy to form an insightful opinion of a complicated text, so to get started, you will have to do some reading of critical analysis written by experts like academics, reviewers of plays or productions.


The T.E.E structure in practice has been indicated with the following colours:


In Frankenstein, Shelley explores the transgression of the natural order in the Romantic ideal by humanity’s ongoing pursuit for progress and knowledge, a consequence of the Enlightenment Era and the Industrial Revolution. Victor’s overreaching ambition to overcome the natural boundaries of mortality by taking God’s creator role is highlighted in the metaphor “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds… I should break through“.Victor’s hubristic ambitions criticises aspects of Enlightenment rationalism which attempted to control natural processes, exemplified in Galvani’s experimentation with “animal electricity”.

If you would like to know more about writing topic sentences, you should read our posts on How to Write a Thematic Framework and How to Write a Topic Sentence to see learn how the introduction and topic sentences work together. In addition, our step-by-step guide will walk you through how to write a body paragraph.



A conclusion can often be both the easiest and most difficult part of an essay. You must never introduce new arguments or information in a conclusion, nor can you merely restate the introduction. A conclusion must draw on the fundamental idea that you have extracted from the question, and which you have based your entire essay on – in essence, you need something reflective and thought-provoking to leave with the reader.

Example: In the shift from 19th century England to Reaganite America, the foundation of power migrated from scientific knowledge to a greater focus on economics and capitalism. However, despite their differing contexts, both Frankenstein and Blade Runner  suggest that humanity’s pursuit of power and progress has resulted in a continuous foregoing of the moral and ethical concerns of their actions. Thus the comparison of these two texts reveals how these fundamental flaws are ingrained in human nature and that they will paradoxically remain constant even as society and its values inevitably shift.

For more detail on how to write a conclusion, read our step-by-step guide.

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© Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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