How to analyse an HSC English text

25 December 2020
25 December 2020 The Alchemy Team

HSC English is no easy ride. As the only mandatory HSC subject, there are lots of students who don’t particularly love the syllabus and there are even more that find it quite difficult. Part of the reason for this is that students are required to analyse texts as part of the course, and analysis is a pretty tricky skill to master.

If you’re cruising at band 3 or below, and even if you’re a top student already, the ability to thoroughly analyse a text could raise your grade significantly. To help you understand more, here’s our quick guide to analysing an HSC English text.

Know your texts, and understand what you’re being asked to do

Textual analysis is the cornerstone of HSC English, and you can’t write great essays without analysing your texts. The only catch is that to do that effectively, you’ll need to have an intimate understanding of your texts. There’s just no getting away from the fact that you need to read them so you can draw out the comparisons, links, and themes you’ll need for coherent analysis.

Why not also read: How to Study for the HSC English Exam

You also need to know what the examiners are looking for when they ask you to ‘analyse’ something. To understand that, we need to look at the HSC English syllabus – which you can find here. Now, whilst everything in HSC English ultimately comes down to analysis in one way or another, what we can say is that when you’re asked to analyse a text, the examiners want you to deconstruct the ideas, events, and themes that you’re reading about. It might be that you’re asked to break down a specific part of a text, the emotional responses displayed by characters, or the overriding themes.

The upshot is that you need to know your texts well enough to be able to understand and discuss the ideas and themes expressed by the authors.

Put your texts under a microscope

Top band HSC English answers do so much more than just recapping the texts, and it’s vital to actually answer the questions rather than just regurgitating everything that you’ve learned. Good analysis is all about cause and effect – examining the literary techniques used and how they give meaning or introduce a certain theme.

Why not get a HSC English tutor or a normal English tutor?

More often than not, you’ll be expected to pick up on a key theme that runs throughout a text and show how it’s communicated using the techniques you’ve studies. The key is to link everything you discuss back to the question in some way or another, and to find quotes that actually support what you’re saying.

Don’t go off on a tangent, don’t be tempted to provide a list of every part of the text where a certain theme is discussed, but do take a detail-orientated approach to finding the most powerful examples of the points that you’re making.

Run with your own ideas

The thing about literature is that it’s meant to be read subjectively. By that, we mean that everybody understands and interprets a text in their own individual way. Unless, of course, you read a quick online summary.

It might seem easier to just read SparkNotes or another online overview of your HSC English texts, but really you’ll just be cheating yourself. You see, the examiners can tell when somebody hasn’t read the text fully because they’ll only have a limited grasp of the themes, literary techniques, and plot points. That, and the fact that there’ll be a good few other papers that look suspiciously similar to yours.

Why not also read: How to do well in VCE

By actually engaging with the text, your analysis will be so much more authentic, and you’ll be able to home in on those unique perspectives that examiners love. Remember, there are no ‘wrong’ answers in HSC English – just so long as you can show evidence within the text for the points that you make.

Improve your analysis skills for HSC English

Fortunately, you’ll have a lot of time to sharpen your analysis skills – the whole school year in fact! Learning how to analyse a text is a process, and to do it properly you need to have an in-depth understanding of the subject material, the themes involved, and the literary techniques used to discuss, explore, and comment on those themes.

If you want to score highly on your HSC English paper, Alchemy Tuition can help. All of our HSC English tutors have been in the same position, and they’ve worked with thousands of students across New South Wales. To book an initial lesson or to find out more, visit our site.

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