St Francis Xavier's College students surprised after specific HSC questions in English Paper 2

Thumbs up: Max Wroe, Sam Harrison, Emma Zenini, Chloe Wilkins and Ivania Coluccio. Picture: Marina Neil

Thumbs up: Max Wroe, Sam Harrison, Emma Zenini, Chloe Wilkins and Ivania Coluccio. Picture: Marina Neil

STUDENTS at St Francis Xavier’s College Hamilton have given a thumbs up to English Paper 2, saying they were pleased they had an in-depth knowledge of their texts to be able to answer some unexpectedly specific questions.

A total of 58,097 students across NSW sat English (Advanced) and English (Standard) Paper 2 on Friday. 

They were given two hours to write three extended responses based on a range of prescribed texts, including Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Banjo Paterson’s poems and James Joyce’s Dubliners.

Students said it was the first time they had seen questions in the paper’s first section referring to specific extracts from the prescribed texts.

“It was definitely better than yesterday’s Paper 1,” said Chloe Wilkins, 17, who sat the advanced exam. “At first it was a bit scary, but I ended up coming out okay.”

The first section of the advanced paper was based on a comparative study of texts and context.  Chloe said one question asked students to refer to a specific quote from The Great Gatsby, plus one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s specific sonnets.

“The quote didn’t seem relevant to the question and it was annoying that it did not give us the context of who said it and when,” she said. “I did not know if it was Gatsby or not, but I wrote from that perspective. I’d prepared an essay based on the specific sonnet, so that part wasn’t too difficult.” Most students said they had prepared essay outlines, but Sam Harrison said he found these to be limiting.

The second section was a critical study of texts and the third section was about representation and text.

Max Wroe, 18, said the first section of the standard paper about experience through language was his favourite. He answered a question about speeches that asked students to refer to an extract from Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s UN Earth Summit speech.

“I prefer papers based on texts we’ve studied because they seem easier – you sort of have an idea of what to expect, instead of having to answer questions on stimulus you’ve never seen before.”

The second section was a close study of text and the third section was about texts and society. 

Emma Zenini, 18, said she “really liked” the paper, which she finished 145 minutes before her hospitality exam began.

“The question about John Misto’s The Shoe-Horn Sonata asked us to analyse how experiences and attitudes are conveyed by the use of distinctive images.

“I had already prepared an essay about the honour of war and abuse of power to cover the experiences [part of the question] – and the triumph of human spirit and determination to cover attitudes.”

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