Discovery is an important topic for English Paper one of the HSC. It is entirely devoted to the students’ conceptual understanding of how discovery impacts on human identity and of course one’s understanding of the world at large. Students will need to be able to speak about the ideas of their text, the influence of the composer’s context and how the linguistic and or cinematic features of their required text reflect on the very core nature of “Discovery” both in relation to themselves and the worlds created by the composer’s of their texts.
Throughout the year, students can expect to have a number of assessment tasks on the Area of Study – Discovery. All of these tasks contribute to a percentage of their final HSC mark. These assessment tasks vary between schools but often include the first assessment in November, another assessment or pre trial examination (depending on the school) after the April recess, the trial examination, and finally, the HSC.
First assessment task
The first assessment task varies from school to school, but generally takes place around mid November. The task requires a complete understanding of the ideas at the heart of Discovery. The task may require students to listen to, view or read a text on the subject of Discovery and respond by way of short answers or an extended response.
Other tasks often include the researching of texts that relate to the subject matter and conceptual branches that are integral to the nature of Discovery. With these texts students are generally required to explain their choice of related material and how it relates to the topic of Discovery.
The second assessment task, or pre trial task
This may involve a speech or even a visual presentation where the student must be able to demonstrate the connections between the required set texts chosen by their school such as:
The Tempest, Motorcycle diaries, Robert Frost’s poetry or Go Back where you Came From and the ideas at the core of Discovery.
English Paper 1
Paper one is sat for on two occasions and sometimes even three. It is sat for firstly, during the pre- trial exam, (although the format may differ) and of course always in the trial examination and HSC.
The first section of the Discovery unit is made up of a comprehension section comprising of multiple articles and visual texts. Students read and answer questions, which require them to draw on their understanding of the ideas, which are implicitly and explicitly embedded in the passages for comprehension. The task is allotted 40 minutes. Time is of the essence and thinking clearly and writing lucidly takes a great deal of practice. The comprehension task requires not only an understanding of the reading passages but also how the textual features shape the students understanding of the text and ideas in relation to Discovery.
The second section of paper 1 requires an extended response to a question posed on Discovery. The question usually demands that students answer the question and draw on one or two selected texts of their own choosing to create an in depth extended response. The task is allotted 40 minutes.
The final section on the first HSC English paper requires a creative writing response. This provides a wonderful opportunity for students to creatively express their understanding of the module. Of course the more that students have read and explored the topic area the easier it will be.
Understanding the prescribed text
The Area of study component appears deceptively easy. It is complicated; complex because of its generic nature and complex because it demands a clear thesis, which must reflect not only your views but also how the texts may have reaffirmed or challenged any assumptions on discovery, you may have held. The other problem, which often raises its head, is approaches sourced from crib notes and generic approaches to the Area of Study. Because the Area of Study is always generic there can often be a tendency to “cookie cut” or over-simplify ideas into rigid criteria that actually make it harder to provide in depth responses. Be careful to formulate your own ideas and avoid boxing your thoughts. This need not impede your essay structure it will rather, only serve to allow you to create a response with originality and enough depth to answer any question posed on Belonging by the Board of studies.
Choosing a related text.
The choice of related texts is incredibly important. Many students fall into the trap of selecting a text, which presents at face value as simple and straight forward. The problem that can be raised in such instances is how a student might then be able to draw on assumptions or symbolic aspects of their chosen text if the text is lacking in “textual integrity”.
There are some wonderful texts to choose from such as translated texts and films from other countries, documentaries and some excellent podcasts for radio. It seems a shame that with the wealth of exposure brought about through social media there is a heavy reliance on many students opting for similar related texts and Hollywood blockbusters.
Always consider the idea that an examiner is pleased if not delighted to be challenged and provoked by fresh insights and other cultural avenues of discovery!!