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HSC madness is upon us… let’s learn how to write a killer essay.
But I don’t know anything…… We still have further content to cover in this course. None of you would be expected to properly answer an essay question yet. This will change over the next few weeks….so long as you attend all the classes between now and the Exams, includingthe sessions between the Trials and the actual Exam.
The HSC Exam is divided into two halves. The first half is 3 short answer questions. The other half is a single essay question. There will be six questions to choose from. They are listed under the headings of: • Practice (2 questions) • Conceptual Framework (2 questions) • Frames. (2 questions.) Choose ONE question. On your answer booklet, write clearly which question you are answering. Half the pie is 3 short-answer questions; the other half is a single essay question. Enjoy!
The following instructions (rubric) will be written on Section II of the exam paper. This tells you what the markers are looking for. (It’s always the same, btw.) How will I be marked? • Section II • In your answer you will be assessed on how well you: • present a well-reasoned and informed point of view • apply your understandings of the different aspects of content as appropriate (Practice, Conceptual Framework and the Frames) • use relevant examples Note that they expect you to understand what practice, conceptual framework and frames are. Also, they expect you to use examples. That means the names of specific artists or movements. Bear this in mind as you review what we have covered as we get closer to the exams.
So…what actually is an essay?No, seriously. • An essay is an exploration of an idea. It’s a given structure (introduction, body, and conclusion) into which you fit as much info as you can about a given topic. It’s a way to showcase what you know, in a logical fashion. Everyone writes using this same structure. • What holds this structure together are the topic sentences that are at the start of each paragraph, and tell the reader what each paragraph will be about. Um, what’s a paragraph again? Just a group of sentences that all relate to the same idea. Generally when you go to a new idea, you start a new paragraph. You put an empty line between paragraphs.
An essay is like a crocodile. It has a head, body and tail. • The head (or ‘introduction’) … a small paragraph. • The body (the main part of the essay)… several paragraphs. • The tail (or ‘the conclusion’)… another small paragraph. No matter how long or short essays are, or how complex, school or University, they are all built the same way:Intro / Body / Conclusion. We write the body first; then the conclusion. The introductionhowever should be written LAST. Why on earth? Don’t start with the head. It bites. Do it last.
In the essay, you must respond to the question asked. STEP 1: Find out what is being asked of you. Read it a couple of times…don’t panic if you are not sure. Circle key words. (Get familiar with the ‘Glossary of key words’ handout.) these are words that are typically used in the exam.) If you really don’t know, then, yep, you’ll have to guess. Here’s an example from the exam: Conceptual Framework Q 1.: Evaluate the significance of readymades or found objects to the meaning of particular artworks you have studied. What words stand out for us in this question? What should we concentrate on? Marcel Duchamp, (French, 1887 – 1968) Bicycle Wheel, 1951 (reconstructed – original created 1913, lost.)
Ok, I’ve figured out what they want. Now what? Q: Evaluate the significance of readymades or found objects to the meaning of particular artworks you have studied. STEP 2: topic sentences. Let’s get them down first on some spare paper. Then we start to put whatever info we can under these sentences, to flesh out a paragraph. Topic sentence 1: Define the terms (that is, ‘readymades.’) Topic sentence 2: A sentence to say when this was happening. Topic sentence 3: Something about meaning/conceptual framework. Topic Sentence 4: Another sentence on meaning or conceptual framework if we’re feeling brilliant. If not, 3 is fine. Do what you can.
STEP 3: Once you’ve filled in the paragraphs as much as you can think of, the last paragraph is the conclusion. This is summarising what you have said in the body of the essay. Don’t put any new information in this section. The conclusion is just saying “I’ve written this.” Here’s a sample conclusion. ‘In this essay, I’ve argued that readymade objects have had great significance in conveying meaning in artworks. Art using readymades began at the start of the 20th century with such artists as Marcel Duchamp and the Surrealists. The Cubists also used elements that were readymade in their collages. Readymades had the effect of questioning what was art, and emphasising the importance of the idea behind the artwork. This changed the relationship between artist and artwork as it meant the artist did not need to be able to manipulate materials. It also changed the relationship between audiences and artworks as it forced us to think of art in a different light.’ Note I have started with a sentence which specifically responds to the question. I’ve used the SAMEACTUAL WORDS that are in the question. This is emphasising that I’ve read it carefully.
STEP 4: NOW WRITE THE INTRODUCTION. Based on what we’ve said over the past few screens, and on what the conclusion says, have a go at writing an introduction. Remember, the introduction tells the reader briefly what the body of the essay is about and what your main point is. As with the conclusion, use words from the question in your introduction. A good way to start is: “In this essay I will argue that …”
How many words? You will have 45 minutes to write the essay. You’ll be aiming for an essay of about 1000 words. Introduction: aim for approx: 150 words Conclusion: aim for approx: 150 words The Body is made up of 3-4 paragraphs. Aim for about 150 - 200 words or so for each para. • Intro: 150 • Body: say 3- 4 paragraphs @ 200 words each = 600-800 words • Conclusion: 150 However, PLEASE do not waste your time and effort counting words. I have included this info just to give you some guidelines. Just write as much as you can think of, about the question, in the time you have. Keep an eye on the time, so you have time to write your introduction once you’ve written as much as you can in the body then the conclusion.
If you tend to write long and rambling sentences, you are MORE likely to do this when you’re anxious. Read it again and stick some more full stops in. Having sentences too short and blunt is preferable to having a sentence go on for too long. Overly long sentences are confusing. When a marker is confused, they get nasty. Honestly. Finally, remember that this is an ideal to work towards. It is normal for your brain to unravel during the exam. The markers understand this; they are looking for indications that you do know some stuff. Try not to ramble, but of course you will end up putting stuff in, just in case it’s relevant.This is ok. If you’ve got nothing else you can think of to say that is strictly answering the question, then say anything you do know. It’s worth a shot.
How can I improve my skills with essays? We’ll be doing some practice essays in class. This means you need to attend classes. As well, you can have a go at home and bring me the result, and I will mark it for you and suggest improvements. I will be suggesting some questions you can work on. This is all too hard. I reckon I’m just going to concentrate on my Body of Work, and that should get me over the line. Ah…..no. That would be a mistake. Come to class and learn as much as you can. This will NOT be wasted time. Promise. Even if you don’t do marvellously, you will get SOME marks and this will add to your score.