Advanced vs Extension English

By Emily Tyrrell in HSC
2nd of March 2019
advanced vs extension

Many students find a discrepancy between their marks in Advanced and Extension English. In my own experience as a tutor and student, this comes down to three main differences.

Writing Style

Writing a Band Six essay in Advanced can look very different to how it is written in Extension. In my own study and tutoring, I have found that successful students tweak their writing to better suit the relevant subject.

Writing in Advanced is concise. You cover a lot more content in Advanced English compared to Extension, and your rubric tends to be focussed on specific concepts and outcomes (ie. Textual Integrity in Module B). You need to make sure that every single word is working hard to answer that question, to reflect your understanding of the rubric and to prove your argument.

Comparatively, Extension gives more room for flair and extrapolation. That isn’t to say that you should be long winded when writing in Extension, but more so, that you can delve in deep when interpreting your quotes. As you are given a broad focus (ie. how a revolutionary period is represented in text), you have time to develop your own ideas about the text, rather than sticking to strict rubric guidelines.

However, personal voice remains as a necessity in both subjects. Your writing needs to sound like you! This can come from a unique (but not precocious) vocabulary, sentence structure and variation, or your ability to create a compelling argument. In both subjects, your teachers and markers alike want to see something that reflects your own learning. So make sure you speak, using your own voice and understanding, in your essays if you want to achieve in the top band.

Depth of Analysis

Extension English assumes that you have conquered analysis, and thus, expects a deeper level then Advanced.

Now, this does not mean that you use every four-syllabled literary technique under the sun. Usually, that just makes your work clunky. Instead, you want to be engaging with critical theory. Critical theory refers to toolkits that you can use to deconstruct your text. This includes Feminist, Post-Structuralist, Post-Colonialist and Marxist lenses. Applying these to your text gives your arguments greater insight, and usually, shows a higher level of analysis.

Whilst these same frameworks can be helpful for understanding your texts in Advanced, you do not have to explicitly refer to them. Put simply, there are not enough words in the Advanced essay to squish these ‘extras’ in. Focus on reflecting your understanding of the rubric instead.

Engaging With Ideas

In my own experience, I spent a lot of time thinking and reading about ideas in Extension – and perhaps, not a lot of time writing about them. In Advanced, however, practice essays were my go to. This reflects the way that you approach Extension and Advanced, which in turn, is reflected in your writing.

When I wrote my Extension One Creative, I basically lived in the world of my protagonist for a week. I listened to music from the period, read texts and studied suburbs from her home town (what a nerd). When studying texts, I not only read critical papers, but also texts that influenced my authors. Living and breathing their ideas and work meant that I built an authentic connection to my texts, which shone through in my analysis. Once again, given the extra words that make up an Extension text, this gave my essay flair, which in turn, caught the markers attention.

In Advanced, however, I found most of my texts very difficult to connect to. I found them abrasive and sexist, and many times, couldn’t bring myself to write about them. Here, I depended on the Modules to help me understand why these texts had been put on the prescribed text list. In Module B, I engaged with why this text lasts across time, not necessarily why it is important. In the Area of Study, I looked for where the Module was challenged by my text to really expose the ideas in the Module. Twisting the rubrics in this way helped me to re-examine my texts, and in turn, re-engage.

So, if we’ve learnt anything from this article, it’s that the rubric is the key to Advanced, whilst personal interpretation is what shines through in Extension. Regardless of your forte, enjoy and learn from your texts – even if it seems difficult at first!


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