Well, your first HSC exam is done! Congratulations – One down, only a few to go! So many people finish the exam and really want to know how they went, how they should have answered the questions. So for those who would like to read it, here is our analysis of HSC English Paper 1, 2018!

Section 1 (Unseen Texts)

This section was the one about breaking patterns:

  • A weird text with an interview and images, super different

  • The comparison worth only four marks, and it specified the texts

  • The final question on a single text, worth only five marks

The questions weren’t the tough bit here, they were all really broad! It was the texts. As usual, a few curveballs, definitely enough to throw you off. Not much to say here except that it was definitely a break from the norm, so if you felt unprepared – That was probably somewhat intentional. NESA is really upping the emphasis on critical thinking on the spot.

Section 2 (Creative)

Well, wasn’t this terrifying and utterly alien…

Most would have found this to be the nastiest section – Two perspectives is something interesting and something that many prepared Creatives probably would have been thrown by. Add a quote, and you’ve got a super challenging creative piece!

The two perspectives thing is actually not hard to address, if you have total flexibility. Any sort of conflicting perspectives or viewpoints on the same Discovery suits – Say, a character conflicted as to whether to undergo a big new challenge for personal growth, or not. The issue is that as soon as you have a prepared creative with just one perspective, it is much tougher. The best way to handle this was probably to keep the same story, but add another character to play the anti-thesis role. Or, you could have introduced more self-doubt into your protagonist.

The quote lends itself nicely to the stimulus, so at least there is that. Really, if you were getting the two perspectives in, the quote would have slotted in somewhere without a heap of effort. Did you need to use the quote directly in the response? Unfortunately, yes, that was the prompt. If you didn’t, don’t stress! If you otherwise answered it well and had a great Creative, it won’t matter much at all.

Section 3 (Essay)

Unbelievably, this was probably the easiest section this year! The question was reasonably standard and actually quite broad.

Discovery is not always finding the new, nor is it always finding the joy.

The first part of this phrase lends itself nicely to arguments focused on self-discovery – It wants you to focus on realisations surrounding pre-existing stuff, rather than totally new situations. The second part is more obvious, it wants focus on the negative ramifications of Discovery. Combined, these actually present a fairly broad conceptual basis and give a fair bit of room to move in terms of arguments.

With all the talk of two related texts, it was also nice to see that big capital ONE in the question, wasn’t it!

Did you need to use the words “to this extent” or similar in your response?

Certainly, you needed to answer the question, and using the wording is one great way to do that. But it is very possible to have answered the question without using those words. “To what extent” questions actually make things even more broad – You could have argued totally against the statement, if you chose!


This was a tough exam. Paper 1 is always tough, this felt especially tough. Our English lecturer was really shocked by the demands it was placing on students, particularly in the Creative section.

Remember, one exam isn’t the end of your ATAR! Stay positive, read our advice on Paper 2 for tomorrow, and get a good rest knowing you are one exam closer to finished!