Thanks for the advices!For starters (and I mean this in the nicest way possible)....
I suck at English, any tips on how to improve?*
By the time you reach the HSC, it is imperative to be able to write with correct grammar, at least 95% of the time. Read/write more to improve. I'll probably make mistakes typing here myself.
Okay, now I'll stop being annoying.
I only moved to AU at the beginning of year 11, so I can't be of any help for English in the junior years, sorry. However, there are a few things that should be useful, if not now then in the future.
Also, before I start rambling, these forums are super duper helpful. I'm sure that any specific questions you have will have already been covered, especially regarding how to write essays.
1) ACTUALLY READ THE BOOK/WATCH THE MOVIE
DON'T JUST RELY ON IN-CLASS MATERIAL OR OTHER PEOPLE'S ESSAYS
Yes, you can still get good marks without having touched the text, but it makes it that much harder and limits your understanding (and this is especially brutal if you suck at/hate English to begin with). Do yourself a favour and read Pride and Prejudice over the holidays if your teacher asks you to, haha, even if you're the only one who bothers to do it.
2) Have an opinion on the texts you're studying. Something more than hating it, and then writing a 1 star Goodreads review (there are so many books/plays with poor ratings, solely because of students leaving bad reviews).
I'm friends with a lot of science/math whizzes, and helping them with essays is like talking to a brick wall. Basic questions to consider are:
What mood did this scene put you in? (SUPER important!!)
Do you like/dislike this character? Why?
What opinion does the writer/director express through this character/scene?
Is the character/scene relatable? Why/why not?
Why is this text important? Why is it good enough to study in English? (usually because it raises moral dilemmas/timeless questions/universal themes)
If you can't answer these, then go back and try again until you can.
3) See what other people have written about the text. Other essays, or just discussions about the text itself. Leech ideas from them. Make it better. Plug the title into Google, and look at Yahoo Answers to Quora to Sparknotes to Shmoop to Goodreads. YouTube is also a fantastic source for analysis or summaries. But, if you don't understand what you're reading/watching, don't use it. Sounds obvious, but the amount of times I've seen a teacher go after a student for just taking something they didn't understand from the internet, just because it sounded smart.... ohhh man. Try to keep it related to what you talk about in class.
4) Understand how to structure an essay. I usually recommend this for year 11/12 with a prescribed and a related text (but there are other ways!!):
Introduction: ~150 words
Paragraph on text 1: ~300 words
Paragraph on text 2: ~300 words
Paragraph on texts 1+2: ~300 words
Conclusion: ~100-150 words
= ~1150-1200 words in total
And if you get stuck, you'll want to follow a paragraph structure similar to PEEL, STEEL, PETAL etc
For year 11/12, I push people towards STEETEEL (obviously, an extension of STEEL, because in year 11/12 you can't just do 1 technique per paragraph.... like, geez)
S= statement (from thesis)
T = technique
E = example
E = explanation (relating to thesis)
T = 2nd technique
E = 2nd example
E = 2nd explanation (relating to thesis)
L = link directly and explicitly to question
Obviously, the structure isn't the be-all-end-all. It's very flexible.
Your teacher can help you improve this if you need help. Structure is the easy part; it's the ideas behind the essay and knowing where to put them that's difficult.
There's a lot more that I could say to do with themes/ideas, but honestly, it would sound like more gibberish. I think the most important thing to understand with English is that you don't always have to look for the truth. I used to get so frustrated with English, thinking, "the author is probably rolling over in his grave!! He probably wasn't even thinking about these things when he wrote the book!! This is bullsh*t!!".
I started getting a lot better at English when it hit me that it doesn't matter what the author intended the meaning to be. It really doesn't. It matters what IDEAS the text gives you, whether the author intended it to come across or not. Simple but profound realisation that I don't know how to word correctly.
In my opinion, there's a generic way to get to a band 6, and then the hard way. Most people do the generic way, which is to have a cookie cutter essay with overdone themes/ideas. They can't mark you down because your ideas are overused. It's just annoying for the marker to reread over and over again, but there is no rule saying that your ideas have to be 100% original. To achieve this, you need to have some level of language prowess, the on-the-spot thinking to hit the question on the head repeatedly throughout the essay, and of course, your themes/ideas that no one can disagree with. This is an essay style more geared towards being technically correct all the way through, it ticks all of the boxes, but doesn't try to be inventive or take any risks.
And then there's the hard way. Perhaps you'll take the opinion opposite to what is commonly held. Focus the essay on your IDEAS, often neglecting structure/techniques/analysis depending on the student. Develop these crazy, long winded, colourful and aggressive ideas.
And you know what? They can't mark you down. If your ideas behind the essay are good and developed enough, and you've met the most basic criteria for quotes/techniques, they can't mark you down!
I'm going head-to-head with another top English student who has mastered the art of essay writing; she's a technical writer, and has an incredible memory for quotes and techniques, and memorising her essays word for word. She's like a machine during exams. It's insane to watch. I have so much respect for her.
Me? I'm the direct opposite. Unorganised, lazy, memorising stuff on the morning of the exam. We get the same marks, however, and she hates my writing, just as I hate hers. She thinks my writing is a joke and wonders how I even get marks for it, just as I think her writing is cold and generic. So, yeah, there are certainly different approaches to doing well in English!! You just need to find your style.