Choose work that you love to excel in HSC creative artsJuly 23, 2023
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The show must go on
At the start of her HSC exams last year, drama student Julia Boyd experienced every student’s worst nightmare.
“I got very sick with a nasty infection on day one of the exams, which made my English 1 and 2 papers ‘interesting’… It was a mental and physical struggle getting through that – the pressure was most definitely on. However, all you can do in situations like that is persevere and do your best,” Boyd said.
Given the unfortunate start to her exams, Boyd’s achievement of an overall ATAR of 96.3 was all the more impressive. Her drama performance was also featured at OnSTAGE, an annual showcase of exemplary HSC drama performances and projects from across the state.
“There were a lot of challenges and setbacks during the HSC but I’m proud of myself for overcoming them. If I were to do it all again, I would remind myself that things don’t always go to plan but to keep my head up because we are all in this together,” she said.
Boyd’s HSC exam preparation focused on ensuring she’d covered all the syllabus content and doing past exam papers.
“My study was a similar process for each subject: revising and making sure I knew all the syllabus content inside-out, and then doing as many past papers as I could,” she said.
Preparing for the drama exam also involved working closely with other students: “I prepared for my exam by analysing the given plays, looking at different sources across platforms and collaborating with my classmates, in order to see how others interpreted the scripts.”
Establishing a routine that incorporated time away from study was also crucial for Boyd.
“I set up a study routine but gave myself breaks when I needed. I continued extracurricular activities and found them to be integral to my wellbeing. I tried to balance my workload with doing things that make me happy. I get a lot of performance anxiety but no matter how I was feeling I tried to overcome it by going into the exam positively and doing my best,” Boyd explained.
For her HSC individual performance, Boyd wanted to do something unique, unexpected and fun. After a long search she found Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid, a slapstick comedy.
“It really inspired me, and I loved the challenge of transforming its context into this fresh new world I aimed to create for it. And that is my advice to other drama students – look beyond your script and experiment with how you, as an actor, can portray this character in a fresh and unique way.”
So, what comes next for the former Merewether High School student?
“I’m currently taking a gap year, focusing on myself and my training in the performing arts. After this year I hope to audition for a performing arts course at university and would like to build a career in the performing arts.
“I see theatre as a means to delve into situations beyond the constraints of reality. Not even the sky is the limit with theatre, and I think that’s pretty special!”
Boyd’s tips for HSC Drama:
Carlos bumps into his career in Year 12 Drama
Carlos Sanson Jr always felt at home in the high school drama class. It was the only subject he was “really any good at”; the one where it all just clicked.
It was his Year 12 Drama class where Sanson Jr, the male lead in popular Stan series Bump, found his passion for acting.
“I really found a sense of purpose doing that subject. I struggled at school, to be honest, I wasn’t a grade A student in other subjects … Then I really turned it on halfway through Year 11,” said Sanson Jr, 25.
A 2016 graduate of Reddam House in Sydney’s east, Sanson Jr has mixed memories of Year 12. But he credits that year with delivering insights that only a year of challenges could bring.
“I look back and have positive memories of the time and of the difficulty. It definitely wasn’t easy but it was a time of growth when I really learnt a lot about myself, what my capabilities are when I apply myself,” he said.
“It’s the discipline that was the real key takeaway from that year.”
He also credits those around him with “seeing something” in him; encouraging him to pursue the craft, when he presented his individual performance monologue.
“I developed it from one of my favourite video games, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare; there was a lot of meaning in that. And I got a lot of praise from my teachers, my peers and my family on how good it was, and that encouragement really made me reassess … I started to think maybe I should give this a crack,” Sanson Jr said.
So while HSC Drama was a much-loved course for Sanson Jr – which ultimately sparked his career – he warns against simply being seduced by the bright lights.
“I would discourage anyone who’s in it for the wrong reasons – if you’re in it to be famous, to be popular, or kind of cool, you’re just not going to last because there’s so much rejection and so much ‘no’.
“But for me, I was always going to [act]. I don’t feel I have a choice.”
Sanson Jr’s tips for HSC Drama students:
Top tips from a HSC Visual Arts teacher
Head Teacher, Creative Arts,
Cherrybrook Technology High School
Key content: Practice, Frames and Conceptual Framework
Know the meaning of the syllabus content and how to apply it to the questions in Section 1 and 2 of the paper. Identify the area of content and use it to inform your response and be familiar with the inter-relatedness of the key areas, that is, how they connect with one another.
Section 1 – short answer questions:
- Use all plates, citations, and source material to address the question, while identifying the syllabus content area you are responding to.
- Don’t waste time rewriting the question and ensure you manage your time – look at the rubric and timings provided. Allow 45 minutes only for this section.
- Don’t just describe artworks, explain the significance of the visual qualities evident in each work, as an example to address the question.
- Question 3 usually has multiple plates and sometimes other source material, such as extracts, diagrams or support documents. Interpret, synthesise and analyse the source material to address the question.
- If presented with multiple plates, there may be connections between them. Look for these connections, relationships, and identify how they relate to, address or explore ideas posed in the question.
- Practise analysing unseen artworks in guided class discussions, from past papers and complete timed, handwritten practice questions.
Section 2 – Extended response:
- Synthesise information from your case studies and other classwork to respond to the question, to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of visual arts content areas.
- Use examples from relevant artists, artworks, critics and/or historians to develop and support your ideas and arguments.
- Prepare case studies and artists from a variety of time periods and contexts to ensure you are prepared for a variety of essay questions.
- Use examples from relevant artists, artworks, critics and historians to develop and support ideas and arguments in your response. Avoid describing the artwork without interpreting the meaning.
- Examine the relationship between ideas, intentions, material practices, the audience experience and the world that surrounds the artist.
- Make sure your study of each artist in your essay is consistent, always links back to the question, uses specific art vocabulary and is extensive and sophisticated.
- Complete past HSC papers under timed conditions and use past marking guidelines and feedback from the marking centre. Identify the parts of your response and writing you can improve on. Seek feedback, reflect and write some more.
- Your introduction and conclusion are valuable in answering the selected question and supporting your response.
Exam preparation tips
- Practise using evidence to develop a succinct and informed explanation. Include referencing artworks and the artists’ interpretations of the world.
- Build a collection of quotes, language and keywords linked to a range of case studies focusing on the artist, audience responses, critics, historians and/or historical contexts.
- Develop an understanding of the role of the artist, and how this has changed over time and context.
- Look for complex meaning in artworks and explain how the artist’s practice (their choices, actions and intentions) creates meaning within the artwork. Address the significance of the materials and the different ways artists use them to communicate ideas and intentions in artworks using the frames.
- Build a picture of the art world. Study a range of artworks from traditional practices of painting, drawing, sculpture and architecture through to contemporary practices (eg temporal, performative, interactive, immersive and collaborative practices).
Body of work
- Consider your theme, concept and/or material practice:
- Does your work represent your ideas and intentions?
- Can the audience access or interpret the concept?
- Is your title significant and does it support your conceptual intentions?
- Does it engage, challenge or present the concept in a unique or original way?
- Investigate concepts. You can do this by manipulating materials and techniques to show innovation, exploration and refinement.
- Synthesise conceptual and material practice to present a unique and sustained body of work.
- Seek regular feedback throughout your progress to make sure your body of work reflects confident, integrated and knowledgeable handling of materials.
- Understand the purpose of curation, including selection, organisation, layout, presentation and placement. If works are mounted, simple cardboard mounts are preferred. See NESA advice regarding mounting of artworks.
- Familiarise yourself with the marking guidelines.
- You have given clear instructions for the set-up of your body of work. Providing a photo or diagram of the work set-up is helpful, particularly if there are multiple elements.
- You have chosen a meaningful title that is relevant to the conceptual intentions of your body of work and allows the audience/markers to interpret the work.
- You have considered the limitations on the size, materials, duration of works, and digital components outlined in the HSC course requirements.
You have refined your body of work, and in curating your body of work you have focused on reiteration rather than repetition to extend concepts and material practices.
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