Speeches Essay Hsc

The first thing the marker reads is your introduction, and thus a solid introduction can engage the marker and make them actually want to read your essay. The other advantage of a decent introduction is that if for some reason you don’t get to finish your essay, the marker will at least know what you intended to talk about, and can give you some credit for being on the right track. It will definitely improve your mark overall if you can indicate that you know what you are talking about and what you would say if you had time in your introduction. This is not to say you should waste your time writing a perfect page long introduction, but rather that the introduction is important so don’t spoil your chances of getting a good mark by not introducing your essay properly!

A good introduction will always:

a) Start with a thesis that DIRECTLY RESPONDS TO THE QUESTION. You have 40 minutes to write an essay so there is no time to start with philosophical musings about the topic or write random things you happen to remember about the module you are writing about.

What is a thesis?

A thesis is just a fancy word for an argument or overall point of view. Your opening thesis statement basically needs to state an argument that you will develop and provide evidence for throughout your essay. There is no need for this to be complex, but better essays generally will have a thesis that responds to the question without using the exact wording of the question. For example:

“Curiosity is essential to finding a true sense of discovery” Discuss

An A-grade thesis would be something that indicates your personal response to the question. Remember that you do not have to agree with the statement, you can disagree or you can be really tricky and agree and disagree with the question. Better essays are always those that can argue and counter argue.

Sample thesis:

The complex nature of the concept of discovery means that a true sense of discovery can be found in different circumstances for different people, however, many individuals find that they discover the most when they trust in their curiosity.

This is a good thesis because it

  • Shows you know something about the concept of discovery
  • Refers to the question without using all the exact words
  • Is broad enough to allow you to develop good arguments, and then counterarguments
  • Uses definitive words such as “means” and “find” instead of using words such as may. This makes it sound argumentative, which is a good thing as the purpose of an essay is to argue.

However, writing a thesis such as the one above will not come naturally to a lot of students. For these students who find it difficult to develop thesis statements, the best route is to take words out of the question. This will show the marker that you have understood the question and know what you need to write about in order to answer this question.

In order to discover, people need to seek out ideas as well as develop relationships with other people and places.

This is also a good thesis because:

  • It is a direct response to the question
  • It is broad enough to allow you to develop an argument
  • It demonstrates that you have understood the question-the word “essential” basically means something that you need or must have.

When writing a thesis, remember that it has to be an argument, but also that you must be able to support this argument with evidence in your body paragraphs. There is no formula for writing a perfect thesis as every question is different, but if you keep in mind the above points and practice, writing theses will hopefully become a lot easier!

b)        A good introduction will have at least one sentence that expands on the thesis.

This will help you to show you know what you will be talking about in the essay and hopefully make the point you are trying to prove by writing this essay a little clearer to the marker.

c)         Name the texts and composers that will be referred to throughout the essay

Names of texts should be Underlined. How exactly you name the texts and authors really depends on the module, so see the specific post for each of these!

d)        Outline the points you will be making in the essay

To fulfill its purpose, the introduction must give a proper overview of the arguments you will be making. There is no need for excessive detail here, just state the general arguments you will be making in one long or two short sentences if necessary. See the sample introduction and each module’s essay writing blog post for further guidance on how to outline arguments in the introduction.

Also, make sure to read:

Writing Band Six Essays-Body Paragraphs

Writing Band Six Essays – Conclusions


Posted in Area of Study: Belonging, Area of Study: Discovery, Extended Response, HSC English Essay Writing, HSC Exams, Paper One, Paper Two and tagged Area of Study, area of study: Discovery, Belonging, HSC Discovery, HSC English, HSC English Advanced, HSC English Essay, HSC English Exam, HSC Standard English

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  1. 20 Feb 2015, 10:36 AM#1

    Excelling in Critical Study-Speeches(2015-2020)-from a 99+ ATAR HSC graduate

    Hi Everyone,
    For those who don't yet know, my name is Meihua. As a 2013 HSC graduate who got 93 for HSC English, and as a passionate public speaker myself, I have decided to shed some insight on how to excel in module B of the Advanced English course called Critical Study of Texts, in particular, within the elective of speeches. Hopefully you will develop a passion for this module as I did (it was my favourite module for HSC English) and enjoy the power of rhetoric articulated at the right time and at the right context.

    Please note strictly that these speeches are for the 2015-2020 prescription and does not apply to the Standard English course.

    Let's get started on this wonderful journey

    The rubric states: "This module requires students to engage with and develop an informed personal understanding of their prescribed text. Through critical analysis and evaluation of its language, content and construction, students will develop an appreciation of the textual integrity of their prescribed text. They refine their own understanding and interpretations of the prescribed text and critically consider these in the light of the perspectives of others. Students explore how context influences their own and others’ responses to the text and how the text has been received and valued."

    1)"Engage with and develop an informed personal understanding"
    This requires you to do extra research if needed to develop a better understanding of the speaker's life (biography) as well as any significant events that were occurring in the particular context and time the speaker was making their speech. No text is created within a vacuum, and these selection of speeches has been selected to exemplify how speeches can be used as a powerful vehicle to voice out personal and societal concerns of one's time, and often, compel audience to accumulate new insights and even initiate a certain course of desired action. Without some background knowledge around the topic of the speech or the live of the speaker, an informed and holistic personal understanding of the speeches cannot be developed.

    2)"critical analysis and evaluation of its language, content and construction"
    This requires you to select the best quotes and techniques to illustrate your understanding of the key themes of the speech, that is what critical analysis is, don't go randomly select quotes, you got to select significant ones that illustrates the speaker's main point well. Evaluation of language, content and construction requires a judgment of how effective the speaker has achieved their aim, how effective have they used the tools of rhetoric (literary techniques) as well as the careful structuring of their speech to compel their audience to sustain interest. The content of the speech refers to the often timeless themes that are perpetrated in the speeches selected.

    3)"Appreciation of...textual integrity"
    This is perhaps the terminology that most students are often confused about. Essentially, to show your appreciation of textual integrity of the speeches, you need to demonstrate that whatever idea you are dissecting from the speeches, it is present throughout the entirety of the speech, and not just through a sentence or paragraph of the speech. Textual integrity requires you to extract quotes from the start, middle and end of the speech to support any themes that you postulate are present in your selected speeches, it requires you to analyse the text as an entire whole, not as a fragmented part. Make sure the thematic concerns you are drawing out from the speeches are actually also relevant to the context the speaker is speaking in, e.g. to illustrate my point using a hypothetical example, there is no point in drawing out a concern of Anti-Semitism when the speech was made to defend the rights of African-American individuals within the Civil Rights Movement if there is only one sentence that relates to combatting Anti-Semitic sentiment as well.

    4"critically consider these in the light of the perspectives of others"
    Essentially this does not automatically mean you have to put critics quotes in your speeches, indeed I have never had to put a single critic's quote in any of my essays for speeches and I still get a consistent A range essay. The important point about this is you should, if you have time, track down how other people have viewed the speeches, i.e. was it effective? Did it speak to a broad spectrum of social strata? Often you can find these by searching through the website archives of key media websites, such as Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. It will provide you with an informed understanding of how effective and resonant the speeches has remained within and beyond their respective contexts. Perspectives of others can also include the perspectives of your classmates and English teacher, so make sure you listen carefully in class and jot down any interesting perspectives, it might stimulate a renewed understanding of what the speeches are about.

    5."How context influences their own and others’ responses to the text and how the text has been received and valued"
    This requires you to consider the impact of context on the effectiveness of a speech. For example, a speech made today about the importance of anti-terrorism in light of the recent Paris terror attacks would be much more powerful than if I made a speech about feminism, if you consider the audience as general, everyday individuals. How the text has been received and valued is determined both by your tracking down what changes have occurred since the making of the speeches in the particular areas the speeches were concerned about and within the quotes of other critics in determining how effective and whether all of the selected speeches have managed to resonate and transcend beyond their respective time contexts.

    This is a mistake that many students make, and an extremely easy one to fix up. This tip actually applies to all English Modules, but it is particularly important for this Module, you need to avoid analysing the speeches in isolation, remember the bigger umbrella that the texts of this module falls into is called "The Critical Study of Texts" and so you should be finding common themes, common rhetorical structure or similar use of rhetoric techniques to engage the respective contextual audiences of the speeches and link them together, usually, linkage by themes is the most common type of essay questions, although some essay questions does specify the importance of structure, but in this instance, you still need to highlight how the structure exemplifies the key concerns across the speeches. There is a reason why these speeches are selected together, and it is because they are powerful examples of rhetoric, though uttered in different contexts and by people from vastly different walks of life, has never the less managed to engaged audience emotionally and intellectually over an extended period of time and has often made a significant impact through history. Appreciate it as a collective study of texts, not the study of 7 separate, unrelated speeches. Once you change your perspective in terms of this, your analysis will rapidly improve by a lot.

    DO NOT try to analyse obscure themes, the themes you analyse from the speeches will not be unique (because of the need to uphold textual integrity) but the quotes and techniques and effects you select from the speeches will differentiate you from the rest, as well as how well you link the speeches together in relation to the specific essay question you are being asked to respond to.


    1. Anwar Sadat – Speech to the Israeli Knesset (1977)
    This speech was a groundbreaking speech in terms of transforming all conventions of political diplomacy, and should be considered and evaluated in light of the various bilateral conflicts that Israeli and Egypt has been involved with each other over the previous decades prior to the making of this speech. This speech should be valued for its emphasis on achieving justice on fair terms as well as establishing a basis for international peace by building on a hope of bilateral peace between two nations. Several significant things to note include the use of a circular structure, the speech starts with a religious reference and concludes with a religious reference as well, and uses various devices of repetition to reinforce the main thematic concerns of peace and justice. The abundance use of religious references is another attempt by Sadat in a context where both countries were highly religious to unite individuals together and compel them to look over past prejudices and hatred. Sadat's advocation of political transparency within this speech is an absolutely wonderful act, particularly considering geo-political landscapes of countries around the world is often dominated by concealed strategies and lack of open honesty. Sadat's life and the transformative impact this speech had are absolutely fascinating and definitely worth exploring.

    Paul Keating – Redfern Speech (1992)
    This speech was significant as it was made in the context of a recent pronouncement of one of the greatest Australian cases of recent decades, that of the Mabo decision in 1992. Essentially, the Mabo decision determined that the phrase 'terra nullius' (the land belonging to no one), a phrase which was used as a key justification by European settlers in the colonisation of Australia as well as the many terrible wrongdoings that were subsequently perpetrated to the Indigenous population, most notably in the Stolen Generation, was wrongfully applied to Australia and that Indigenous people could have the opportunity to claim native title to lost lands if strict conditions were met, (one of them being they needed to show a continual connection with the land, but this was often impractical since if Indigenous people were driven off from their land by white settlers who subsequently often used the land for commercial or residential purposes, how do they show a continual connection to the land?). Nevertheless, the Redfern Speech uses direct speech and accumulative language of increasing modality as well as multi sensory imagery to compel the Australian public to imagine themselves in the shoes of the dispossessed Indigenous people and through developing a more informed and empathetic understanding of the lasting legacy of such dispossession, in term contribute to the reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. A short speech, but a powerful one nonetheless.

    Margaret Atwood – ‘Spotty-Handed Villainesses’ (1994)
    This is perhaps one of the more difficult to understand speeches, but one of my absolute favourite to read and analyse. The difficulty of this speech mainly lies from the fact the audience was to an educated group who were assumed to have an extensive literary knowledge of different characters in different English texts. To assist yourself in understanding this speech throughly, if you come across a character name or Biblical reference that you don't understand, make sure you google it. This speech is about the importance of have a multi-faceted portrayal of female characters in literature, as a possible way to achieve gender equity (just because Atwood claims she isn't a feminist does not mean that concerns of feminism can't be drawn out in anyway). Up to this point, there has been a bipolar representation of female characters, as either virtuous or villainous, but Atwood is essentially making the point of the importance to create female characters that are a combination of both, as there was already an abundance of male characters who embodied these two different human traits, as better reflective of the complex spectrums of humanity in general-an amalgamation of good and evil. It is a truly fascinating speech, the use of metaphors are certainly compelling, and the range of literary references and jargon used are simply dizzying, in a great, eyeopening way.

    Noel Pearson – ‘An Australian history for us all’ (1996)
    This speech could link extremely well with Keating's Redfern Speech. One fundamental point about the presentation of history that you should note is that history is often portrayed by the side with the most literary and well-resourced individuals, for example, you rarely see any version of history written by an Indigenous individual because of often their more disadvantaged access to the resources needed for widespread publication as well as the greater difficulties they faced in achieving the level of education required to write coherently in English to communicate to a larger audience. This is not a discriminatory statement in anyway, it is simply demonstrating an awareness of the long term socio-economic disadvantage and disparity that is confronted by Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians respectively (supported by data from past censuses, accessible on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website). Noel Pearson is brave for his outright criticism of the lack of moral leadership demonstrated by John Howard in terms of dealing with Indigenous issues, in that Pearson believes the current government's actions are simply done to please the majority of the voters while ignoring the plight of the minority (in this case, the non-Indigenous populations). Pearson references a lot of famous historians, who you may not know, so it pays to actually look them up, essentially the main argument is we should create a version of Australian history that includes both the good and bad, not just the gallant Gallipoli legends, but truly recognise how we unlawfully dispossessed Indigenous people off their land and how we deprive them of fundamental human rights, through this act of recognition to reverse biased representation of history of Australia, we can be a step closer to reconciliation. Remember significant events that have occurred in the five years before this speech includes the Mabo decision and the passage of the Native Title Act(!993).

    William Deane – ‘It is still winter at home’ (1999)
    A lot of students overlooks the importance of the shortest speech in the whole speech collection. To be, it is actually one of the most poignant reminders of the tragic events that can struck any of us from choices we make about our lives, whose significance may not be immediately realised nor fully appreciated. The beauty of this speech is that instead of focusing on who was in the wrong and blaming authorities, instead, they chose to focus on the positive consequence of a terrible tragedy and use that to begin the healing process, very poignant use of imagery, eloquent language articulating the potential to strengthen the relationship between Switzerland and Australia, and the vast impact the media has played in connecting all of us together, transcending geographical boundaries. The quote extracted by the poet, Jonne Donne, articulating no man is an island, is a powerful one that still resonates with me till this date. If there is one thing to be learned from this speech, it is to treasure our lives as we are living it. Don't let the beacons of your youth get wasted away through procrastination

    Doris Lessing – ‘On not winning the Nobel Prize’, Nobel Lecture (2007)
    A beautiful speech that is one of the three newly added to the 2015-2020 prescription range. The title of the speech is paradoxical, as well as introduces a major extended metaphor used by the speech on prize-winning in relation to opportunities to access books, education and recognition for one's achievements. The speech is filled with abundant, touching anecdotes of the struggles of individuals in Africa to access basic rights to be educated. When I read through this speech, Nelson Mandela's quote "Education is the most powerful tool which you can use to transform the world" resonated very strongly within me. There are also an abundance of motivational sentences that is targeted to compel the audience to take action to transform the current avoidable, but devastating disparity between the unequal access to education between the most developed and least developed regions of the world. It is an empathetic call out of what transforms lives, and how much more we can all do to make this transformation happen.

    Geraldine Brooks – ‘A Home in Fiction’, Boyer Lecture 4 (2011)
    This speech links quite well with Margaret Atwood's speech, this speech talks about the diverse sources of inspiration that results in great fiction, and blurring the lines between non-fiction and fiction, in that they are actually not as different as we may initially think. For example, the characters in a fictional novel, particularly for one set in a particular historical context, is often based on a substantial amount of non-fictional historical research, personalities that the author has met/known in real life coupled with a dose of imagination. It is an absolutely fascinating speech noting how mediocre, boring experiences of reporting statistics for the races can allow individuals to accumulate great insights into the craft of writing, at the end of the day, if there is one thing this speech teaches us, it is that everything is about perspective. When you transform your perspective of the potential significance of your experiences, regardless what stage of life you are at, you are ready to transform the world through your writings.


    As with any other essays for Advanced English, suggested word limit is around the 1000-1100 mark if possible.

    There are three main essay question types:

    1)Those focusing on how the careful selection of rhetorical techniques helps to reinforce the timeless concerns of the speeches

    2)Those focusing on how the careful structuring of the speeches helps to reinforce the timeless concerns of the speeches (in this type of essay, it is important to spend more time on relating the importance of selected rhetorical techniques to enhance the strength of the structure of the speech, and relate it to how having an effective, easy to follow structure can compound the impact a speech can make)

    3)The 'mixed/less usual' questions-i.e. you might be asked to write a reflection instead of an essay (ask your teacher how you should structure a reflection), or you might be even asked to write a speech articulating the importance of the speeches you have studied, or inclusion of three speeches instead of the conventional two speeches in an essay approach (generally I could recommend three paragraphs, linked by themes, instead of 6 paragraphs, 2 ideas, because your essay will be way too long and too difficult to follow).

    Suggested essay structure for two speeches in an essay

    Idea 1
    Body Paragraph 1: Speech 1
    Body Paragraph 2: Speech 2

    Idea 2
    Body Paragraph 3: Speech 1
    Body Paragraph 4: Speech 2


    In this module, you could be asked on any of the speeches studied, they can be specified in the essay question, so ideally, you should have a comprehensive knowledge and selection of quotes from all speeches. However, having said this, you can focus on three or four main speeches where you know particularly well, I could highly recommend you to make sure one of the longer speeches, such as Atwood or Sadat's speech is in this selection.

    I personally loved the speeches module to the point I recorded down all the speeches (me saying the speech aloud) and listen to it throughout the entire year as I was walking to and fro school regularly, and so I had very little trouble at all in remembering all the speeches. As with every other thing in life, being passionate about what you do can make a significant difference to your enjoyment of what you do. Hope this guide would help you to develop this passion.

    If there is any questions you are confused about or anything you wish for me to add to this guide or whether you found this guide to be helpful or not, please feel free to comment on this thread and I will try my best to get back to you as soon as possible. Happy studying everyone
  2. 20 Feb 2015, 12:21 PM#2

  3. 20 Feb 2015, 4:06 PM#3

  4. 21 Feb 2015, 1:12 PM#4

  5. 22 Feb 2015, 10:17 AM#5

    Re: Excelling in Critical Study-Speeches(2015-2020)-from a 99+ ATAR HSC graduate

    Hi Crisium,
    I personally think having a half essay on Sadat is way too inflexible, because sometimes the essay would demand themes that are majorly found in other speeches, for example, what happens if the unseen essay question is one about the process of creative writing/fiction writing-then you will be majorly stuck. As I have reiterated in my guide, you should ideally have a solid understanding of a minimal of 3 speeches very well, so you have the flexibility to choose what is the best speech to adapt to the question. What I did was I wrote two paragraphs for each speech, on a key idea explored-and it was a kind of generic paragraph that I can then build my exam essay upon, obviously it was a lot of work to write and remember, so you can consider doing this for 3 speeches only, and having a paragraph on the other speeches.

    1)I don't exactly know what you mean by a half-essay, but if it was like two paragraphs, would be approximately 400-500 words max.

    2)You will lose marks if you don't have adequate detail on the speech specified for the question, as such, make sure you revise all the speeches to avoid that uncertainty. Stop feeling and hypothesising, just study the speeches as best as you can

    3)You could write a topic sentence to combine both speeches in the first paragraph of each idea (in context you have two paragraphs for each idea) or you can simply write a topic sentence articulating how one idea is expressed in one speech, and at the start of the second paragraph, relate it to the first topic sentence and articulate how the same idea is expressed differently-whether it be through structural construction/emotional/intellectual engagement with the contextual audience in the second selected speech.

    Hope this helps
    Originally Posted by Crisium
    I am planning on writing a sort of half-essay using Sadat's speech and then having a good knowledge of all other speeches, so that when I go into the exam room I can apply my half-essay to the question and write about the other speech as well.

    1) If I do choose to do this, how long would you recommend the half-essay to be?

    2) I feel that I won't be able to write as much as I would on the speech specified in the question, and if this is the case will I be deducted marks for a lack of balance between the two speeches?

    3) In regards to the structuring of the essay, you say that there are two separate paragraphs for each idea, and if I do follow this structure will I have to write a topic sentence for both in relation to the idea?

    Thanks in advance!
  6. 22 Feb 2015, 11:07 AM#6

  7. 22 Feb 2015, 8:21 PM#7


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