Meet our Advanced English Mentor: Nikki Nikki's Hacks: How To Study For Advanced English

I loved how the texts we studied in English offered us lenses through which to consider all the big questions – the meaning of life, human nature, ethics, history, the nature of language.

Meet our Talent 100 Advanced English Mentor, Nikki!



High School: 

Pymble Ladies’ College

Teaching Experience:

12+ years

HSC Subjects:

English Extension 2, Mathematics Extension 1, French Extension 1, Chemistry


University of Sydney Merit Prizes (2007 – 2011)

School Dux, Pymble Ladies’ College (2006)

Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award (2006)

Archdale Debating Champions (2006)

School Prefect, Pymble Ladies’ College (2006)

What did you enjoy most about studying English in high school?

I loved how the texts we studied in English offered us lenses through which to consider all the big questions – the meaning of life, human nature, ethics, history, the nature of language… It is a subject with infinite potential and opportunities, and you learn so much about the world and about yourself through the process.

What are some of your favourite topics/texts to teach in HSC English?

I love teaching any topic or text that lends itself well to philosophical or psychological exploration, especially if they are relevant to our lives and societies today.

Looking through the list of texts, I can spot a few favourites including The Crucible (Arthur Miller), The Stranger (Albert Camus) and much of the poetry.

What are some of your most memorable teaching experiences?

I’ve had many fantastic teaching experiences around the world and most of them involve getting to know and connecting with my students, and discussing ideas that was both have a genuine interest in.

One of my long-term private students and I often discuss ideas about mindfulness, happiness and the truly important things in life.

Could you outline some of your main tips on writing a Band 6 English essay?

Firstly, as with any assessment, pay close attention to the marking criteria for each task and make sure you tick all the necessary boxes.

Make sure you try to fit the ideas you’ve prepared into the question, rather the question into your memorised ideas! Always remember to explain ‘how’ and ‘why’ in detail. Logic is extremely important in a good English essay. Also, try to have some original in-depth analysis, phrases or examples up your sleeve to make your response stand out from the rest.

RELATED: Meet Our Head Of English – Dr Jenny Wells

What is a common mistake you’ve seen students make in Advanced English, and how can students avoid it?

Students often forget to link their arguments and examples back to the question. Again, remember that even though English is not a science, logic is still crucial. As you are planning and writing, keep asking yourself “How does this answer the question or prove my overarching arguments?”

Following the PEAL structure certainly helps too (Point, Evidence, Analysis, Link)

Can you share some pointers on how to write notes for Advanced English?

I used to organise my notes according to themes, and then the main ideas under each theme. Under each main idea, I would include some good phrases, examples and quotes. I would then test the quality of my notes by seeing if they would allow me to quickly find a way to answer a diverse range of practice questions effectively. If not, then it’s probably a sign that you need to change the way you structure your notes.

What’s the best way students can use practice papers as a study tool for HSC English?

In your initial revision stages, time practice is not so important. You just want to make sure you can work out how to answer a question well, even if it takes you a while. Make a checklist of the question types you’re most likely to get and try and work through an example of each one. Once you feel comfortable with the most common question types, you can start on times practice. Your revision time is limited, so as I suggested above, you can also practice doing timed plans rather than writing out a full response on every occasion.

What inspired you to teach at Talent 100?

I love the sense of community at Talent 100 and that here, I can be a Mentor rather than just a tutor.

I hope to not only impart the necessary skills and knowledge for doing well in the exams, but to also help students think carefully about the big choices facing them as they move through their high school years and build up some of the resilience and life skills that will help them in the future.

Can you share your best study tips for Advanced English?

Firstly, make notes that are concise enough for you to remember all the key ideas and examples, but also comprehensive and flexible enough to be adaptable to any question.

Secondly, practise! Expose yourself to as many different practice questions as possible. You need to make sure you’re comfortable adapting the ideas from your notes to fit all possible question types. You don’t need to write out a full response for each practice question. Focus on being able to build a solid plan in your allocated planning time. If you have a great plan, the response will write itself.

Is there a text you would like to see covered one day in the HSC Syllabus?

The Island by Aldous Huxley. It’s a fantastic book that I’ve read recently, and although it might not offer the most interesting opportunities for linguistic analysis, the ideas are so pertinent and thought-provoking. I think it’s a book that everyone should read at some point in their lives.

Click here to view our Talent 100 timetables for next term, and enrol in one of Nikki’s Advanced English classes at our Sydney CBD centre.

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