Comprehending, Responding


'HOW' is a pesky word that has caused the downfall of even the brightest English students 😧 It’s a word examiners and teachers use to encourage students to offer ANALYSIS.

This is where examiners and teachers provide a parameter for the analysis.
E.G. “Explain HOW THE USE OF SETTING shapes the construction of one of the characters in this passage.”
You are being asked specifically to analyse the setting and how it influences character construction. You've been given a parameter for the HOW (analysis).
Other examples:
“Explain HOW THE PATTERNS OF LANGUAGE OR STRUCTURE are used to represent a complex idea.”
“Explain HOW A TEXT USES VOICE to encourage you to empathise with others.”
This is where YOU are left to choose the type of analysis you will offer. And this is where the downfall occurs 😧
Because a parameter has not been provided, some students fail to realise they are still expected to discuss the important course concepts they’ve been sweating over for the last two years.
E.G. “Explain HOW at least one text you have studied appeals to a particular audience.”
Can you see there is a lack of direction regarding the HOW?  BUT!  You are still expected to offer analysis.
So where do you go from here?
We suggest picking from ANY of the topics below, all of which allow you to offer analysis and successfully address the HOW:
🧐 Consider generic conventions (structure, point of view, setting, characterisation, ideas or themes or issues, stylistic features).
🧐 Consider language features – WRITTEN (metaphor, simile, personification inclusive pronouns, statistics, rhetorical questions etc) or VISUAL (camera angles, lighting, juxtaposition, mise en scene, symbols etc)
🧐 Consider values and/or attitudes in the text.
🧐 Consider context (production and reception).
Think about it.  A film or novel or poem may appeal to a particular audience because of setting.  Because of the values that are reinforced, or challenged.  Because of the time period in which it was produced, or received.  Because of the characterisation…..and so on.
There are LOADS of things you could potentially discuss.  The key is not to ignore the HOW.
Don't make the mistake of thinking this sort of question is easy or straightforward.  You still need to offer analysis and show you are thinking about the way the text has been CRAFTED. 😊

The Composing Section, Step 3 –  Who, When, Where? (AUDIENCE + CONTEXT)

While it might not seem relevant, if you’re seeking that elusive B or A grade it is well worth giving AUDIENCE and CONTEXT some consideration BEFORE you start writing.  It can make your piece of writing more MEANINGFUL than simply writing for a general or broad audience.

It also encourages you to be more selective of your content and language.

The best way to show this is to give you some examples:

A speech delivered at the W.A. Farmers Annual Conference in 2018 about the benefits of using new technology (e.g. self-driving tractors, drones) in farming.

AUDIENCE = WA farmers, CONTEXT = Annual Conference, WA, 2018, a time when farmers are doing it tough out there.


An article written for Australian Geographic in 2050 reflecting on why Australia should have done more to protect the planet when they had the chance.

AUDIENCE = Australian men and women.  CONTEXT = magazine that focuses on environmental issues, dystopian future when possibly the planet is ruined.

A letter to the editor of The Washington Post in 1968 protesting the treatment of African-Americans OR to the editor of The West Australian in 1910 protesting the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their parents.

AUDIENCE = white Americans / white Australians.  CONTEXT = 1968 during Black Civil Rights Movement and following assassination of MLK Jnr, capital city of America / 1905 Aboriginal Act and Stolen Generations

A speech delivered at an Anzac Day service about the need for Australia to do more for veterans suffering from PTSD.

AUDIENCE = Australian men, women, children, political leaders, military leaders.  CONTEXT = 25th April 2018, a day of remembrance and recognition of the importance of our soldiers.

You could also write a narrative using the idea above – a character leaves a concert at Perth Arena and meets up with a veteran soldier living rough on the streets of Perth.

A blog post on TIME TO CHANGE website encouraging young people to place greater value on their privacy and security in 2018.

AUDIENCE = teens and young adults.  CONTEXT = 2018 has seen the Facebook data harvesting, Google listening, encouragement to give up personal identifiers with fingerprint security locks, facial recognition, voice recognition apps etc.

A speech at a secondary school assembly on R U Okay Day 2018 about the effects of depression, exclusion, well-being, importance of real friendships etc.

AUDIENCE = boys and girls aged 11 – 17years.  CONTEXT = A day designed to encourage discussions about how people are travelling, what might be getting them down, opening up lines of communication.

A book or film review for a popular magazine or website about AN IDEA in a text you have studied.  E.G.  A book review about the use of technology to monitor citizens in Orwell’s 1984.  Your review would be written for a post-WWII in 1949 (AUDIENCE + CONTEXT) commenting on this idea.

A narrative for an LGBTQ audience that is set in Perth 2017.

AUDIENCE = LGBTQ (teens or older people, you decide).  CONTEXT = during the period of the National Referendum for gay marriage.


Of course it all depends on the topics and questions you get on GAME DAY.  And taking a moment to plan your response in an exam situation is a difficult thing to do – you will be feeling nervous and every second counts!

But it really is worth it to take five minutes to think about the basics before you start:  WHAT, WHY, WHO, WHEN + WHERE.

All of this decides HOW you will write it 😊