Past HSC and Practise Questions for Advanced Module A: Texts in Time – The Great Gatsby and Barrett Browning

This Advanced Module A is pretty much the same as pre-2009 and now pre-2015. All the questions are pretty straightforward:

  • Comparison of ideas – this may be specified in the question (as in the examples below) or general
  • How those ideas are represented through techniques
  • Relating the differences to contextual differences

Either way, your thesis should include a statement about the relationship between texts and contexts. Because THAT is the point of this module.

For The Great Gatsby and Barrett-Browning, I have distilled these core ideas:

  1. Love
  2. Hope
  3. Mortality/death
  4. Identity

An idea for preparation would be to write practise essays (or at least practise body paragraphs) dealing with each of the above 4 ideas.

Past HSC Questions:


How is the portrayal of commitment presented for different audiences in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry and The Great Gatsby?


An exploration of intertextual perspectives reveals the relationship between context and key values.
Discuss this view with detailed reference to the extracts below and your pair of prescribed texts.

‘You see, I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me.’
(from The Great Gatsby)

Nay, –let the silence of my womanhood
Commend my woman-love to thy belief, –
And that I stand unwon, however wooed,
Rending the garment of my life, in brief,
By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude,
Lest one touch of this heart, convey its grief.
(from Sonnets from the Portuguese – XIII)


Does the treatment of individual desire in The Great Gatsby and Barrett Browning’s
poetry reveal similarities or reinforce the texts’ distinctive qualities?


The pursuit of perfection is an idea which connects The Great Gatsby and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry. How do these texts from different contexts reflect changing perspectives on this idea?


In what ways is your appreciation of both texts enhanced by a comparative study of passion in The Great Gatsby and the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning?


Our interest in the parallels between The Great Gatsby and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry is further enhanced by consideration of their marked differences in textual form. Evaluate this statement in light of your comparative study of The Great Gatsby and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry.


In what ways does a competitive study accentuate the distinctive contexts of The Great Gatsby and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry?


Analyse how The Great Gatsby and Browning’s poetry imaginatively portray individuals who challenge the established values of their time.


‘A deeper understanding of aspirations and identity emerges from considering the parallels between The Great Gatsby and Browning’s poetry.’

Compare how these texts explore aspirations and identity.

Questions used by school etc:

Idea based questions:

  1. ‘Texts in time’ involves portrayals, in varying contexts, of the experience of idealised love, hope and mortality. Analyse TWO differences between Browning’s and Fitzgerald’s portrayals, making two detailed reference to your prescribed texts.
  2. Texts reflect concerns and values of their composers. Discuss the differences in the representation of love and hope that arise from the contexts of The Great Gatsby and Browning’s poetry.
  3. Compare the ways in which texts offer insights into the human experience. Respond to this statement in relation to the pair of prescribed texts that you have studied. (CSSA 2009 Trial)
  4. Gatsby and Browning offer markedly different perspectives on love. How effectively are their viewpoints conveyed? (ETA 2009 Trial)
  5. ‘The elective, Texts in Time, makes respondents consider ideas in a new light.’ How did your prescribed texts make you see the concept of love in a new light?
  6. What have the two texts you have studied revealed about changing values and perspectives on what it means to be rich and aimless? (North Sydney Girls 2010 Trial)
  7. Both Browning and Fitzgerald create worlds in which it is possible to believe in the pursuit of happiness. Do you agree? (Strathfield Girls 2010 Trial).

Context and value based questions:

  1. ‘The most interesting aspect of texts written in different times is seeing the differences in what people value.’ (Independent 2009 Trial)“Times change but human values remain static.”
  2. Discuss this statement with close reference to the context, values and language of both Browning’s poetry and The Great Gatsby. (James Ruse 2010 Trial)
  3. “The key to understanding anything is to understand its value in its time and our own.” Discuss this proposition in relation to both texts set for study.
  4. When we explore and investigate a pair of texts that share similar views of the world, we are able to more clearly see the power of context in influencing these views. To what extent has this statement been true of your study? (St Ignatius Riverview 2010 Trial)
  5. How does the comparison of language and ideas help us gain a heightened understanding of context and values in The Great Gatsby and Browning’s poetry?  (Baulkham Hills HS 2010 Trial).


  1. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry can work together to offer new insights into both texts. Discuss this idea referring to your TWO prescribed texts in detail. (ETA 2009 Trial)
  2. Texts on their own are interesting but when you compare them to other texts they become illuminating and dynamic.’ How has your exploration of the shared ideas of The Great Gatsby and Barrett Browning’s sonnets moved you to a heightened appreciation of each text?
  3. What insights have you gained from your comparative study of texts despite differences in form and features? (Fort Street 2010 Trial)

2009 HSC Markers Notes:


Better responses developed a thesis which addressed the question and demonstrated a strong conceptual understanding of the module and the elective. These responses embedded an evaluation of the relationship between text and context in the analysis of the texts and thus revealed a wide-ranging understanding of context and how that was reflected in texts. These responses also incorporated an analysis of the ways in which a comparative study invited deeper understanding of the concepts suggested by the question.

Weaker responses tended to make connections between texts often through lengthy description and recount. They were explanatory and narrative rather than analytical. These responses did not demonstrate evaluative judgements and treatment of context was often superficial or absent. Textual references were often not well selected or integrated into the discussion of the two texts studied.

Avoid their mistakes:

  • EVALUATE: make a judgment about the relationship between texts and contexts
  • Know a RANGE of contextual issues surrounding your text: e.g. Barrett Browning – personal experiences, role of women, Romanticism, Christianity, Sonnet form
  • Incorporate (even in 1 sentence in your thesis) a comment about how studying the 2 texts together gives you a better understanding of the ideas in both texts

2009 – Texts in Time

Better responses demonstrated a conceptual understanding of the module through detailed analysis of the interrelationship between the two texts studied. They demonstrated a clear understanding of how context influenced the values and ideas in both texts. These responses considered the key terms of disruption, aspirations or independence and identity as a basis for the thesis developed in their response.

Weaker responses tended to identify some similarities between these texts, often with a limited understanding of their significance. These responses often considered the key terms of the question in a superficial or generalised way and/or ignored them. Treatment of context was not integrated into the discussion and was frequently a reference to the time of composition rather than an understanding of how context is reflected in the construction and reception of texts. Textual support was often not appropriate.

Avoid their mistakes:

  • Write DETAILED analysis – be specific, have lots of techniques and quotes.
  • Integrate context into your text – see Essay Scaffold for Module A
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6 comments for “Past HSC and Practise Questions for Advanced Module A: Texts in Time – The Great Gatsby and Barrett Browning

  1. dilly
    July 25, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I am absolutely hating this module, it’s one of my worst areas.

    Thanks for this though, hopefully I’ll be able to pick up a couple of marks

  2. kirstin
    August 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    dude if only i had discovered you earlier my life would have been so much easier right now.
    thanks 🙂

  3. ana
    August 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    What is the relationship between context and text? Do you mean, how contextual event has effected the text?

    • tutortales
      August 7, 2011 at 6:35 pm

      Pretty much – context shapes texts. Personal, social, cultural, political, historical, literary context etc. TT

  4. Ali
    October 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm


  5. Hannah
    October 7, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Hey, thanks for the compilation of questions, I just wanted to ask how would you address the theme of identity regarding Fitzgeralds novel – like how the characters lack personal identity but simply conform to the hedonistic culture…? What would you say about Gatsby? Thankyou !

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