As requested by a commenter, here is a list of past HSC and school questions for Advanced Module B: Yeats.
Past HSC Questions:
Yeats’s poetry has been described as ‘a provocative portrayal of uncertainty in changing
To what extent does this perspective align with your understanding of Yeats’s poetry?
In your response, make detailed reference to at least TWO of the poems set for study.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
From The Wild Swans at Coole
In your view, how does Yeats’ portrayal of the complex nature of inspiration contribute
to the enduring value of his poetry?
In your response, make detailed reference to The Wild Swans at Coole and at least ONE
other poem set for study.
Explore how time and place are used in Yeats’s poetry to shape the reader’s understanding of the search for truth. In your response, make detailed reference to at least TWO of the poems set for study.
An inherent tension between stability and change is revealed through recurring images in Yeats’ poetry.
To what extent does your interpretation of Yeats’ The Second Coming and at least one other poem align with this view?
In your response, make detailed reference to The Second Coming and at least ONE other poem set for study.
Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
In the context of your critical study, to what extent does your response to the closing stanza of Among School Children inform your judgement of this poem and Yeats’s poetry as a whole? In your response, make detailed reference to Among School Children and at least ONE other poem set for study.
‘Yeats’s poetry continues to engage readers through its poetic treatment of conflict and beauty.’
In light of your critical study, does this statement resonate with your own interpretation of Yeats’s poetry?
Through its portrayal of human experience, Yeats’ poetry reinforces the significance of desire. To what extent does your interpretation of Yeats’ poetry support this view?
In your response, make detailed reference to at least TWO poems set for study.
NOTE: the examination rubrics for 2008 and prior were slightly different To read how this affects your use of past HSC questions, read this post.
In your view, how have poetic techniques been used to reveal memorable ideas in Yeats’ poetry? Support your view with detailed reference to at least TWO of the poems set for study.
Ultimately, in this poetry, it is the representation of intense human emotions that captivates readers.
Explore the representation of at least ONE intense human emotion, evaluating its significance in at least TWO of Yeats’ poems prescribed for study.
To what extent has your personal response to the poetry been shaped by the enduring power of Yeats’ poetic treatment of age and youth?
Support your evaluation with a close analysis of TWO poems by Yeats.
Your class has been exploring the question, ‘What will continue to make Yeats’ poetry worthy of critical study?’ Your personal response has been challenged by another student. Defend your response through a critical evaluation of Yeats’ poetry, analysing the construction, content and language of the text.
In your response, refer to THREE poems you have studied.
‘Interpretations of texts can shift and change with time and place.’
Considering your time and place, reflect on the ways in which context has shaped your critical interpretation of the prescribed text.
In your response, refer to TWO poems from your prescribed text.
Questions used by school etc:
- How is your personal response to the poetry of Yeats shaped by a perception of voice in the poems? In your answer, refer to THREE of the poems set for study. (2009 Catholic Trial)
- A valuable text has something to say and says it well. How valid is this claim, considering the different contexts in which a text can be received? In your response compare your evaluation of Yeats’ poetry with one other perspective on his work. Base your discussion on close analysis of at least TWO poems. (2009 ETA Trial)
- Write a series of three or four reflections that demonstrate how your response to William Butler Yeats’ poetry changed and developed during the process of your critical study. Base your reflections on a detailed examination of TWO or THREE of Yeats’ poems. (2009 Independent Trial)
- “A text has value if it creates opportunities for change, while maintaining its core values.” Explore this notion in relation to your text set for study.
- A key aspect of the poetry’s ongoing appeal is Yeats’ use of meaningful structure. In your view, to what extent does the structure contribute to the appeal of Yeats’ poetry? Support your evaluation with detailed reference to at least TWO of the poems prescribed for study.
- How has considering other interpretations of Yeats’ poetry helped you develop your own appreciation of the textual integrity of the poetry? In your response you should consider the ideas, poetic techniques and structure of at least TWO of Yeats’ poems prescribed for study.
- Tension between individuals and life experiences create interest in the poetry of W.B Yeats. Discuss in reference to two poems.
- An examination of fear and transcendence lies at the heart of Yeats poetry. To what extent does this statement reflect your understanding of Yeats poetry?
- Tension between an individual and life experiences is what creates interest in the poetry of William Butler Yeats. To what extent does this statement reflect your response toEaster 1916and at least ONE other Yeats poem set for study. (Baulkham Hills HS 2010 Trial)
- It has been suggested that a key aspect of Yeats’ enduring relevance to readers is his poetry’s examination of human flaws. To what extent does your personal understanding agree with this view. In your response, you should critically analyse and evaluate the techniques, themes and structure of his poetry. (James Ruse 2010 Trial)
- To what extent is your personal response to Yeats’ exploration of conflict shaped by the poet’s use of poetic language techniques? (North Sydney Girls 2010 Trial)
- Poets that explore the challenges of life and death are often those whose works endure throughout the generations. Do you agree? In your response, make detailed reference to at least three poems. (St Ignatius Riverview 2010 Trial)
- Anyone can have a good idea. Effective communication of ideas is an art form. Select two poems and offer an evaluation of their strengths as an effective vehicle for ideas. (Strathfield Girls 2010 Trial)
If we have a look at the markers’ notes through 2009 to 2011, the following notes provide some guidance:
- Ensure that you have examined and know each poem closely – the 2011 question obviously caught out students who only prepared for 2-3 of Yeats’ poems, without examining all of them.
- Discuss the poems in a linked/integrated way. This does not necessarily mean that you cannot talk about one poem per paragraph, but ensure that you make links and understand Yeats’ overarching ideas.
- DON’T write too much on Yeats’ context or personal experiences. Although an understanding of these assists in your interpretation, it should only be one dimension of it. This was noted in both 2009 and 2010 as a weakness.
- DON’T rely on the readings and interpretations of others, without evaluating them against your own views.
In better responses, candidates skilfully argued that recurring imagery in Yeats’s poems reveals an inherent tension between stability and change. In better responses, candidates also presented an extensive analysis of the nominated poem, The Second Coming, and often included a highly integrated approach with the other chosen poem(s). In these better responses, candidates explored the poems in terms of ageing, humanity’s moral decline and changing society. Recurring apocalyptic and natural imagery was discussed in a skillful manner, candidates demonstrating an extensive, perceptive understanding of poetic techniques in each poem.
In better responses, candidate perceptively argued how the final stanza of Among School Children informed their judgement of the poem and Yeats’ poetry as a whole. These responses were characterised by a strong personal voice, sustained thesis, detailed textual evidence and a skilful and evaluative analysis.
Weaker responses tended to be descriptive, often discussing each poem in isolation with limited textual reference. These responses made minimal reference to the closing stanza of Among School Children.
In stronger responses, candidates carefully considered arguments and thoughtfully selected, detailed textual references to support a perceptive thesis.
Insightful responses demonstrated a strong sense of personal engagement which was developed through an evaluation of a variety of interpretations. Very few responses simply relied on interpretations of others and ‘readings’.
Weaker responses tended to be descriptive and made limited reference to the language and ideas of the text. They lacked development and did not sustain a coherent and detailed argument. These responses also reflected a limited understanding of the demands of the question.
Specifically about Yeats:
In better responses, candidates analysed the ideas of conflict and beauty in addition to providing detailed analysis and evaluation of poetic language, form and features. They also acknowledged how these ideas engaged an audience and demonstrated a strong sense of personal voice in arguing how the question resonated with their understanding of Yeats’ poetry. These responses demonstrated a detailed and sustained knowledge of the ideas within the poems and skilfully used appropriate textual responses to support a clearly articulated thesis.
Weaker responses concentrated on contextual and biographical information such as Yeats’ relationship with Maud Gonne. They tended to be descriptive and often relied on recount. Some showed little understanding of beauty and conflict and did not provide a balanced treatment of these concepts.
Stronger responses skilfully argued the extent to which their own understanding of the prescribed text reflected the view presented in the statement, using carefully selected textual references to support their arguments. These responses perceptively integrated a discussion of language and structure and presented a sustained analysis which demonstrated strong personal understanding of the text. Discerning responses used insights gleaned from how their text had been received and the context of its reception to strengthen the demonstration of their own understanding of the text.
Better responses were discriminating, fluent and tightly structured, revealing a strong personal voice as well as clarity of expression.
The notion of personal engagement was vital in addressing the question. Unfortunately, some responses relied too heavily on describing readings rather than developing an informed personal response.
Weaker responses were plot driven; incorporating only limited reference to the text and its language forms and features. They showed little appreciation of the complexity of the text and lacked development, reflecting a limited understanding of the demands of the question.
While literacy and expression were generally of a high standard, some responses lacked the structure and the vocabulary to advance a well structured and carefully developed response.
The emphasis must be on personal response with detailed reference to the prescribed text. An over-reliance on readings and productions should not replace an analysis of the text which reflects deep understanding and strong personal engagement with the text.
Specifically about Yeats:
Better responses perceptively analysed the significance of desire as part of human experience and traced the development of this notion in Yeats’ poetry. These responses were characterised by a detailed knowledge of the ideas in the poem drawing on pertinent textual references to support their theses. Language analysis was sustained, well integrated and skilfully used to explore the significance of desire in Yeats’ poetry.
Weaker responses often framed desire in terms of biographical information about the poet’s physical and political desire. They tended to be descriptive and failed to address the notion of human experience.