The Higher School Certificate is not an IQ test. It is not measuring your potential intelligence as an IQ test ostensibly does; The HSC tests what you have learnt and your practical ability to communicate it effectively. Mistakes about what the examiners want can cost students the marks they could have otherwise earned were they better informed. The right approach can allow students to reach their potential.
In any written subject, but most notable English, the point is always to communicate ideas clearly, and to defend opinions or arguments effectively. It is a common and costly mistake to try and hide behind dense prose or verbose terminology. Even if the ideas expressed in an essay are sound it is a mistake to try and dress them up with unnecessary complexity. Technical terms that are directly relavent to the passage at hand are good to use; correct use of these shows that you are fluent with the subject matter. Otherwise stick to direct communication. If there are two or more sides to a situation you can articulate both, and either defend one or show the comparative strengths and weaknesses or both.
Remember, professional writing like journalism is written so that even a twelve year old can read it with minimal effort. Even technical pieces are written so that the technical terms and information are not presumed of the reader but are understood because of their context. High school essays are not quite the same as journalism, but this is not a bad starting point. HSC markers are humans, not thesauruses. If you can write a clean and well-structured essay that answers the set question will do quite well, certainly better that average. If you can include original insights and connections between the facts you can do even better.
I ask student what they prefer when they are trying to understand something from a textbook – dense heavy prose that requires several re-readings to produce any understanding (wow, it must be complex because it’s so hard to follow), or clear, well structured, well written explanations and ideas (Oh, so that’s what it means!). Really, which do you prefer? Imagine a textbook essay that makes sense of a subject or a question for the first time; now write an essay like that.
For HSC tutoring Sydney’s Global Language Academy is a solid choice. Understanding and communication comes from seeing the connections between facts, not just knowing the facts themselves. GLA courses can show you how to fit it all together, and get better grades as the result of a genuine increase in understanding and ability.