How your HSC works

How your HSC works

The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the culmination of your school career and the highest educational award you can achieve at secondary school in New South Wales.

Study for the HSC begins with the Preliminary year, usually studied in Year 11, after completing Year 10. Study for your HSC year will begin in Term 4 for most students, meaning you officially start Year 12 around October.

Step 1 – Getting ready

Sometime during Year 10 you will choose the HSC courses you wish to study, often referred to as ‘subject selection’. There are some rules you need to follow when choosing courses. For example, everyone must do at least two units of English.

You will also be required to satisfactorily complete the HSC: All My Own Work program before you start the HSC, which helps you understand your rights and responsibilities in the HSC and ethical scholarship issues such as plagiarism and copyright.

When you start your HSC in Term 4, you will be given a copy of the HSC Rules and Procedures guide, outlining important information you need to know about HSC enrolment, assessment, exams and results. You will also need to sign a Confirmation of Entry form to check and confirm you understand the rules and procedures and that you are correctly enrolled in the HSC. It is important you tell your school straight away if any details are incorrect.

Use your Students Online account to check and keep across your personal HSC information throughout the year.

Step 2 – HSC assessment

Throughout your HSC, you will complete school-based assessments, which together contribute 50 percent of your final HSC mark for a course. Assessment tasks allow you to show what you know, understand and can do in ways that may not be possible in a written examination.

Your work must be all your own – cheating, including plagiarism, could lead to you receiving zero marks. Honesty in Assessment – The Standard sets out the requirements for completing your assessment tasks.

Your school will submit an overall school-based assessment mark for each of your courses to the BOSTES. This mark equates to a ‘rank’ in your course which you can check in My Details on the day of the last HSC written exam.

The BOSTES will moderate your school-based assessment marks after your exams. Moderation takes account of how your assessment marks compare with marks given to students doing the same courses in a different school.

Step 3 – HSC exams

The exams are what you study and work towards throughout your HSC year. Your exam results contribute the other 50 percent of your final HSC mark for a course.

You will sit written exams at the same time as everyone else in the state studying the same course. You may also study a course with a practical or performance exam where you are required to submit a major work, perform or speak another language for example. Your personal exam timetable is available in Term 2 in My Details or you can view the full written exam timetable. There are also certain pieces of equipment you can and can't take into each exam.

There is a range of resources available to help you prepare for your exams including study tips and materials, what to expect in the exam and the exam papers, the previous year's HSC Advisory Bulletin, and exam work books available to buy.

Once the exams are finished, the BOSTES employs several thousand experienced teachers to mark all the exam papers (more than two million writing booklets!).

Step 4 – HSC results

Achieving the HSC is different from getting a driver's licence or an ATAR. You do not receive a simple ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, nor do you get a single rank or mark for all courses. The HSC results are a detailed package showing you the level of knowledge and skills you achieved in each course.

Your HSC Record of Achievement will list your HSC assessment mark, HSC examination mark, HSC mark (which is a 50:50 combination of your examination and assessment mark) and a Performance Band for each course you studied. 

You will be able to get your HSC results online and by SMS in December and your official credentials will be mailed to you in January.

If you have any questions or concerns about your results there are different results services you may decide to use, including the HSC Results Inquiry Centre telephone hotline (1300 13 83 23) available after results are released. You can also order replacement certificates for a fee if you ever lose your credentials.

The Universities Admissions Centre releases the ATAR the day after the HSC results are out.

The HSC merit lists are published on the BOSTES website and the HSC showcases and exhibitions begin in January.