The HSC exams are the culmination of your learning.Credit:Jessica Hromas
You’ve learnt a thing or two
Paul Martin, CEO, NSW Education Standards Authority
What you’ve learnt over the past 13 years of schooling is phenomenal.
At the core, you’ve been taught an extensive curriculum and been tested on your academic knowledge. But your education goes beyond the pages of a syllabus.
NSW Education Standards Authority CEO Paul Martin.
Quietly, and probably unconsciously, you’ve picked up skills that will touch all aspects of your life.
This year alone you’ve learnt how to adapt to new ways of learning as the COVID pandemic continues. You’ve also become skilled at expressing ideas and working effectively with others using a variety of channels.
The HSC exams are an opportunity to consolidate everything you’ve learnt; but it’s important to remember no exam is more important than your wellbeing.
With this in mind, we have developed COVID-safe exam protocols that prioritise your health and safety. There are also processes and contingencies in place for a range of COVID-related scenarios to ensure no student is disadvantaged.
Even so, it can be hard to shake the uncertainty that COVID brings to our lives.
So be mindful of how stress might be affecting your health and wellbeing, and if you’re finding it hard to cope, make sure you get support.
Don’t let stress become a barrier to you reaching your potential. I wish you all the very best for the rest of your HSC year.
The HSC is just the beginning
Sarah Mitchell, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning
Being in year 12 is both exciting and daunting all at once.
You’re about to finish high school and take the next steps on your journey. You’re also studying hard for your exams and deciding what to do when you leave school.
On top of all of that, a pandemic is changing the way students learn and prepare for HSC exams, especially in Greater Sydney.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell.
While it can feel challenging, know that you will have the opportunity to get your HSC this year. Your hard work will be rewarded.
Just keep studying and don’t lose sight of what’s important.
That’s why I urge you to look after yourself. Take study breaks. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Try to exercise regularly. Importantly, look after your mental health.
If you feel stressed, talk to someone you trust; a friend, teacher, family member or mental health professional.
It might be hard to see past your upcoming exams, but you will soon realise that the HSC is just one chapter in your life.
The next might involve learning at university or TAFE, doing an apprenticeship or joining the workforce. No matter which direction you take, finishing your HSC will give you the academic, social and emotional skills to succeed on any path.
Your potential and possibilities are endless. Good luck, study hard and look after each other.
Measures are in place to keep you COVID-safe during the HSC.Credit:Louise Kennerley
COVID-safe HSC exams
NESA is working closely with NSW Health to plan contingencies to deal with a wide range of potential COVID-19 scenarios. So just keep learning and preparing for exams and remember that no exam is more important than
Before exams start
If you have a known illness, like hay fever, that has similar symptoms to the flu, you need to get a medical certificate from your doctor and give it to your school.
If you are unable to attend an exam due to international or state border closures, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 9367 8183.
On exam day
- regularly wash your hands
- cover coughs and sneezes
- avoid touching your face.
If you have flu-like symptoms or have been advised to isolate by NSW Health:
- do not attend the exam
- contact your school immediately
- get tested
- follow NSW Health advice.
You will be asked to confirm you do not have any flu-like symptoms and are not required by NSW Health to self-isolate before you enter the exam room.
The COVID illness and misadventure process is available to students impacted by COVID-19 on the day of an exam.
For the latest COVID advice go to NSW Health. Any changes to the HSC exams will be published on the NESA website.
Preparing for exams
1. Stick to a study schedule
You can create a study schedule that starts well before the exam period.
This will help you study more effectively – evidence shows that studying in small chunks over a longer period is more effective than cramming.
Here’s how to create a well-balanced schedule:
- On a weekly or fortnightly schedule, mark down all your commitments (eg work, social occasions, sports activities).
- Add blocks of study time.
- Allocate time for exercise and relaxation.
- Don’t plan to study when you should be sleeping. Sleep helps us to concentrate, remember things and keeps us energised.
Have time for your friends in your schedule. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
2. Get acquainted with different question types
Read all the alternatives first and then choose the best overall answer. If you change your mind, there are instructions on the multiple-choice answer sheet about how to change your answer.
Questions with stimulus material
Stimulus material – eg artwork, quotations or maps – provide a focus for analysis or interpretation. Using the stimulus to develop your answer is expected, so consider it carefully.
Some exam questions have rubrics, which show the criteria used for assessing answers. Here’s an example:
Your answers will be assessed on how well you:
- respond critically to the prescribed text.
- analyse how meaning is conveyed.
- demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the prescribed text and prescribed issues.
Read the rubric as well as the exam question before you write your answer.
Short answer questions
The space provided and marks allocated to a short answer question will give you an idea of how long your response should be. The cover of the HSC exam paper will also have advice on how much time to allow for each section or question.
Extended exam responses
Your responses should be carefully planned rather than include everything you know about a topic.
Here are some quick tips to help you write a strong extended response:
- Read the rubric (if there is one). This will tell you what’s expected in your answer.
- Read every word of the question properly. You’re off to a good start and won’t run the risk of missing the point of the question.
- Draft a quick plan. List 3 to 4 points to cover in your response.
- Manage your time. Make sure you allocate enough time to address the points in your plan.
If you have trouble understanding how to answer a question, look for key words and work out how they relate to the course. Then you can write an answer from relevant knowledge, understanding and skills.
Making the best attempt you can is a better strategy than not attempting the question at all.
Plan your time and your work.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
3. Know what to bring with you
Have you got the right equipment for your exams?
- A black pen.
- Spare pens.
- If needed, a ruler, highlighters, pencils (at least 2B) and a sharpener.
- Water in a clear bottle.
- A mobile phone. Mobile phones are not permitted in an exam room under any circumstances.
- A programmable watch (eg a smart watch).
- Any electronic device (except a calculator where permitted). This includes mobile phones or other communication devices, organisers, tablets (eg iPads), music players or electronic dictionaries.
- Paper or any printed or written material. You can ask your presiding officer for working paper.
- Print dictionaries, except where permitted in language exams.
- Correction fluid.
You are not allowed to borrow equipment during exams.
4. Read the rules
Make sure you are familiar with the HSC rules and processes.
The consequences of cheating are serious. You could be deemed ineligible for the HSC.
Exam day game plan
Have a game plan for your exams.
Teaching Quality Adviser Ami Morrow from Merewether High School says being strategic in how you approach the exam may help you write better answers.
- Warm up: When you first sit down, take a few deep breaths and relax.
- Focus your energy: Use reading time wisely. Past exam papers can help you develop a strategy for reading time that’s best for you. It might be to quickly read through the whole paper, or spend the time on longer questions or stimulus material.
- Start strong: The questions are designed to be answered in order, so it’s best to begin with question 1. Don’t spend too long on a question – if you’re unsure, eliminate any options that are obviously wrong and take an educated guess.
- Be strategic: One strategy is to start with the questions that you feel positive about. This will build your confidence before you attempt the other questions that might need more thought or planning.
- Close all gaps: Don’t leave anything blank. Check your multiple-choice answers. For the higher mark questions, you should check that your answer links to the question to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Blindness no barrier for HSC student
Chester Hill High School student Azka Yusuf is legally blind. He explains how he will sit his HSC exams this year.
Azka Yusuf plans to study interior design after the HSC.
How will you sit your HSC exams?
I will use a computer with two monitors. I use one monitor, preferably the left one, to read the exam questions and the other to type in my responses.
Completing the exam electronically allows me to zoom in and see the questions. I also have my support teacher with me to help me navigate the questions.
When the exam is over, the supervisor prints my response and submits it with the other students’ exam papers.
How did you work out which provisions you needed?
The teachers, vision support teacher and learning support teacher at Chester Hill High School have helped me get what I need to do my classwork and exams.
We started off with N48-sized text, which was printed on A3 paper. (“N” or “pt” is a term for font size).
Over the years, we found that classwork, assignments and tests were best done electronically. The teachers taught me how to use the laptop using magnifier software and, later on, a screen reader.
Do you have any advice for students with disability who may feel worried about taking HSC exams?
Reach out to your learning support teacher, year adviser or any teacher you’re close to. They will help you find the best way to study and take your exams. You can also talk to them about anything that is worrying you.
Always ask for help when you need it. There are many people in the school who are more than willing to assist you.
What would you like to do when you finish your HSC?
After the HSC I would like to study interior design at TAFE.
Who’s eligible for disability provisions?
Students who have received adjustments for assessments during the year or who believe they will need support to access the HSC exams can apply for disability provisions.
You can get special consideration if something happens – you fall ill or have an accident – directly before or during the HSC exam period that:
- prevents you from attending one or more exams.
- affects your performance in one or more exams.
Let your exam supervisor or principal know what happened on the day or as soon as possible. In the meantime, attend all exams if possible.
How moderation works
Moderation is the way the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) puts all school assessment marks on the same scale. This is done to make sure every student receives an assessment mark that is fair and can be compared, no matter which school you attended.
Here’s how it’s done.
Same but different
Every student completing each HSC course sits the same exam. But students at different schools complete different assessment tasks. By putting each school’s assessment marks for a course on the same scale as the exam, the marks from different schools can be validly compared.
NESA moderates your school assessment mark in this way:
1.The rank order of students stays the same.
2. After the HSC exam papers are marked:
- the top assessment mark is adjusted to equal the top HSC mark
- the bottom assessment mark is adjusted to equal the bottom HSC mark
- the mean of the assessment mark is adjusted to equal the mean of the HSC exam.
3. The relative gaps between each assessment mark within your school remain.
4. Additional checks and balances make sure no one is disadvantaged.
5. NESA calculates your HSC mark by adding 50 per cent of your moderated school assessment and 50 per cent of your exam mark.
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