Parents, Carers and Community
I would like to Acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land, waterways and mountains on which we learn, grow and share. I would like to acknowledge the Elders past and present for their tireless effort in paving the way for our future young people. And extend that respect to our future leaders, the youth of today.
Congratulations! Beginning the HSC journey with your child is something to celebrate. Understanding the HSC, what they need to do, and how you can support them to succeed at school can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.
This information is here to help you understand; how the HSC works, how students can start preparing for a career during the HSC, where to get help during the HSC journey, and how you can understand and support the student in your life through their HSC journey. It’s part of My Future, My Culture My Way, which is helping Aboriginal students and their parents, carers, and communities through the HSC journey.
More HSC advice for parents and carers can be found on the HSC help page.
The HSC Journey
Explore the HSC visual journey and learn more about the HSC through 'Your journey towards the HSC'.
What is the HSC?
The HSC stands for the Higher School Certificate. It’s the highest educational award you can achieve in New South Wales high schools, and represents the end of your child’s schooling career.
How does the HSC work?
Students study 5-7 different subjects during Years 11 and 12.
- Students receive grades based on two types of Year 12 assessment:
- Tests, projects, or assignments at school in Term 4 of Year 11, and Terms 1 – 3 of Year 12.
- Results in these assessments make up half of each student’s final grades, which can take some of the pressure off exams. It also means it’s really important that students attend school and work hard all throughout Year 11 and 12.
- In Term 4 of Year 12, every HSC student in New South Wales takes the same exams.
- Students’ results in these exams are the other half of their final grade.
Students who complete all assessments and exams, and meet all the requirements (like attendance at school, and the Minimum Standard) receive their HSC.
Take the Minimum Standards Test before the end of Year 12 – you will need to achieve a Level 3-4 to show you’ve got the skills to take on life after school.
- For more about the HSC, check out the rules and processes page.
For more about HSC marks, grades and results, visit the understanding results page.
What subjects can students study?
HSC subjects are worth 1 or 2 “units”. Students must study 12 units worth of subjects in Year 11; they can drop down to 10 units in Year 12.
The only HSC subject your child must study is English, and there are different levels to suit them.
If your child wants to receive an ATAR to help them into university, they should choose at least 10 units of “Board Developed Courses”.
You can help your child by encouraging them to choose subjects that:
They are interested in and are good at
Will help them move towards a career that interests them
The HSC is hard work, so choosing interesting subjects, or things that are relevant to their dream job, will help them get stay motivated.
If your child already knows what they want to study at university, check if there are any HSC subjects they need to take to get ready for university.
Your child’s school will provide you with a list of subjects to choose from, but there are options for learning languages and studying subjects not offered at their school. Learn more about your options at:
The Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) has a subject compass that helps you choose subjects and set goals for after the HSC.
You may want to work through these websites together with your child:
What’s an ATAR?
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 that indicates your child’s rank, compared to all other HSC students in NSW, and Year 12 students around the country. So, an ATAR of 70.00 means that they are in the top 30 per cent of all HSC students in NSW.
Not all HSC students get an ATAR – to qualify for this, they must complete 10 “units” worth of “Board Developed HSC Courses”. If your child is keen to get an ATAR, remember to keep this in mind when choosing which subjects to study.
What are ATARs used for?
ATARs are used for getting into university, but they’re only one way to get there. Your child has plenty of options! Even if they choose HSC subjects that don’t lead to an ATAR, there are many other ways to get into their dream course.
What is the Minimum Standards Test?
The Minimum Standards Test is a requirement for getting an HSC, along with students completing their HSC subjects and passing their exams. To pass the test, students need to show they have the reading, writing and numeracy (maths) skills they’ll need for life after school.
If your child is anxious about taking the test, tell them not to worry. They can resit the test six times every year at no cost, and they have five years from Year 11 to pass. They can even start in Year 10 if they are really keen!
There’s some more information about the tests, including practise questions and sample questions on the NSW Education Standards Authority website.
If your child has a disability or is taking Life Skills HSC courses, talk to their school – they may not have to sit the Minimum Standards Test.
Why should our kids finish the HSC?
When your kids complete the HSC, we all benefit. The whole community is filled with pride, and together we can celebrate their achievements. When your kids complete school, it shows other kids they can do it too. Success grows success and shows what our people and culture are capable of.
The HSC is a big milestone. This final step in your child’s school learning journey is important for their future success. It will help them to get the best opportunities to achieve their goals in life; a smart mind ready for further studies, or a good job that pays well. Giving your kids these tools for life will help them to give back to community.
How will my child use their HSC
Kids can use their HSC in two ways:
- Getting into further study after high school.
- Whether it’s learning a trade or going off to university, the HSC will help them on their path to being an adult. Getting an HSC proves that your child knows how to work hard, and is committed to becoming the best student they can be
- Getting an apprenticeship, traineeship, or a job
If your child wants to get straight into work, the HSC looks great to employers. Bosses know that kids who stuck out of school are a great bet. Your child has a better shot of getting a job that pays well if they’ve got the HSC to their name.
The HSC belongs to your child for life. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, being able to say they completed high school is a huge achievement that will take them further in life.
What can my child do after the HSC?
Once your child has finished the HSC, they will have so many opportunities. Spend some time with your child learning about where the HSC can take them. Ask them what their dream is – and start planning how they’ll get there!
Does your child need help deciding what to do? These websites can help them:
Getting into university
Admissions pages for universities in NSW and ACT, to help you find out more about each university.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Admission Schemes
Check for information about admission programs Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Remember that no matter where your child comes from, or if their HSC journey was smooth sailing or full of potholes, there is always a way to get into their dream university course.
Is my child eligible for bonus points to get into university?
If your child’s journey towards the HSC has been bumpier than most people’s, they may be eligible for bonus points to get into university.
As parents, you can encourage kids to apply and even help with getting everything together. There’s no shame in applying for bonus points – they make sure everyone who deserves a spot at uni gets a place, regardless of where they come from.
Students can get bonus points for:
Being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
Going to school in regional, rural or remote NSW
Having an address in the lowest 25% of socio-economic disadvantage in Australia
Moving schools three times or more during Years 10 – 12
Receiving financial support, like AbStudy, during school
Family disruption, e.g. sorry business, being in out-of-home care, caring for a relative, or having a single parent
Having to work during the HSC to support their family or community
Many other things
Find out more here: https://www.uac.edu.au/future-applicants/scholarships-and-schemes/educational-access-schemes/
And here: https://www.uac.edu.au/future-applicants/scholarships-and-schemes/equity-scholarships
Thinking about a trade or learning new skills?
Smart and Skilled offers no-cost training to gain the skills your child needs to get a job and advance their career: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples/smart-and-skilled-eligibility
TAFE could be the place for your child: https://www.tafensw.edu.au/
Skills NSW can also help your child find their path: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw.htm
Need a job? Look no further: https://jobsearch.gov.au/
Wondering what training your child needs to get the job they want? This jobs guide can help: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/browse-job-guides
If your child is interested in working in health or nursing, check out the Aunty Fay Carroll training programs: https://www.svhs.org.au/employment/aboriginal-torres-strait-islander-employment/aunty-fay-carroll-training-programs
Career support for Aboriginal students
Got a question about trades, skills and training programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students? Your local Training Services NSW contact can help: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples/aboriginal-initiatives-contact-list
Need help getting your child organised to enrol in university, training, or getting a job? Check out the OCHRE Opportunity Hubs: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples/ochre-opportunity-hubs
Want a mentor to guide your child through training? Barranggirra is here for them: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples/barranggirra
How can I help my kids with their HSC journey?
Parents have a really important job during the HSC – supporting your kids to complete their HSC and become the best version of themselves. Your child might be stressed or anxious about studying, exams, and surviving the HSC; you can help them by talking through the tricky bits with them, and reminding them that the HSC is worth it.
Some tips for parents and carers:
Support your child
Stay positive and encourage your child to keep working hard and do their best
Remind them that you respect them and understand the challenges they face
Tell them you care about their future and their career; the HSC can open up great opportunities
Remind them that, if things don’t go to plan, you will always support them
Stay up to date and in touch with your child’s school. Students often miss the notes, emails and newsletters schools send, but these can be particularly important during HSC.
Help your child to stay organised with a calendar of HSC dates and events
Check how they are balancing school, homework and study, work, sport, and their social life
Encourage them to minimise distractions like social media – taking a break during exam periods is so important.
Show interest in their HSC journey
Ask about their teachers and subjects
Check in on how they are feeling about school and the HSC. How can they keep improving, and how can you help them?
Where to get help
If you’re not sure how to help your kids, we hope these links and services are useful. There’s absolutely no shame in reaching out if it means helping your kids succeed.
The NSW AECG Inc
The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc (NSW AECG Inc), in partnership with NSW Education Department is here to help and support you and your child on their HSC journey. They provide advice on all matters relevant to Aboriginal education and training with a viewpoint that represents the Aboriginal communities of NSW. They promote respect, empowerment, and self-determination.
The NSW AECG has State, Regional and Local networks made up of volunteers from communities across NSW.
Find your Local AECG on the AECG website or by giving us a call on (02) 9550 5666.
These programs may be helpful in planning for the HSC:
- Aboriginal HSC Scholarship Programs
- Assists Aboriginal students studying for the HSC with approved expenses to support their studies
- Includes two weeks of work experience every year, mentoring, and opportunities for work after school
- Assists with living costs while studying or training during high school and beyond
- NSW Department of Communities and Justice Scholarship
- Assists Years 10 – 12 students living in social housing (including Aboriginal housing) or out-of-home care with study expenses
Public Education Foundation Scholarships
- A range of scholarships to support students through school and beyond
If your child doesn’t have a laptop or internet connection at home, talk to your school about getting a loan laptop or dongle.
Helping your child to study for the HSC
If it’s been a while since you were in a high school classroom, don’t worry – you can still help your child study for the HSC.
Remember to encourage them to set goals and reflect on what they’ve achieved every term, and especially at the end of Year 11. Encourage your child to look at their marks so far and identify strengths and weaknesses.
You can also help them manage their time and remind them when assignments or university applications are due, or exams are coming up, as well as when fun events like career days and formals. You can print out a calendar for the year and mark it with all the important dates in your child’s HSC journey.
Some more handy study resources:
Past exams may provide some guidance about what to expect but remind your child that exams change every year and test skills, not content.
Syllabuses define what students should learn in each subject, which is what they should expect to find in the test.
The HSC Study Guide, has answers to a wide range of questions.
NESA's HSC exam workbooks include the guidelines markers use as well as examples of answers by top students, and can be purchased from their website
Marking feedback from past HSC exam papers
If your child is struggling to keep up with their work, it is worth calling their school to chat with their teacher about getting back on track. Their school might be able to get in touch with programs or services to help with those tricky subjects, enrol your child in a homework club, or even connect you with an Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Centre.
Other academic supports available include:
Aurora College offers HSC study days for students to connect and revise with other students from across the state. A range of experts, experienced teachers and HSC markers present HSC examination advice and up to date information on course content.
Chat to the librarians at your local library to see what’s on offer.
The NSW State Library has a handy HSC resource page, with subject guides:
The HSC Student Guide has all the things your child needs to know about exams and study in one place.
The HSC might be the hardest thing your child has ever done, and it’s so important to help them look after their wellbeing and mental health during the mental marathon. When your child gets caught up in the pressures and worries of the HSC, remind them to take time out for a breather, breaks are really important.
If your kids need a yarn, you can help them by starting a conversation or connecting them with an Elder, family member, teacher, or close friend. Aboriginal Medical Services also have doctors, mental health workers and counsellors they can yarn to about mental health. Remember, no question about mental health is a silly question.
You should always encourage your child to study and work to the best of their ability but also balance their lives with friends, family, health and rest. Encourage your kids to build good routines with exercise, good food, and plenty of sleep to keep their batteries recharged.
A good diet and healthy routine helps maintain concentration and energy levels. This should include:
plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables
lots of drinking water
moderated caffeine - if your child must have a coffee, try to limit it to one per day and don't drink coffee after midday
plenty of sleep - teenagers don't always realise how much sleep they need; at least eight to 10 hours a night is recommended
exercise and time to switch off and relax each day
Getting urgent help with mental health
If your child is having a tough time and needs someone to talk to, help them by putting them in touch with one of these services. They are free and confidential, operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are available to support, listen and help your child out whenever they need.
Lifeline offers crisis support and suicide prevention services
Phone: 13 11 14 (Available 24 hours a day)
Chat online at lifeline.org.au (7pm - 12am AEST)
Kids Helpline gives young people aged 5 to 25 free phone and online counselling support.
Phone: 1800 55 1800 (24 hours a day)
Chat online at kidshelpline.com.au (24 hours a day)
Beyond Blue can give you information and mental health support. All chats and calls are one-on-one with a trained mental health professional.
Phone: 1300 22 4636 (24 hours a day)
Chat online at BeyondBlue.org.au (3pm - 12am)
Suicide CallBack Service
Suicide Call Back Service can give you immediate telephone counselling and support in a crisis.
Phone: 1300 659 467 (24 hours a day)
Chat online at suicidecallbackservice.org.au (24 hours a day)
1800RESPECT can help you if you, or someone you know, is experiencing sexual assault or domestic and family violence. It's available for all ages.
Phone: 1800 737 732 (Available 24 hours)
Chat online at 1800respect.org.au (24 hours a day)
ReachOut is Australia's leading online mental health organisation for young people and their parents.
ReachOut Forums offer a safe, supportive and anonymous space for 14-25 year old Australians to chat, connect and support each other.
Information that may help your child or somebody else, when going through a hard time. There's no shame in talking it out. Headspace is your space to yarn safe.
If life outside the classroom has gotten in the way of your child’s schooling during the HSC, that’s okay. There’s a special consideration process to make sure these speedbumps don’t stop your child from getting their HSC.
If your child couldn’t attend school, sit an exam, or hand in a project for a different reason, ask their school about submitting a special consideration application. There’s some more information about the process on the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) website.
The best people to talk to about this process are your child’s teachers; give them a call to chat if you think your child might need special consideration.
If your child has a disability or something else that might stop them from doing well in exams, disability provisions can help. They are practical changes to help students show what they know in an exam room fairly. Remind your child that it’s not embarrassing to apply for provisions – more than 7000 HSC students apply for provisions each year.
Find out more about disability provisions on the NESA website.
To get the process started, reach out to your child’s school.