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.
So you’re more than halfway through high school – well done! The final years of school are exciting and stressful, especially if you’re the first in your family to finish school, or you’re getting back on track after a break from the classroom.
Whether you want to go to university, TAFE, start work right away, or even have a break to help decide, having the HSC under your belt is your ticket to opportunities, skills and success after school.
This information is here to help you plan for the final years of school and support you through the HSC. It’s part of My Future, My Culture My Way, which is helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their parents, carers, and communities through the HSC journey.
What is the HSC?
The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the highest qualification you can achieve at school.
Find out more about the HSC here: https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/about-HSC
What do I need to do before starting Year 11?
Take the 1 – 2 day course All My Own Work. It’s all about being an honest student, and what happens if you are caught cheating. Your school will usually organise time for you to do this in Term 4 of Year 10.
How does the HSC work?
You will study 5-7 different subjects.
During Year 12, you will complete a few tests, projects, or assignments at school. These count towards your final grades, taking some of the pressure off exams!
In Term 4 of Year 12, every HSC student takes the same exams.
If you meet all the requirements and complete all assessments, you will receive your HSC – this can help you get into university, TAFE, or even your first job.
Take the Minimum Standards test before the end of Year 12 – you will need to pass the Minimum Standards test to show you’ve got the skills to take on life after school https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/hsc-minimum-standard
Here are some more HSC rules and processes: https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/rules-and-processes/rules-and-procedures-guide
Here’s some more information on how the HSC works: https://studentsonline.nesa.nsw.edu.au/go/seniorstudy/how_your_hsc_works/
What subjects can I study?
HSC subject selection is all about working smarter, not harder. You should choose subjects you are interested in, or subjects which are relevant to your dream course or career.
The only compulsory HSC subject is English, and there are different levels to suit you.
All subjects are worth 1 or 2 units. You have to take 12 units worth of subjects in Year 11, but you can drop down to 10 units in Year 12.
If you want to receive an ATAR to help you get into university, make sure you pick 10 units of “Board Developed Courses”.
Your school will provide you with a list of subjects to choose from, but if you’d like to learn a language or take a subject that isn’t offered at your school, you can learn more about your options here:
Here’s some more advice on choosing HSC subjects:
This subject compass helps you choose subjects and set goals for after the HSC: https://www.uac.edu.au/subject-compass/#/
If you already know what you want to study at university, it’s helpful to check if there are any HSC subjects you need to study for that course.
What's an ATAR?
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 that indicates your rank, compared to all other HSC students in NSW, and Year 12 students around the country. So, an ATAR of 70.00 means that you are 30 per cent from the top of all HSC students in NSW.
ATARs are one way of getting into university, but not the only way. Even if you choose HSC subjects that don’t lead to an ATAR, there are many other ways to get into your dream course.
What is the Minimum Standard Test?
As well as the subjects you study and exams you sit, the HSC also requires you to show that you’ve got the reading, writing and numeracy skills to take on life after school.
You can sit this test six times every year, from Year 10 all the way to five years after starting HSC subjects. There’s no cost to sit for the test.
Here’s some more information about the tests, including practise questions and sample questions: https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/hsc-minimum-standard/online-tests
If you have a disability or are taking Life Skills HSC courses, talk to your school – you may not have to sit the Minimum Standard Test.
What happens if I miss too much school?
From Term 4 of Year 10, your attendance is really important – if you’ve missed too much school, TAFE, or part of your apprenticeship or traineeship, you may not meet all the requirements for completing your HSC. Make sure you talk to your school about attendance, illness and misadventure, and getting back on track if you’ve had some time away.
Where can the HSC take me?
Success Stories and Videos
Hear from students on how they found success in Year 12 and what they are up to post HSC.
Student success stories: https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/aec/premier-s-priorities/success-stories
There’s life after the HSC, too! Have a look at these websites to help you on a career path, whether that’s university, TAFE, or even a job while you decide. Remember you can always take a gap year between school and whatever comes next to help you decide.
Need help deciding what to do? These websites will help you along the way:
Getting into university
This link points you towards admission pages for universities in NSW and the ACT, to help you find out more about each university:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Admission Schemes
Check for information about admission programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Check each university's program - no matter what your HSC journey was like there's a way to gain entry into your dream university course.
Am I eligible for bonus points to get into university?
If your journey towards the HSC has been bumpier than most people’s, you may be eligible for bonus points to get into university. 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. Categories include:
Being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
Going to school in regional, rural or remote NSW
Your address is in the lowest 25% of socio-economic disadvantage in Australia
Moving schools three times or more during Years 10 – 12
You received financial support, like AbStudy, during school
Family disruption, e.g. sorry business, being in out-of-home care, caring for a relative
Having to work during the HSC to support your family or community
Thinking about a trade or learning new skills?
- Smart and Skilled offers no-cost training to gain the skills you need to get a job and advance your career: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples/smart-and-skilled-eligibility
- TAFE could be the place for you: https://www.tafensw.edu.au/
- Skills NSW can also help you find your path: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw.htm
- Need a job? Look no further: https://jobsearch.gov.au/
- Wondering what training you need to get the job you want? This jobs guide can help: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/browse-job-guides
- If you are 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 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 you through training? Barranggirra is here for you: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples/barranggirra
Where can I get help during my HSC journey?
There are a number of different programs and scholarships available to help you get through your HSC.
Your school may also have other supports, like Aboriginal Education and Learning Centres, that can help you on your HSC journey. Reach out to your favourite teacher to find out more.
Aboriginal Cultural Programs
Pirru Thangkuray Program
Pirru Thangkuray means dream strong. It’s a cultural goal setting program which aims to support student engagement in learning through a cultural lens. Find out more here: https://aecgservices.com.au/programs/pirru-thangkuray/
Junior Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups (AECGs)
Junior AECGs aim to:
Ensure Aboriginal Cultures are represented and embedded throughout the school environment and curriculum;
Empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through real and active participation in school decision-making;
Provide a platform for Aboriginal student voice; and
Advocate for Aboriginal Education.
Talk to your favourite teacher, or your local AECG rep, about establishing a Junior AECG at your school.
The following programs may be helpful in planning for the HSC:
- Aboriginal HSC Scholarship Program
- Assists Aboriginal students studying for the HSC with approved expenses to support your 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 Scholarships
- 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 you don’t have a laptop or internet connection at home to help you complete homework, talk to your school about getting a loan laptop.
There’s no way around it, studying for the HSC is hard work – but you can get help to do your very best.
Talk to your teachers about how to get extra help – your school may also be able to put you in touch with programs and services for your trickiest subjects, or even link you up to an Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Centre.
Here are some academic supports:
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 you need to know about exams and study in one place: https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/hsc-student-guide
Check out our favourite study tips pages here:
Wellbeing and Mental Health Support
It’s important to look after your wellbeing whilst you’re studying hard for your HSC and that includes your mental, social, emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s so easy to get caught up in the pressures and worries around getting your HSC that you forget to take some time out to breathe and take a break.
Exercise, nutrition and rest – make sure you make some time to properly recharge your batteries. Good sleep, good food and some movement such as walking, swimming, playing with a footy/basketball with friends/family, being on Country if you’re able to as these are all things that can help.
Need a yarn? If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with study, having a yarn to an Elder, family member, teacher, or close friend may help with relieving some of your worries. Aboriginal Medical Services also have doctors, mental health workers and counsellors you can yarn to about mental health. Remember no question about mental health is a silly question.
Here’s some more information about the benefits of spending time outdoors: http://challengethestorm.org/the-mental-health-benefits-of-spending-time-outdoors/
Having a tough time and need someone to talk to? Reaching out and talking to someone is one of the best things you can do.
These free and confidential services operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are available to support, listen and help you out when you need.
Lifeline offers crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Phone: 13 11 14External link (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 1800External link (24 hours a day)
Chat online at kidshelpline.com.auExternal link (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 4636External link (24 hours a day)
Chat online at BeyondBlue.org.auExternal link (3pm - 12am)
Email https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support and receive a response within 24 hours.
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 (24 hours a day) at suicidecallbackservice.org.au
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 732External link (Available 24 hours)
Chat online (24 hours a day) at 1800respect.org.auExternal link
ReachOut is Australia's leading online mental health organisation for young people and their parents. Visit ReachOut.com
ReachOut Forums offer a safe, supportive and anonymous space for 14-25 year old Australians to chat, connect and support each other.
Headspace – Yarn Safe
- Information that may help you or somebody else, when going through a hard time. There's no shame in talking it out. Headspace is your space to yarn safe.
Managing HSC stress
Stay Healthy HSC has heaps of tips and tricks for looking after yourself and your mates, and surviving the HSC rollercoaster: https://education.nsw.gov.au/student-wellbeing/stay-healthy-HSC?q=
Check out this handy factsheet on managing exam stress: https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/wcm/connect/03778db2-7b6a-4a01-b90d-8e42e2c87161/managing-exam-stress-students.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=
Sometimes life gets in the way of school – so there’s a special consideration process to make sure it doesn’t stop you from getting your HSC.
Here’s some information about applying for special consideration due to COVID-19: https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/about/news/covid-advice/hsc-exams-and-major-projects/covid-19-special-consideration-program
If you couldn’t attend school, sit an exam, or hand in a project for a different reason, ask your school about submitting a special consideration application. Here’s some more information about the process: https://www.educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/rules-and-processes/illness-misadventure
Disability provisions in the HSC are practical arrangements designed to help students show what they know in an exam room fairly. It is not embarrassing to apply for provisions – more than 7000 HSC students apply for provisions each year.
If you are thinking of applying for disability provisions, start by talking to your favourite teacher.
Completing the HSC gives you the best opportunities for your future, helping you on the path to becoming a leader in your community. A good education is the key to a great future, and will help you discover and achieve your goals and dreams.
The HSC is a great way to show employers that you are resilient and stuck with school all the way through. Students who completed the HSC get better jobs, earn more, and live healthier lives than students who leave school early.
Link to Where can I get help during my HSC journey? page
Link to Wellbeing and Mental Health Support, and Urgent help
Here’s a great resource to help you keep your motivation up during your HSC journey – it really is a marathon!
Things like study timetables, setting up a space to study, study groups with friends, and asking favourite teachers or elders to mentor you will help keep you on track.
Ask your favourite teacher what else your school can do to help – is there a homework centre you can attend?