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About the HSC

School students in New South Wales generally work towards the Higher School Certificate or HSC in years 11 and 12. It is the highest level of attainment you can reach at school. Learn more about HSC courses, eligibility requirements and achievement pathways.

The HSC is a huge operation each year, and the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) oversees it. This section offers a snapshot of what it involves as we cater to students with a diverse range of abilities, backgrounds and goals.

To give you an idea, if you brought together all this year’s HSC students, markers and exam supervisors, you would fill an Olympic stadium. And that’s leaving all the class teachers outside!

Every year, we evaluate the HSC thoroughly to ensure it remains successful, inclusive and flexible. We consider changes and improvements, and consult on any that affect the wider education community. NESA Board members play an important role in supervising the HSC’s quality.

Enrolment snapshot

Each year on 1 September we take a snapshot of HSC enrolments and publish these statistics. Below is a summary of the 2016 numbers.

View the HSC Enrolment Snapshot for more numbers.

  • 77,163 students enrolled in at least one HSC course.

  • 69,350 on track to complete their HSC program, making the HSC the most awarded school-completion credential in Australia.


  • Students must complete at least 12 units of preliminary courses and 10 units of HSC courses, including English, to receive the HSC .

  • The three most popular elective subjects are Maths, Biology and Business Studies.

  • French, Japanese and Chinese are the most popular languages studied.

  • Hospitality, Construction and Business Servicesare the most popular VET courses.

Find out more about HSC courses.


  • 2017 is the 51st year of HSC exams.

  • More than 60,000 students will sit a compulsory English exam.

  • Around 350 students will sit their exams overseas.

  • Each exam paper will be reviewed at least six times before more than 700,000 papers are printed.

  • Exam papers will be printed under strict security, moved in guarded vehicles and tracked at every stage.

Learn more about how we develop and mark your exams plus how schools assess your marks.


  • 95 exam committees with a total of around 300 members will help develop the 117 written exams.

  • Over 7,500 supervisors and presiding officers will work in more than 750 exam centres.

  • Over 5,500 markers will mark exams in marking centres and online.

  • Over 800 support staff in a range of jobs – from monitoring scanners to packing artworks to driving forklifts – will help to make the HSC possible.

  • Everyone who works on the HSC is bound by strict security and confidentiality arrangements.

Find out how more about HSC roles and jobs.


We will issue your HSC results online, by email and by text message from 6 am on 14 December 2017. You can call the HSC Inquiry Centre on 1300 13 83 23 from 8 am on 14 December 2017 if you have questions about your results.

You will also receive several documents from NESA that show your achievements. See HSC Credentials for samples and explanations of each document, including Vocational Education and Training (VET) certificates and statements of attainment. You may also receive reports, references and other documents from your school about your attendance, punctuality, attitude and work experience.