- Subject selection
- Key dates and exam timetables
- 2017 HSC written exam timetable
- Exam advice and resources
- Rules and processes
- HSC: All My Own Work
- 1. Scholarship Principles and Practices
- 2. Acknowledging Sources
- 3. Plagiarism
- 4. Copyright
- 5. Working with others
- Disability provisions
- Results and certificates
You will sit a compulsory exam for all HSC Board Developed Courses, except for VET courses. VET frameworks courses have an optional HSC exam.
All students in the state will sit the same exam for each course, which NESA sets, conducts and marks. Most courses have written exams, but some also have practical or performance exams.
Each HSC exam assesses how well you achieve the learning outcomes from the course syllabus, and contributes 50 per cent of your final HSC mark for that course.
Developing an HSC exam involves three main steps:
All three steps include rigorous quality assurance and information security management processes.
Drafting the exams
Exam committees draft each year’s exams
We appoint a team of expert teachers and academics, called an exam committee, to write each exam and the related marking guidelines. These must align with our exam specifications.
Wherever possible, exam committees are gender balanced, with people from tertiary and secondary education backgrounds, and both government and non-government schools.
Each committee is trained and supported
the outcomes-based approach of HSC syllabuses
roles and responsibilities
question and task design.
Exams are drafted between October and April. A chief examiner chairs each committee. Chief examiners are responsible for developing the exam and reviewing feedback, and work with supervisors of marking and senior markers at marking centres to ensure each question is marked appropriately. Our senior project officers support the committees.
Reviewing the draft exams
Several experts review each draft exam
Draft exams and marking guidelines are reviewed by:
a practising teacher
a syllabus expert
the supervisor of marking
a literacy specialist
an assessment expert
a copy editor.
An experienced, practising teacher of the course ‘sits’ each draft exam. They answer all questions except extended-response questions, for which they list the characteristics they would expect in a good answer. They also review the paper’s language, instructions, accuracy and level of difficulty.
A syllabus expert – an inspector or appointed curriculum officer from NESA – checks that each draft exam tests a representative sampling of content and outcomes and allows students to show performance at all levels on the achievement scale. They ensure each question is correctly mapped against syllabus outcomes, content and band descriptions, and that the performance standards in the draft marking guidelines align with the syllabus.
Literacy specialists recommend any revisions needed for ESL students. The Examination Operations Branch also checks that instructions and layout are clear for students, presiding officers and markers.
An assessment expert – a NESA senior project officer – reviews the exam to ensure it meets our principles for exam setting, and identifies any questions that may need to be revised.
A copy editor reviews the exam to ensure the questions are clear and in line with our style guides.
Finalising the exams
All reviewers’ comments are addressed
Exam committees must revise draft exams and marking guides in line with all reviewers’ comments. A review group checks that the committee has addressed all comments.
The chief examiner and another committee member proofread and sign off on the final exam paper. The chief examiner and the supervisor of marking approve the final marking guidelines.
After the exams are signed off, exam papers are developed for students with disability provisions who can’t use the standard papers.
Multiple-choice questions take extra care
When drafting exams, committees follow a checklist to ensure that all multiple-choice questions:
have options that are logically ordered and grammatically consistent with the sentence stem
are clearly expressed
have only one correct or best answer.
When reviewing the draft exam, the practising teacher answers all multiple-choice questions and reports any issues.
Exams go through further procedural and editorial checks
Before printing, the chief examiner and members of the exam committee proofread and check the exam. The paper is then independently copy edited and all citations are checked.
NESA officers also check the exam and approve printed proofs.
Later, once the exams are marked, each exam committee receives:
feedback from supervisors of marking on which questions worked well and which caused problems
statistics on the exam and its questions
a summary of issues that teachers, students and parents raised about the exam.
The chief examiner will consider all this feedback when developing the next year’s paper. NESA officers also do so when evaluating the year’s program.