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HSC courses

To get your Higher School Certificate (HSC), you must complete at least 12 units of Preliminary courses and 10 units of HSC courses, including English. Most HSC courses are worth 2 units.

You need to satisfactorily complete the Preliminary course (usually in Year 11) before you can start the corresponding HSC course (usually in Year 12).

There are two main types of HSC courses: Board Developed Courses and Board Endorsed Courses.

NESA develops Board Developed Courses. Your achievement in these can count towards your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

Board Developed Courses cover:

  • English

  • Maths

  • Science

  • Technology

  • Creative Arts

  • Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE)

  • Human Society and its Environment (HSIE)

  • Languages

  • Vocational Education and Training (VET) Curriculum Frameworks.

Read more about Board Developed Course subjects and their descriptions.

Board Endorsed Courses are ones that schools, TAFEs or universities generally develop. They contribute to the HSC, but don’t count towards your ATAR.

To help plan your Year 11 and Year 12 studies read more on choosing HSC courses.

Choosing your compulsory English course

The two main English courses are English Advanced and English Standard.

English Advanced is a higher level course for students who might want to study English at university. It includes literary texts like Shakespeare, and is a pre- or co-requisite for English Extension courses. English Extension 1 allows more specialised study, while English Extension 2 requires you to create a major work.

English Standard caters for a wide range of students. It develops and refines reading, writing, listening and speaking skills to enhance your personal, social and job opportunities.

English Studies is a Content Endorsed Course (CEC), which does not have an external exam. It is for students who plan to follow vocational interests after leaving school. It gives you the skills, knowledge and understanding to use language appropriately for future study, work and citizenship.

English as a Second Language (ESL) is for students who have been educated in English for five years or less, either in Australia or overseas. The strict eligibility rules for this course are on the ACE website.

Understanding your Maths options

There are two 2-unit maths courses that contribute to the ATAR ­– Mathematics (‘2 unit’) and Mathematics General 2.

Mathematics (‘2 Unit’) includes calculus, and is a pre- or co-requisite for Maths Extension courses. Mathematics Extension 2  is the highest level maths course, for students with a special interest and ability. You can study Mathematics Extension 2 as well as or after completing Mathematics Extension 1.

Mathematics General 2 does not include calculus. It suits students who want to work in jobs that use various mathematical and statistical techniques.

Mathematics General 1 does not count towards the 6 units of Board Developed Courses required to be eligible for the HSC, or the 10 units required for calculating an ATAR. It is a Content Endorsed Course (CEC) with no external exam. It suits students who want to study maths but do not wish to study it at university.