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Advice for students choosing HSC courses

Your aim is to attain the best HSC result you can. So, you should choose courses that you are good at, interested in and may use in the future.

When considering which courses to study, explore the content of a course. For example, what are the course outcomes? Will you be required to submit a major work, or perform, as part of your exams? Talk with your teachers about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as individual course requirements, before making your selections.

Meeting HSC eligibility requirements

Know the eligibility basics

To be eligible for the HSC, you must:

  • satisfactorily complete Years 9 and 10 or gain other qualifications that satisfy NESA
  • attend a government school, an accredited non-government school, a NSW Education Standards Authority recognised school outside NSW, or a TAFE college
  • complete HSC: All My Own Work (or its equivalent) before you submit any work for Preliminary or HSC courses, unless you are only entered for Year 11 and Year 12 Life Skills courses
  • satisfactorily complete courses in the patterns of study detailed below
  • sit for and make a serious attempt at the required HSC exams.

Certain patterns of study and course requirements apply

You must satisfactorily complete:

  • a Preliminary pattern of study that includes at least 12 units
  • an HSC pattern of study that includes at least 10 units.

Both patterns of study must include at least:

  • 6 units of Board Developed Courses
  • 2 units of a Board Developed Course in English, or English Studies
  • 3 courses of 2 or more units (either Board Developed or Board Endorsed Courses)
  • 4 subjects.

Some courses have certain rules and prerequisites. For example, you can include English Studies in your 6 units of Board Developed Courses, but you can’t count it as the 2 units of English that UAC uses to calculate an ATAR.

There are also specific eligibility rules for some Languages courses, such as Beginners and Heritage, to ensure your course is at the appropriate level for your experience.

Enrolling in a course that you are not eligible for could put your HSC at risk, so carefully check your eligibility for all courses you are entered for. You can find out more about eligibility, rules and prerequisites on our website.

Types of HSC courses

Board Developed courses are the large number of courses set and examined by Education Standards that also contribute to the calculation of the ATAR. View a list of all Board Developed Courses broken down by subject. See individual course descriptions also.

Board Endorsed courses are developed by schools, TAFE and universities. They count towards your HSC but do not have an HSC examination and do not contribute towards the calculation of your ATAR.

Special education (Life Skills) - If you have special education needs you can attain your HSC by studying Life Skills courses. There are specific entry requirements for the Life Skills courses and you still need to meet the general eligibility and study patterns to earn your HSC. You will need to talk with your Year Adviser or Careers Adviser to find out whether these courses are suitable for you. Life Skills courses do not count towards the ATAR.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) - VET courses can be studied either at school or through TAFE NSW and other training providers. You will need to check with your school about which courses are available and the requirements of the different courses. For example, all VET courses involve a minimum number of hours in the work place.

VET courses contribute towards your HSC and Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) VET credentials, recognised by industry and employers throughout Australia. Some of the Board Developed VET courses have an optional HSC exam so, if you choose to sit the exam, your results can also count towards your ATAR.

Understanding HSC pathways

While most students complete their HSC over two years during Years 11 and 12, there are other options. If you want to study while you work, care for your family or, for example, take part in elite sports or cultural activities, one of these five pathways may be suitable for you.



1. Accumulating

You can take up to five consecutive years to finish your studies, starting from the first year you complete an HSC course. After five years, you must have met all HSC requirements.

2. Repeating

You can repeat one or more courses within the five years (see pathway 1) without penalty. Your Record of Achievement will show the results of all attempts. The Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) will calculate your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) from the results of your most recent attempt.

3. Transferring credit and recognition of prior learning (RPL)

You may be able to count courses you did at TAFE or other educational institutions towards your HSC as ‘credit transfer’.

Or, you may not need to complete some course components if you can show that you have met the necessary outcomes in another way, such as through interstate study, as ‘RPL’. This may apply to a Preliminary course, part of a Preliminary course or part of an HSC course.

4. Accelerating

You may be able to accelerate in a course, sit for the HSC exam for that course (usually at the end of Year 11) and accumulate your results.

5. Studying during an apprenticeship or traineeship

You can complete a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship while you study. These combine paid work and training, lead to a recognised Vocational Education and Training (VET) credential and count towards your HSC.

HSC-University pathways

If you have achieved high-level results at school you can apply to undertake university studies while you are studying for the HSC. For students from Year 11 onwards. Macquarie University and the University of New England offer HSC-University Pathways programs. For further details about the program and the application process, contact the university directly.

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