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Guide for students in Years 10 to 12

NSW Education Standards Authority (NSEA) works with your school to record your educational achievement throughout your senior high school years and will provide you with the credential you have achieved.

The internationally recognised  Higher School Certificate (HSC) is NSW’s highest educational credential possible to achieve in secondary education. To be awarded your HSC you must complete Years 11 and 12 and satisfy all HSC course requirements . You will study the relevant Stage 6 curriculum for each of your HSC courses.

The  Record of School Achievement (RoSA) is a credential that shows your cumulative participation and achievement up until you leave school, if you choose to do so after completing Year 10 but before completing your HSC.  

From Year 10, you can access all of the personal study details and results NSEA holds through your Students Online  account.

This guide covers:

Your Students Online account

Access all your personal study details through your Students Online account. Log in with your student number and PIN to view and download:

  • your grades for Years 10 and 11
  • your eRecord or RoSA if eligible
  • your HSC exam timetable
  • your HSC assessment ranks and HSC results when they become available
  • your HSC credential package.

You need to activate your account and create your PIN the first time you use your account. See what to do if you have forgotten your PIN

You can access your account until the end of June the year after you leave school.

Note: your Student Number and PIN are different to the UAC Number and UAC PIN.

How you are assessed in Years 10 and 11

At the end of Year 10 and 11, you will be allocated a final grade for each course you complete. Teachers use their professional judgement when awarding the right grade (A, B, C, D or E - with A being the highest). There is no set proportion of each grade.

Year 10 grades are based on the Stage 5 course performance descriptors.

Year 11 or ‘Preliminary' grades are based on the common grade scale for Preliminary Courses.

To ensure consistency and fairness of grades across NSW schools, we monitor grades and provides resources to teachers to support their professional judgement.

Accessing your Year 10 or 11 grades

We process your grades and you can view them in Term 4 from your Students Online account.

If you have any questions about the grade you have been awarded, contact your school Year or Curriculum coordinator. There is a formal appeals against grades mechanism to us, and your school can provide you with the criteria, details and timeframe for this.

Any time you want an up-to-date snapshot of your academic progress, you can download your eRecord reporting your achieved Year 10 and 11 grades and Year 12 course you are enrolled in. This eRecord can be printed or emailed to a potential employer as part of your resume or possible future training provider.

Leaving school and the RoSA

The RoSA is the credential that formally recognises your school achievement if you leave school before completing your HSC.

It is a cumulative credential recording your grades or participation in courses in Year 10 right up to when you leave school, giving you a more comprehensive and meaningful record of your academic achievements. If you are not eligible for a RoSA, you may be eligible receive a Transcript of Study, which contains the same information as the RoSA for courses you have satisfactorily completed.

Your RoSA or Transcript of Study will become the school credential you will use when applying for employment, further education or training.

Once your school has informed us you are eligible for a RoSA, you can download it from your Students Online account.

Preparing for the HSC and subject selection

The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the culmination of your school career and the highest educational award you can achieve at secondary school in New South Wales.

Study for the HSC begins with the Preliminary year, usually studied in Year 11.

Sometime during Year 10 you will choose the HSC courses you wish to study. There are some rules you need to follow when choosing courses. For example, everyone must do at least two units of English.

You also need to be complete HSC: All My Own Work (or its equivalent) before you start the HSC. It helps you understand your rights and responsibilities in the HSC and issues such as plagiarism and copyright – cheating is absolutely unacceptable.

Study for your HSC year will begin in Term 4 for most students, meaning you officially start Year 12 around October.

Read more about getting ready in sections 1, 2 and 3 of the HSC Rules and Procedures guide.

HSC rules and procedures

Your school will give you a copy of the  HSC Rules and Procedures guide to read and understand.

The guide outlines what will happen, or what you need to do or be aware of, throughout each stage of the HSC. There is also a checklist you can use for each term.

You will also be given a Confirmation of Entry form to check and sign. This confirms you understand the rules and enrols you in the HSC. Tell your school straight away if any details are incorrect.

Your school will confirm your entry for the HSC with us. You should then receive an email to activate your Students Online account where you can check your personal study details throughout the year.

If you fail to comply with the rules and procedures, action will be taken against you. If you are found to have breached the rules you may receive zero marks for a part or all of an exam and may put your HSC credential at risk.

Completing assessment tasks for the HSC

Throughout your HSC you will complete school-based assessments, tasks such as tests, written assignments, practical activities, fieldwork and projects. Together, for most HSC courses, these contribute 50 per cent of your final HSC marks.

Assessment tasks allow you to show what you know, understand and can do in ways that may not be possible in a written examination. Your work must be all your own – cheating, including plagiarism, could lead to you receiving zero marks.

We will moderate your school-based assessment marks after your exams. Moderation takes account of how your assessment marks compare with marks given to students doing the same courses in a different school.

Read more about assessment tasks and moderation in section 4 of the HSC Rules and Procedures guide.

Accessing your HSC assessment ranks

Your school will submit an overall school-based assessment mark for each of your courses to us. This mark equates to a ‘rank’ in your course.

Your school is not allowed to tell you your final school-based assessment marks. However, it may tell you where you are placed in each course (your ‘rank') at key points throughout the assessment program.

See your assessment rank for each course in your Students Online account on the day of the last HSC written exam.

If you feel your rank in any course is incorrect, you must contact your school as soon as possible.

Read more about assessment appeals in section 5.6 of the  HSC Rules and Procedures guide.

Exam equipment, advice, and study resources

There are certain pieces of equipment you can and can't take into each written exam. You should also write in black pen.

Know what to expect in the exam papers, including question types and how much you should write.

Find out more:

Make sure you follow the requirements for major projects and performances. If you submit a project that contravenes the rules in terms of size, scope or types of materials used, or submission by the required date, you will not gain full marks.

For each course you are studying, know the rules and requirements, and what to expect in each exam.

To prepare you should read:

  • The syllabus, particularly HSC content and outcomes, to see that you have covered everything you need to learn. 
  • The course assessment and reporting guide.
  • Past exam papers.
  • Exam paper marking guidelines – these can help you to understand the nature and scope of the responses that are expected of students.
  • Exam paper notes from the markers – these contain comments on candidate responses from past HSC exams, indicating the quality of the responses and highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

Standards Packages contain examples of real HSC responses from students whose exam performances place them on the borderline between two Performance Bands. They illustrate the level of performance required to achieve these marks. 

The Glossary of Key Words contains some terms commonly used in exam questions. A definition of these terms has been provided to assist you understand what you are required to do in each question. It is a useful guide to question formats, but it is not exhaustive and you must be prepared for many kinds of questions.

Multiple-choice question quizzes – test yourself with questions from some past HSC exam papers to help you better understand the kinds of multiple-choice questions you may be asked. 

You may want to buy HSC exam work books for a range of courses on our online shop. Each workbook includes:

  • exam questions
  • guidelines provided to exam markers to assess student papers
  • real examples of top-scoring student papers that include actual comments by the official marker
  • tips for creating a plan and setting timings during the exam.

Also available to buy:

HSC exam timetable and attending exams

The exams are what you study for and work towards throughout your HSC year. For most courses your exam results contribute the other 50 per cent of your final HSC mark for a course.

You will sit written exams at the same time as everyone else in the state studying the same course. You may also study a course with a practical or performance exam where you are required to submit a major work, perform or speak another language for example.

See your personal HSC timetable in your Students Online account (or the full HSC written timetable) from Term 2.

Read about written exams in section 5 of the HSC Rules and Procedures guide to understand:

  • exam room procedures and the exam papers
  • attendance and how you should behave 
  • if you become ill or suffer an accident that affects your exam performance.

Read about completing performance exams and submitted works in section 4.4 of the guide.

Getting HSC results

In December, your HSC results will be sent to you by email and SMS and available in your Students Online account. If you are eligible for an HSC, you will receive a hard copy testamur in the mail in January.

The Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) ( releases the  ATAR the day after the HSC results are out. Contact UAC for most information about ATAR eligibility and how it is calculated.

Achieving the HSC is different from getting a driver's licence or an ATAR. You do not receive a simple ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, nor do you get a single rank or mark for all courses. The HSC results are a detailed package showing you the level of knowledge and skills you achieved in each course.

Your HSC Record of Achievement will list for each course you studied your:

  • HSC assessment mark
  • HSC examination mark
  • HSC mark (a 50:50 combination of your examination and assessment mark)
  • Performance Band

See the different results services available, including a telephone hotline (1300 13 83 23), if you have any questions or concerns about your results.

Order a replacement certificate for a fee if you ever lose your credentials.

In January, HSC merit lists are published and the HSC showcases and exhibitions begin.

Future changes to the HSC

The HSC is being updated. However, if you are studying the HSC in 2017 and 2018 nothing changes for you.

Changes will occur for Year 11 students in 2018, who will begin their senior secondary studies with the new syllabuses in English, Mathematics, Science and History.

Year 12 students in 2019 will be the first to complete HSC examinations using these revised syllabuses.

From 2020, students in NSW students need to demonstrate a minimum literacy and numeracy standard to be eligible for the HSC. There will be multiple opportunities to pass online reading, writing and numeracy tests before and after the HSC.

Students who achieve Band 8 or above in their Year 9 NAPLAN tests will not need to sit the online tests later in years. No student will be ineligible to sit for the HSC on the basis of their Year 9 NAPLAN results.

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